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Future-Proofing Your Streaming Investment

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By: Steve Vonder Haar

When it comes to streaming, I’m something of nostalgia curmudgeon.

Rather than ruminating on the past, my preference is to focus on the future. And while we’ve seen great progress in the adoption of online video (and the range of streaming solutions that makes online video more useful) in the past decade, I’m much more excited about the impact that streaming will have on business communications in the next 10 years.

That’s why it’s time to re-visit a topic of vital importance in the world of enterprise streaming: future-proofing. I’ve shared some thoughts in previous columns for the Winnov newsletter on the strategic decisions end users can make to extend the value and lifecycle of their streaming media technology investments.

In my book, only one thing is worse than reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” of streaming: that’s looking back on streaming deployments and thinking about money wasted on technology that has grown obsolete. Making good implementation decisions today can go a long way to helping you avoid this type of streaming regret down the line.

In the past, I’ve written about how the adoption of hosted solutions can help end users embrace the concept of future-proofing. Vendors regularly update their cloud offerings, keeping their solutions current with the needs of the market.

But virtually no organization producing video content can live on the cloud alone. Whether it be capture equipment, encoders or some other type of video gear, good streaming solutions will usually require that at least some piece of the video workflow be handled with equipment located on-premise.

In the fast-evolving streaming market, the sheer act of deploying hardware is tantamount to an open invitation for obsolescence. Only those who do some good investigation and evaluation of vendors – and their solutions – can break free of Father Time’s withering impact on aging technology.

One simple step for future-proofing hardware streaming deployments is to conduct a thorough examination of a vendor’s track record for updating gear via software upgrades delivered online. This is particularly important when thinking about how systems support evolving technology formats for online video.

After all, we could probably devote quite a bit of time to discussing the relative merits of the emerging MPEG-DASH format, for instance. Right now, you may be ambivalent whether you have access to systems that can handle content using this format. But – two years from now – you might be singing a very different tune on MPEG-DASH.

Ideally, you want to invest in hardware with the flexibility to add support for emerging video formats.  It’s too much hassle to look into a crystal ball today to guess which formats will be the winners years down the line.  And it is much smarter to invest in systems that keep you covered – no matter in which direction the video format winds ultimately blow.

Beyond the ability to update products themselves, also look for vendors that offer hardware buyback programs to provide another avenue for protecting your technology investment. Sometimes the design of video gear makes it impervious to easy online software updates. In this case, you may find some vendors with programs that give you credit for old gear that can be applied to discounting the cost of buying new equipment.

The best strategy for end users is to ask about long-term trade-in policies up-front. Learn the promises that are being made regarding upgrade credits when you are making your initial purchase decision. The long-term cost of a video production may actually decline if you commit to a vendor offering an upgrade policy that aligns with your need to have access to the industry’s latest technologies.

If you don’t ask some basic questions of your streaming vendors at the outset, a couple years from now you could wind up being nostalgic yourself – longing for the days when your video gear was actually viable. Take steps now to make sure you don’t get caught behind the times.

Steve Vonder Haar is a Senior Analyst with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at svonder@wainhouse.com

 

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