Can Video Help Your Small Business?

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Video has become a killer app for small-to-midsized businesses. You can now use live video conferencing and collaboration between remote employees, provide streaming video for websites and social networks, and more.

“Video is indeed becoming more pervasive in the enterprise,” says Phil Karcher, a researcher at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. “Tools like online video platforms make it easy for marketers to embed video on their websites and syndicate content to their YouTube and Facebook pages.”

However, there are a few challenges in keeping up with the Joneses — from taxing network resources to privacy and security concerns. Is video really worth it for your business? Consider the following:

The Value of Video

Even though it takes some planning on the part of IT, Forrester Research says your business can’t afford not to embrace online video. Video is 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than text-related pages on the same topic.

Unlike television, radio and newspapers, online video also lives forever, is forever searchable and helps create a personal connection with the viewer, as it can generate discussion and debate between commenters. As opposed to other media, Internet video can also be viewed whenever, wherever — whether the viewer uses a computer, a smartphone, a tablet, a portable media player or an Internet-connected television.

Video Conference for Productivity

Companies are also recognizing the added value of video conferencing, says John Bartlett, principal of NetForecast, a consulting firm that benchmarks, analyzes and helps improve performance of networked data, voice and video apps. “It’s a better way to establish and enhance a relationship,” says Bartlett. “Video enables the ability to read body language when communicating with a client and provides a more efficient way to collaborate with colleagues.”

However, video conferencing presents a bigger issue for your network, says Karcher. “The major gating factor is the network’s ability to handle two-way video, which is more sensitive than one-way streaming video,” explains Karcher. “Desktop videoconferencing puts a lot of pressure on the network backbone, therefore companies that add more video to the network need to think about tools to manage bandwidth and assure reliable performance.”

Choosing a Network for Your Video Needs

Depending on your company’s needs, size and budget, you’ll have to decide if a regular Ethernet connection can handle everything, or if you should invest in a dedicated enterprise-grade pipe to handle your business’s video and other applications.

“Companies need to understand the impact on the network,” explains Bartlett. “If Skype is acceptable to you, then your regular broadband connection might be fine. But an enterprise network, while more expensive, will give you more bandwidth and better-quality video.”

Privacy and Security Concerns for Video

Don’t embrace video without a security strategy in place, cautions Bartlett. You’ll need a secure firewall, and you must “consider tools or services for encrypting video calls so the man in the middle can’t listen in,” he says. “You need to think of how it affects content management, compliance and security — and you will need tools to search, secure, track and report on video too.”