When considering video conferencing for your business, you may question the difference between a free service, like Skype, and the paid for service from StarLeaf. After all both offer high-definition video and voice, and are managed from the cloud. Unfortunately, that's where the comparison ends.

  1. Quality and reliability of service

    The first thing to know is that free services offer no performance guarantees, which means you can never be sure of video call quality or availability, or that you will send and receive clear audio. High reliability is a thorny issue, all too often users experience dropped calls and interruptions to service. A free service is not industrial strength, and is not fit for business purposes. With StarLeaf you gain a high performing, reliable environment that ensures you receive the maximum voice and video call quality, no matter where in the world you are. It automatically tests bandwidth before every connection, and through technological advances StarLeaf guards against packet loss and latency.

  2. Video service only vs. complete solution

    Providing a service without tightly integrated hardware endpoints is a huge limiting factor. To fully realize the cost saving and productivity benefits, video conferencing and calling must be consistent and available across a range of user working environments. StarLeaf provides a complete portfolio of endpoints including room systems that support multiple displays, and professional microphones, personal desktop hardware and addresses the need for mobility with software for PC, Mac, iPads, and Android.

  3. Proprietary vs. open

    Free services are proprietary islands of communication and they do not interoperate with the standards-based world of video (H.323/SIP). Therefore, you cannot connect to anyone beyond the walls of the service. They do not interoperate with video or telepresence conference rooms, desktops or software. StarLeaf is interoperable with Cisco, Polycom, LifeSize, Lync, SIP, H.323, WebRTC, and PSTN enabling you to call anyone on any fixed or mobile device, and they can call you by phone or video.

  4. Guest invites

    To-date no free video service provides the ability to invite guests to join you in a video meeting room, irrespective of their chosen endpoint. StarLeaf's service allows you to invite any number of guests to join you for a video meeting. Great, when your contacts already have standards-based or StarLeaf solutions, and not a problem if they are new to video, since with StarLeaf you can invite them to join you using a StarLeaf Breeze [software client] guest account.

  5. One-to-one vs. one-to-many

    Internet only services have been designed for consumer peer-to-peer conversations, and do not have the technology or power to deliver the image and audio quality needed for multiparty video conferencing. StarLeaf is engineered to meet the need for ad hoc video calling and conferencing, without any degradation in call quality. Using StarLeaf you can seamlessly move between an ad hoc video meeting of 3, 4, 5, 6…or schedule a large video conference.

    StarLeaf's conferencing service enables you to schedule your video meetings. Participants automatically receive a email invitation to your meeting with full joining instructions. The email invitation integrates with calendars. Participants can join your meeting from StarLeaf Breeze, from a StarLeaf hardware endpoint, or from any standards-based video conferencing equipment. Global PSTN dial-in numbers are also provided for audio-only participants.

  6. Content sharing and video at the same time

    In rare cases you can share screens, but then you will lose video - so you might as well be on an audio call. StarLeaf makes it really easy to screen share and will maintain the integrity of the video call. Screen sharing and video are constant and simultaneous. More importantly, StarLeaf allows you to have complete control over what you see and how you see it, with the ability to toggle between picture-in-picture of video, your desktop or third party shared content.

  7. Messages, missed calls, call history

    The whole gambit of messaging and call history is spotty at best with a free service. Videomail is the StarLeaf alternative to voicemail, it's unique and allows you to play back video messages. There is also instant access to your call history.

  8. Internal calls, directories, favorites, hunt groups, speed dials

    None of the free or even subscription based video calling services offer the ability to integrate current company dial plans and directories. With StarLeaf you have access to your personal contacts and company directory, and you can call a colleague by extension number. You can create your own speed dial favorites, allowing you to instantly call anyone, inside or outside of your company by video or voice. There's full support for hunt groups too.

  9. Where's the support?

    Obviously, a free service is not going to provide any level of support, will not be concerned about spotty performance and has no reason to apologize for any unplanned or planned downtime. It is what it is. Clearly a major difference, StarLeaf offers 24x7 support to its customers, it is failsafe with full redundancy, has data centers all over the world and unlike a free service StarLeaf offers complete security for all calls.

  10. Clunky vs. easy to use

    On the face of it, Skype and its peers are easy to use; remember they've been designed for peer-to-peer consumer communications. But once they started dabbling with video and multiparty meetings, the user interface got a little clunky and not so intuitive. This cannot be said for StarLeaf, which delivers HD video conferencing and calling, managed from the cloud, that anyone can use and deploy without training or IT support. It has been designed for today's workforce, is completely open and secure, connects anyone-to-anyone, on-demand, anytime and anywhere, giving individuals and teams all the flexibility they need to collaborate while on the move, at the office or from home.

There you have it, if you are not concerned about performance and reliability, and you do not care to have a robust and feature rich solution, then 'free' may well work for your business. On the other hand, if these are concerns for you and you are considering video enabling your teams, mobile workers, a line of business or just a few conference rooms call or email info@starleaf.com for a demonstration.

Take a free 30-day trial of the StarLeaf conferencing and calling service at www.starleaf.com/try-now.