WebRTC is a hot topic, but many still don’t know what it is or why they should consider it. To get the basics out of the way WebRTC (a.k.a., Web Real-Time Communications), a solution for video calling and video conferencing was originally introduced by Google back in 2011 as an open source project and has gained significant momentum in a very short time. WebRTC has been embraced by the W3C who are moving forward with a draft standard definition of an API supporting browser-to-browser applications for voice and video calling, conferencing and file sharing without plugins.
Many enterprises are now looking into WebRTC to determine if it fits their needs. The following are five reasons to give WebRTC serious consideration as an enterprise communication tool.
WebRTC is Easier to Integrate & Deploy
Prior to WebRTC we had three choices when it came to making a video call: use a pre-packaged App like Skype, a cloud service like Go-to-Meeting, or implement a full blown unified communication platform.
The problem with Skype, Go-to-Meeting, and the like are they are designed to be standalone services. To use these services the user would have to leave the context of their App and login to Skype or Go-to-Meeting. The call would occur out of context and the user was forced to jump back and forth between applications. They also had to duplicate contacts in multiple places and remember IDs and Passwords for each solution. These solutions also weren’t designed to be integrated and rarely are in the enterprise.
The third option, unified communications (think Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft Lync etc.) is very expensive to implement and very challenging to integrate. Most of these platforms require the purchase of both software and hardware. They also required specialized knowledge and skills to implement and integrate. The average company will typically hire a systems integrator to deploy the solution and most customers will not deploy all the pre-packaged functionality due to cost and effort. Only a fraction of enterprises deploying UC will actually achieve an integration with a 3rd party application due to the learning curve and complexity of the integration layer.
Most WebRTC solutions offer well documented APIs and SDKs and integrating the solution into an existing application normally requires only a few lines of code. Developers can look like heroes with a little support from vendors who often provide code samples to ease the learning curve.
The time to integrate a WebRTC solution can be counted in days versus most UC solutions that cost more, take months to implement, and rarely get truly integrated into enterprise applications.
Overcoming Consumer Mistrust Through Video Calling
Amazon’s commercial showing the Amazon Mayday button on the new Kindle Fire created a groundswell of interest in real-time customer support through video calling. Anyone who has sent an email requesting support and wondered if it was simply going into a black hole, or sat in a chat session wondering if anyone was on the other end, can easily see the advantage of real-time video support.
The real question is will consumers download a foreign browser plug-in or application onto their computer to let you support them? If your answer is no, don’t despair your business is not alone. Consumers are conditioned to not trust businesses or any online entity for that matter during their first interaction.
With WebRTC, businesses can offer real-time video support without causing consumer friction or drop offs because WebRTC enables secure video calling within a browser without any downloads. This technology is certain to usher in a new era of customer service which bodes well for the hundreds of millions of consumers in the world.
Real-time Collaboration Through Video
Enterprise collaboration is a very hot topic, as enterprises try to get their employees more engaged. The challenge for most organizations is that employees often work remotely, which is also why Mobile is high on the enterprise agenda.
Less than roughly 68% of employees consider themselves fully engaged in their work. The lack of full engagement has a serious impact on productivity, and enterprise IT is attempting to address this with collaboration solutions. Most collaboration solutions attempt to bring consumer social media tools to the enterprise in an effort to get employees to engage like they do on Facebook or Twitter. Unfortunately, these text based solutions simply don’t replace the connections employees built when they were all in the same location.
Real-time video on the other hand brings back that sense of connection and gets employees out from behind the walls built by email and chat communications. WebRTC makes video calling and video conferencing viable options for many organizations and will quickly become the tool that makes the biggest impact in the effort to reengage remote employees.
WebRTC is Secure
Over time we’ve realized that we have to be more conscious of how we protect our communications. When making a call we like to think our communication is secure, however most VoIP solutions still rely on the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) to facilitate calls. Contrast this with WebRTC which starts with Secure RTP (SRTP) as its standard. The basic premise of WebRTC is that every call is private, which is what consumers expect.
SRTP provides authentication, encryption, and ensures the integrity of the call. It even embraces protection of replay. SRTP is considered a sister protocol to RTP, but for most VoIP solutions relying on RTP it takes a great deal of configuration and testing to make SRTP work. This is why many Unified Communication (UC) implementations end up settling for the less secure RTP.
Building on a secure foundation as its default simply makes WebRTC the more secure solution for the enterprise.
WebRTC is More Cost Effective
For many of the traditional Unified Communications (UC) it’s still about selling hardware. Hardware is what drives revenue in companies like Cisco and Avaya. Even UC vendors like Microsoft who are more software oriented are in it for the licensing revenue. For most UC solutions you can expect to pony up a fairly significant capital investment.
Beyond the capital investment there is also the implementation and integration time. Most companies don’t have internal expertise working with UC platforms, so they hire an integrator to do their initial implementation and custom development. This can double or triple the cost of the implementation. UC vendors will argue that you buy a UC platform for more than voice and video calling. If you look at the cost of just setting up a reliable video bridge on a UC platform it will far exceed the cost of most WebRTC deployments.
One of the key mantras of WebRTC is that it is free; implement a few lines of code and you’ve got video calling. This is true if all you’re looking to do is talk to someone on your LAN browser to browser. Supporting a global enterprise with reliable video communications where employees are spread across multiple countries is another story altogether, and for this you’ll need to build an infrastructure or use an existing Platform as a Service. Fortunately, there are a couple of vendors who offer Video Platforms as a Service that can be purchased for a very reasonable subscription rates eliminating a large capital outlay and keeping implementation costs to a minimum.
No matter how you look at it, WebRTC has a significant cost advantage over traditional UC solutions. WebRTC has no licensing cost, integration can be done with commonly available development skills, and infrastructures can be rented at low subscription rates. WebRTC eliminates the need for large capital outlays and delivers on its low cost promise.
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