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What should you look for in a video as a service vendor?

What key features should you consider when choosing a video as a service vendor? Video conferencing expert Stephen Campbell explains how to evaluate VaaS providers.

Video as a service providers offer a number of capabilities to businesses, which may include:

  • Endpoint management;
  • Call production;
  • Multipoint HD bridging for video conferencing and telepresence systems;
  • Business to business connectivity and interoperability between businesses with disparate video technologies;
  • White glove concierge services for call setup and hosting;
  • Recording and archiving services for meetings.

The typical video as a service (VaaS) client will have in-house video endpoints in meeting rooms, in addition to mobile clients. VaaS providers will usually be able to provide connectivity to meetings via a browser client for remote workers and non-company parties such as interview candidates. VaaS providers may be given the primary video support role or they may supplement an in-house team. Even if video support is totally outsourced, there will need to be some on premise resources at each location to assist with testing and to resolve local facility issues.

VaaS providers will typically have a network testing capability, the ability to generate trouble tickets with the network organization, the endpoint manufacturer or maintenance provider, facilities and related organizations. Some VaaS providers also offer equipment and financing services, so there is a wide range of services to be considered.

Consumer video services such as Skype, Google Hangouts, iChat and ooVoo are not considered  VaaS. While these services work well with individual computers or mobile devices, they don't provide the same quality of experience that will be available from room-based codecs and large screen monitors.

Organizations contemplating VaaS should start with an inventory of systems and locations to be supported, along with a list of services they would like for the provider to handle. Organizations should keep in mind what interfaces will be required, such as the ability to open tickets with the internal network organization, the communications service providers for the company and the vendors who provide equipment maintenance. They should determine the requirements to tickets such as software, accounts and letters of authorization. Think about what service level is to be expected and what should be done if the service levels are not met.

Identify the use cases with as much detail as possible, such as:

  • "We video conference with a team of 25 sales managers weekly;"
  • "We conference with a customer who uses Cisco Telepresence and another who uses Avaya Scopia systems;"
  • "We interview candidates via Skype from our HR conference room using a Polycom RealPresence system."

Be sure that the provider can handle your inventory of equipment by make and model. Find out if they require the systems to be on maintenance or if any of the systems are considered obsolete and unsupported.

Areas of video as a service that often result in issues include:

  • Interoperability: Providers must be able to handle all systems you might want to connect with;
  • Scheduling: If the service is bought on a limited capacity basis, such as a certain number of ports, calls will need to be scheduled. Determine if and how the provider's scheduling system can be integrated with your in-house calendaring system;
  • Network quality: Decide if the Internet will provide an adequate video experience or if enterprise-grade network connectivity is required;
  • Support: The measure of a VaaS provider's success will be how well the provider is able to work with the internal organization at multiple levels. Organizations need to be committed to helping the VaaS provider perform their job in a satisfactory manner.

When evaluating candidate VaaS providers, be sure to ask for references and request demonstrations of their services. Ask a lot of questions about their services, requirements and support for your organization.

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