Everyone wants in on the video conference boom. But getting in, and becoming a trusted resource to your customers, means knowing the ins and outs of the market. It's an area filled with great profit potential. Here, Nieuwesteeg explains how integrators can move beyond hardware and effectively sell the best total solutions to customers.—Jennifer Bosavage
Video conferencing and telepresence solutions are poised to enter the mainstream, bolstered by benefits that include enhanced collaboration, increased productivity and reduced travel costs. Recent research predicts that the video conferencing market will hit $5 billion by 2016. However, the challenges presented by complex, mixed-vendor video conferencing environments can be daunting for most businesses and limit the adoption of the medium. Service providers who want to generate new, differentiated revenue streams beyond simply selling video equipment should look at offering managed video solutions that ensure customers receive a high-quality experience.
Here are six recommendations for solution providers and IT resellers who are considering adding video managed services to their portfolios:
1. Start with a video management strategy
Customers who hire you to manage their video conferencing service will have no tolerance for low quality experiences. But rolling out video is challenging and time-consuming, putting a severe strain on all IT resources, including the human ones. This includes deployment, monitoring and management as well as proactive identification, troubleshooting and resolution of problems. The increase in bandwidth demands requires setting up the right quality of service (QoS) policies and constantly monitoring them to ensure video gets the right priority across the network. Then there are the firewall and network address translation (NAT) traversal issues. Rogue endpoints placed on the network without IT knowledge are another problem that can make managing QoS policies more difficult.
Understanding these requirements and anticipating the potential issues will help service providers create a necessary video management strategy prior to any rollout. A critical precursor is setting up the ability to discover all endpoints and track video clients, as well as monitor all the infrastructure resources used to provide the video services: network, servers, virtual machines and the applications.
2. Consolidate video management and integrate third-party systems
Video conferencing can no longer be managed as an island. Delivering adequate service delivery requires managing video in context with the rest of the IT infrastructure, but this is easier said than done. Integrating the video management system with all the systems and applications necessary for video conferencing – such as ticketing, network management and Alpha tracking systems – is a significant challenge. In addition, the different video conferencing vendors have different management systems that do not manage or integrate with the others very well. Since most organizations use a mix of video conferencing vendors, this prevents a holistic view of health and performance across the video infrastructure.
Resellers and solution providers need a comprehensive view into video and network performance across at least the three major vendors (Cisco TelePresence and Tandberg, Polycom and LifeSize) for each customer’s environment. Look for IT operations/data management tools that have built-in ticketing and network monitoring systems, for instance, or at least enable easy integration of the systems critical to video conferencing. This will streamline the workflow process and reduce integration issues.
3. Secure comprehensive views and reporting for all video infrastructure and QoS.
An effective video management service requires the ability to discover and view the status of all interrelated video and networking equipment as well as provide both real-time and historical performance metrics, call detail records for video calls, and utilization and availability metrics. Service providers also need real-time (or near real-time) access to this data in order to troubleshoot issues. Using this data for long-term reporting is necessary for trending and planning purposes. In addition, customers need access to this data via a portal where they can create custom views and reports.
4. Attain proactive notification & rapid remediation for potential service-impacting issues.
The best way to avoid long and tedious hours trying to troubleshoot problems is to be proactive and have tools to detect issues before users even notice. This includes detecting IT infrastructure problems that affect video availability and quality.
Video conferencing management solutions should alert IT staff of video quality events, resource constraints, call signaling issues, and equipment issues. In addition, understanding the root cause of the issue is crucial: Is the problem with the video equipment or based somewhere else in the infrastructure? Having a solution that collects information across a video deployment in its entirety, and then delivers only actionable alerts to help pinpoint performance issues early, will ensure superior quality.
5. Simplify management of complex video deployment scenarios
As video deployments scale, the infrastructure grows as well, significantly increasing the complexity of the operation. This includes expensive conferencing units whose usage requires close management; firewall/NAT traversal solutions that facilitate remote workers and business-to-business video; call control entities that may reside on virtual machines; gateways to interwork with other technologies such as ISDN; and accessory equipment such as video recording devices. Service providers need a clear plan of action to deal with complexities as they arise, and tools to simplify the management of all the equipment and technologies.
6. Choose a video management solution with built-in multi-tenancy support.
Multi-tenancy is a must-have for service providers, but the legacy vendor video management tools lack support for it. Having to deploy dedicated management solutions for each customer results in very high operating costs, and these solutions do not scale. The best way to avoid this issue is to choose a solution from the start that has been built with multi-tenancy support at a manageable cost.
Many enterprises do not have the tools or expertise to effectively manage video conferencing, and outsourcing to a service provider can cost less than in-house solutions. That presents a great opportunity but also specific challenges for service providers, including the need to have multi-tenancy support and provide portals with all the reporting tools customers need and expect. The essential components necessary to success include an understanding of the complexities, a plan to tackle them, and superior management capabilities.