Free Is Just Another Word for Something You Can Lose

Why free software does not always pay off

The world is full of free software tools, including tools for video. When anyone can just throw up a video on YouTube or Vimeo, why are we at Kaltura committed to building our own video platform?
The biggest problem with the free platforms is that they were built with the consumer in mind. They’re great tools—for the individual, in some circumstances. But for complex institutions, it’s worth considering going with a solution that was built with the needs of the organization in mind.
Some of the advantages of an enterprise solution include:

  • Control. This may be the most important factor. A platform like YouTube is built specifically to support YouTube. The branding cannot be changed or adapted, the functionalities are controlled from their management level. Changes can ripple through unexpectedly, breaking integrations and workflows. For example, YouTube’s APIs are developed by Google, so when Google decided to drop Java support, a number of YouTube integrations stopped working.

With a proprietary platform, though, the developers’ focus is on meeting the needs of the organization. Branding can be customized and workflows stabilized, with far more coming under the control of the client. This means more control and fewer surprises.

  • Management. While free tools offer workspaces for individuals, they very often do not give much room for collaboration. Organizations like schools and enterprises need the ability to hook together many users, with personal and group repositories or galleries for content. Just as if not more important, most organizations want to control access on a granular level, allowing this person to see this video but not that one, making a video public only in a certain time period or geographic location, giving different subsets of groups different kinds of read and write privileges.
  • Monetization. Very few complex tools can be made entirely for free. One of the ways software companies can make money is through taking a percentage of any profits made through their platform. While licensing enterprise-grade software costs more upfront, controlling your own monetization flow can often pay off in the long run.
  • Functionality. Free tools are very often limited in functionality. While it’s often a great way to get your feet wet, as your organization becomes more sophisticated, it’s worth exploring how much more effective you can be with more powerful tools. Video users can benefit from more advanced personal capture and editing tools, integrations into existing workflows, powerful syndication and distribution tools, content protection, and more.

Free tools is a great way to get started in an unfamiliar technology. But as technologies like video become more integral and irreplaceable, it’s worth reevaluating whether free tools will offer the flexibility, control, and power that your organization needs.

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