For decades, enterprise organizations have relied on hardware-based solutions for their video conferencing needs, but that is starting to change. Hardware-based video conferencing, also termed hard codecs, have long provided best-in-class video and audio quality, along with maximum reliability. They still do, but some software-based solutions, or soft codecs, have mostly caught up, and you only need a PC, smartphone, or comparable device to run them.
Market-leading soft codecs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are frontline options for enterprise, as they offer excellent AV production, uptime, usability and collaborative potential. They can also offer that while costing a fraction of most hard codec options, but that doesn’t mean hard codecs have been rendered obsolete. In fact, leading hard codec manufacturers like Poly have designed solutions that merge the best of soft and hard codec features.
Why Are Soft Codecs a Popular Video Conferencing Option?
Video conferencing itself has become one of, if not the most in demand AV solution among businesses, universities and other enterprise organizations. Soft codecs are a major part of that trend, as companies are increasingly relying on remote teams and therefore need a conferencing and collaborative platform that is easy for people to use, wherever they are.
Here’s why soft codecs are popular now and well positioned for the future:
- Easy to deploy and utilize anywhere – There’s no denying the quality conferencing experience a hard codec brings to a meeting space, but that experience is difficult to bring outside of the meeting room without a cloud-based soft codec.
Today’s remote workforce has never been larger, according to recent workplace surveys. More than half of the global workforce telecommutes at least one day a week, and about 20 percent of remote workers do so full time. Video conferencing is a primary solution to keeping those employees unified and communicating with each other, and soft codecs are an ideal approach in this regard.
That’s because most at-home or mobile professionals can conference through a soft codec like Zoom from their phone or with an inexpensive camera and microphone. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have tailored their platforms so they can run on most devices without compatibility issues and connect users using different devices.
This allows remote workers to video conference in a way that’s most comfortable for them, which encourages more effective and more frequent communication.
- Reduced upfront costs – Although Zoom and Microsoft Teams are partnered with hard codec manufacturers to offer a variety of conferencing solutions, there is no need to invest in significant hardware with a soft codec platform. All that’s needed is a camera to capture video, a microphone to capture audio, and a display and speakers to output both. There’s a lot of room for cost-reducing flexibility here, as individual workers can get by just fine with their own computer and an inexpensive camera and microphone. As such, soft codec solutions can be scaled up with minimal costs, in many instances.
- Strong collaboration features – Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco and a few others have engineered conferencing platforms that emphasize collaboration. Features like screen sharing, content sharing, co-annotating, permanent virtual rooms, enhanced chat and conversation tabs and whiteboarding make collaboration more efficient and enjoyable. With these features, your teams will spend less time e-mailing back and forth, and more time interfacing directly about their ideas and concerns.
- Always getting better – The most popular soft codecs are rapidly being adopted by organizations in nearly every industry, and they’re only getting started. Because they are software-based, it’s easier to add and update valuable features. For example, Microsoft started rolling out its AI-driven audio codec, Satin, for Microsoft Teams. Satin will be able to produce sound frequencies ranging from narrow to superwideband, and do so while a call is experiencing high levels of packet loss.
This is just one example, but as major tech brands such as Microsoft jump into the soft codec video conferencing market, the quality of soft codecs will improve with time and development. Organizations that invest in soft codec solutions, then, are investing in a long term, future-resistant conferencing option.
How Hard Codec Manufacturers Are Adapting to the Soft Codec Revolution
Soft codecs are a powerful and economical option for enterprise, but hard codecs still have a place in many organizations. They are extremely reliable, offer superb audio and video quality and are built by manufacturers that have decades of experience in video conferencing products. It’s standard practice for organizations to have a hard codec option for redundancy or for high priority meetings where unfailing reliability is a must.
Some hard codec manufacturers like Poly and Crestron have also developed products that are designed to work with leading soft codecs like Zoom. A couple of those solutions include:
- The Poly Studio – The Poly Studio is an all-in-one conferencing solution that can provide a native Zoom, Microsoft teams, Bluejeans or GoToMeeting experience. It’s designed to make video conferencing as simple as possible, as it’s designed with a built-in camera, a beamforming microphone array and a pair of stereo speakers. All you need is a digital display and your team is ready for an in-room conferencing experience that rivals the telepresence rooms that Poly is known for. Further, the Poly Studio comes with Poly’s respected noise control features, including Acoustic Fence, which only captures audio inside the room (and not intrusive sound coming from outside) and NoiseBlockAI, which recognizes and automatically suppresses distracting noises like finger tapping or paper rustling.
- The Crestron Flex – The Crestron Flex is another simple video conferencing solution that can also provide a native Zoom and Microsoft Teams experience. While the Poly Studio is built into an all-in-one piece of hardware, the Crestron Flex consists of a USB video bar and a tabletop control unit. Through the tabletop unit, users can connect their own devices, control the room’s conferencing equipment and engage other features, like room control and scheduling functionality. Pair this with Crestron’s XiO cloud, and you have an easy to manage hard codec solution that can support the most popular soft codec platforms as well.
Soft codecs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have brought much-needed innovation and usability to video conferencing. They’re economical, scalable, and packed with features that can drive collaboration and encourage everyone, regardless of technical expertise, to effectively conference and collaborate.
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