So, by now everyone has heard about UCaaS. But what about VaaS – as in, Video as a Service?
Web-based video conferencing platforms are nothing new. Cisco’s WebEx has been the market leader in web conferencing and collaboration for years, with video part of the offering.
And since consumer apps like Skype first demonstrated the potential of the public cloud in supporting flexible video communication, a growing number of providers have emerged offering business class video conferencing as a cloud based hosted service.
UCi2i, however, has a slightly different take on things. The London and Hong Kong based company does not just focus its services on video conferencing per se – its offering is based around video as a whole. To use UCi2i’s own term, VaaS.
So what else can a hosted video communications service offer to business clients aside from conferencing? And is video, which is readily available bundled in with pretty much every UC product and service going nowadays, even worthy of its own specialist provision?
From UCi2i’s perspective, yes it most certainly is. And that is because UCi2i believes that making a video call should be as straightforward and as accessible in the modern business place as making a phone call.
That sums up UCi2i’s mission neatly – to provide a low cost, easy, readily accessible, high quality video communication from any device, any time, any place. Just as you would pick up a telephone to call a colleague in another department or place an outside call to a client or a supplier, UCi2i sees no reason why video calls should not be the same.
In this review, we will assess whether UCi2i’s fully supported service does indeed make video calling as straightforward as using a telephone, and ask whether there is any reason to choose video over voice for business communication.
What Can It Do?
UCi2i’s main subscription plan, Connect, is all about one-to-one video calls. It operates much like a mobile phone service plan – subscriptions are purchased per user, and that gives them access to the VC-Connect video client. Each user gets a personal video address which serves as their call ID and contact ‘number’ for making and receiving calls.
VC-Connect is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, enabling flexible and mobile video calling to and from pretty much any device. Users also get VC-Book, a contacts management system which offers click to call and is again accessible on any device.
A Connect subscription also gives users access to UCi2i’s hosted Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs), web-based platforms which support video conferencing with multiple users. These can be used ad hoc for a small fee per use, or customers can buy VMR access subscriptions through the FlexPort service plan.
FlexPort operates as what is effectively a seating subscription – one license gets one user one place in a VMR. So a business decides how many VMRs and how many seats it needs, and buys a subscription for the total number of users. These can be used flexibly in any combination – if you had 20 licenses overall, you could run two conferences with ten users in each simultaneously, or four conferences of five, and so on.
Each user gets a web address and PIN which gives them call access to that VMR. Because user numbers are subscription based, it is very easy to change up and down whenever you want. Virtual meetings are controlled via a software app called VC-Control, a browser based GUI which gives options to schedule meetings, invite participants, launch in real time and allocate chair responsibilities. A single user can manage more than one VMR.
VC-Control can also be used as an additional live-streaming service. Subscribers can film and stream their event from within the VC-Control suite, and broadcast live on YouTube or any other third party service which supports RTMP.
The Connect and FlexPort plans share a number of features in common. For one, they offer unlimited use – with Connect, you can make as many one to one video calls as you want, and with FlexPort you can host or attend as many video conferences as you want. All video is in high definition with secure encryption, and supports geo-routing to maintain optimum quality wherever in the world you are.
Both plans provide access from any video enabled, standards based device. UCi2i supports SIP based endpoints from the likes of Cisco, Polycom, Lifesize and Yealink, so can fit seamlessly into existing office communications systems. Users can also choose to run the system on any existing video platforms such as Skype or Skype for Business, or WebRTC applications. File and desktop sharing is also supported on any H.239 compliant endpoint.
In return for subscription, UCi2i offers 24 hour support via VC-Desk, its cloud based service platform. Users can register issues from anywhere in the world and they will be dealt with at UCi2i’s end – there is virtually no maintenance or configuration responsibility for the end user at all.
What do we like?
The whole service model of UCi2i is very appealing – one monthly subscription, unlimited video calls and/or conferences, easy access from any device and global support. The quality of the video is excellent, the whole system is hugely scalable and it is all very affordable.
We also like the VC-Report service, which is a monitoring and analysis application which comes with Connect subscription plans as standard. Much the same as the contact centre data software you would get with a modern IP PBX or cloud telephony system, VC-Report measures and analyses the quality and quantity of calls, providing businesses with the intelligence to evaluate whether they are getting the best out of the system, and where improvements could be made.
Who is it for?
UCi2i is for any business which would like to take its use of video communications further. Typical of a cloud based service, its ease of deployment and flexibility make it suitable for organisations of all sizes. It is definitely worth a look for businesses which are using high volumes of video conference calls, as the unlimited use feature could save them money. It is also a great option for businesses with multinational branches or with lots of distant partners who would like to add more of a personal touch to day to day communications.
What is it compatible with?
The VC-Connect client is compatible with any Windows, Mac, iOS and Android device with a video camera, as well as standards based video desk phones. It can also be integrated with existing video platforms such as Skype or Skype for Business. The VC-Control VMR management suite can be used to livestream video via YouTube or other RTMP compatible platforms.
UCi2i is compatible with virtually any 3rd party video conferencing system, supported protocols include:
- Skye for Business
Where to buy and for how much?
UCi2i are seeking channel partners who are interested in VaaS, contact them for more information or download a brochure to get started. UCi2i offers a complimentary two week free trial of its service via its website.
Is there any reason why video should not become as integral to business communications as voice? Logically, and on the evidence of what UCi2i do, the answer is no. There might be claims that the average person is more reluctant to show themselves on a screen than talk over a telephone, but this is mainly down to habit – and there are plenty of people who don’t like telephones, either.
The issue with video has always been technology. In digital terms, because the broadcast of a moving image with audio takes so many more data packets than distributing audio only, until recently it has been difficult to transmit live streams which are reliable enough and clear enough for business use. And what platforms did exist for high definition business conferencing were expensive.
Innovative hosted services like UCi2i show that those problems have been overcome. Following the lead of consumer video chat apps, UCi2i is using cloud technology to make video communication affordable, reliable and flexible, with business class reliability, security safeguards and service levels. And as consumer platforms like Skype and Facebook Live have proven, video is wildly popular when offered as a viable option, adding the depth of face to face conversation which voice cannot replicate.
If VaaS takes off the way those apps have taken off in consumer land, services like UCi2i could play a significant role in the future of business communications.
Are you a UCi2i customer? What have your experiences of it been? What are your views on specialised cloud based communications services in general – do they serve a niche in the market, or would you prefer to see everything unified? Whatever your views, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. And why not share this article on social media and invite friends and colleagues to join the conversation.
- What is VMR software?
- What is VGaaS?
- What is Video Conferencing as a Service?
- How to stream a live video conference over YouTube
- 5 reasons to try Video as a Service
- New SMB Bundles from UCi2i launched (MAY 17)
- Margin in VaaS – UCi2i’s channel partner offering revitalised (MAY 17)
- In Focus: UCi2i Business Leader Profile
Note: This review article was originally published in May 2017 – updated in November 2017.
Look & Feel
Making high quality video communications as straightforward as dialling a telephone.