Companies have long struggled with controlling audio conferencing costs. Adding video conferencing services can be an even bigger budget-buster. Hosted video bridge provider Blue Jeans Network is trying to simplify cost control and promote the use of video and audio conferencing by offering a flat-rate site license plan.
Mobile advertising and monetization service provider TapJoy needed a hosted conference bridging service to connect 300 employees in 12 global offices with its LifeSize and Polycom video conferencing rooms. Under Blue Jeans' All You Can Meet pricing plan, TapJoy can conduct both audio and video conferencing for the same price it was paying its audio-only provider.
"We looked at the cost solutions of competitors and what we were expending already internally on audio-conferencing, and it looked like we could roll up both audio and video conferencing for the same price that I was getting audio now -- so it was a no-brainer," said Matt Leonard, TapJoy's director of IT.
Four Blue Jeans Network service plans
Per minute: Per minute/per connection usage is best for sporadic, irregular users.
Per port: Port plans are ideal for service providers who can lease unlimited usage ports to their customers.
Per person: Name host plans give unlimited calling to users or room connections. They work well for midsize companies.
All You Can Meet: This plan gives enterprises a flat unlimited site license to all users who meet more than once a month.
Blue Jeans announced its All You Can Meet plan at Interop Las Vegas 2013. With the new pricing structure, enterprises can have an unlimited-use site license plan for active users for as little as $10 a month. Inactive users -- customers that conduct less than one meeting a month -- essentially conference for free. The larger the company, the less Blue Jeans charges per active user.
"Obviously, people want a cost-effective solution as they scale, but it also needs to be both understandable and relevant," said Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research. Before the announcement, Blue Jeans couldn't accommodate every size of company. Now, Weinstein says, the video bridge provider has offerings for smaller companies that make sense for the way they do business.
"We joined [Blue Jeans] on the All You Can Meet plan from the beginning," TapJoy's Leonard said. "The price and performance just made the most sense for us. … From an IT budget perspective, we were able to slash our costs."
Before Blue Jeans, TapJoy's conferencing solution could handle only four callers at once, although the company regularly needed to support from six to 15 callers at a time. Blue Jeans could support as many as 25 users over multiple devices and networks. This broader support was especially important, given that TapJoy was expanding its workforce in China and Korea.
"We had an all-in-house solution, and it was a beast. I couldn't afford to put people -- our resources -- at it, so I needed something that was readily available and didn't require any intervention from our team," Leonard said.
Unlimited usage plans make video conferencing more accessible
What the Blue Jeans All You Can Meet plan really does is ease the minds of IT teams, much in the same way consumers on unlimited data plans stop worrying about monthly cell phone bills. If companies don't have to worry about what next month's bill will be, it simplifies budgeting.
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"Blue Jeans has taken away these soft little barriers [to video conferencing,]" Wainhouse's Weinstein said. "I'm not going to sit there and think that every time I use [a video bridge] it's costing me X dollars per hour."
All the reservations IT directors currently have about conference calling can stifle corporate communications, Weinstein explained. With an all-you-can-eat (or an All You Can Meet) plan, IT no longer has to say, "I'm not going to use it because I don't want to get that bill," he said.
Blue Jeans hasn't necessarily made conferencing cost structures less complex, but the vendor has made usage more attractive. It sold All You Can Meet plans to 20% of its new customer base in the month of April alone. Stu Aaron, Blue Jeans' chief commercial officer, said these customers increased their use of Blue Jeans services at almost 10 times the rate of other customers, and expanded their active user base at roughly six times the standard rate.
"The idea here makes sense: If you put the company on the right plan, hopefully it will motivate the right kind of usage," Weinstein concluded.