Video is becoming an integral part of web conferencing solutions

We at Online Meeting Tools Review have treated video conferencing as a side aspect so far. But there currently is a trend in the online collaboration market to include high quality video into well structured web conferencing tools, opening up many new possibilities for holding online meetings.

Until recently video was basically being used in businesses for the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Many larger companies had proprietary high-end conferencing systems installed in dedicated meeting rooms, based on the technology provided by Cisco, Polycom, Tandberg and the likes. These served as a somewhat expensive toy in C-Level meetings spread over various locations and even continents.

Scenario 2: Teams spread over different locations make use of low-end solutions. There are basically two ways for teams to collaborate using video conferencing technology:

  1. Freeware such as Skype and now also Google+ hangouts are an easy way to connect. The only requirement is that all participants need to have an account for the respective platform before they can start a video conference. With Skype users get some web conferencing functionalities as the tool allows e.g. screen sharing. However, many organizations prohibit users from using tools like Skype, due to security concerns.
  2. Apple and Microsoft make it possible: Teams can also collaborate via tools that are tied to the respective OS or vendor-based server technologies, such as Apple’s iChat and Microsoft’s Lync and OCS (Office Communication Server). These do work pretty well for video conferencing, however typically only within the organization’s firewall.

Another general restriction to video conferencing used to be the relatively low number of users with webcams. This is becoming less of an issue due to huge increases in mobile devices which usually feature a built-in webcam of some sorts and of course cheap external devices that can be used via plug and play. Privately these have been used for quite some time now and web conferencing vendors are now feeling conditions have changed sufficiently for them to integrate video into their solutions and actually offer customers additional value by doing so.

So with business users having their webcams in place, strong enough internet connections to actually allow HD (High Definition) video streaming it seems that conditions are near perfect for web conferencing vendors to integrate video into their tools. We will give you our take on this trend shortly and we’ll let you know how we will be figuring video functionality into our overall ranking.

Are you currently using a video conferencing solution on a regular basis for business purposes? If so just leave a comment and let us know what solution you are using and how that is working out for you.

Meeting online with Google+

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.