Today’s business environment is constantly shifting, as more people turn to online conferencing solutions instead of relying on traditional brick-and-mortar office meetings. This transition to virtual conferencing and collaboration allows for a more global business environment where people can meet online to share ideas and files regardless of their location.
By embracing these capabilities, businesses are now able to meet with employees, co-workers, customers and clients nearly anywhere at any time. Web conferencing solutions provide the tools necessary to facilitate collaboration, training and brainstorming.
While a phone conference is occasionally a sensible option for short conversations, this method isn’t sufficient when visuals and/or files need to be shared. Features such as screen sharing, video chats, file sharing and whiteboards help businesses make the most of their time together online.
Consider these options for your virtual meetings and web conferences, noting not only the cost of each tool, but also the features available that will best meet your needs.
Cisco’s solution for virtual meeting software is one of the most popular because of its reliability and wide range of services, including screen sharing, file sharing and HD video. WebEx’s suite of virtual tools includes a meeting center, an event center, a training center and more. The software has options for automated meeting reminders and post-meeting reports for each user. WebEx can be accessed through any device connected to an internet server, including smartphones and tablets, making it one of the most convenient options available.
Cost: Prices start at 33 cents per minute and $49/month per host for flat-rate packages.
Another popular web-based option, GoToMeeting provides the tools needed to host online meetings with up to 25 people. The video and audio conferencing tools, as well as the screen-sharing capabilities, work on almost any device, including most tablets. These tools are good for webinar and training services, allowing the host to walk other meeting participants through the material directly from their computer screen. Features include webinar registration pages, screen-sharing and annotation tools.
Cost: Pricing ranges from $49/month for 15 or less users on GoToMeeting and up to $499/month for 1,000 people on GoToWebinar.
Perhaps one of the most user-friendly tools, AT&T Connect provides the necessary software for users to collaborate on files and documents from almost any device. Up to four presenters can use the screen-sharing capabilities; this, Connect’s whiteboard and other teleconferencing tools make collaboration easy. The host can also track attendance and views of specific videos and sessions, so follow-up is quick and simple.
Cost: Pricing ranges from 8.5 cents/minute per user for audio and 12 cents/minute per user for web conferencing. Flat-rate packages are also available for varied rates.
Although Skype doesn’t have a wide range of screen-sharing or conferencing tools for businesses, the simplicity and accessibility make the program a must-have. Skype is best for group calls, international calls and group screen sharing. Face-to-face meetings are easy to host through video calls, providing the necessary face-time for groups to brainstorm with shared audio and video.
Cost: Basic Skype (with instant messaging and two-way video calls) is free. Premium accounts that include all features are $9.99/month
Microsoft Office Live Meeting
Microsoft’s web conferencing solution is one of the most thorough and reliable options, including high-quality video, audio, and screen-sharing and file-sharing tools. The virtual whiteboard, which is provided for collaborating and brainstorming, is a great standout feature of this video conferencing software. The software also boasts text chat and file-transfer features, as well as the ability to pre-record presentations. Post-meeting polls, surveys and reports are also available.
Cost: $4.50/month per user for up to 250 people or up to $16/month per user for up to 1250 people.
This web-based suite of virtual meeting services includes collaboration tools for webcasting and teleseminars. Infinite Conferencing provides reminder emails, surveys and post-meeting reports, which in conjunction with webinars make it easy to fully integrate into your established routine. The service also provides discounts to nonprofits, so it is a great option for those operating in that field.
Cost: Pricing options vary from 3.4 cents/minute per audio line and 18 cents/minute per operator-assisted line. Unlimited packages are also available with varied pricing options.
The simple-to-use interface of InterCall makes it one of the best web-based options. Features include screen-sharing and webcam capabilities for video conferences. The whiteboard can be accessed by all users, encouraging collaboration and sharing. Webinars also include a participant list, which lets the host track attendance and even monitor noise reports for all users. The host has the ability to mute loud background noises and can set up polls following conferences and webinars to get feedback.