Sometimes, routers must be configured to allow for the multiple data streams, also referred to as IP multicasting. Old routers may need to be upgraded, incurring additional expenses. If current infrastructure doesn't support IP multicasting, upgrading may just mean adding memory and new software. However, concerns about network upgrades can spell doom for getting budgets approved for Webcasts. "New infrastructure can kill the deal," says Gartner's Orans.
Rent Versus Buy
The best way to try Webcasting is to hire a Webcasting service provider, such as e-StudioLive, Loudeye, On24, RealNetworks, Reliacast/thePlatform Media, Sonic Foundry, Virage, and Yahoo. These types of companies typically will produce, distribute, manage, and archive Webcasts, even showing up at events with their own racks of equipment, necessary for encoding and editing broadcasts.
According to Paul Ritter, an analyst at Yankee Group, "It's important that companies who want to try Webcasting use a service provider, whether it's a full outsource service, or an ASP service, because it can be done a lot of different ways."
Charges may vary widely, but generally, a single-event Webcast can run from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on the size of the event, the number of attendees, and the complexity of the production.
If companies choose to buy a solution and create and broadcast their own Webcast, they should start small, for example, broadcasting to a single department or to a select group of viewers. That way, network glitches and production problems may be solved before trying to reach a larger audience. "The last thing you want," says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research, "is for 50,000 people to show up who can't get in."
Also a consideration--how a Webcast is broadcast, either via the public Internet or through a private intranet. The public Internet often is crowded with network traffic, which can slow or freeze a Webcast. A dedicated network may provide the necessary bandwidth, but must be managed so that mission-critical applications can still function. A Webcast involving confidential information or sensitive data, such as sales data or management changes, should be kept on a network that's inside a firewall.
Webcasting still is an emerging technology and many companies providing solutions are young, unproven, or struggling to make a profit. For instance, Virage, a public company, reported a net loss of $18 million on $13 million in revenue for its fiscal 2003, which ended in March. Interactive Video Technologies Inc. in New York City has needed venture capital, announcing in April $8 million in new funding, bringing its total funding to $48 million. Similarly, e-StudioLive closed a million dollars in new funding in January.
Consequently, choosing a vendor requires plenty of vigilance and due diligence. "There's a lot of market turmoil that will send a lot of small companies to the graveyard," says the Yankee Group's Ritter.