Web Conferencing Choices on the Rise - Page 4

By Jacqueline Emigh | Posted Jan 14, 2003
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App Sharing, Whiteboarding, Audioconferencing

Leading-edge features in Web conferencing include application sharing, shared whiteboarding, integrated audioconferencing, realtime participant polling, streaming media, record and playback, and support for 3D objects, for example.

Products and services vary, though, in terms of feature support. "Latitude, for example, has its own audioconferencing. Others provide audioconferencing through agreements with other vendors," said IDC's Mahowald.

"Web Event Management"

Vendors also play up various sorts of management tools. Centra, for instance, cites "robust Web event management" features such as a Web event creation wizard, custom event registration pages, an event management calendar, and "lead source and marketing campaign tracking" for measuring the effectiveness of direct mail, e-mail, and advertising promos for a Web conference.

Is Outsourcing Right for You?

Outsourcing to a service provider can be a cost effective choice for small to mid-sized businesses, as well as for large enterprises that only occasionally need to use Web conferencing.

"All you're buying is capacity, as opposed to a software license. So you can scale up and down as much as you want. Also, especially if you're an SMB, you might not want to have to hire an extra administrator to manage Web conferencing software," according to Mahowald.

PlaceWare is one Web conferencing vendor that sells both services and products. Large enterprise customers can buy hardware and software product bundles in two different flavors: Sun Solaris or Microsoft Windows. Next month, PlaceWare plans to release an update on the Windows side that will feature "a much richer set of tools," including dropdown windows and additional ActiveX components, according to Dustin Grosse, PlaceWare's senior VP of worldwide marketing and strategy.

PlaceWare's main emphasis, though, is clearly on Web conferencing services. Grosse claims very high scalability for PlaceWare's services -- specifically, support for up to 2,500 simltaneous users. PlaceWare offloads its data center to a partner, Cable & Wireless.

PlaceWare's services are based on a centralized architecture, in which different servers are dedicated to different functions, such as recording or user verification, for instance. "By tuning specific servers for specific functions, PlaceWare is able to assure better performance and reliability, reduce bandwidth requirements, better isolate problems, and more quickly resolve them," according to the Aberdeen analysts.

"We use patented technology that opens up a public port to stream data across firewalls," Grosse contended. The PlaceWare platform also uses multiple layers of encryption for security, along with APIs for facilitating integration with enterprise software.

Plug-ins are available for both Microsoft Instant Messenger and Lotus Notes. The plug-ins handle tasks such as coordinating calendars, launching meetings, and sending out reminders to participants. PlaceWare charges customers a one-time setup and branding fee, along with additional costs based on concurrent seats. Seats run about $100 each per month.

Page 5: WebEx's "Realtime Switching"

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