We at Online Meeting Tools Review focus on testing the software that allows you to conduct meetings online more or less easily. Webinars are one of the meeting types you can handle with web conferencing software (see our distinction between web conference and webinar).
After visiting our site you should have a good idea of which software to go with. How you best conduct a meeting or a webinar is a whole other business. And this is where sites such as killerwebinars.com come in. You pick the platform you wish to use and they can help you with the rest. From preparing to holding a webinar the site offers many useful tips.
The Japanese vendor LiveOn asked us to test their online meeting solution. At the risk of spoiling the suspense: The tool didn’t make it into our ranking.
But let us start at the beginning. The basic functionalities are all there and if we had to choose the scenario this solution is best suited for we’d say it definitely is online meetings planned in advance. Video is the central aspect of the solution, displaying the participant’s webcam streams in the main window. Functionalities such as whiteboard and screen sharing can be added in separate windows.
Now to the shortcomings… The tool runs on Windows only which really is a large restriction as we pointed out earlier – “Mac users are being neglected”. There are neither one-click meetings nor recurring meetings, and you can only enter a meeting room at the time the meeting is scheduled, no earlier. When we started our meeting it took us 8 minutes from clicking “enter room” to actually arriving in the room. Finally, there was no pricing information posted on the website.
User-friendliness and meeting-setup are the two major areas for improvement. The solution shows promise, but currently cannot be considered a serious alternative to the market leaders.
Google is going social. Now it is hard to come up with revolutionary concepts when others like Facebook have brought social networking to near perfection and solutions like Skype make you wonder how video chatting could be any easier. Google+ aims at providing all these services, manageable under one convenient location.
Since we focus on web conferencing we checked how easy it is to conduct meetings online with our Google+ test account. At the moment a Google+ participant can invite you to “hang out”. You will see this invitation posted on your Google+ account only, meaning there are no email invitations currently available.
So we hung out and checked which features Google+ provides. Video is easy and performs well. You also have a text chat option. The YouTube button is a nice touch, but it is still not working properly, i.e. not everyone can see the video – but that most likely has to do with Google still refining its service.
The bottom line for us is: Video, audio, and text chats are there which allow for rudimentary online collaboration. The fact that you need to be a member of the service and logged in to participate is a minus considering that for online meetings you want to have a barrier free experience rather than forcing every participant to open an account before joining a meeting. Screen sharing is what we definitely would expect to be added next. Throw in email notifications and the possibility to schedule meetings and we’re talking. But currently, Google+ really only is a place to hang out. And even with all those features added it just might not be the tool of choice for web conferencing.
Another question rolled in just the other day: “Are there delays in online conferences due to the location of the vendors’ servers? And if so, are there vendors that guarantee quick transfer of data?”
That is a valid question, the scenario being that the host and attendees are all located e.g. in Europe meeting online with a web conferencing solution hosted in the U.S. In that case all data would be routed from Europe to the U.S. and then back again. Even though the data has to travel quite a bit that should not lead to any noticeable delays.
There are days on which an online meeting will be tedious, however, when images just won’t load or there is a lag between picture and voice. This cannot always be blamed on server location but rather has to do with conditions at the attendees’ locations as well as the size of data packages you are sending and receiving. The server’s capacity naturally also plays a role – so a tiny little server next door might perform worse than a high-performance server park on another continent.
Bottom line: If your network is slowed down for whatever reason your online conference will be slow, too, and as long as the servers don’t crash they are not likely to be the cause of slow performance when meeting online. And that also answers the second part of the question: Vendors can only do so much to influence quick data transfer. They cannot guarantee that it will be quick 24x7x365.