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Original post by Luis Ramirez

The History and Evolution of Video Conferencing

In the early days of video conferencing the medium required clunky in-room systems. Despite this, video conferencing was an exclusive club in the beginning. It was used by the C-suite in board rooms and was heavily managed by white-glove services.

Old Video Conferencing Technology
The fate of video conferencing began to change with the “consumerization” of the medium. With video conferencing more readily available to consumers, the expectations of how it should perform changed drastically. While it may seem like these shifting expectations are being driven by primarily Millennials, it’s actually a cross-generational demand for the platform driving the changes. But, no matter the age of the user, the expectation of a friction-less environment and smooth functionality are constant.

As the usage of video conferencing spikes at the consumer level (Skype is used 20% more today than it was in 2013), the expectation of consumer-level functionality inside enterprise solutions is on the rise. Historically, enterprise video conferencing products haven’t delivered consumer-level functionality. However, with the recent technological advances and further deployment of video conferencing into desktop environments and virtual meeting rooms, the demands can now be met.

As video conferencing has grown and evolved, the desktop environment has emerged as the dominant environment for video conferencing deployment.

IT Departments are Quickly Adopting Video Conferencing

As expectations and technology grow, so must the modern IT department to accommodate collaboration tools. And the data shows that IT departments are focused on video conferencing. In a 2016 survey conducted by Forrester, 80 percent of IT department respondents said they already had implemented, were currently implementing, or were expanding upon their video conferencing technology.

IT Department Video Conferencing
 

4 Technologies Driving Video Conferencing Evolution

1. The Cloud

According to Forrester, in 2013 40 percent of IT decision makers favored on-premise video technologies. In 2016 Forrester found that less than 25 percent of IT decision makers favored on-premise video technology. Meaning a large majority are looking toward the Cloud for video technology.

One reason IT departments are leaning on the Cloud to manage video is that the technology has progressed so quickly over the last few years that on-premise systems simply can’t keep up. The capital investments needed to host your own environment and train a team to manage it isn’t offering a realistic ROI. The Cloud offers a much faster speed in to implementation which allows organizations to start utilizing the technology faster.

2. Video Gateway Solutions

A video conferencing gateway is technology that allows two network devices that would normally be incompatible communicate with each other via the internet. Gateways allow organizations to transition more easily their existing technology to a unified video conferencing experience. 

3. WebRTC

WebRTC is short for Web Real Time Communication. This technology is a real-time browser-based communication system. Meaning there is virtually no installation. As the internet and browsers become more advanced and mature, most browsers are now able to allow video conferencing directly within the browser. So, instead of having to go to a web page, clicking a link to download a program, then installing the program in order to video conference, the browser is able to host the video conference piece of the meeting without extra steps.

WebRTC is a relatively new standard, but is being embraced by most new browsers. It’s expected that 6 billion devices will support WebRTC by 2019. This technology allows employees and/or customers to join a video conference via their browser seamlessly.

4. Mobile Device Support

The mobility movement has effected nearly the entire technology landscape, and video conferencing is no exception. As devices become smaller and more powerful, people are able to join a video conference from just about anywhere via apps. This ability to easily access video conferencing without a bunch of additional technology and from anywhere has spurred it’s popularity and increased demand.

Interoperation Promises Versatile Functionality for Video Conferencing

The large players in the video conferencing game (Cisco, Microsoft, Adobe) are bringing advances to the medium via the desktop. All the while other advances in browser technology and gateway capabilities are bridging the gap between legacy video conferencing and the future. This interoperation between the old and new video functionality allows legacy investments to be incorporated into modern video conferencing strategies.

Video Conferencing Interoperation
The market is trying to bridge the gap between Skype and Cisco and PolyCom and WebRTC via interoperation – through a gateway or otherwise. Forrester recently published a vendor landscape on video conferencing platforms and of the fifteen vendors they reviewed, the vast majority of them support interoperation between these standards.

The Value of a Gateway Provider Resides in the Support it Provides

While interoperation delivers on it’s promise, there are always unique challenges faced by gateway technology providers. So, because each video conferencing endpoint in legacy systems (sometimes hundreds of endpoints) provides their own set of challenges, it’s important that the gateway provider is support-heavy.

Because the video conferencing landscape is evolving at the speed of technology, it’s important that the gateway provider has the expertise and experience to keep up with the changes and help evolve a legacy system as the market changes. Without this ability, a gateway provider quickly loses it’s value.

Steps to Video Conferencing Deployment: The Right Technology and the Right People

Step 1: Promote a Video-First Mentality

  • Define key use cases and user groups you need to serve with the deployment.
  • Aim for a consistent collaboration interface across video use cases and user groups.
  • Cloud deployments and soft clients make it easy to democratize the technology.
  • Easy-to-remember virtual meeting room (VMR) schemes mean easier-to-join conferences.

Step 2: Choose Deployment Method

  • Leverage advantages of the Cloud.
    • Specific need for on-premises like industry, legal, or security requirements may inhibit ability to leverage the Cloud.
  • Hybrid models exist and allow you to manage through Cloud inhibitors – research your options.
  • Leverage your current infrastructure via gateway services.

Step 3: Prepare Your Network

  • Contact your network vendor to compile network assessment options.
  • Key data to compile:
    • Total number of video conferencing licensed users and endpoints.
    • Video conferencing user counts within major site locations.
    • Existing bandwidth through key sites.
    • Specs on VPN for any remote workers.
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