Spot the difference: Are all Cloud Video Services the same?

Ian Carter, Managing Director, Videonations, takes a close look and compares two leading cloud video conferencing services.


Ian Carter, MD Videonations

I’m often asked what the differences are between one video cloud service and another. After all, at first glance, they can seem very similar. For this reason, I’ve decided to look at and compare two market leaders: StarLeaf and Blue Jeans.

Similarities – It’s not all apples to apples.

Both StarLeaf and Blue Jeans have created their own cloud-based infrastructure for voice and video conferencing. The two services have a lot of features in common:

  • Support for standard SIP and H.323 voice and video devices
  • A dial in number for PSTN participants (toll free in the US)
  • A web portal for scheduling meetings
  • Meeting invites with calendar integration
  • Ability for users to join by clicking on a link
  • Integration with Microsoft Lync
  • Support for large conferences
  • HD video
  • Unlimited conferencing with annual licenses

The value of such a service is that customers have a scalable conferencing solution, which does not require the purchase of expensive infrastructure, and removes all the management costs associated with running such infrastructure. It also gives them the ability to mix their existing H.323 based devices with desktop unified communications solutions, such as Microsoft Lync.

Starleaf Cloud Video Conferencing Videonations

Differences – It’s more like apples and pears

The principal differentiating factors of the StarLeaf solution over Blue Jeans, are that StarLeaf also offers a range of both software and hardware video endpoints, and that these can be used for point-to-point calling without using up one of the paid-for multipoint conferences.

  • Point-to-point calling With StarLeaf, users benefit from unlimited point-to-point video calling, which does not use a paid-for conference license. Point-to-point calling is ad hoc and does not require scheduling; users do not have to wait for participants to read emails or confirm availability. Endpoints can be used to call another StarLeaf device or any Cisco, Polycom, LifeSize, H.323 or SIP device. Indeed, a StarLeaf endpoint can be used to dial into a Blue Jeans meeting. When someone calls a StarLeaf hardware or software endpoint, that device rings. If a user has multiple devices, such as a software client and a hardware endpoint, they all ring.

At Videonations our experience and indeed statistics show that users who can make both point-to-point calls and conferences typically make five times more point-to-point calls than conference calls. Point-to-point calling vastly increases the use and benefits of video collaboration in an organization, and therefore increases the value of the investment that organization has made in its video conferencing solution.

  • Hardware endpoints StarLeaf hardware endpoints are dedicated appliances that can be used in meeting rooms, or on desktops, whereas Blue Jeans is a service and requires its customers to purchase a video endpoint from one of the traditional vendors. The advantage of using StarLeaf hardware endpoints with the StarLeaf conferencing service is the tight integration between the endpoint and the scheduled meetings. The meeting rooms are easily selected when the meeting is scheduled, and the schedule is displayed on the screen in the meeting room. As the meeting approaches, a speed dial key on the endpoint touch panel indicates a countdown to the meeting, and can simply be pressed once to join the meeting.
  • Software endpoints StarLeaf software endpoints are available for Macs, PCs, iPads and Android. These offer the same easy-to-use interface as the hardware appliances and they are available free of charge to all StarLeaf customers. They have the same speed dial to join a conference and the also have a link which brings the user directly to the “My Conferences” page of the StarLeaf web portal.
  • Ad hoc conferences During a point-to-point call, StarLeaf users can easily add more participants to the call making an ad hoc multiparty call. To do this, users simply use the ‘create a conference’ controls on the StarLeaf endpoint user interface. Again, there is no need to hang up and dial into a scheduled meeting. This allows users to communicate and collaborate when they need to rather than having to wait around.
  • H.323 registrations For users who have existing H.323 equipment, which is installed behind a firewall, the StarLeaf cloud allows this equipment to be registered with the StarLeaf cloud, which acts as an H.323 based gatekeeper, supporting H.460 enabling the endpoints to securely traverse through the firewall rather than being placed outside the firewall where they are vulnerable to attack.
  • Shared resources The StarLeaf pricing model allows an organization to purchase the number of conference licenses that they require to support the maximum number of conferences they will have running at the same time. Every StarLeaf user is entitled to schedule conferences. In this way, all of the StarLeaf conference licenses are in a pool and are shared by all the users. In the Blue Jeans model, each user who wants to schedule a meeting must have their own conference license.
  • Go-to-market strategy Blue Jeans’ go to market mixes both the indirect reseller model with direct customer acquisition. This conflicting approach can cause confusion for both partners and more importantly the end customer. StarLeaf does not mix up its approach to customers. Videonations is an approved partner and is well placed to ensure that our StarLeaf customers receive the value added service they need and deserve, allowing us to deliver the right level of integration, training and support services.