Video conferencing vs live streaming: the verdict

When it comes to video in the workplace, there is sometimes confusion between the terms  ‘live streaming’ and ‘video conferencing’. Which is understandable given the latter was the original disruptive video technology for corporates, becoming the default term for anything video related.

Video conferencing vs live streaming - the verdict

And there are plenty of similarities, in particular, the fact that both deliver real-time online experiences. However, it’s important to understand video conferencing and live streaming solve different challenges and provide different benefits and solutions to different challenges.

What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing is designed to support collaboration between small groups of people in different locations. Think of applications like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Skype and you get the idea.

Generally, you access these video conferencing platforms through web apps or installed software. This may mean your audience needs to download and install the application in advance, and in some cases, it may mean only certain specific devices can be used.

Importantly, video conferencing is also usually ‘licensed’ according to the maximum number of concurrent live viewers.

For most companies, paying for 3,5 or even 10 seats might not be a problem. But when you’re looking at having say 50 people involved the charges may become prohibitive. Annual meetings and other larger gatherings can easily exceed this number climbing into the hundreds!

Video conferencing is also typically run on ‘private’ networks, which can be seriously strained by bandwidth-hungry presentations with multiple participants exceeding double-figures.

And while the technology is a great collaboration tool for small groups, it can, however, be quite disruptive hearing all the beeps, dings and pings as people join and depart meetings, not to mention the frequent rate of dropouts typical of many video conferencing platforms.

What is live streaming?

Live streaming, sometimes referred to as ‘video streaming’, ‘broadcasting’ or  ‘webcasting’, defines an online broadcast designed for one-to-many communications.

Essentially it takes traditional video conferencing the next level, or into the 21st century world of Netflix, Stan and the like, if you will.

By giving virtually unlimited numbers of people access to the same video communications at once, users have the ability to communicate with a much larger, global audience on almost any device, and without having to manage software downloads beforehand.

The presentation can also be stored in the ‘cloud’, accessible from any browser or device with internet capability, meaning engagement isn’t limited by whether audiences are inside the corporate network.

Live streaming also boasts the flexibility to support both live and on-demand access to messages. This means that regardless of location, time zone or working hours, people can view the same content.

Live streaming vs. video conferencing

Another benefit of live streaming an event is that unlike merely filming it for later distribution, it allows online viewer interactivity via Q&A, answer polls and surveys or provide comments to the presenter in a controlled manner.

This can be extremely powerful in situations where hosts/moderators want to have staff, investors or other stakeholders directly engaged and involved with presentations.

Unlike video conferencing, this can be moderated so that only relevant questions are put forward to the presenter or shared with the online audience, which is especially important when managing larger events. The audience feels involved, while presenters don’t risk being overwhelmed.

With all of these capabilities, you might be curious as to the sort of network resources required to properly support them. But surprisingly, live video streaming is actually less bandwidth intensive than video conferencing.

This is due to its use of a technology called ‘adaptive bit streaming’, which can automatically detect which device a viewer is using and over what network, so as to automatically – and invisibly – adjust to play the optimum format.

Most live streaming technologies also use the HTTP protocol (HLS) which means that both live and recorded presentations can be cached on corporate networks. This means the same information doesn’t need to be transmitted over and over, significantly reducing bandwidth consumption and effectively making 100 viewers look like one on the network.

The verdict?

Video conferencing changed business communications in profound ways and set a new standard for connecting small groups across different locations. And setting it up has never been easier: download GoToMeeting, WebEx or Skype and away you go.

But the more users you have the bigger your ‘license’ fee will be.

And video conferencing is more suited to PC-based communications, so you might want to make sure everyone has a compatible device/machine before setting up the meeting.

In many ways, live video streaming is taking video conferencing to the next level.

It might not be as simple to configure, but it operates at unprecedented scale and delivers levels of reach and engagement that enables organisations – large and small – to communicate consistent messages, internally and externally to audiences of virtually any size, without the interruptions.

And it can be accessed anywhere by anyone with an internet-connected device while being easily stored and archived for future reference.

Viostream is Australia’s leading provider of practical yet powerful solutions for live video streaming helping to transform communications at Australian companies. Connect today with one of our expert technology and business consultants and learn about what the technology can do for yours.

For more information on what we offer or to talk about any questions you have, feel free to reach out to us today.