On-Line Web Meetings to the Rescue

     The combination of 9-11 and higher fuel costs has exacted a toll on corporate travel in the United States.  Foreign competition drives the never ending need for greater efficiencies.  The days of getting on a plane, flying to a meeting and returning, even the same day, have dramatically reduced.

   In a previous issue of The Next Wave we discussed how video conferencing is becoming more common.  In this issue we describe web conferencing.  Research tells us that there has been a 40 percent increase in web conferencing in the past several years.

    As with many other technology driven changes, the first few systems were high end, expensive and difficult to use.  Now anyone with a browser and an internet connection can fire up a Web conference without special equipment and expect it to work even through firewalls.

    How does this web meeting concept work?  First of all you need to select a vendor that provides this kind of service. They all work basically the same. You set up a meeting on-line through the internet. You will provide a meeting name, date and time.  A meeting password is always a good idea.  Most software will e-mail the attendees you establish, the information they need to sign on through their internet browser.  As the meeting host you will see who has logged-on and records are kept for attendees.

    The voice component may very well be separate from the meeting arrangements.  There are a variety of services that can set up conference calling capabilities so each attendee can ask or answer questions.  Some advanced suppliers of this service, such as Raindance Web Conferencing offers the voice component as well.

    There are many companies that provide the service.  Below are a few.

    WebEX Meeting Center was the first and is now the largest provider. Some studies say they have 60% of the market.  Along with providing web conferencing capabilities, they also have modules for more targeted needs: Training Center for education; Support Center for customer support; and Event Center for large Webcasts.  WebEX however is pricy and may not be as appropriate for the casual meeting environment.

    Microsoft Office Live Meeting-Microsoft recently acquired PlaceWare, a major Web conferencing player and immediately became a substantial vendor in this environment.  The price: Presenter edition $75.00 per seat per month or $.35 per minute... a bit more affordable.  Microsoft has committed to upgrading the product, so expect upcoming versions to fill in the gaps.

    VNC (Virtual Network Computing) software makes it possible to view and fully-interact with one computer from any other computer or mobile device anywhere on the internet. VNC is cross-platform, allowing remote control between different types of computers.  For ultimate simplicity, there is even a Java viewer, so that any desktop can be controlled remotely from within a browser without having to install software.  VNC offers a free version which from our experience works pretty well.  A professional version is also available.

     The vendor websites for more information are:





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