Sep 17 2012

Enterprise Video: Are Businesses Better Off with Free or Paid Platforms?

If your business is looking for more advanced tools, paid video services might be a better fit.

The benefits of using video as a communication tool both internally and externally are underestimated by most businesses. Enterprise video provides organizations with the ability to streamline training and boost team building for a global workforce. But when it comes to choosing a video-distribution platform, there are tradeoffs to using free services over paid options.

Many free services, such as YouTube, offer adequate video-distribution tools; however, paid platforms provide more sophisticated offerings that can prove advantageous for the enterprise.

The Search for Better Metrics

When comparing video-distribution platforms, it’s important to first look at the metrics and analytics options that each platform provides. After all, if you can’t gauge how well your videos are doing, how can you improve?

Many free video services allow owners to see basic information, such as how many people have viewed their video, where the viewers are located, how they discovered the video, and what interaction they have with the video. These metrics are helpful when evaluating video performance, but more advanced paid platforms can provide further insight with more sophisticated data.

For instance, individual user data is very important when evaluating video metrics. Just how much of the video is the person watching? Did they view the entire video, or click away after only a few seconds? Many paid platforms allow you to see viewing patterns and drop-off rates of individual users. With this data, you can clearly see what’s working and what’s not.

Paid Services Have More Advanced Collaboration Tools

Many free video platforms only allow for basic commenting on videos by viewers. But what if you want to encourage more advanced collaboration?

Some paid video-distribution platforms offer a variety of collaboration features that allow users to engage with the content owner or other users as they are viewing the video.

Depending on what platform you are using, some of the features available include discussion threads and the ability to attach accompanying materials (such as PDF files or PowerPoint presentations) and embed quizzes and polls.

Free Services Offer Only Basic Security

Basic security options don’t always guarantee that a video is secure. Some companies may need to include sensitive or private information in their videos; unfortunately, only paid platforms can guarantee administrators complete control over their content.

On paid platforms, content creators can fine-tune requirements for user authentication and request detailed information, such as name, e-mail and company before the user is granted viewing access. While these requirements are helpful, content can still be shared.

To ensure that your content is protected, deliver content over the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). If you choose a free service, your only option is to stream content insecurely over HTTP, with the data flowing in cleartext over the network.

By streaming video content over the SSL, the data stream will be encrypted between the server and the user’s browser. This means that anyone externally viewing the content will see only a jumbled, encrypted mess. Neglecting SSL delivery means any other steps you have taken to secure your video could become irrelevant.

The Benefits of Streaming Video Over Progressive Download

Both streaming and progressive download deliver video content to the end user, but only one of these options ensures that content owners remain in control.

As mentioned, with free services, videos are commonly delivered over HTTP. But did you know that by choosing a free service, your content might actually be downloaded locally to the computer on which it is being viewed?

This is called progressive download, and many platforms work this way, including YouTube. Because the content is being downloaded, any viewer can access the video file directly on their computer. The video can then be altered and sent to others. However, for those who need to remain in total control of their content, progressive download is not secure enough.

Streaming video offers a solution for those concerned of retaining control over their content. When a video is streamed, the viewer is sent only the data they request, in small intervals: While the video is being viewed, only about three to five seconds of video is being sent, and content that has already been viewed is deleted. The video can’t be downloaded, because only three to five seconds of video is being stored on the computer at any one time.

For increased security, many paid video services offer streaming delivery. This is helpful because it prevents people from downloading your video, altering it and putting up another version or otherwise using your content without permission.

The Value of Integrating Video with Enterprise Apps

Enterprise applications, such as learning management systems (LMS) or customer relationship management (CRM) systems often are not set up for integration with free video services. Fortunately, there are paid video platforms available that can be integrated into enterprise applications, such as Salesforce. With this deeper level of video integration, professionals can benefit from an enhanced interactive user experience while they go about their work.

Say, for example, your company produces video case studies or conducts video interviews with customers. These videos can be accessed through your CRM platform for account managers to review before interactions with the customer or prospects. Now this video is serving as an inside sales tool, not just an external marketing tool for the company.

But without that integration with the enterprise application, account managers might never have knowledge of this valuable sales resource.

These are just a few ways free video-distribution platforms compare with paid options. In general, free video options have many benefits, but paid options allow for advanced options when it comes to flexibility, collaboration, tracking, and security. It’s important to carefully consider your organization’s individual video needs when choosing which platform is best for your company.

Have you used a paid video-distribution platform for your business video? How did it compare with free options?

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/onus-technologies/7984858387/sizes/l/" target="_blank">Flickr/Onus Technologies</a>