Saturday, June 11, 2005

Internet Web Conferencing Gets Cheap and Easy

Email, FAX and even snail mail works fine when all you need to do is get a document from place to place. But business slows to a snail's pace if you try to use these methods for collaboration on a project. Try sending your slide presentation out for evaluation through the mail and you'll feel like you've been beamed back to the 18th century, when you had to wait 3 months for the next ship to get your documents from the old country.

Here's where Internet web conferencing gets the review and comment process up to warp speed. Imagine popping up a window on your PC and seeing a proposed slide presentation hosted by someone on the other side of the world. Then imagine being given control of that presentation so that you can add your own input. Your 10 member team is all online at the same time, chatting back and forth while you take turns presenting material or making your comments in real time. That's what you can do with web conferencing services.

Internet web conferencing is a step beyond online alternatives such as sending emails back and forth, posting content on a web site or forum, or even real-time chat. It adds a graphical presentation function so you can display your creative work while hosting real-time chat for feedback. You can also add telephone conferencing so you can talk to everyone on the phone while you share written and graphical material online.

Web conferencing services have been around for awhile, but they've tended to be too expensive for casual use or smaller groups. You might have to buy individual seats for each participant and pay hundreds of dollars a month to hold your conferences. A cheap web conferencing solution from Citrix called GoToMeeting offers a way for you to get into web based conferencing at a more reasonable price. There's even a free trial available so you don't have to actually buy the service until you know it will meet your needs.

With GoToMeeting, you pay a low fixed monthly or annual fee and host all the meetings you want for no additional charge. The only limitation is that there is a maximum of 10 participants on each meeting. If you have larger groups, you get GoToMeeting Corporate for up to 25 seats and you can even get a special event license for up to 200 participants.

How does it work? The meeting organizer sends out invitations to the intended participants by email or instant messaging. Each participant needs to download a small applications program to their computer. At the time of the meeting, you simply click on the link in your invitation and you become part of the meeting. If there is a simultaneous telephone conference, you dial into that system also.

One of the more exotic features of GoToMeeting is that the meeting leader can transfer control of their mouse and keyboard to another participant. You get to share any application or file on your desktop, which is great for getting input on new products or collaborating on group documents. Your information is protected by passwords, unique meeting IDs, SSL and 128-bit AES encryption to keep eavesdroppers and other evil-doers out of your presentations.

In addition to being able to have a non-colocated team collaborate on a group project, Internet web conferencing is also a way to make presentations to customers and potential clients without the need to physically travel. You not only save the travel expense, but you can get your presentation in front of the client instantly instead of a day or two later.

If you would like to try cheaper, easier Internet web conferencing to see if will work for your team or organization, you can get the GoToMeeting free trial offer right now.

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