Web Conferencing Basics
Web conferencing is basically conducting live meetings through the internet. Confused? It's the equivalent of a conference meeting around a table in the boardroom, but not limited to the people sitting in the boardroom!
It is similar to teleconferencing or a phone hookup but it's not just limited to audio or video, you can now share "content" as well. All parties can now examine a document and "mark it up" concurrently, individually and as part of a whole group.
The Evolution Process:
- Phone Conference - Many parties able to communicate at once with audio (telephone hook up)
- Tele-Conferencing - This was the next evolution bringing video with audio. This is best described as what you see on the news each night, with reporters on opposite sides of the globe able to communicate with each other through a live video/audio satellite feed.
- Web Conferencing - This adds live content sharing (electronic documents) to the audio/video and the communication occurs through the internet. It also adds the capability of private/public interaction as well as participation in polls, instant messaging, remote desktop sharing etc
There is a buzz growing in Australia about a new video phone to be released in the third quarter of this year. While this is basically a form of teleconferencing, it can be thought of as a form of web conferencing as it uses the voice over internet protocol (VoIP).
Web Meeting Types
There a number of different ways businesses can have a web meeting. A couple of common types as I understand them:
A webinar is the term used to describe a "web seminar". It is more of a web conference for invited guests or for a specific audience. Just like a regular old seminar, but viewed from anywhere in the world. Often it requires you to register your details in advance so you could be given a link to attend.
A webcast is more like a "broadcast on the web", intended for the general public. It is used for promoting your company or product to no one in particular (well, preferably some sort of a targeted audience!)
With the ASUS Eee Videophone AirGuru SV1 you'll be able to enjoy free Skype-to-Skype video and voice calls to friends and family all around the world. You won't need a computer to get connected and it's simplicity itself to set up, enter your Skype Name and password and start calling.
Advantages of Web Conferencing
- Significant reduction in costs (travelling, accommodation, meals, time, hardware, call costs etc)
- In fact, there are many free web conferencing sites (see below)
- Not restricted by geographical location, therefore improves meeting participation (attendees)
- Allows people to work from home if they choose
- If you have overseas clients or customers, it could improve you customer support capabilities
- It is a good way to keep logs of meetings as audio/video captures can involve only the push of a button
- It is the way of the future (just watch all the movies set in a future time!)
Disadvantages of Web Conferencing
- You require the hardware of a computer, camera, some software perhaps, depending on your web meeting service provider.
- You'll need a relatively quiet location to hold the web conference (ie low background noise) but this is typically catered for in an office or home environment.
- In the past it might have paid to have a tech savvy person on standby in case some of the set up goes wrong. However these days if you are using a web based service all you really need to do is log on and that's it. If you're new to web conferencing, you might want to watch a tutorial on how it works. Easy.
- Depending on your business model it is sometimes best to do business face to face, with a handshake. So don't rely heavily on web meeting services or it could have a negative impact.
Free Web Conferencing - Dimdim Overview
Web Conference Solutions
These are some of the better known players providing Web Conferencing Solutions.
- Adobe Acrobat Connect (free trial, pro from $39/month, unlimited meetings with up to 15 people)
- Dimdim (free for 20 people forever, pro version cost = 1/10th of WebEx)
- GoToMeeting (free trial, pro from $39/month for annual plan, unlimited meetings with up to 15 people, webinars up to 1000 attendees)
- Microsoft Office Live Meeting (free trial, standard plan $4.58/month for up to 5 users, 15 participants, professional users $15.42/month for 5 users, up to 1250 participants)
- WebEx (this is generally regarded as the "Grand Poobah" of Web Conferencing. But it's expensive. Unlimited online meetings for $59/month, free trial)
- Zoho (this looks like it has a heap of functionality - just check out the home page, but one on one meeting free, everything else $12 per user per month)
THE NEXT BIG SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLOSION?!?
While this is probably not really related to web conferencing sites or software, it did capture my interest:
Qik is free mobile live video streaming for anyone, anywhere. Twitter provides real-time searching where as Qik is real time video streaming. (It could be the next big social media explosion!) It can be used to stream a video of an event from your mobile phone (that can be set to private if you choose) and is recorded automatically for others to see on Qik.com.