Silvano Rebai - Fotolia


Managed video conferencing services still play a key role

Although video meetings have become more reliable and easier to use, managed video services still serve an important role, especially for large enterprises with complex networks.

If you need to manage and monitor video conferencing quality and reliability across your network, simply consider...

using a managed video service provider.

When I was new to the video conferencing industry, I didn't understand the concept of managed services. Sure, video conferencing equipment, at the time, was difficult to operate. Calls weren't reliable, and we'd often need to reconnect calls midmeeting. But surely those things could be handled by in-house IT staff, right?

My thinking quickly changed 10 years ago when the analyst firm where I worked was hired to evaluate a managed service company. To ensure we didn't receive preferential treatment, we created a dummy company that contracted for managed services. The support staff servicing the dummy account had no idea they were being evaluated, and it's fair to assume my experience was typical.

As the evaluation began, I was skeptical of the need for managed services. I could dial a call myself on any video endpoint and schedule a call on any video bridge. The thought of emailing an external support person to dial and schedule my video calls seemed ridiculous. However, as the evaluation progressed, I learned there's more to managed services than I originally thought.

By the end of the evaluation, I was sold. Throughout the course of the project, I had no failed meetings, which was somewhat miraculous at the time. No meetings started 10 minutes late because of failed connections. Network issues were detected before they affected meetings, and even my sabotages failed to have any effect.

Stress-test your video services

To be clear, I didn't just sign up for the service and continue my normal video calls. I tested the service and pushed it to the limit. I would unplug equipment in the middle of the night or an hour before a meeting. I would add packet loss to my network. I would schedule calls incorrectly. I would change the settings on endpoints and bridges during off-hours in ways that would affect meetings.

I found new ways to challenge the service. Every time, I would immediately get phone calls and emails from the service looking to remedy the issue before any meetings were affected.

It's simply unfair and unreasonable to expect users to handle unexpected issues.

This is what managed services companies do. They don't just assist you in operating video equipment; they ensure successful meetings. For years, I recommended them for enterprise customers who don't want to create an internal managed services team for their video environments.

In recent years, however, things have changed. Video has become a self-serve application. Many people have video apps on their desktops and mobile devices and don't need handholding by IT staff to make a call.

Furthermore, we have more bandwidth available, and video protocols are more resilient to network issues like packet loss. So, do we still need managed video services? While I no longer think managed video services are essential for every enterprise video environment, I do still believe they serve an important role.

Managed video services mostly for larger enterprises

I do not see a need for managed video services for SMBs. A typical SMB may have one or two meeting rooms with easy-to-use software supported by a cloud service that's also on everyone's desktop and mobile device. With click-to-join links, no real handholding is needed to connect people to meetings.

Also, in this environment, expectations are lower. So, if a connection drops, people don't mind simply reconnecting. Finally, SMB IP networks are simpler and can be managed by internal IT people.

The best bet, in most circumstances, is to simply outsource to a managed service provider.

The enterprise world is a different story. The networks are more complicated. Meeting rooms have more technology and capabilities. And, most importantly, the stakes can be higher. It's one thing if a video failure ruins a small-team meeting, but it's quite another thing if it happens during negotiations of a billion-dollar deal.

Video has become more reliable and easy to use, even in the boardroom. On the other hand, high-end boardroom video -- and telepresence suites, in particular -- are still more complicated than desktop video apps. It's simply unfair and unreasonable to expect users to handle unexpected issues.

The best bet, in most circumstances, is to simply outsource to a managed service provider. Some organizations choose to handle video issues internally, but that requires creating an internal managed services team. In that case, you need to hire trained video technicians and purchase software video management tools -- often the same tools used by external managed service providers.

In the end, large enterprises hosting high-stakes video meetings must manage and monitor their video environments -- at least for high-profile meeting locations. In some cases, such as high-security situations, it might make sense to manage video meetings internally. In most cases, an external managed service provider will make your video headaches disappear.

Next Steps

Determine how much bandwidth you need for video meetings.

High-definition video meetings require a robust network.

Desktop video meetings can strain bandwidth controls.

Dig Deeper on Business Video Conferencing and Telepresence Technology