Cisco WebEx Meetings introduces a file library – pain or gain?

The latest version of WebEx Meetings introduces new functionality such as being able to post comments in the meeting space and share meeting notes and recordings. Most prominently meeting hosts and attendees can now attach files to meetings and manage them in a file library.

This file library was the hottest topic of discussion during our tests and we are not sure if it benefits all WebEx users. The two basic usage scenarios are:  Continue reading

Online meetings and smart phones – iPhone currently leads the field in the race to compatibility

A couple of week ago we stated that we weren’t all that convinced of the mix of online meetings and smart phones. Our main objection was the small size of the devices’ displays. Nevertheless, we have to keep an open mind and objectively evaluate the current solutions. So we checked out the compatibility of all the web conferencing solutions on our list with iPhone / iPod touch, Blackberry, and Android.

A lot of vendors have already released smart-phone-friendly versions of their software. Astonishingly, the leaders as far as compatibility is concerned are the solutions below the top 5! Among the top 5 only WebEx and RHUB can be used on an iPhone. RHUB as a browser based solution, WebEx with its own app.

The combination of “runs on iPhone and Blackberry” is most common and currently Intercall Unified Meeting, IBM Lotus Live Meeting, Fuze Meeting, PGi Netspoke, and AT&T Connect are able to deliver.

Next to compatibility of online meeting solutions with smart phones we checked the compatibility with Apple’s iPad. Taken together, 30 per cent of our tested solutions offer web conferencing on either smart phone or iPad, which is ok for starters. Developers are working on the issue around the clock and we will keep you updated on the latest news.

We will now take our iPad and scrutinize the performance of single solutions. Oh, and naturally we inserted the info on which tool is compatible with which device into our overall ranking.

Why we kept Microsoft NetMeeting in our ranking

Microsoft NetMeeting is by far the oldest product we feature in our ranking: It was originally distributed together with Windows 95. NetMeeting also is the only web conferencing solution in our ranking that is not being further developed and for which there is no support.

We still tested it and included it in our overview for various good reasons. For many business-users “web conferences” and “NetMeeting” are synonymous, which shows what natural and exclusive usage this simple Microsoft tool continues to get – for internal online meetings that is. And NetMeeting’s time is nowhere near to being over.

A manager of one of the leading Cisco distributors recently gave us an interesting insight into how collaboration tools are actually being used. For “big” online meetings connecting multiple locations, personnel reserve meeting rooms in which they gather for the meeting and make use of the pre-installed video conferencing solution Cisco Telepresence. Since for every instance a large internal cost is accrued this solution is not the most popular. This is also due to the fact that staff must prove that using this solution leads to less travel cost. For the occasional online conference with external attendees, distributors most regularly use Cisco WebEx Meeting Center. For internal virtual gatherings regarding daily business the number-one solution is NetMeeting – for the simple reason that “NetMeetings” are easy to start.

So if even organizations that have the most up-to-date web conferencing tools in place still make use of good old NetMeeting that means for us:

NetMeeting obviously is far outdated, which means that usually we wouldn’t consider it for evaluation. But since millions of business-users are not aware of any solution other than NetMeeting, we want to at least show the difference between this early software and the current, far superior solutions for web conferencing.

We have a new number two!

Netviewer Meet is now available in version 6.0 and has beaten WebEx Meeting Center 8.5 to the second place.

Previously the number three in our ranking, Netviewer Meet has improved its features, especially regarding security. The setup of online meetings is now also easier to handle so that the overall user experience definitely has been enhanced.

Read the detailed evaluation here.

User-friendliness of web conferencing tools

As is clearly visible in our evaluations of online meeting solutions, user-friendliness weighs in heavily. And for good reason too, because if you want to present information online or have a virtual team-meeting you can’t waste time trying to figure out how to get a specific gadget to work. Meeting organizers and participants need easy-to-use software to operate quickly and smoothly.

User-friendliness does not mean – at least for us – hoarding functionalities in one tool. We favor the less-is-more approach to web conferencing. Packing loads of functionalities into one tool may make for a powerful software, but it takes time and effort to learn to operate it properly (e.g. WebEx). Splitting services into multiple tools with only a limited number of features gives the user an easy-to-use solution for his requirements (e.g. Citrix GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, GoToAssist, GoToMyPC, and GoToTraining)

More details on our criteria for evaluation can be found on our homepage.

WebEx MeetMeNow is only available for already subscribed users

Cisco have announced on their WebEx site that they will no longer be offering new WebEx MeetMeNow subscriptions. As an alternative, Cisco offer WebEx Meeting Center for web meetings, which we already tested in June 2008. Due to the new situation we will evaluate the services again and publish the updated results on our website.

As a customer with a regular account we were surprised to find out that Cisco has not provided current customers with information other than what can be found on the website.

WebEx MeetMeNow versus WebEx Meeting Center

We received a comment from Robert and we thought we should share our perspective on the topic with you.

Feedback from Robert:

[...]Kind of ridiculous when comparing these web collaboration solutions to leave out the dominant market share leader - WebEx Meeting Center Pro. The MeetMeNow product is just the company's cheap answer to lowest cost solutions for home office use. Yes the cost is higher for the market-leading WebEx product, but the solution is in another league in most respects too.[...]

Our perspective:
The website focuses on web conferencing solutions targeted to freelancers and small companies. Therefore, we decided to select software solutions that fit best the requirements for these target groups. If we review software solutions in the league of WebEx Meeting Center Pro we should assess Adobe Connect Pro (but not Adobe Connect), Citrix GoToMeeting Corporate (but not Citrix GoToMeeting), Elluminate Live! (but not Elluminate vRoom), iLinc or Interwise in order to be consistent.

If you are interested in hearing about the test results for WebEx Meeting Center, please go to our Enterprise solutions web page.

Thanks for the great site

We received the following feedback from Jamie on May 19, 2008:

Hi. I am starting a business called goginet.com and I need an interactive e-learning tool. I have been using your information to evaluate the different systems, and have found I agree with 95% of your recommendations/observations. Thanks for the great resource. I also like your openess about the affiliate programs, etc. Very cool to disclose it all. I have found Yugma to be very good. Perhaps it has evolved somewhat from the point you did the tests. Webex has what seems to be the only ecommerce package, but it is so expensive. Thanks again,
Jamie Robe