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Buyer's Guide to Enterprise YouTube Platforms 2016
- Categorized in: Distributing your video
Enterprise YouTube platforms enable businesses to share videos with employees, partners, and other viewers; interested parties can then preserve and share the valuable institutional knowledge accumulated in these videos. Most systems function the way you’d expect: You upload videos into the system, which provides content management capabilities, mobile and desktop players, and basic analytics. Enterprise YouTube systems typically provide a channel-based structure for segmenting content for different departments or divisions, with a single sign-on security system that can leverage an existing enterprise security system.
At first glance, most enterprise YouTube systems look similar, but as you scratch the surface you’ll see dramatic differences that impact both functionality and usability. In this article, I’ll identify some questions to ask while evaluating enterprise YouTube systems to help avoid these potholes.
Where Will You Deploy the System?
Most systems are available as SaaS cloud solutions, but a very few can be licensed for installation behind the firewall. If you’re looking for a system to install in your own cloud, ask about this early. If you’ll be equally targeting internal and external viewers, ask about deploying a hybrid model that delivers internally via your internal pipes, and externally via the SaaS model.
MediaPlatform offers an Enterprise CDN service to help distribute video from its enterprise YouTube or webcasting product.
Irrespective of where the system is deployed, if you expect significant distribution within the enterprise, ask if the system can use existing third-party WAN acceleration technologies such as Riverbed, Bluecoat, and CISCO ACNS, to deliver the content efficiently within the enterprise. Also check if the vendor offers features or separate products for streamlining delivery within the firewall. Techniques such as P2P, caching, or pre-positioning content on servers throughout the enterprise can really simplify the delivery of high-quality video within a wide area network.
Managing the Flash-to-HTML5 Migration
Flash playback became the “ring around the collar” (#showingmyage) for most enterprise systems in 2015, and many vendors aggressively moved to reduce or eliminate their Flash dependencies. However, many corporate YouTube systems enable a level of interactivity that makes implementing the equivalent feature set in HTML5 a complicated undertaking.
Nonetheless, in 2016 or 2017, many organizations will have to deliver video both to newer computers without Flash, as well as legacy models that don’t support HTML5. You should understand how any vendor on your shortlist plans to manage this migration and legacy support.
How Will You Use the System?
Some systems are designed for top-down video distribution with very rigid structures for those who can upload videos. Other systems make it simple for all employees to share videos, with moderation functions available to catch problem videos before they go live, or a flagging system to catch them before they do too much damage. Obviously, the system you buy should support your intended usage.
Qumu offers extensive options for enterprise video delivery.
So during the buying process, understand what rights are necessary to upload videos into the system, and how those rights are granted. This sounds simple, but it can often be agonizingly complex, as permissions apply to a variety of hierarchical content and design-related functions and rights across multiple channels. If very few users contribute videos, it’s acceptable to assign these rights within the enterprise YouTube system itself. If thousands contribute, these rights should come from your corporate security system, which would take days of system configuration. Surprisingly, very few systems have a structured moderation workflow, so if this is essential, ask about it early.
You should also have a vision for where you want videos in the system to be viewable. Some systems are largely internally focused, and seem like they require a court order for public viewing of a video. Others enable public viewing via a simple checkbox that can be assigned by video or channel, and some take this a step further and can syndicate your videos to YouTube or other sites. Choose a system that suits your intended distribution, and if external viewing is a major component, make sure the system enables comments, social media links, ratings, and other interactivity that can attract more eyeballs.
You should also understand where you expect your employees to watch the videos from the system. If you have an existing portal, make sure the enterprise YouTube system integrates with that portal. All enterprise systems enable their own portals, but they vary significantly in terms of appearance and customizability. If you intend to use the portal, it becomes your corporate face, and it should share your branding and organizational look and feel. So you should ask about portal and player customizability, both overall and by channel, since sales might want a totally different look and feel than human resources or technical support.
What Types of Content?
All systems support uploaded VOD files, but others enable many additional forms of content. For example, several enterprise YouTube vendors offer webcast products that integrate well with their YouTube systems, with webcasts automatically converting to VOD playback once complete. You can also invite viewers via the enterprise YouTube portal, providing a single face to multiple content types.
INXPO offers very tight integration between its enterprise YouTube Platform and XPOCAST webcasting product.
Other systems let you capture Skype calls as a content type, or use the system to initiate WebEx conferences, then invite viewers and record the conference. Some systems enable employees to record and edit presentations, or simple webcam videos, with online editing features to trim heads and tails and otherwise enhance their works. If these content types are important to your enterprise, make sure your candidate systems support them.
How's The Video?
Surprisingly, not all enterprise YouTube systems enable adaptive streaming for all types of video. Some use adaptive for live, or webcasts, but not for VOD. Adaptive streaming is obviously essential to successful mobile delivery, and you should prioritize systems that deliver all content adaptively.
Speaking of mobile, while HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) works well for iOS, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for Android. DASH will be the best option over time, but it’s not yet universally supported in all Android versions. Older versions of Android are compatible with HLS, but playback has multiple issues. For this reason, some systems offer the ability to send a single MP4 file to older Android devices to ensure problem-free playback. Before choosing a system, you should definitely understand its Android delivery schema.
Finally, some systems let you control how the videos are encoded, while others don’t. They’re your internal pipes, so you should be able to control configuration options so they don’t become unduly clogged.
About That Mobile Experience
Employees expect their tablets and phones to deliver an experience equivalent to desktops for consumption and production. When considering the various products, you should learn if there are any significant differences between desktop and mobile feature sets, and ask if and when those differences will be eliminated. Before choosing a vendor, you should also check production and playback on a range of older mobile devices to gauge compatibility and performance.
Understanding the Analytics
Some enterprise YouTube systems allow supervisors to distribute video to their employees for enforced viewing, which can be critical in some regulated industries. Beyond that, certain enterprise systems can serve as learning management platforms, complete with quizzes and certifications. Obviously, for these applications, the back-end analytics must support these analysis.
More generally, some systems provide extensive details about which users watched which videos, while others provide only general, video-centric stats. If you’re in a business that wants (or needs) to track individual employee viewing, check these capabilities early in the process.
It’s also important to see what analytics are on offer. As an example, not all enterprise YouTube systems offer engagement graphs, even though YouTube has for many years. So scan through the available reports to understand if they deliver the required information.
Closed Caption Support
Closed caption support is beneficial for all systems, but essential in, for instance, the education market. Again, if this is a feature you need, check early, because not all systems support it.
Getting Content Into the System
Most enterprises have hundreds, if not thousands, of videos to input into the system during the implementation stage. Not all systems offer batch uploading; without it, this stage can be an agonizing and exceptionally boring operation.
Vidizmo’s platform can deliver training and certifications, both within a branded portal or through an existing LMS.
It goes without saying that you should test-drive any system on your shortlist. The first test you should run is this: Upload 10 video files, completing all the necessary metadata, permissions, and other necessary items. If a system can’t perform these functions quickly and efficiently, it’s a significant black mark, particularly if you’re the poor soul who will have to upload those thousands of videos, or supervise the people who will.
While test-driving the system, try to pirate a video via a simple tool, such as Firefox’s Download Helper or Jaksta. You’ll find that systems that deliver plain Jane MP4 files via progressive download are disturbingly easy to pirate, while systems that use adaptive streaming are incrementally more challenging. All systems claim to be “secure” of course but few, if any, offer encryption or true DRM, and in truth, few systems need it. Still, this exercise will help you understand and explain the level of security offered by each system during the selection process, and it’s a test better run and disclosed by you during the selection process, than by your supervisors after you’ve chosen a solution.
This article appears in the 2016 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.
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