Skype Meeting Broadcast (Hive Streaming vs Kollective)

James Baker
Jul 11, 2018 · 9 min read

If you work in Unified Communications and for a large organisation, it’s almost certain you’ve been asked to support large webinars or town hall meetings with potentially thousands of attendees.

Now while there are lots of products out there that claim to do this, they nearly all have the same problem. They are all “hosted” solutions, meaning your clients will download the content from the cloud provider. So how do you get thousands of attendees to watch a live call without over utilising the network, as each attendee will have its own stream.

Even Microsoft’s current Skype Meeting Broadcast has the same problem… enter Hive Streaming and Kollective.

Both these tools are SCDNs (Software Content Delivery Network) tools, meaning each user has a small client on their PC that means only a single stream will only ever be downloaded per internet breakout.

Let me just explain that. Just say you have three offices (London, Birmingham and Glasgow), and the main internet breakout is only through the London office. Each office has a thousand users.

Using any of the normal hosted providers (including Skype Meeting Broadcast) will see all three thousand users connecting to the internet and overloading not only the internal network but also the only internet link as well. Microsoft’s recommendation of a dedicated Skype for Business pool for those large meeting still won’t get around your internal network utilisation issues.

Now using Skype Meeting Broadcast with either Hive Streaming or Kollective will mean only a single stream enters the London office. That first client then redistributes to other machines in the office and so on. Now one of those machines send it to say, a machine in Birmingham. That client redistributes it to all other machines and so on. Then as before, a machine in Birmingham sends it onto Glasgow and the above happens. All this happens in a blink of a eye so there is no notice of one site getting it before the other.

Both SCDNs do basically the same job. The difference is how they each work and I will do my best to explain the pros and cons of each. I’m lucky enough to have experienced both tools in our company and I think it’s important to explain the differences.

Hive Streaming Now I mentioned above that only a single stream is downloaded from Microsoft using Skype Meeting Broadcast. With Hive Streaming this isn’t the case, in fact there are up to three streams. This is very important to understand as Kollective only use a single stream – this in my opinion has a knock-on effect which I’ll explain under their section below.

The reason for the multiple streams is for resilience. If one of the receiving clients become disconnected either by the user turning off the machine or they stop watching the broadcast, they have others they can call upon.

Here’s a quick summary of there product and features:

  • Skype Meeting Broadcast Delay – Quick answer here, Hive Streaming introduces no additional delay. By default there is a 30 second delay from Microsoft (every provider has a delay, so 30 seconds is normal)

Kollective As I mentioned above Hive Streaming uses three streams from Microsoft, Kollective only use one. This sounds better as it’s less initial load on the ingress point on the network. The problem in my opinion is to get around the issue of that stream becoming disconnected, the Kollective client buffers for 30 seconds. Therefore if the stream drops the client has enough time to reconnect to a new one and resume the call without any effect to the call.

  • Skype Meeting Broadcast Delay – Due to the above client buffering the Kollective agent adds its own 30 second delay to Microsoft’s inbuilt delay. Combined you will have to wait around 1 minute before your attendees see the stream. It’s up to you if you think this is a problem. Kollective do have an version update which has a “fast start” feature. This reduces their 30 second delay but doesn’t remove it all together.
This is a screenshot of the SCCM deployment, but the principle is the same

Final Conclusion & Personal Thoughts Let’s face it both products do what they say. As an IT admin I just want an easy life, I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time maintaining it. For me this makes it 1–0 to Hive Streaming, purely on the network installation alone.

The company I work for have lots of users who are based on client sites. Anyone working in IT knows how difficult it is to get your software installed on another companies hardware, therefore having the client-less version available for them is awesome. So it’s 2–0 to Hive Streaming.

On a basis of cost (as let’s face it everything comes down to money), both are very expensive. You can play them off against each other and they are both willing to fight for business, so you can get some very good discounts if you are clever. So for this I’ll give it to both, 3–1 in Hive Streaming’s favour.

From experiencing both Hive Streaming and Kollective on Skype Meeting Broadcast webinars when they have Q&As on them, it certainly is easier to manage with a reduced delay. You still have to get questions asked during the call instead of waiting to the end, but as users are unpredictable you can manage better with Hive. Therefore I have to make it 4–1 to Hive Streaming.

Now Kollective have been around for a very long time and are well known in this space, Hive Streaming are the new kids on the block. They have a very long list of large companies on their books who can validate their experience in live broadcasts and VoDs (Video on Demand).

With this experience they do have their own broadcast tool called Kollective Webcaster – now I must admit I haven’t really used this. I have seen demos of it and been on calls with it and to be fair it’s a good platform. Is it easy to use like Skype Meeting Broadcast, no way, it’s much more involved but it is much more feature rich then Microsoft’s tool. If you are after a more ‘polished’ webinar then it’s much better then Skype Meeting Broadcast, however it comes with a price. There are lots of large customers (banks, engineering companies and confectionery companies without naming them) use the Webcaster tool and produce some extremely impressive webinars. Therefore I have to give it to Kollective on this one, 4–2 now.

Kollective do not just offer support for Skype Meeting Broadcast, their client can support other requirements such as the recently announced SCCM update that redistributes software and updates. Therefore if you are looking for more then just SMB, Kollective have it 4–3.

For a company that has invested millions of pounds into their Office 365 journey you want to get maximum benefit from it. Paying to use Kollective’s own Media Centre to store VoDs makes no sense when you have lots of storage on Office 365. I also cannot see the benefit of offloading the data from Microsoft’s CDN to their own which has less ingress points and is slower. So for that is 5–3 to Hive Streaming.

Final score… 5–3 to Hive Streaming.

TLDR — Final final thoughts… The way I see these two companies are that Kollective have been around for many many years and are very well established with some large customers. However as with all established companies they have become complacent and are failing to adapt to the modern world. Everything is ‘on the roadmap’ unlike Hive Streaming where it’s there right now and working. I do believe that Kollective offer more services to what Hive do, and maybe as a result should lower their price a bit, however saying that Kollective sell everything as an add-on so they are both priced the same.

If all you are looking for is to use Skype Meeting Broadcast with a traditional webcam and Office 365 to hold your VoDs for users, then in my opinion it’s Hive Streaming. Yes you can buy more advanced encoders and buy hardware to give SMB that professional look but if you vision is to release it to the users and let them get on with it by themselves, the you can do it with Hive very easily.

In this blog post I’m only talking about Skype Meeting Broadcast. If you want to do more professional broadcast with multiple encoders and a higher frame rate then probably Kollective Webcaster is your better choice. Be warned though the Webcaster is certainly not a self service product. It’s involved and your average end user will not be able to operate it without IT support.

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James Baker

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Messaging & UC Expert

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Stories from the world of UC by a bunch of UC professionals…