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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

15 top Web conferencing services



A screenshot from Watchitoo, an inventive and powerful new addition to the Web conferencing field.

Here are our top choices for live streaming tools, webinars & employee collaboration online

Target audience: Businesses, brands, educators, nonprofits, community organizations, Web publishers, individuals. 
The following guide, originally created by TechSoup Global, has been significantly updated and expanded by J.D. Lasica and Kim Bale.
More and more businesses and entrepreneurs are turning to Web conferencing services to communicate with fellow staff members, customers, supporters and prospects.
webinarsA Web conference is a virtual meeting you conduct online, allowing you to share documents and applications from your computer with people in far-flung locations and to communicate with them via video, text or voice chat. Through Web conferencing, you can bring together employees to collaborate on a project, present webinars about your latest product or services, or train advocates or support staff.
While your business likely uses email or conference calls for much of your long-distance communication, sometimes a full-blown virtual meeting is the only way to hammer out the details of an important initiative. Web conferencing lets anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser meet and collaborate online in real time.
Some conferencing tools require participants to install a piece of software on their own computers before they can participate; other tools are entirely Web-based. All require an Internet connection. The tools differ in the features they provide for collaboration and communication. For instance, some let participants speak to one another through their computers' microphones while others let everyone interact via video. Still others have an option to join the audio part of the conference by a separate audio/telephone bridge.
To help you choose a service that suits your business, we've pointed out features commonly found in Web conferencing products and explained other considerations you should be aware of. Our list leaves out tools like Skype and Apple's iChat, which offer great video conferencing (video chat) and text chat for a limited number of people but don't offer full-on Web conferencing services that offer a wide range of collaboration capabilities.
When considering all of these great features, it's important to consider how these capabilities will affect your Local Area Network (LAN). For example, many of the products below include videoconferencing. One person using hosted videoconferencing at a location wouldn't add to much to local network issues. Multiple workers videoconferencing at the same time could slow the rest of your network traffic.
Whenever possible, try out the product before purchasing. Use the information below and on product websites to narrow your choices, then try the two or three products that best fit your needs.
Here is our comparison of 14 top Web conferencing services. If you have your own favorites, or have any updates or corrections, please share them in the comments!
watchittoo
Watchitoo: Multimedia collaboration
1We used Watchitoo during Personal Democracy Forum and the midterm elections and were impressed with its rich collaboration feature set. Watchitoo is a real-time collaboration platform where multimedia presentations meld with video conferencing to create a powerful stage for online communication. Its technology lets you easily host and participate in cutting-edge presentations that support multiple video feeds, screen sharing, white-boarding, API implementation, embedding capabilities and recording functionalities that enhance employee communication and collaboration.
Software required: Web-based, no download required.
Invitation tools: Multiple embed locations, internal email invitations.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing, up to 25 presenters while simultaneously playing any form of rich media, text chat, questions, Twitter & Facebook posting, mobile access, videoconferencing, video editing, whiteboard.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Coming in the next 75 days.
Post-meeting reports: Yes
Pricing: Free up to 5 people; up to 25 people for $39/month plan; up to 50 people for $49/month plan with a larger storage capacity.
Pay per use: Yes for live events
Trial: 30-day free trial
Bottom line: A cutting-edge service for collaborating around rich-media projects. Includes some capabilities not found elsewhere. One hiccup: a slight time lag in VoIP conversations.
cisco-webex
Cisco WebEx Meeting: An industry stand-by
2The granddaddy of Web conferencing services, WebEx, was purchased by Cisco in 2007 for $3.2 billion. The WebEx suite offers a broad range of Web conferencing services, including a Meeting Center, Event Center, Training Center and Support Center. WebEx and Microsoft Office Live Meeting are considered the two heavyweights in the field.
Software required: No downloads for participants, will run on any Internet server or smartphone mobile device.
Invitation tools: Send meeting invitations and reminders using an automated phone call, text message, email from your local client or instant message.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, mobile access for iPhone and Blackberry devices, videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Yes
Pricing: $49/month or $468/year per host. Additional options for the WebEx Training Center (up to 1,000 participants) and Event Center (up to 3,000).
Pay per use: 33 cents per minute per participant.
Trial: 14 days, up to 25 people per meeting.
Bottom line: Best for conservative organizations that want to depend on reliable stand-bys. A number of webinar providers, like Awareness, use WebEx to power their webinars.
Live Meeting
Microsoft Office Live Meeting: Made for the Enterprise
3Microsoft Office Live Meeting lets you hold a virtual meeting with small or large groups of participants. Live Meeting allows users to exchange information via live video and audio interaction, chat, shared files or desktops and pre-recorded presentations. Presenters can receive real-time feedback from meeting attendees to allow them to adjust their pace and content. We like the presentation and annotation tools for underscoring major topics and whiteboarding ideas.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: Linked into Microsoft Outlook as an add-In, providing a Meet Now button to create ad hoc meetings. Other ways to invite participants as well, such as IM.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, videoconferencing. No mobile access.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Yes
Pricing: Standard Edition users, up to 250 participants per meeting at $4.50/month per user. Professional Edition users, up to 1,250 participants per meeting at $16/month per user.
Pay per use: Yes, available only through specific partners.
Trial: 30-day free trial.
Bottom line: Live Meeting offers steady performance with a 99.99 percent uptime availability and a rich feature set that make it a solid choice for behind the firewall. Integration with other Microsoft Office products. High-quality video performance. Prices quickly escalate, though, with more participants or large-scale events and meetings.
Adobe Connect: Revamped & ready for prime time
4Adobe Connect is an enterprise Web conferencing solution for online meetings, e-learning and webinars used by leading corporations and government agencies. It's based on the widely available Adobe Flash technology. Released in November 2010, Adobe Connect 8 software has a new simplified interface featuring better organized controls, accessibility functions and one-click sharing.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: Online calendar and meeting scheduler, compatible with Microsoft Office.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Yes
Pricing: Adobe's buying guide offers different purchase options for individuals and small businesses vs. companies, government agencies and educational institutions. Adobe Connect Pro: $55 per host per month (training, events, and webcasts additional) or $45 per month under annual plan.
Pay per use: 32 cents per minute per user.
Trial: 30 days
Bottom line: A good choice for professional use.
Infinite
Infinite Conferencing: Impressive array of services
5Infinite Conferencing, an Onstream Media company, specializes in phone and Web conferencing solutions, webinars and webcasting. It delivers feature-rich solutions that range from on-demand conferencing to full-scale, online event management. Invitees need only an Internet-connected computer and phone line to participate in a Web conference. (Infinite also has a nonprofit program that offers discounted rates.) Clients include Dell, Sony, Disney, the American Hospital Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society -- more than 5,000 customers in all.
Software required: Web-based; no software downloads needed.
Invitation tools: Registration tool lets you create a customized e-vite and registration page. In addition, the system sends automated confirmation and reminder emails. Integrated with Microsoft Outlook.
Collaboration tools: Web conferencing, teleseminars, webcasting via webcams, webinars, phone conferencing, VoIP and a suite of Pro services. Not currently compatible with mobile devices.
Recording: Yes. You can record the session via an on-demand recording feature at $1.99 per minute, or a member of the Infinite team can capture the recording for you for $200.
Polling & survey: Yes. The polling feature is available throughout a Web session. Infinite can create a customized survey that pops up following your webinar and can also be sent out via a url for $100.
Post-meeting reports: Yes. Following the session, you'll receive an email that lists each participant's name, company, email address and duration of connection. In addition, the report will feature all of your polling results if the feature is used.
Pricing: Two pricing options. You're billed on usage (how many people attend and how long they're connected) or you can select an unlimited usage package. No term requirements or monthly minimums. Basic prices: Reservationless audio conferencing, 3.5 cents per minute per line. Operator-assisted audio conferencing, 18 cents per minute per line. Web conferencing: 6 cents per minute per connection -- compare with WebEx at 33 cents per minute -- or consider the flat-rate option. It supports up to 1,000 participants with no advance reservation required.
Pay per use: Yes, see Pricing. An FAQ offers other answers.
Trial: 7-day free trial.
Bottom line: Infinite is not as cheap as some free alternatives for small teams, but its rates are reasonable and it offers an extensive suite of scalable, secure, feature-rich online meeting capabilities for companies or nonprofits. The site says, "We typically surpass the competition in support and flexibility." And indeed, there's live chat support and each account is assigned a dedicated account manager. Nice.
gotowebinar
GoToWebinar: Solid track record
6GoToWebinar offers one of the most reliable and best-known solutions in the marketplace. Just schedule your webinar without tech support, invite people to register, prepare for your event and present your webinar. Streamline your organization's communications, update employees on new policies, host online seminars and more.
Software required: No downloads for participants, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows or Mac operating system.
Invitation tools: Automated email templates, instant or planned webinars and meetings, webinar registration pages.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing and VoIP. No mobile access or videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Length of stay in meeting and interest metrics
Pricing: GoToMeeting for meetings of 15 people or less for $49/month. GoToWebinar for $99/month (up to 100 people) to $499/month (1,000 people). GoToTraining, $149 to $349/month.
Pay per use: No
Trial: 30 days
Bottom line: Best for large organizations bringing more than 50 people together at a time.
elluminate
Elluminate: Strong in the education market
7Elluminate is marketed as a unifying learning experience for everyone. It supports learning with an easy-to-use platform designed as an inclusive learning environment. Elluminate offers products to fit large institutions as well as smaller customers.
Software required: A quick download of a Java file (jnlp) takes about 60 seconds, and then you are launched into your "room." Supports Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: Various
Collaboration tools: Share applications, files, documents, and desktops. Multiple video feeds, up to six. Annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, videoconferencing. Virtual breakout rooms are available for larger audiences/conferences.
Recording: Yes, in Elluminate vOffice and vClass. Elluminate vRoom does not offer an option to record.
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Yes, you can generate summary and comprehensive usage reports and track who views recordings.
Pricing: $499/year for licensing one room with up to 50 users, pricing expands with number of rooms/users. There is also a pricing option for smaller rooms. Elluminate offers several Learning Suite options as well as vSpaces, with meeting rooms for different size audiences. Teleconferencing: 6 cents per minute per user.
Pay per use: Only for audio, not video conferencing.
Trial: 30-day free trial
Bottom line: Best for organizations that want the flexibility to hold both large webinars and small collaborations with a fixed annual cost.
zoho
Zoho Meeting: Embed it in your blog
8Pleasanton, Calif.-based Zoho offers a suite of cloud-based tools that rival Google Docs in many ways. Its Zoho Meetingprovides remote support, online meeting and Web conferencing features to host instant meetings or Web meetings for your audience. You can embed Zoho Meeting in your blog, wiki, notebook or any webpage for a mass Web conferencing.
Software required: No downloads. Will run through Firefox and Internet Explorer with plug-ins.
Invitation tools: Invitations from the Zoho Meeting Web page or conference in from the presenter.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop. Multiple presenters, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP. No annotating tools, mobile access, videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: No
Post-meeting reports: Seasonal reports
Pricing: $12/month per host (up to 5 participants) through $49/month per host (up to 100 participants).
Pay per use: No
Trial: Free Edition - one host and one participant and 30-day free trial.
Bottom line: Great choice for small to mid-size organizations or if you're just trying out hosting a webinar for the first time.
att-connect
AT&T Connect: Built for business
9AT&T Connect offers an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for audio, Web and video conferencing. The product allows you to communicate and collaborate on documents and share applications in real time from your desktop, laptop or mobile device. Its Call Me feature makes it easier for participants to join the audio bridge.
Software required: Both a Participant Application (to download) and a Web-based participant option are available. To host a session, the user must download the Participant Application (not available for Apple or Linux OS). Mobile applications for Blackberry and Apple OS also available.
Invitation tools: Microsoft Outlook and Office Communicator plug-ins.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, up to four. Whiteboard tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, mobile access, videoconferencing.
Recording: Records sessions in proprietary format. Can only be viewed within the Participant Application.
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Yes, you can track attendees, time attended, and views of recordings.
Pricing: Audio: 8.5 cents per minute per participant. Web conferencing: 12 cents per minute per participant. Flat monthly pricing for Web conferencing available, but varies.
Pay per use: Yes
Trial: 30-day free trial.
Bottom line: Best for large businesses that require a scalable solution. Note that Mac users can't host conferences but can join through the Web-based version.
yuuguu
Yuuguu: Share your screen
10Yuuguu enables users to securely share their screen with anyone at any time on a PC, Mac or Linux machine. Its personal networking tool lets you see when colleagues or friends are online.
Software required: No downloads for participants, will run on any Internet server or smartphone mobile device.
Invitation tools: Instant Meetings or Automatic Email Templates.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop, applications. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, mobile access. No videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Customizable
Pricing: Free for up to 5 participants. Single user $15/month, unlimited use with 30 participants, packages for larger groups.
Pay per use: No but $5 day pass
Trial: Entry level is free - up to 5 participants.
Bottom line: Yuuguu is a flexible, simple, low-cost offering in the online collaboration market.
yugma
Yugma: Free for 20 participants
11The basic version of Yugma allows you to invite up to 20 participants into an online meeting. Yugma Pro offers real-time collaboration with white board & annotation tools, recording of webcasts and more.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: Registration page, email templates
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop, shared file space, single application sharing. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, mobile access. Videoconferencing with Skype edition.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Quick Poll and Q&A
Post-meeting reports: Registrant and attendee information available.
Pricing: Yugma Free, up to 20 attendees, is free. Skype Edition available. Yugma Pro 20/50/100/500 (20-500 participants) costs $9.95 to $159.95/month. Yearly plans available. Optional webinar at $19.95/month.
Pay per use: No
Trial: 15 days for Yugma Pro
Bottom line: Don't need the frills? Here's a good, low-cost option for organizations with basic needs.
lotuslive
IBM Lotus Live: Feature-rich & intuitive
12IBM Lotus Live, IBM's new online collaboration solutions delivered as a service, is a full-featured, easy-to-use service for holding Web meetings and online events. Hosts can show any document on their computers to an audience such as a PowerPoint presentation. File sharing, email, group collaboration and integration with Salesforce applications are also supported in a single platform.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: Instant or planned meetings. Link to registration page, email sent through IBM or instant meeting.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, up to four. Annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, mobile access, videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Participant roster and polling
Pricing: Lotus Live Meetings, $39/month for 15 participants, $59/month for 200 participants. Lotus Live Events, $79/month for 1,000 participants and other options.
Pay per use: No
Trial: 30 days
Bottom line: Lotus Live services offer users new ways to work more effectively with people inside and outside their company, including customers, partners and suppliers, at a predictable monthly rate.You may wind up with Lotus Live after sampling some other Web conferencing software.
readytalk
ReadyTalk: The choice of TechSoup
13TechSoup Global has been using ReadyTalk for the past few years for all its Web conferencing needs.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: You can use your own CRM (customer relationship management) system, customize registration information.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing and VoIP. No mobile access or videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes
Polling & survey: Yes
Post-meeting reports: Detailed registration, campaign tracking and survey info.
Pricing: Many pricing options: Individual program $49/month (up to 15 people) to $99/month depending on number of subscriptions; yearly and more detailed plans available. Corporate plan for up to 1,000 participants.
Pay per use: 10 to 20 cents per minute per participant depending on services.
Trial: 30 days (can choose either single-user or corporate multi-user).
Bottom line: ReadyTalk has a few quirks -- international conference calls are a pain -- but on the whole you'll likely find something suitable for your organization in one of their pricing plans.
HearMe: Not keeping up
14HearMe, a division of Paltalk, is an online meeting service that lets companies or individuals conduct online business meetings with employees, clients and contacts via a plug-in for your Windows-based browser. Multicasting support for large number of participants. Educators use HearMe's Web meeting services to teach students around the globe.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for Internet Explorer and any browser that fully supports ActiveX controls. Mac and Linux users cannot use HearMe.
Invitation tools: Basic invitation tools.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications, not just documents. Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, text chat, file sharing, H.264 video technology, VoIP, mobile access.
Recording: No
Polling & survey: No
Post-meeting reports: No
Pricing: Basic plans: $29/month for 5 participants; $49/month for 10 people; $99/month for 25 people; $149/month for 50 people. Additional plans and annual pricing available. Unlimited use of voice & video conferencing with no incremental teleconferencing costs.
Pay per use: No
Trial: 14-day free trial
Bottom line: HearMe is entirely Web-based -- and was so before the cloud was cool -- and provides a serviceable interface and ease of use. But it hasn't kept up with the competition, either with its lighter feature set, its lack of Mac support or its pricing. PC Magazineadded in 2008: "For use as a training tool, however, HearMe shines bright. ... The product's ability to support large meetings makes it ideal for small businesses wanting to connect with a big swath of customers."
dimdim
Dimdim: A simple & inexpensive solution
15DimDim is one of our favorite Web conferencing services: cheap, no-nonsense and to the point.
Software required: No downloads, supports instant Web conferencing for any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system.
Invitation tools: Instant or planned meetings with smart urls. Invitations from Dimdim, local email addresses or smart url can be used as a simple log-in.
Collaboration tools: Screen sharing via desktop and applications. Multiple presenters, up to four. Annotating tools, text chat, teleconferencing, VoIP, mobile access, videoconferencing.
Recording: Yes with Pro, Webinar and Business
Polling & survey: Yes with Pro, Webinar and Business
Post-meeting reports: Yes with Pro, Webinar and Business
Pricing: Dimdim Free (up to 10 participants), Dimdim Pro $25/month (up to 50 participants), Dimdim Webinar $65/month (up to 50 person meetings and 1,000 attendee events). Dimdim Business $696/user/year (up to 100 person meetings). Annual discounts. Discounts for other client referrals.
Pay per use: No
Trial: 30-day free trial for Pro, Webinar & Business.
Bottom line: Best for quick collaboration among small teams.
Update: Salesforce announced on Jan. 6, 2011, that it is buying Dimdim for $31 million to bring real-time messaging and collaboration tools to its Facebook-style enterprise collaboration service Chatter. Dimdim is no longer accepting new accounts. One reader suggests adding FuzeMeeting to the list because of its support for mobile conferencing.

Other Web conferencing software

This is by no means a comprehensive list of web conferencing solutions. Other choices include:
• GoMeetNow
• InterCall
• In February 2011 SlideShare introduced ZipCasts, which enable live video presentations and some conferencing features.
• Lots of others in this list of Web-based conferencing services
Have your own favorites? Please add them below.



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11 comments:

Shannon Lehotsky said...

You should also check out Wiggio.com - a free online toolkit that makes it easy to communicate in groups. You can host virtual meetings with screen sharing and video chat, as well as send mass messages, upload files, manage events, and more to your group -- all for free. Check it out at http://wiggio.com

Jonathan Trott said...

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Free Survey Software

Web Conferencing said...

One more great tool – GoMeetNow.
The best part is that it has a flexible pricing option. You only need to pay 1/30 fee for a larger conference and switch back to small meeting room to get refund credit. http://www.gomeetnow.com/

Ed Konczal said...

Try AGAVOO service at www.addmybest.com
Easy signup, no downloads, up to 10 connections.

Small Business CRM said...

This blog is important for people who doesn't know about Social Business. This is their chance to read this blog and know a little bit of tips on how to run this kind of business.

Richard Holmes said...

Maybe those startup ecommerce web design companies could do well with lotus or readytalk; those seem flexible and easy enough for startups to use.

Katnesse Morgan said...

A lot of people from marketing business field like the advertising agencies new york will learn a lot from this post. Who knows by using these services, their marketing strategies will improve.

Anna Lebrun said...

Everything now can be settled online even a business conference can be done over the internet. In wholesale dropship companies , they always use a web conference tool if they need to discuss something among its members.

Andrew William said...

These web conferencing tools are very useful and powerful nowadays, in fact almost all social media sites like Facebook is also incorporating one of these tools in their sites. Because of these factors, Facebook became viral and people cannot resist from using it, even the people in the field of business and advertising.

Wes Aaron said...

Businesses do utilize these social media tools because they make successful marketing strategies. It's not just a tool to connect through networks and be discovered, but also a tool to gather the important data that may only be found in personal profiles of people.

Ludovica Cantrell said...

Just by using the internet a person could do multiple tasks now. Imagine, at this point and time people can now to talk and create a conference and pretty much discuss everything out by just a click away. Surely, businesses are taking advantage of this convenience.