Even if your business’ legacy video conferencing devices can’t be directly integrated with Microsoft Teams, Microsoft wants to make it easy for you to use Teams anyway–for obvious reasons. How? Well, there’s a way to salvage your once state-of-the-art telepresence and video conferencing equipment: third-party video conferencing. The technology provides a bridge between the old and the new and extends the life of fully operational hardware and software.
The Microsofts of the world may be pressuring businesses to “upgrade” their hardware and to commit to a single video conferencing platform, but there’s no need to give up on your favorite setup…at least not yet. Change is inevitable in a rapidly evolving industry like that of digital communication. Third-party video conferencing lets you make change on your own terms.
Third-Party Video Conferencing Options
We’re picking on Microsoft a little here, but it has a skin that’s billions of dollars thick, so it should withstand a little teasing. In truth, the company isn’t the only one that wants you to communicate its way. Every video conferencing platform wants its customers to stay loyal, of course, and Microsoft has made a third-party bridge available to help new users get on board with its flagship collaboration software, Microsoft Teams.
Cloud Video Interop for Teams lets you conduct Teams video meetings from your legacy rooms and devices. It is limited to solutions from Pexip, Poly (formerly Polycom), and BlueJeans, but it does allow you to maintain your existing setup while embracing Microsoft’s new video baby or communicating with those that have already.
Starleaf, Crestron, and, of course, the interoperable standard-bearer, Slack, also offer third-party solutions.
Microsoft isn’t the only company offering third-party video conferencing solutions. Current video conferencing darling Zoom, which recently made millions for its investors by going public, also offers a Zoom Room solution. It’s a little more generous in scope, and offers audio-only connections for competing vendors such as GoToMeeting and WebEx. Lifesize has a ready-made interoperable solution as well, with an emphasis on users with Poly and Cisco standards-based systems. Starleaf, Crestron, and, of course, the interoperable standard-bearer, Slack, also offer third-party solutions.
Third-party video conferencing typically isn’t a straightforward process. You’ll need real IT expertise to initiate the link, but the reward is avoiding, or at least delaying, a costly video conferencing upgrade.
Control Your Video Conferencing Costs
The recent surge in video conferencing popularity has been driven at least in part by the Cloud. The ability to host meetings and house data on external servers has radically reduced the cost of an initial investment in video. Cloud-based video conferencing, along with many other industries, has adopted a subscription model that offers little financial risk for users and breaks the link between on-premises hardware and video vendor software–we’re free now to mix and match our cameras and our vendors.
The result is greater specialization on both sides of the hardware/software divide. Left to cater to a growing number of video consumers, vendors can focus on hosting, while hardware manufacturers focus on enabling calls. This results in a market where a high-quality conference room setup costs around $2,000, not tens of thousands, and a vendor subscription might cost less than $10 a month.
The bottom line is that it’s expensive to update a legacy video conferencing setup.
That kind of flexibility makes third-party video conferencing solutions less important than before–you can now quickly and affordably opt-out of your old system for a new one. However, if you made your video investment before the Cloud came into use, this might not be as simple as it sounds.
The bottom line is that it’s expensive to update a legacy video conferencing setup. For some, the switch means giving up on expensive equipment that still works. For others, it means continuing to use equipment that isn’t compatible with new software solutions by seeking out a third-party solution. Third-party video conferencing buys these users time to decide on a new path or to put off an investment until better conditions emerge. Or, they can just hang to what they’ve got and communicate via this digital bridge.
As new users begin to outnumber legacy users, we’ll hear less and less about third-party solutions…unless they become a weapon in the impending video conferencing consolidation battle.
Interoperability as a Weapon
It has been predicted that a consolidation of workplace collaboration platforms is imminent. Workplace collaboration incorporates video as one of many forms of communication that are instantly accessible in an employee’s daily workflow. Within services such as Slack and Teams, video becomes as commonplace as audio calls, text, email, and chat. Every aspect of an employee’s day is accessed and shared through a central, Facebook-like hub.
Interoperability is central to this arrangement. Users are encouraged to stay within the main system by having access to all their other business tools from the communication hub. For instance, users can access Salesforce, AWS, and Zoom within Slack.
Third-party video conferencing could be used to encourage customers to switch over from competitors.
As the number of collaboration apps contracts–we’ve already seen Slack buy and kill rival HipChat–third-party video conferencing could be used to encourage customers to switch over from competitors. Microsoft, for example, can promise Zoom customers a smooth transition to its service by allowing them to keep their existing video tech until they’re ready to fully commit.
Used this way, third-party video conferencing could become a way for big video fish to swallow up smaller ones. If companies begin to think about them this way, we may see third-party services move from being a compromise and toward being a weapon of market forces…but the end-user still gets to keep their favorite conference camera.