Microsoft’s Lync Online is not for everyone

When we last tested Lync Online the tool ranked 15th in our comparison of online meeting solutions. Back then the software had just passed the Beta phase so we wanted to now see how the online collaboration tool had been advanced over time.

Our first finding: Lync Online is not meant to be used as a standalone self-service web conferencing solution and setting it up requires substantial IT expertise. It may sound unproblematic that you need to open and configure your "personal" Office 365 cloud instance to run Lync Online, but we find Office 365 to be a very complex SaaS platform –  at least for those of us who are not IT professionals or well-trained Microsoft partners. Continue reading

Blackboard Collaborate: an LMS gone astray

Normally Blackboard Collaborate wouldn’t have made it into our ranking. The vendor fails to deliver one element we see as crucial: making pricing information openly and easily accessible. Even searching the Blackboard website for quite some time left us none the wiser in that regard. Now there are two reasons we decided to test and rank Blackboard Collaborate after all:
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Our test portal now offers made-to-measure test dossiers

Last weekend, the biggest update in the six-year history of webconferencing-test.com went live. Almost all aspects of our portal have been reworked to enhance the value and the usability of the site:

  • Compare Tools Pro now allows visitors to compile a tailored dossier of data from our 30-plus tool tests, offering detailed information on over 80 functions and criteria for all solutions. The service (which is subject to a charge) supports organizations in simplifying and accelerating the expensive and time-consuming process of evaluating web conferencing platforms.
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Latency in data transfer is a huge issue in online meetings

A week ago we became a registered Cisco partner – after unsuccessfully trying back in 2009 – and were quite happy about this. We needed some help for details regarding the creation of WebEx trial account links and were invited to a web conference with Cisco partner support – naturally via WebEx Meeting Center. We had an online meeting from our office in Frankfurt, Germany with a US-based representative and after further evaluation with a Cisco European Partner Advisor professional based in Portugal.

In both cases we were amazed to see that during screen sharing there was a latency of up to 5 seconds at some points! This naturally made communication a bit complicated since we needed to jump between lots of web pages on Cisco's Partner Central extranet and never knew what the Cisco service desk was currently seeing.
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What visitors think of Online Meeting Tools Review

In June we included a brief survey on webconferencing-test.com asking for the reasons visitors come to our site, how they got there and if they got what they expected. We have gotten quite a number of responses – thank you all! – and would like to present what our visitors had to say.

Looking at the reasons visitors came to our site revealed the following:
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NetMeeting reaches end of life

Many companies currently still use NetMeeting. However, the tool’s shortcomings make it very inconvenient for continued usage which is why those companies are now on the lookout for an alternative web conferencing solution.

Incompatibility with Microsoft Office 2010 is only the last of issues that have made usage of NetMeeting quite tedious. If an online collaboration tool does not allow you to demonstrate a simple PowerPoint presentation there is something seriously wrong.
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Wait a minute. Is this really ClickMeeting?

You know this feeling: You are sitting somewhere and your eyes wander back to one and the same person and all of a sudden you realize ‘hey, he looks exactly like …’. Well, we had that exact same feeling when we tested ClickMeeting. We were checking out the new video functionality and all of a sudden we realized ‘hey, this looks exactly like Adobe Connect’!
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BeamYourScreen leaps to number three

Cisco, RHUB and Microsoft – the web conferencing vendors ranked numbers three through five – will have to each step down a rank. BeamYourScreen, formerly ranked number seven, is now available for download in version 4 and brings many enhancements. Just as with the release of version 3 last year, when the tool climbed from rank 18 to 6, the developers once again have done a great job in actually improving the software.
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HD video and our top-ranking online meeting solutions

Citrix, Adobe and Cisco: Three of the biggest online meeting solutions vendors have now integrated video functionality into their solutions. We checked them out and here is what we found:

All three tools offer not only video but rather HD video. And yes, the quality is very impressive. Citrix GoToMeeting limits the number of webcam participants to 6 unlike Cisco WebEx which allows up to 500 participants or Adobe Connect 8 where you have no restrictions at all. But as always bigger isn’t necessarily better. One downside of a video conference with let us say 20 participants is that you will need a lot of bandwidth to really get that HD quality. And with every new participant that joins the webcams on display just get smaller and smaller. Now we haven’t tried it with 20 participants ourselves but it probably is hard to see who is actually speaking.
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BeamYourScreen evaluation on hold

BeamYourScreen version 4 went live today as planned. However, we haven’t updated our ranking yet. We have tested the tool and formed our verdict but when we double checked the also new website today we noticed that there currently is no pricing info on display. We contacted BeamYourScreen and were told that the information will be included on the site shortly.

Since we regard openly available pricing information on vendors’ websites as a crucial point in our evaluations we will wait with updating our ranking until it is fully displayed on the BeamYourScreen site.