Zoom Aims to Disrupt Video Conferencing Market

Video conferencing startup aims to "make 'mobility' true mobility" with robust conferencing features and disruptive pricing.

By Jude Chao | Posted Jun 18, 2013
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Workers are becoming more mobile and workforces more distributed, making mobile collaboration ever more vital to the modern enterprise. Plenty of vendors have already jumped on the mobile video conferencing bandwagon. Santa Clara, CA-based Zoom Video Communications aims to stand out from the crowd thanks to some innovative features and disruptive pricing.

Zoom logoZoom, which announced the release of Zoom Version 2.0 last week, unites cloud-based HD video conferencing, mobility, and web meetings across all platforms and devices in a service dubbed the 3-in-1 Cloud Meeting Platform. The platform allows meetings of up to 25 participants or rooms at once, with HD video in full-screen or gallery view, with the option of joining either by teleconferencing in or using an H.323/SIP room system. So far, so good. So what's different about the platform?

One key differentiator, as Nick Chong, the company's head of product marketing, told me via Zoom video conference, is that Zoom is "a true cloud-based solution," with no dedicated on-premises hardware necessary. To deliver video meetings, Zoom offers their first-to-market hybrid cloud model: the "meeting connector" software, which runs on any virtual machine, can run behind an enterprise's firewall, and meetings happen within user organizations' own private clouds. This way, enterprises can keep meetings local while using Zoom's public cloud infrastructure to conduct meeting setups. This also ensures easy scalability. Each meeting connector can host up to 350 people at once, and scaling up simply requires the adding of more meeting connectors.

Another differentiator is Zoom's approach to mobililty. Zoom's goal, Chong told me, is to "make 'mobility' true mobility." Mobility shouldn't just be about having a mobile app, he explained—not if that mobile app has limitations that PCs and laptops don't. To that end, Zoom is the first in the market to offer mobile screen sharing within video conferences. Mobile users can also start or join meetings; send invitations via email, SMS, and instant message; and utilize a full suite of collaboration features, such as typing on and annotating documents and presentations and recording meetings directly from their mobile devices.

Mobility means little to the modern enterprise without security, though. In addition to running meeting connectors and meetings behind enterprises' own firewalls, Zoom offers role-based access control, single sign-on access control, and host security controls, as well as HTTPS access, SSL communications, and AES 128-bit encryption. This should assuage enterprise users' concerns about the safety of their communications, particularly where screen sharing and collaboration are involved.

And what about that pricing?

"Traditionally, enterprise video conferencing has been a very expensive proposition," Chong told me, citing the cost of on-premises hardware—tens of thousands, or, in some cases, even a hundred thousand dollars—and the addition of conferencing and collaboration solutions like GoToMeeting or Cisco WebEx on top of that. Zoom requires no hardware and provides its video conferencing, web meetings, and collaboration solutions for "a fraction of what other solutions out there cost today," Chong said. The business version of Zoom costs $9.99 per host, per month, for unlimited meetings and minutes; Zoom also offers a free personal version and a custom-built enterprise version that comes with a branded corporate URL.

Will Zoom's robust video conferencing and collaboration features and low pricing help it make a splash in the enterprise market? Only time will tell, though the company appears to be off to a strong start. Founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan, former VP of engineering at both Cisco and WebEx, and funded by investors such as Jerry Yang and Qualcomm, Zoom has already seen 1.2 million participants use it to join 400,000 meetings at 3,500 businesses in 2,500 cities worldwide. Among its customers are Kansas State University, the University of Northern Iowa, and Ottawa University, as well as a slew of businesses both small and large.

Incidentally, I enjoyed the Zoom experience. Chong and I spoke over the cloud meeting platform; he demonstrated Zoom's mobile video conferencing, screen sharing, and collaboration capabilities. All worked smoothly, with clear video and audio, as did my recording of our meeting.

"We bring video conferencing to the masses," Chong told me. And with the importance of mobility today, that may be just what the masses need.

ENP editor Jude ChaoJude Chao is Executive Editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.

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