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Cloud-Based and Peer-to-Peer Meetings
October 9, 2014 by Zoom

Zoom is the cloud meeting solution that combines video conferencing, web meetings, and group chat into one platform. What does this all mean? Is Zoom a Transformer or something?

As much as we’d like to author something similar to Optimus Prime, the truth is that we’re currently focused on making sure you drop the car keys and the plane tickets, and instead just use the Internet to meet with people. We hope you can see how that would be more of a priority than building a lethal car/robot. The reason why Zoom is such a fluid product that allows for collaboration between a large group of individuals has a lot to do with its structure. So, to understand what makes us so much better than many other communications solutions, you’ll have to first understand cloud and peer-to-peer.

It’s time to learn how they both work.

Cloud-hosted solutions manage a handshake between your client and our servers. This initiates your connection to a meeting. For the rest of the meeting, you’re streaming your video feed to a server that forwards all of that data to the rest of the participants.

Peer-to-peer solutions work by initiating a handshake in a similar manner. Some of them just notify the client on “the other end” that a call is being initiated from such-and-such IP address, and then lets them sort it out between each other. For the rest of the meeting, you’re streaming your video feed directly to the other person, and that person will do the same to you. There’s no server in-between.

The dichotomy that separates the two methods of communication is simply who you’re communicating with. With cloud, you’re sending your video feed to our server for distribution. With peer-to-peer, you’re sending your video feed to the person you’re talking to and that’s that.

Now that we’ve gotten our point across, let’s discuss why these combined solutions work well for you:

481123637Affordability

Many people still say that it’s very cost-prohibitive for video communications providers to rely on a central server. They have to pay for their servers so that you can communicate, so they pass the cost of servers on to you.

While this argument would have held its own back in the 90s, we’ve moved on to the 21st century. Now, bandwidth is cheaper than ever, and it’s only going to keep going in that direction.

You see, P2P is easy to administer when you only have two endpoints (you and another person talking through video). That’s why P2P-only providers mostly allow free two-person communication services. Introducing a third person, however, and syncing the signal across all three endpoints is difficult and expensive. Add another 22, and you might as well call it a night and eat some ice cream for consolation.

Zoom also provides free two-person conversations. Oh, and added to that, we allow 40-minute free conversations with up to 25 participants on the cloud for free.

“But how much are you asking for a full-fledged service with all the amenities and a bag of chips?” Are you ready to hear the answer to that question? It’s $9.99 / month, minus the chips (but you’re welcome to bring some over next time you swing by Santa Clara).

Beautiful beach, bad bandwidth.

Beautiful beach, bad bandwidth.

Bandwidth

P2P is able to provide one-on-one video services very cheaply for itself and both parties involved. However, the typical flaw with other P2P services is that they depend on the stability of everyone’s internet connections.

Let’s say you’re talking to someone from Atlanta, and you’re in Thailand. Your packets have to travel through an international peering network (which gets overloaded at the oddest hours), cross an ocean, and then bounce off of a myriad of routers until it reaches the sunny state of Georgia. Oh, and it has to do this a couple of million times per minute. If you don’t have enough bandwidth, that’s too bad. The central service isn’t able to detect how much bandwidth you can spare, since both clients are only sending data to each other.

With Zoom, you’re literally “Zooming.” The server receives your client’s data, the client figures out whether there’s a low-bandwidth situation or not, and adapts its video stream accordingly. Each person receives the most high-quality stream that is available to them based on their own bandwidth, regardless of the condition of the line on the other end. If someone’s connection is failing, no one else suffers. That person simply drops and reconnects when they can, and the rest of your meeting can go on without a hitch.

Hybrid

What if you’re running a business and want to have all of your video controlled from servers you trust and want to rely on?

Zoom allows for a hybrid cloud architecture. Once again, this is where we triumph and draw a line in the sand that other solutions have trouble crossing. You can reproduce Zoom’s infrastructure by integrating it into yours using our Meeting Connector product. With Meeting Connector, the handshake procedure happens through our servers, but from that point forward, the meeting is completely in your hands.

There are so many more reasons why you should use Zoom that we could write an encyclopedia, but we’d rather spare you the immense reading material and let you sign up for Zoom for free right now.