Top 10 Business Web Conferencing Software
A few years ago, people having conversations and meetings while they were in different locations meant having a conversation over the phone, maybe even a conference line. But today people can communicate, even conduct live meetings and presentations, even if they are half a world away. All that is required is a computer, internet access and Java or a downloaded web-based application to communicate effectively over the internet. This technology is called web conferencing.
So, what exactly is web conferencing?
With web conferencing, participants can share audio, video, content, web pages, or combination of these, in real time. This enables people to attend meetings or presentations online, saving time, energy, money and productivity that used to be lost to traveling for meetings. Attendees or participants of web conferencing may need to download an application on their computer or they can just access a website or URL to join the group having the meeting or presentation.
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Web conferencing enables people to share presentations, documents, videos and multimedia applications. It also enables them to save money on the costs associated with high bandwidth. Users can meet at any time from any place, as long as they have a personal computer/laptop and internet access.
Since web conferencing allows users to have business meetings, trainings and conduct presentations and demonstrations, some web conferencing platforms require that presenters and attendees have high-speed internet connections, but a server based platform is compatible with dial-up and even satellite internet connections. This enables a much wider audience to participate in a web conference.
Presiding over a session can be passed among the users or the attendees, so that another user can act as the presenter or demonstrator.
Some web conferencing systems or providers include several features in their systems like texting, VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and full- motion video. Audio streaming was also added as an additional feature since web conferencing started in the early 1990s. With audio streaming, attendees can listen to the audio online as they view the presentations, thus saving the cost of a teleconference bridge and eliminating long distance charges for the participants.
Messaging or sending text messages also became more efficient. The leaders can entertain live questions or conduct question and answer sessions. Attendees can send private messages to the leader, who can answer through private messages or may publish the message so the entire team or all attendees can view the message.
There are attendance rosters which allow the leader and the attendees to view who is currently involved in the conference. There is also a tool for recording. Recording allows for the synching voice and visuals into a permanent record which can be shared with others on a later date or uploaded to a web site for on-demand viewing.
A whiteboard allows the leader or the attendees to highlight items in the presentation or it can be used to make notes or illustrate points or ideas. There are also tools for polls and surveys, allowing the leader to ask questions with multiple choices addressed to the attendees.
Screen sharing is also another feature of web conferencing. With screen sharing or desktop sharing participants can view the screen or whatever is on the screen of the leader. Some screen sharing applications also allow remote desktop control which means participants can take control or manipulate the leader’s desktop or screen. This feature is seldom used.
Another newer addition to the list of web conferencing features offered by some web conferencing providers is webcam. This allows the presenter, or anyone on the conference who has a webcam enabled, to be seen when they are speaking.
Of course, there are web conferencing vendors or providers that provide these services on different bases. Some web conferencing providers charge a nominal monthly fee while others may charge for every time the software was used. Prices for web conferencing hosting may vary widely so it is always wise to compare features and services before choosing the right provider for your web conference.
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Preparing your computer or your presentation to be used with web conferencing is really not that complicated. New computers normally would have installed software in them that is necessary for web conferencing. If not, the installation process is relatively easy to accomplish. Depending on your web conferencing provider you may need nothing more than the latest version of Java which is downloadable for free from Sun Java.
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Web conferencing provides a great platform for straightforward business related exchanges like meetings, demonstrations, orientations or even product roll-outs. Web conferencing has made it possible to have a truly global business community by providing an immediate, ecologically responsible and cost effective means of instant communication.
Top 10 Business Web Conferencing Software:
Zoho Meeting is a secure online meeting platform and webinar solution that helps people find new ways to collaborate and work remotely with efficacy.
FreeConferenceCall provides HD audio conferencing, screen sharing and video conferencing with up to 1,000 participants. Sign up for a free account.
Highfive simplifies business collaboration with a video conferencing platform designed to make meetings awesome. With Highfive there are no cables, dongles, app downloads or remote controls. Instead, it’s a modern, all-in-one solution with sleek hardware and integrated cloud-based conferencing software that makes screen sharing, video conferencing, web conferencing, and audio conferencing high quality and insanely easy.
Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the original software-based conference room solution used around the world in board, conference, huddle, and training rooms, as well as executive offices and classrooms.
GoToMeeting web conferencing software makes it simple and cost-effective to collaborate online with colleagues and customers in real time.
BlueJeans is the world’s leader in cloud video conferencing. Easily and securely hold live video calls, webinars, conference calls, and online meetings.
Free screen sharing, online meetings and team collaboration are all fast and easy at join.me. Show work who’s boss.
Free screen sharing for online meetings and web conferencing, Mikogo is an easy & intuitive way to share your screen over the Web. Click for a free account.
Cost effective and collaborative tools for businesses of any size. Collaborate with anyone, anywhere, on any device.
Host product launches, feature demonstrations, sales presentations, lead-nurturing webinars, user education webinars, and online meetings, right from your browser.
Host online meetings, virtual training sessions, and online events with one
easy-to-use web conferencing software.
Benefits of Business Web Conferencing
More and more businesses are using web conferencing. Web based seminars and presentations, or web conferences, are a more convenient way to conduct seminars and meetings for participants who are geographically separated from each other. Business web conferencing allows participants to attend or conduct presentations, share applications, chat and discuss the seminar or presentation. Many web conferencing services now offer optional streaming web cam so the participants can see one another or just the presenter.
Business web conferencing is becoming more and more popular because of its many advantages. Web conferencing can dramatically reduce the travel costs of a company. It is no longer necessary for participants to meet physically, or face to face. The cost of travel is skyrocketing. With fuel prices so expensive and volatile nowadays, no one is excited about spending money at the gas pump. The cost of airfare goes up almost weekly. Car rentals and hotels are also becoming ever more expensive.
Travel stress due to airport delays, flight cancellations, traffic jams, and long and irritating travel hours, is also avoided by implementing business web conferencing.
And do not forget the cost of lost productivity as employees travel from location to location. Since web conferencing replaces in-person meetings, not only does it reduce travel costs for the company, it also keeps employees near their families and staff. Less travel means more family time and more time spent with work staff to improve productivity.
Saving time is equivalent into saving money. Travel delays not only waste time but cost money. All the time and effort put into organizing a meeting can be allotted to other organizational and company tasks. This time can be used for generating sales and income for the company and the business. Business web conferencing also adds to the workers’ flexibility. Meetings can be held on short notice even if participants are in distant locations.
Web conferencing also reduces other business costs. Some companies are using web conferencing to enhance customer service and learn more about customers in distant locations. Knowing more about its customers helps a business to improve the quality of service it is providing and tailor its product offerings more specifically to the customers’ needs.
Training departments can be turned into e-Learning centers thus training more people for less money in a shorter time. Guest lecturers can give employee up-training, without the cost and time of travel.
Employers, even if they are away, can monitor, check and be in touch with their employees. Immediate company or business issues can be addressed even if the employer is in a different location. Key employees in different locations can have regular collaborations or consultations to improve the company productivity.
The ability to frequently meet and consult about pertinent business issues, strengthens the working and professional relationship among employees even if they are far from each other.
Employers can even conduct interviews with potential employees without having to leave the office, this is particularly useful for businesses or positions that are tightly integrated with technology. Performing the interview via web conference can ensure that the prospective employee can perform the basic computer tasks involved in web conferencing.
Another beneficial feature of business web conferencing is its recording and archiving capability. Recording and archiving not only provide the necessary information to those who might be unable to attend the live meeting, but is also very useful for future reference.
In addition, web conferencing technology can be used to record product demonstrations, create business plans and mind mapping (using an interactive whiteboard) and, when the recordings are uploaded to the Internet, to create 24/7 advertising for the company.
Educational institutions also use web conferencing. Education institutions can offer distance learning programs and can have blended learning settings, combining classroom time with online activities. Students can be liberated from the physical classroom set-up but still maintain teacher and classmate interaction. Educational institutions see that web conferencing can be a way of reducing drop-out rates since students can continue their education through distance learning programs.
Considerations For Choosing the Right Web Conferencing Service
Web conferencing technology is making business people’s lives easier. Instant messaging (text chat), recording, VoIP (interactive voice chat), desktop sharing, interactive whiteboard, and PowerPoint sharing are features of many of the web conferencing solutions offered on the market. Some services also feature live web cam, co-browser and multi-language support.
As often happens, as the technology has matured the price for web conferencing has come down considerably. In the beginning, web conferencing was only affordable for large corporations, but today there are providers catering to small and medium sized business and home based business.
There are several options for getting web conferencing service.
Pay per use is the most common type of web conference service commonly used by people who do not use web conferencing technology often. Prices range from $0.08 -$0.40 per minute per participant for the web portion. Another $0.08-$0.25 per minute per participant is being charged for the audio.
Another option for businesses that hold a number of web conferences is getting a plan with a fixed number of seats that can be used for a certain amount of time. This costs a monthly fee of around $50 -$200 per seat. Anyone considering this option should inquire about the price of overage charges for additional seats and minutes and for additional presenters. There can also be an extra set-up charge which can be around $0-$100.
If web conferencing is used frequently within a company, the most economical plan is to get a package for unlimited web conferencing for the month. Prices range from a few dollars per month up to $3,000 per month depending on how many users will be accessing a conference at one time.
There are companies that purchase licensed software that can accommodate their entire company and use it internally. These companies would normally have in-house web conferences or company meetings involving multiple locations. Purchasing web conferencing software might cost anywhere from $5000 dollars to tens of thousands dollars. This does not include the annual maintenance and other service fees.
To further enhance the conferencing experience, there are add-ons or additional features that you can use. Many of them require an extra charge. Web cameras are a very important part of web conferencing. A web camera normally costs around $50 – $100.
Other features include confirming reservations, assisting with interactive features and speaking with the moderator through a private line. An operator-assisted web conference costs $1000- $5000, depending on the participation of the operator in the project.
Recording and archiving – another great web conferencing feature – is also available for additional fees. Recording and archiving is a great way of storing documentation of the meeting for future reference. This feature is available for $50 -$250 per meeting.
Aside from comparing prices, there are also several pointers to identify the best web conferencing program suitable for your needs. Reviewing the pricing plans is also an important factor, there are providers that required to be paid on a rate-per-person. However, there are providers that give the option of paying a flat rate monthly for unlimited web conference service.
Keep in mind the possible locations of people who are going to be included in the web conferencing group. If the service provider limits or is unable to ensure that these locations will be tapped by web conferencing, then it is not for you.
To get the best service fit for your needs, make sure that you are armed with relevant and detailed questions about the service these providers are offering. Don’t get overexcited and join a provider just because they are the most popular in the market.
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