Choosing Your Next Web Video Conferencing Service: Part 2
In my last article, I described some of the features to look for in a Web conferencing service. Let's get down to the specifics of each service. I have outlined some of the more interesting services in the chart below.
(1) There are varying discounts for quantity purchases and yearly contracts or pre-payment plans. When "0" is indicated, free limited-feature versions are available.
The market leaders in Web conferencing are Cisco's Webex and Citrix' GoToMeeting. Earlier this year, Webex came out with its free version: if you only need to have three participants, this is a great way to get used to a world-class service completely for free. The free version allows you only to share your desktop (rather than specific apps or windows), you can't do any remote control of someone else's desktop, and you can only use the built-in audio that comes with your computer (rather than using a ordinary dial-up phone), but these are minor given the prices that you aren't paying for the service.
GoToMeeting starts at $49 per month for a single presenter, and at this price point you are limited to 25 participants. It has another service, called GotoWebinar, that can handle a larger group and that starts at $499 a month per host, so the dollars can add up quickly.
GoToMeeting and Webex operate very differently: The former uses a desktop client to kick off the meeting, the latter uses software that you download from their website. Both record meetings differently too: GoToMeeting can save the recordings as a local .MOV or .WMV with the conference video and audio information; Webex records the file in their cloud that anyone can subsequently download.
A third heavyweight player is Adobe's Connect. It has many features which are better for supporting larger meetings such as training seminars. It has a bunch of post-conferencing features such as reports on who left the meeting early and a list of email addresses for the participants. It goes for $55 per month to host up to 100 participants.
There are numerous low-end conferencing products, including Skype from Microsoft, Vyew.com, and Join.me from LogMeIn. Vyew and Join.me are both great ad hoc services: you can be up and conferencing in a matter of seconds, and both have free plans too that have enough features to satisfy beginning conferencing users. There are some other free services including Anymeeting.com, Twiddla, and taximeeting.com. I have a more complete summary chart showing these and other services here on my site.
Finally, there are two services from Microsoft. Skype is recently updated with version 6 for both Windows and Mac: it replaces the Microsoft Live Meeting service that is being phased out, as well as connects with Facebook users. Skype has a complex pricing scheme and limitations on how many voice and video conferencing users can participate concurrently. You pay a fixed monthly fee for the "Premium" service of $9 per month per user, and that gives you access to the better conferencing features. Microsoft also sells its Lync service as part of its Office packages, but I wouldn't recommend using it as it is a bear to setup.