How to Pick the Right Web Conferencing Software

Updated: April 30, 2009

If you've decided to take advantage of Web conferencing's cost-saving and productivity-enhancing capabilities, selecting the product that's best-suited for your business is key. Pinpointing the software that most closely matches your company's needs and budget parameters is a task that requires a fair amount of research and planning. These ten steps will guide you through the software-selection process:

1. Understand the technology. Web conferencing isn't rocket science, but you'll want to have an understanding of the technology's basic concepts before you begin shopping for a product. Vendor Web sites and other online and printed resources, such as Wikipedia, can fill you in on the basics.

2. Define your needs. What tasks do you want the software to accomplish? Web conferencing can be used for a number of different applications, including staff and customer meetings, training and Webinars , so you'll want to make sure that the software you select is designed to support your goals.

3. Select a platform. All Web conferencing products fit into one of two basic categories: on-premises or hosted software. "On-premises" means the software is installed on your company's servers and/or workstations. Hosted software, also known as SaaS (Software as a Service), is provided on a subscription basis via the Internet. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches, such as more customization options for on-premises software and lower up-front costs for SaaS offerings, so consider your options carefully.

4. Assess your assets. Take a close look at your business's technology infrastructure, including workstations, servers and networking capabilities. Even if you decide to use hosted Web conferencing software, you'll still need to think about things like webcams, workstation graphics capabilities, network performance and broadband speeds.

5. Look around. There are dozens of Web conferencing software vendors, all anxious to sell you their products and services. Get a feel for the market by checking with several vendors and comparing costs and features.

6. Seek advice. Unless you're already a Web conferencing technology expert, you'll want to seek input from staff members, business colleagues and other knowledgeable individuals. Ask vendors for customer references and arrange to talk with these people about their Web conferencing experiences.

7. Narrow the field. Once you've finished your research and have decided on the type of software you want, it's time to begin serious negotiations with a handful of software vendors. Features and pricing will be your top concerns, of course, but you'll also want to define other crucial deal aspects, including training, support, service quality (for SaaS software), contract terms and agreement termination rights.

8. Complete the deal. Pick the vendor that offers the best terms, but also pay close attention to deal "intangibles," such as the company's track experience serving businesses in your field and its financial condition (you don't want your vendor to go out of business and stick you with an "orphan" software product or a dead SaaS link).

9. Plan a staged deployment. If you intend to use Web conferencing across several departments, such as production, sales and HR , roll out the technology in stages. That way, planning, training and troubleshooting obligations won't overwhelm you.

10. Run a pilot. A series of test Web conferences conducted with staff members will help you identify any technical bugs or training issues before you begin applying the technology to business-critical missions.

Web conferencing has the potential to boost revenue, build strong customer relationships and enhance employee productivity. On the flip side, a poorly planned Web conferencing initiative can quickly blossom into a frustrating, money-burning nightmare. If you take the time to do your homework, you should be pleased by the results.

Featured Research
  • The New 2017 Phone Systems Comparison Guide

    It was a painstaking process, but to help B2B companies start 2017 off on the right foot, we recently compiled a comparative list of the top 34 business phone vendors in the world. In one, easy-to-reference location, we’ve neatly outlined the information you need. more

  • 8 Common Pain Points UC Eliminates

    Many businesses rely on a collection of communication tools that they adopt to address specific needs as they arise. This strategy may seem to work in the beginning, but eventually will lead to a system that is cumbersome to use, difficult to explain to new hires, expensive, and effective in some areas, but full of gaps. more

  • Top 11 VoIP Vendors

    Signing up with a VoIP provider is a major business decision that will affect your internal communications, customer service, and communications with business partners. The decision can be a difficult one; choosing the wrong VoIP provider can cost a business hundreds of thousands of dollars. more

  • How UC Can Improve Employee Productivity

    Unified Communications (UC) is a new concept that is revolutionizing business communications. Every year, more and more companies are ditching their traditional PBX systems for a UC solution. But before you make the move, it’s critical to understand how UC will affect your workplace and employees. more

  • Best Mobile VoIP Apps for Business

    VoIP phone systems and mobile apps are becoming very popular for business use and are helping companies streamline their business communications on the go, while reducing costs. In fact, according to a study by Infonetics Research, VoIP subscribership has been growing at a rate of approximately 14%, year over year, each year since 2009. more