This article was first published in May 2015 and has been updated for freshness.
Videoconferencing has been around for a surprisingly long time— people were working on the video technology back in the 20s, and the concept of video calling was conceieved right after the telephone was patented in the USA in 1876— however, it's only been in the last few years that high quality videoconferencing has moved from being an expensive, niche technology and science fiction staple and towards a mainstream business tool.
So what has changed? Just as cloud computing technology has revolutionized many products and services, the same is true of videoconferencing
We've put together this quick introduction to hopefully answer some of the questions you might still have about videoconferencing so you can see for yourself why businesses around the world rely on video collaboration every single day.
What is videoconferencing really?
It's probably good to start with explaining what it's not. Whilst most people have now become used to making video calls via consumer services like Skype or FaceTime, professional videoconferencing is about more than talking with your parents or friends with an inconsistent picture quality. The best solutions make it possible to host video meetings with many participants in seconds, offering a smooth, simple experience for connecting multiple devices and technologies in one platform. Once you add in the value of enabling face-to-face meetings with almost anyone and add in the added feature of live screen sharing, professional videoconferencing is more than just another communication channel. It's really about enabling real-time collaboration with multiple stakeholders wherever they are in the world.
So then, what is videoconferencing-as-a-service?
Videoconferencing-as-a-service (or "VCaaS"), is sometimes referred to as cloud video and has grown hugely in the last few years. VCaaS lets users enjoy high quality videoconferencing from virtually any device and location, using the network or platform of their choice.
And with the latest innovations in cloud technology, professional video solutions much more accessible for many businesses. You can now have video meetings on the go using you phone. Videoconferencing-as-a-service is delivered over the Internet by service providers who make their services available "in the cloud." That makes it a video conference cloud service.
Because video calls are especially sensitive to network conditions, reliable, high quality calls require great network coverage. VCaaS solves this issue by connecting particpants on a dedicated video network. Today's VCaaS platforms should offer:
- support for purpose-built videoconferencing devices (SIP/H.323)
- videoconferencing through a regular browser (often called WebRTC)
- dedicated videoconferencing apps for mobile and desktop devices
- audioconferencing features for users who are unable to join by video
- easy to invite external users and guests to join a meeting
Some key benefits of cloud video:
Ease of use and "interoperability": Users just want to make the call. VCaaS solutions let subscribers meet easily with customers, partners, suppliers, and colleagues by simply sending them an invitation with an embedded "click to call" link. The other participants don’t have to be subscribers to the service; they can simply join as “guests”. Different participants in the call can then join from their choice of device, whether a traditional videoconferencing system, desktop, a tablet, or their smart phone.
No large investment in hardware or infrastructure is required, reducing risk and making it easy to scale at any time: In a sense, the customer's return on investment is infinite because her upfront investment is zero and the risk of being stuck with expensive and outdated hardware or infrastructure is removed. VCaaS lets customers subscribe to the service, buying as many user licenses as they currently need. It's then easy to add or remove users as your needs change. Network capacity and the cost of innovations and future development is carried by the service provider rather than the customer.
Mobility gives all your users instant access: More and more workers are working less often from their office and more often working remotely, whether on the road, at home, or at a local coffee shop. Providing video and collaboration support for a wide variety of mobile platforms - laptops, smartphones, tablets – is easily supported by VCaaS services that bring all these worlds together.
To find out more about professional video meetings and calling through the cloud, check out this short video: