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    « HCI Webcast - Tell the Story with Technology | Main | My first day on the job (involves numerous beers) »
    Tuesday
    May122009

    HR Technology for the Small Business - Free Web Conferencing Tools

    I had a great conversation this past weekend with my Dad, all about the changes happening in American corporations; particularly notions of work/life and just why the heck does it make sense for most companies to continue to insist that the majority of their workers fight traffic, miss important family activities, and otherwise waste innumerable hours of their lives in their cars.

    My Dad is as old-school as they come, but even he has come around to the idea that with today's technologies, it just makes no sense to tether knowledge workers to desks 8 or 9 hours a day.  Even for small businesses, the tools and solutions to help support remote work are more affordable and accessible than ever, and in that spirit, I offer a quick look at five free and inexpensive web conferencing solutions, that can support small businesses.

    Remote work is just one of the reasons why HR organizations should be interested in Web Conferencing, certainly cost containment, efficiency, and a more effective way to connect with outside partners are all good potential uses of web conferencing. So here is a brief look at five tools in this space.

    The Solutions

    DimDim  - DimDim bills itself as the 'world's easiest web conferencing tool'. DimDim supports screen sharing, file sharing, web-based demonstrations, and annotated virtual whiteboards.  The session presenter can broadcast live video and audio, and meeting attendees can participate via text chat, VOIP audio, or telephone by utilizing an integrated teleconference service.

    Hosting and attending meetings do not require downloading or installing any components to your computer, and the service supports PCs, Macs, and the Linux OS. Some other very useful features are the ability to embed an 'invitation' widget on a website or blog, 'live' invitations from participants in the session via IM or email, and live 'co-browsing', meaning the host can interact live with a web site and all participants screens get updated accordingly.

    For the small business, perhaps the most attractive feature of DimDim is the availability of a free edition to hold web events for up to 20 participants. So a small business could easily use the Free Edition for internal meetings, prospect demonstrations, or perhaps as a support tool for customer service. Additional premium plans are also offered, for example a Pro plan for $19/month that will support events up to 50 people.

    ooVoo - ooVoo offers a slightly different spin on the conferencing idea, it is mainly a service for free video chat. With ooVoo, users can connect with up to six participants in a video chat simultaneously. The ooVoofull-feature, high-quality video chat service does however require the download and install of a client side application on the computers of each video chat participant.  However ooVoo recently added the ability for a host to invite participants to a video chat right in the browser window, thus removing the requirement for all participants to have downloaded the ooVoo application.

    But I think the most interesting capability of ooVoo is the ability to embed a video chat room right on your website or blog. This feature provides the small business the capability to connect with customers in a face-to-face manner, or to simply use as an internal virtual conference room.  So if the business does not need 'classic' web conferencing features like screen and document sharing, and are interested in free, multi-user video chat, then ooVoo is a good option to consider.

    Yugma - Yugma offers a free web conferencing solution that allows anyone, anywhere to instantly share their desktop and ideas online with others. The expected conferencing capabilities are present, application sharing, web demonstrations, and ability to have multiple presenters are all included in the free edition. The free version can support web conferences up to 20 people,Yugma supports Windows, Mac, and Linux OS systems.

    Yugma offers several editions at different price points, ranging from free use for up to 20 meeting participants, followed by 'Pro' versions ranging from $14.95/month for between 20-50 participants, to $179.95/month for up to 500 meeting participants. Of the 'free' solutions on the market, Yugma seems to be the one that tends to scale higher and to be in use by larger organizations.

    Vyew - Vyew is yet another option in the free web conferencing space.  Like DimDim and Yugma, Vyew offers a free, basic option that support web conferences for up to 20 attendees. With Vyew you can conduct meetings in real time using a shared workspace, webcam, voice over IP (VoIP), free Vyewteleconferencing, text chat and desktop sharing. In addition to uploading, sharing and presenting content you can invite participants to annotate and collaborate on content during the meeting.

    Vyew does not require participants to install any software, it runs completely in the user's browser.  There is a very full list of supported features, including document collaboration, built-in screen capture capability, and whiteboards and drawing tools. There are some upgraded plans available, a 'Plus' plan starting at $6.95/month for up to 25 participants, and a 'Professional' plan starting at $13.95/month for up to 45 participants. Vyew has a wide range of features, and may be worth a try for those organizations comfortable testing out these numerous capabilities.

     

    Yuuguu - I heard about Yuuguu via Bryon Abramowitz from Knowledge Infusion and had to check them out. Yuuguu is positioned as a screen sharing and instant messaging platform, that is simple, and free to use. The host of the Yuuguu session needs to download the Yuuguu client application, but no downloads are required for attendees or viewers. Yuuguu also offers chat integration with most of the popular IM platforms like GTalk and MSN. It supports all common platforms, windows, Mac, and Linux.

    Yuuguu offers two pricing plans, the free version allows screen sharing for up to five users at once. The 'Pro' version goes for $15/month and supports screen sharing for up to 30 simultaneous users. A small business or group looking for a simple, effective and easy to use screen sharing and collaboration tool might want to check out Yuuguu.

    This was a quick look at five popular and free web conferencing tools, any of which might be a good solution for a small business to facilitate client presentations, internal meetings, and support for telecommuters or other remote staff and contractors.  Since all the solutions in this post offer a free version of their service, the only 'cost' is the time the organization will spend setting up and trying out these tools.

    Bottom line, there is no reason why the small organization with limited expertise and budget can't experiment with, and effectively utilize web conferencing in their organizations.

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    • Response
      Response: conference call
      We like to offer a free service for you to meet by telephone with your customers, relatives or colleagues.

    Reader Comments (7)

    Steve,

    Great summary of the different options available - and thanks for the mention. One additional point to highlight is the availability of free telephone conference calling services. The two that I've used in the past are freeconferencecall.com and powwownow. In conjunction with free web conference services, a small business is able to maintain a great technology presence without incurring substantial costs.

    While I haven't used all of the services you've listed above, what I have seen that differentiates the paid services like WebEx and Adobe Connect from the ones you've mentioned is the ability to record and playback presentations at a future date. I've often used this option on Webex to create a recording of the audio and web demo which can be played back at a later date for those who were unable to participate live.

    Great information for all...

    May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryon Abramowitz

    Bryon, thanks for the comments and the suggestions for free telephone conference services. I have used Rondee for this as well. The archive and recording is a great observation, and certainly an organization requiring that capability would need to upgrade either to a premium plan from one of the services above, or to a more robust solution like WebEx or Adobe. Thanks for contributing.

    May 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Hi Steve,
    It is amazing that Corporate America is still bent on being in-person to be counted. I think that shows how low management skills have become, business do not believe Managers can manage employees by accomplishments/deliverables and instead must rely on management by seeing employees at their desk.
    As work-aged populations decrease in countries, having remote workers is all that will keep many companies in business.

    May 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKarin Beckstrom

    Personally, I use Showdocument for online teaching and web conferencing. I'm not saying these programs aren't good,
    But I think a web-based application is always better, since there's nothing to download or install.
    try it at http://www.showdocument.com . -andy

    September 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandy stewart

    Hi Andy - Thanks for the comments and I will definitely check out Showdocument.

    September 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    I use online teaching and web conferencing software but I think a Yugma tool and Webex Webinar Software is always better, since there are very easy to use.

    April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Preston

    Free is good but I still believe you get what you pay for. Hence, I would recommend using web conferencing tools like webex, gotomeeting, gomeetnow, R-HUB etc.

    April 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJason Dill

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