by Kate Stockert
Five years ago my company, Knowledge Mosaic, reviewed and purchased our first web conferencing product. Since that time GoToMeeting has served our training and sales needs well. However, a recent renewal notice prompted me to reconsider the options. Boy, was I surprised to find the significant price drops since our initial purchase. Suddenly WebEx Meeting Center and Microsoft Live Meeting’s sexy features and high screen resolution were within reach!
One thing has not changed: there are still numerous factors to consider when purchasing a web conferencing product, and none of the products match up feature-for-feature. Below I highlight my findings, including this Feature Comparison Chart. My review covers GoToMeeting, WebEx Meeting Center, Microsoft Live Meeting, and Fuze. Other players my research did not cover include DimDim, ooVoo and Eye Network. My findings are by no means exhaustive, but will hopefully offer a starting point for your next review process. I invite you to share your own suggestions, ideas, or findings.
I consider GoToMeeting a “quick and dirty” tool that is intuitive, convenient, and great for occasions where you just need to share your desktop. The screen resolution leaves something to be desired, as it presents a slightly blurred screen for conference attendees, whereas WebEx and MS Live Meeting provide 100% clarity and definition.
Before hosting a GoToMeeting conference, presenters need to remember to turn off Outlook email reminders and chat tools, in addition to ensuring private information is removed from the desktop. To prevent attendees from viewing my cluttered desktop, I usually open a web browser to the desired web page and opt to share my screen using the “Clean (hide icons, background, and task bar)” option. GoToMeeting has recently added “application sharing,” however; it will only show attendees the main window and not tabbed windows or pop-ups.
WebEx Meeting Center
WebEx Meeting Center by Cisco is a full-featured web conferencing product. Though a little overwhelming at first, this product offers all the bells and whistles, including neat extras such as polling and video-conferencing. WebEx touts high security capabilities as the product’s greatest strength, in addition to high reliability, which is why numerous financial and government institutions are WebEx clients. If you are wary of sharing your desktop on the web, you can easily opt to share a program (such as Firefox or the Microsoft Office Suite), or you can upload content (such as a PowerPoint) prior to your conference. WebEx does require attendees to download a Java plugin through the browser, but for those without administrative rights on a computer, reverse Java is available.
Microsoft Live Meeting
Microsoft Live Meeting provides much of the same functionality as WebEx Meeting Center. Live Meeting offers the same high-quality screen resolution, content and program sharing, and the fun extras (polling, video, etc.). Since this is a Microsoft product, it offers nice integration with other Microsoft tools such as Outlook, for scheduling meetings.
Drawbacks to Live Meeting include the slow, multi-step attendee download process (15 MB) and somewhat confusing log-in process; attendees need to scroll-down on the download screen to find the correct meeting link and click “Run” a couple times before entering the meeting. Downloads are required for GoToMeeting and WebEx, but were seemingly simpler.
I reviewed one new-comer: Fuze. This product has potential and an attractively low price tag, though I discovered a few significant flaws:
- Billing information is required to trial the product; this information was not required for the other products I trialed.
- Conference attendees must know to uncheck the checkbox “Yes, I’d like a free Fuze Meeting account” when logging in, otherwise they will prompt Fuze to contact them.
- As with GoToMeeting, attendee screen is slightly blurred (almost like you need 1.00+ reading glasses to see the screen correctly).
Fuze contacts assure me these feature flaws will be amended in later product releases. So, the best I can say is: keep your eyes peeled as Fuze might be the next up-and-comer.