Cheap Web Conferencing Tool Selection

This past week I’ve been testing out some tools for audio and web conferencing for our Informl Learning Unworkshop. The platforms range from free, to pay, to open source, and each option has its pros and cons. Free programs, like Skype for audio and Vyew for slide presentations and text chat, are just fine if you want something that is quick and simple to set up. There is a still a learning curve, as I learned with our skypecast, but little technical skill is required. The problem with these free systems is that they don’t scale well. For instance, you can’t run a private skypecast, nor can you run Vyew on your intranet (at least not for free).

If you are planning on using a system inside your company or your Intranet/Extranet then you may want to start with an open source system. It will require more technical expertise to get the software operating on your server, but you will own the installation and code and will be able to grow it according to your business needs. One of the few available open source web conferencing tools is Canadian-made ePresence. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it appears to be fairly stable.

Another option would be to pay for a service or proprietary system. The trade-off with these proprietary systems is that you will have a packaged solution, but you won’t own the code. System upgrades may cost you more money than anticipated, and you can’t “look under the hood”. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of web conferencing systems on the market. These range in price up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Unfortunately, you don’t always get what you pay for. One of the lowest cost systems, which also interoperates with skype, is Persony, available for a one-time cost of $299 and recommended by the web collaboration guru, Robin Good.

There’s a good range of options available today but you have to test these tools within the context of your operations. For instance, certain platforms work better with international conferences. Others are great when all of the participants are in North America, but break down when you add people from across oceans. Try them out first.

10 Responses to “Cheap Web Conferencing Tool Selection”

  1. Benoit Brosseau

    very interesting let me add somme that i like:

    first Marratech: very high-end systeme based on java , completely cross platform , but you got to have access to a server or at least a machine that can act like one. the free version is limited to 5 people but works great http://www.marratech.com/free/
    (don’t be distracted by the insanely bad web site, it’s a good software)

    Next the newest kid on the block, Festoon, they use a mix of the jabber protocol http://www.xmpp.org/ and skype integration to create a neat webconferencing solution for free.

    BTW: xmpp IS the big news of this year pushed by google and other big names in open standards world, it’s going to be invading the workplace this year. Fantastic project combining it with VoIP will create a new layer for internet applications. I recommend this short introduction by B. Mann
    http://www.bmannconsulting.com/blog/bmann/2006-will-be-the-year-of-xmpp

    Some really interesting time ahead when we put this in the perspective that Microsoft will have a built-in web conferencing solution in its upcoming Office 2007

    Reply
  2. chris saeger

    Here is another free service (at least for now) It is called webhuddle at http://www.webhuddle.com I tried it out and it really works nicely and has built in voip. There is not an invitation feature that I could find (the only downside) And the security certificate has a typo that causes it to give a warning but you can see its just that the www. is missing on the certificate. I believe that Robin Good reviewed this one as well.

    Reply
  3. Reza

    Hi Harold,

    Thank you for posting on Vyew a while ago. We hope that you found Vyew beneficial to you. As you may know, Vyew 2.0 is going to be released in mid-July.

    Our up coming release 2.0 has some unique and very useful new features. For example, it can support multiple VyewBooks. These VyewBooks which can be divided by customers, projects, interest, and more can be saved and open. Additionally, you can now mix and match pages from various file types or layered them together inside the same VyewPage which makes Vyew even more powerful in a collaborative environment.

    We can provide you a sneak preview of this new version should you be interested. Please email me at reza@vyew.com and I will be glad to send you the URL.

    Sincerely,

    Reza Gosal
    Marketing Department
    http://www.vyew.com

    Reply
  4. hans wang

    hi,

    recommend to you a free web conferencing site : http://www.docolive.com

    which is a PURE web conferencing site WITHOUT any plugins, like ActiveX, JavaApplet, Flash, etc.
    and SUPPORT word, excel, powerpoint, visio, pdf, text and image format files.
    it is integrated with SKYPE !
    and it is FREE !

    reguards

    hans

    Reply
  5. Harold

    Hans – the docolive website only works with IE6 and an initial poke around has me quite confused about what is really offered. Is this in early alpha?

    Reply
  6. hans wang

    hi, harold,

    DoCoLive is on line for few months, and now it can only support IE, and I plan to support Firefox in few months.

    You can try it by using IE.

    hans

    Reply
  7. Mike Roger

    Quality of web conferencing is an important criterion while conducting web conferences. I would recommend paid services such as WebEx, GoMeetNow, gotomeeting etc. for conducting webinars, web conferences, online meetings etc. Another alternative is deploying on premise web conferencing appliance such as RHUB appliances. http://www.rhubcom.com

    Reply

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