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Hybrid video conferencing architecture bridges on premises, cloud

Organizations that keep their video conferencing architecture on premises for investment or security reasons can gain the benefits of the cloud with a hybrid approach.

In today's cloud-based world, it may come as a surprise that some organizations still have a need for on-premises video conferencing architecture. Those who are new to business video may not know what on-premises video means. But on-premises video conferencing deployments still exist, and companies with certain needs are creating new on-premises deployments. The good news is the cloud can enhance and support on-premises video and reduce on-premises limitations through hybrid deployments.

But, first, what is on-premises video? In the early days of business video conferencing, all video was on premises. When you make a video call, you generally don't connect directly to the other person. Premises-based calls were hosted on an appliance, such as a multipoint control unit, which sat on the local network and had limited access to the internet.

One unfortunate side effect was video calls were restricted to within an organization. B2B video conferencing was possible but not easy.

The benefits of on-premises and cloud-based video

Many organizations continue to use on-premises video for various reasons. A big one is security. Today's cloud video traffic is heavily encrypted, and cloud video services offer high levels of security assurances. However, some organizations have extremely stringent security concerns. These types of environments still require that certain kinds of video traffic remain on their private network.

It can also be more efficient to keep local video traffic on premises. If a video call to people in the same building is hosted on premises, each person is connected directly to the local host. However, if that same call is hosted by a cloud service, each signal must leave the building, go out to the cloud service and return to the building. This could add some latency to the call and cut into internet bandwidth.

The success of the cloud isn't just because the cloud is more affordable than on-premises video. Cloud video conferencing architecture solves many of the limitations of on-premises deployments. Hosting video calls on a cloud provider's server -- instead of an on-premises video bridge -- offers improved scalability, security, manageability, accessibility and flexible pricing. These benefits are simply not available for organizations that only use on-premises video.

Hybrid video conferencing architecture to the rescue

Several video vendors now support hybrid deployments that include an on-premises server to handle local video traffic and a cloud service for overflow capacity and B2B calls. This type of deployment provides the efficiencies of on premises and the flexibility of the cloud for greater scale and reach. It's a best-of-both-worlds approach for organizations that need on-premises video conferencing architecture for certain calls or have legacy on-premises video they want to continue using. Local calls stay local whenever possible. And, if the on-premises equipment is running at capacity, then the cloud can host additional calls.

While many cloud services support hybrid deployments, they do so in different ways and at different levels. For some vendors, hybrid support is a checklist item, while others consider it a core element.

Make sure your vendor supports hybrid to the level you require. This is one of the more complicated elements of a video conferencing deployment. Don't just take a base assurance that your vendor supports hybrid. Get into the weeds to learn exactly how its hybrid model works to ensure it meets your specific needs.

Consider hybrid an easier way to transition a video system to the cloud. The idea of scrapping an expensive, working video conferencing system to enjoy the benefits of the cloud is not particularly attractive to organizations that want to maximize ROI. Hybrid setups enable organizations to keep their existing deployment, extend its use and increase its ROI by improving the overall video system.

The power of a hybrid environment is limited by the quality of a cloud video provider. While today's cloud services are usually resilient to weak connections, some products handle bad networks better than others. If video meetings include participants with questionable connections -- such as a team member calling from Starbucks -- you may want to do some A/B testing.

Many video services offer free trials or freemium offerings. Try them out, and see which ones work best in your workers' conditions. Then, ask providers about their hybrid support.

This was last published in July 2019

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