Although Web conferencing is still a young industry, a number of vendors are already offering sophisticated solutions for enterprise customers. The variety of products can be difficult to distinguish among without a broad understanding of the market.
1. Adobe Acrobat Connect : An increasingly popular solution for businesses and educators, Adobe Acrobat Connect offers most standard Web conferencing features, including application and desktop sharing, attendee management, videoconferencing and whiteboards. It operates almost entirely off of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash technology and works on Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh and Linux machines. Up to 15 users can participate in Web conferences; you can expand the number of attendees by upgrading to Adobe Acrobat Professional.
Acrobat Connect costs either $39 per month or $395 per year, depending on which payment plan you choose. Its biggest drawbacks are the lack of a session-recording feature and the inability to integrate with Microsoft Office or Lotus Notes. Both of these capabilities, however, are available with Adobe Acrobat Pro.
2. Citrix GoToMeeting : Citrix Systems Inc. bills its Web conferencing solution as an easy-to-use, affordable alternative to other leading products. After a free 30-day trial, Citrix charges customers a flat rate of $49 per month (or $39 per month if you agree to a year of service) for an unlimited amount of online meetings. It supports up to 15 attendees and boasts integration with all major IM (instant messenger) services.
GoToMeeting's primary downside is its lack of standard features. It does not offer file transfer, whiteboards or videoconferencing — all of which are available with competitors such as Acrobat Connect and Microsoft Live Office. It is therefore probably an adequate solution for SMBs (small to medium-size businesses) conducting simple meetings, but it would likely not meet the needs of large enterprises.
3. Elluminate Live! : This Web conferencing solution caters to educators, though businesses and other organizations can use it as well. Based on Java (and thus requiring a download if attendees don't already have it), Elluminate Live! works on every platform. Its features include teleconferencing, whiteboards, application sharing, quiz management and, most notably, breakout rooms.
Although Elluminate offers a free version for meetings with three seats or less, its bigger plans are more expensive than leading competitors, costing $55 per seat per month. Though the user experience is positive, the software can be slow to download.
4. IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte Meeting : Another well-established Web conferencing solution, Unyte Meeting integrates the Web, audio and videoconferencing. Users only need access to an Internet browser to join a meeting. Features include desktop and application sharing, polling, chat, whiteboards, hand raising, Microsoft Office integration and recording. Customers can either pay-as-they-go at a rate of $.25 per minute per user or pay flat rates according to how many seats they want in each meeting. The flat rates are $48 per month for 15 seats, $75 per month for 25 seats and $99 per month for 999 seats.
Unyte Meeting has proven to be a popular Web conferencing solution, yet it still has some bugs to work out, such as the lag time between the presenters' actions and what is visible to attendees.
5. Microsoft Office Live Meeting : Microsoft Office Live Meeting, like many of Microsoft Corp.'s products, is one of the leading solutions in the Web conferencing field. The hosted service's features include webcams, recording, breakout rooms, file transfer, Outlook integration and VoIP -PSTN integration.
Customers pay $15.42 per user per month for the Professional edition and $4.58 per user per month for the Standard edition. Each plan requires a minimum of five users, but the standard edition can only support a maximum of 15 attendees. The professional version can host 1,250 participants. Although many of its features are intuitive, Live Meeting's UI (user interface) is confusing. Its customer support is also lacking.
6. WebEx MeetMeNow : WebEx is the most senior Web conferencing provider on the market. Aimed at SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses), MeetMeNow can support only 15 users; WebEx Meetings is the company's enterprise edition. Features include Microsoft Office integration, desktop sharing, whiteboards, audio and videoconferencing, and private chat.
After a free 14-day trial, plans for unlimited meetings cost $49 per month or $39 per month with a $468 up-front payment. The system has trouble supporting some webcams, and using PC microphones for audio conferencing can be problematic.
7. Saba Centra : Saba has a variety of software products geared toward e-learning and talent management . Its Web conferencing solution, Saba Centra, has deep integration with its other systems, a benefit to any company already familiar with and using Saba solutions. Features include breakout rooms, application sharing, record and playback, and multiple presenters.
Saba Centra starts with a free 30-day trial; contact the vendor for additional pricing information. Downsides include the solution's inability to integrate with IM and unified communications clients other than Jabber.
8. iLinc : This Web conferencing vendor offers solutions for SMBs, enterprises, government and educational institutions. Like the other major players, iLinc's systems have features including application and desktop sharing, polling, breakout groups, hand raising, whiteboards and IM. Users can also customize the UI and track their online meetings' carbon emissions with a "green meter."
iLinc's flat license pricing model costs $49 per month for the first user and $45 per month for each additional user. Customers can also download the software to their server — a set up that can be confusing for individuals unsure of which pricing system is right for them. iLinc's costs also tend to be higher than those of its competitors.
9. Dimdim : Dimdim is one of the only free Web conferencing solutions currently available. Although the free version supports 20 attendees and offers features including videoconferencing, whiteboards and recording, users can expand and customize their meetings with a $99 per year subscription to Dimdim Pro. Regardless of the edition, Dimdim's solutions require no software download and are available as on-site, hosted and open-source versions.
The free Web conferencing solution still suffers from beta-stage bugs such as Internet browser crashes and problems with establishing connections with audio and video components.
10. WiredRed e/pop web conferencing : Available as hosted or on-premise software, e/pop version 5 was just introduced. It offers features such as application sharing, remote control, multiparty audio and videoconferencing, and record and playback. After a free 14-day trial, users can choose one of two payment plans: the first, for on-premise software, starts at $3,000 per year for up to five attendees and reaches to $9,600 per year for up to 25 (solutions supporting more users are available, contact the vendor for pricing); the hosted solution starts at $350 per month.
e/pop's usability could improve as the software still has some bugs to smooth out. Pricing is also prohibitive for smaller businesses.
11. Yugma Professional : Like Dimdim, Yugma Inc. offers a free version of its software with limited features. Yugma's Pro edition, which is more popular, has features including whiteboard and annotation tools, keyboard sharing, recording, Skype integration and live technical support. The software is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux and comes with a free 15-day trial. Pricing then starts at $9.95 per month for up to 10 attendees and reaches $89.95 per month for 500. Customers can also pay an annual subscription for the Pro edition.
Yugma's solution is simple and affordable, but it does not carry many of the advanced features of other Web conferencing vendors. It also has a slow running time and screen-sharing problems.
12. Zoho Meeting : Zoho, the provider of Web-based services such as email, CRM and IM, also has a Web conferencing solution called Zoho Meeting. Zoho Meeting integrates with all other Zoho services and offers features such as variable viewer options, remote assistance and desktop shortcuts. Customers can use Zoho Meetingfor free one-on-one meetings, but must pay $12 per month for five users, $18 per month for 10 users and $24 per month for 25 users.
Zoho Meeting is intuitive and easy to use, but its features are limited and the number of users restricted. SMBs' and small groups' needs would therefore likely be met by Zoho, but large enterprises might want to try a different solution.
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