Let me be up front about this. Vidizmo EnterpriseTube is the first corporate YouTube product that I’ve reviewed. So if you’re looking for a comparative analysis detailing how the product stacks up with other options, this, unfortunately, isn’t it. On the other hand, if you’re curious about what a corporate YouTube does and how it works, well, we can take that journey together. You in? Let’s get started.
At a high level, the term “corporate YouTube” says it all; it’s a mechanism for employees, customers, and other partners to upload and share video-related content. The very nature of corporate life, of course, introduces some particular concerns. For example, you probably need a very tight moderation function so the C-level execs don’t see those videos from the last sales retreat. Yeah, those. You probably also need to moderate those comments that seem so funny on YouTube, but could be career-limiting inside the firewall.
Beyond that, you need to manage who gets to see what, both inside and outside the organization. You want the videos to play on the patchwork of platforms and devices that your viewers will attempt to watch them on. You probably also want single sign-on and integration with your existing corporate portal, plus the ability to track the performance of all videos, and who’s been watching which videos and for how long. Vidizmo EnterpriseTube does all this, and a whole lot more.
Vidizmo EnterpriseTube is the productization of a discrete set of features from a comprehensive media management and distribution platform created by Vidizmo. Other products carved out in a similar fashion include MediaTube, which lacks functions like the ability to work with SCORM content; MediaLMS, which adds SCORM back in; and Media Commerce, which includes monetization via a paywall, shopping cart functionality or advertising support. Complicating these product comparisons even further, MediaTube and EnterpriseTube have standard and premium versions with different feature sets. Vidizmo has a features table that shows you exactly what’s what at http:// go2sm.com/vidizmo.
I worked with the premium version of EnterpriseTube, but focused most of my attention on core features. For example, the premium version can import SCORM content, produce live events, produce interactive video with quizzes, polls and surveys, and edit video within the media management system. As you’ll see, I had my hands full figuring out the content upload, moderation, and approval workflow, plus testing playback functionality, so I spent no time on these extras.
You can see the fruits of my efforts in Figure 1, the Streaming Learning Center EnterpriseTube with two channels and about 30 total videos. As I’ll explain in more detail below, each viewer sees a different view of the home page depending upon their rights. Figure 1 is the administrator’s view of the Streaming Learning Center channel, with complete access to all channel options (on the left) and other administrative options via the Admin menu option at the top of the image. Users with view-only rights see very little of these controls, with videos presented as three categories; Most Recent, Most Popular, and Most Viewed.
Figure 1. My Vidizmo EntepriseTube
In terms of architecture, you can access EnterpriseTube as a hosted cloud application or on premises in a private cloud. Pricing ranges from $5,000 to $100,000 or higher depending upon the number of users, channels and features. If you scan the aforementioned features table, you’ll note that some functions, such as moderation and integration with SharePoint, SiteCore, WordPress, Drupal, and other CMS, are optional. So if you get into a pricing discussion, be sure to understand what’s included in the system you’re purchasing, and what isn’t.
Let’s start with a look at how content is organized and secured, then move into the content production workflow.
Content is organized by channels, each with its own membership type, which can follow one of four preset configurations, or be completely custom. For example, public channels can be viewed by anyone, even anonymous viewers on the internet. Internal channels can be accessed only by authenticated viewers, while restricted channels can only be viewed by authenticated viewers with permission to view that channel. Finally, hidden channels can only be viewed by administrators and are hidden from the directory. Beyond access and membership, channels can be branded differently for a completely different appearance.
As the name suggests, channels provide a simple way to direct videos to certain groups, or to configure groups of videos in certain ways. For example, you could have one channel for sales that only sales personnel could access, and another for human resources that all employees can access. You might decide to enable viewers of these internal channels to add comments and ratings, but not spread the word via social media functions.
You could also create a channel accessible over the general internet, but let viewers embed those videos, rate them, and share them through Twitter and Facebook, but not leave comments. Though you can customize some features within a channel on a video-by-video basis, it’s simplest if you just create a channel so you can assign rights to multiple videos at one time.
You set viewing rights and these video-related features in the General Settings tab shown in Figure 2 (set for Restricted membership). Assuming you have the required authorization, you can override these selections for single videos, but in most instances, you’ll simply default to these settings for all uploaded content. As you can see on the left in Figure 1, all channels can also have categories, which allow further segmentation of the channel content.
Figure 2. Setting high-level configuration options for the entire channel
Further to the right in the tabbed menu in Figure 2, you see the Login options tab, which is opened in Figure 3. Here you choose how viewers can log in to the channel: directly into the EnterpriseTube system, through a shared corporate login for single sign-on, or through a third-party login from accounts like Google, Twitter, or Facebook. You also set options for restricting how and where channel videos can be embedded or shared, as well as as how long a user can remain logged in without any activity.
Figure 3. The features accessible in the Login tab of the Settings control
There are five defined user roles that you can customize as desired. Starting with users with the least rights, Viewers can watch published content and perform functions such as ratings and comments. Contributors can view and upload content but it must be approved by a manager or moderator before publication. Moderators can view, upload, publish, and moderate content, but can’t change channel settings or invite new users. Managers have complete control over a channel, including viewing, uploading, approving, creating or scheduling a live or on-demand presentation, setting embedding options, viewing analytics, and managing users. Administrators can manage branding, create new channels, and manage users, though they can’t upload or manage content within a channel; that’s owned by the moderator and managers.
If you’re using EnterpriseTube within a company with an existing login and security infrastructure, you can work with Vidizmo to integrate your existing users into the system and then assign rights and channels within which they can view content. Otherwise, you invite participants to join the party by sending emails within the system with a typical login and password selection workflow.
As mentioned above, when users log in, their main channel page is customized for the activities that they can perform and the content they are authorized to view. So a Viewer sees only content, while a Contributor also has Add New and My Media buttons to upload and manage new content. Administrators see all the controls shown in Figure 1.
The Content Creation Workflow
The typical workflow starts with a Contributor uploading a video (Figure 4). After selecting the video, the Contributor chooses a category for the video, adds a title and description and presses Upload. In my workflow, a Contributor doesn’t have the right to publish a video, just upload it, so it has to be approved by a Moderator, Manager, or Administrator. As you can see, Contributors have no ability to set configuration options that dictate usage rights, such as who can watch the video.
Figure 4. Step 1 of the content creation workflow
Note that the screen shown in Figure 4 is the upload screen used when Silverlight is installed. If Silverlight were not installed, the contributor would see an HTML5 upload screen with only the ability to browse for the file, select the category, and enter a description and tags (all these functions are in the Basic Settings of the screen shown in Figure 4, accessed via that tab on the upper left). So contributors can upload files with or without Silverlight installed; they just have more access to features with the plugin. However, for full access to media management functions, moderators, managers and administrators will need Silverlight, though the company is working to implement HTML5 controls over these functions.
On my Windows test stations, all Silverlight-related functions worked perfectly. On my MacPro, I successfully uploaded files in Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, but not Safari. I performed a lot of testing on the MacPro, however, and the Safari-related upload problem was the only one I encountered. I’m not particularly fond of Silverlight, but it worked very well in these tests.
To complete the Silverlight-related picture, on the playback side, viewers do not need Silverlight for simple audio/video playback. But if you create rich media presentations using Vidizmo’s tools, say integrating PowerPoint slides and video, viewers without Silverlight will only be able to see the audio/video component. Mobile viewers also only see the video portion. All this will change when Vidizmo implements HTML5 playback, but that’s not here yet.
OK, back to the narrative. Once the Contributor uploads the file, it gets sent to encoding.com for encoding; though EnterpriseTube is built on top of Microsoft Azure, the encoding function within Azure is not used by default. With encoding.com, you get your choice of playback station-specific presets to enable and disable, but you can’t adjust the specific encoding configuration options. Encoding was very fast; I was uploading very small files and they usually were transcoded by the time I moved from the contributor-upload role to the manager-approval role.
What happens next depends upon how the approval and notification process is set up. Specifically, you can configure Moderators, Managers, and Administrators to receive an email when a video is ready for review. Then they enter Media Management module (Figure 5) where they can watch the video, if desired, then approve or reject the video, or review its settings. All these options are controlled by the eponymous buttons on the left of Figure 5. If no email notifications are set up, someone with approval authority will have to open this view to moderate the videos from time to time.
Figure 5. Here’s where Moderators, Managers, and Administrators go to review and approve videos.
When anyone with review authority clicks Settings, that user sees essentially the same controls the contributor does with Silverlight installed, as shown in Figure 4, which they can modify and then approve, except for options relating to who can watch the video. Again, these can only be changed by modifying the membership type in the General settings field shown in Figure 2. Since only Administrators or Managers have access to these controls, once high-level access-related options are set, those with lower management rights can’t change them, by accident or on purpose.
Note that if you do decide to change the access rights to videos in a channel, this change automatically flows through to videos already uploaded, in addition to all videos uploaded after the change. This will likely be very convenient in practice, since having to manually change access rights to previously uploaded videos one at a time could be catastrophically time-consuming.
While on the subject, note that in Figure 4, we’re allowing viewers to share and embed the video, which seems at odds with the restricted viewing. In both cases, however, before a viewer can actually watch the embedded video or the video linked via social media, they’ll have to log in to the system with the necessary access rights. So, the restricted viewing is maintained even though the video can be shared via social media sites or embedded.
Viewing the Content
Once a video is approved, it transfers into the general library where it can be viewed from there, or embedded into a web page via standard embedding controls. There are three players available within the EnterpriseTube: Silverlight, Flash, and HTML5, and administrators and managers can select their priority. For example, if the order is HTML5, Flash, and then Silverlight, the playback device will try HTML5 first, then fallback until it finds a compatible player. This is the order I used during my testing and the HTML5 player is shown in Figure 6.
Within the Manager or Administrator interface, you can choose or customize a theme for your Silverlight player (but you can’t customize the Flash or HTML5 players). Customization options are limited; for example, even though you can change the colors of player controls, you can’t control the controls actually used in the player.
The HTML5 player itself is functional, but not exotic, more Prius than Jaguar (Figure 6). Still, it gets the job done. The only real complaint is that you don’t have typical playlist controls to determine which videos get shown on the right of the player. When I mentioned this to the company, they responded that this feature was in the pipeline.
Figure 6. Here’s the HTML5 player; functional, but not the most exotic around.
During playback, EnterpriseTube supports adaptive streaming via Smooth Streaming to Silverlight, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) to Flash via the JW Player, HLS to iOS devices with fallback to a single MP4 file for Android. On computers and Android devices, you can also choose a stream manually, so if you’re willing to wait for absolute top quality, you have that option.
On both Mac and Windows workstations, playback was flawless, as was access to common controls such as full screen mode, adding comments, and flagging contentand the like. On mobile devices, the results were mixed. To test mobile, I ran through a two video test that involved playback of a 2-minute and 48-minute video; it’s not exactly the Iron Man of mobile testing, but I wanted to simulate a typical use case. Specifically, with each video, I started at the beginning, watched for a few seconds, then tried to go to full screen. Then I dragged the playhead to the middle of the video to see how long it would take the player to respond. The results are presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Mobile playback performance
Overall, playback performance was very good; given the problems I’ve seen with other services playing reliably on Android devices, I was impressed. The only absolute fail was on my ancient iPad 1, which refused to go full screen.
Otherwise, during playback, the equally ancient Thrive and iPad 1 were also sluggish in the controls; sometimes you had to tap the screen multiple times for the controls to appear, likely the result of too much CPU being consumed during playback. On the Android tablets, you can choose the desired stream, and both units were much more responsive with 360p than 720p.
Speaking of comments, you can choose to moderate them or not, but the comment approval workflow isn’t as efficient as the video approval process. Leaving a comment is straightforward; the viewer types in the comment (Figure 7), and if it’s moderated, they’ll see a message informing them that the comment is being sent for moderation.
Figure 7. Adding a comment to a video
One or more Moderator, Manager, or Administrator should elect to receive an email notifying them that a comment has been made and identifying the channel and video. When they click the video, they jump to media management area, where they first have to find the video, then edit, approve, reject, or delete the comment.
Unlike approvals, there is no single screen like the one shown in Figure 5 where you can go to review all comments; you have to hunt and peck in the videos in the media management area. Though Vidizmo plans to add a comment administration feature similar to Figure 3 in the near term, working with lots of comments will be frustrating until it’s available.
Similarly, users can flag inappropriate content, resulting in another email to a higher authority which links to the media management area, but not the specific video or an administrative panel with all flagged content. For high volume use, Vidizmo needs to streamline dealing with comments and flagged content.
On the analytics side, Vidizmo offers a comprehensive list of video and user-based analytics as shown in Figure 8. These let you track the performance of each video, and also which users, or groups of users, watched which videos and for how long. I scanned many of the reports, and the only major gap I found was the lack of an engagement graph showing how long users watched a particular video. This too, is in the works. Beyond the internal reports, you can also send the data to Google analytics and export data for crunching in Excel.
Figure 8. Reports available from the EnterpriseTube
Also in the works is documentation for the product, which has been outlined but not yet written. With all this, and the transition from Silverlight to HTML5, Vidizmo has a lot on its development plate, though I guess products of this scope are always somewhat of a work in process.
Overall, I found the product very functional and reasonably useable, though my pokings and proddings were admittedly focused and limited. Every organization will need different features and different workflows. Before considering any corporate YouTube product, you should spend a few hours mapping out the content insertion and creation workflows, and viewing scenarios, as well as security and analytics requirements. Buying a corporate YouTube is a major investment of cash and particularly time, and the more time you spend on needs and requirements up front, the better chance you have of choosing the right system. And if you’re considering a corporate YouTube system, Vidizmo should definitely be on your list.