ISL Groop doesn’t make it into our ranking

The web conferencing solution ISL Groop failed in our first round of testing and will not be considered for detailed evaluation. The tool simply doesn’t perform in key areas when we apply our evaluation criteria.

Web conferences are set up in the online portal, which cannot be connected to a local email client. So the host must copy the email addresses of the attendees into the mail, which also does not contain an automated Outlook invitation. So in addition to not being able to effortlessly send an invitation to all attendees, the host cannot keep track whom he has invited – paper and pencil are not really an option.

ISL Groop only runs on Windows. For every meeting the tool creates a meeting-specific .exe-file, which means that the host must download and install anew for every meeting.

So really, there are many downsides to ISL Groop. If any updates are implemented we will go back and check again. But until that happens the solution will not be included in our comparison of online meeting tools.

Why use web conferencing #2: Usage scenarios for online meetings

In the search for a suitable web conferencing solution, the first question is: What will the tool be used for? In principle, tools are distinguished by two key factors: the number of participants they support, and the functions available for online meetings.

A traditional model is the one-to-one scenario, which is commonly employed to provide user support on software issues. At the other end of the spectrum, there are virtual conferences or trainings with large audiences, such as customer conventions, road shows, or webinars. For these scenarios, functions such as effective invitation management, integrated mute functions, and superimposed surveys and results are key. Between these two extremes, there are online meetings where smaller project teams work together from different locations spontaneously yet effectively – e.g. to discuss project plans or edit documents.

Small teams of two to ten, or even twenty people have different requirements when it comes to web-conference solutions: Setting up an online meeting should be quick and easy so it can be initiated ad hoc to accompany a phone call. In this case, it must be determined whether a tool enables users to start web conferences without prior invitation. Or whether a solution automatically generates email invitations that can be sent and read using common email clients. It is also crucial that new participants can be invited to a conference that is already under way – whether per email, URL, or by providing an access code for a conference call.

During meetings, any features that enable flexible, media-rich communications between all participants are important as e.g. the ability to switch between views of various users’ desktops, or to highlight or mark up content on the desktop currently being shown. Depending on the purpose of the conference, it may also be necessary to determine whether and how documents can be edited by multiple users at once. Chat functions facilitate communications between individual guests and the recording of web conferences is also useful if the interaction needs to be documented.

There are many good web conferencing solutions on the market which give you the opportunity to find the perfect fit for your company’s specific requirements. You will find details to the best tools in our ranking.

Online gamers will love this: 3D web conferencing tools

We were quite intrigued when we stumbled upon 3D tools during research – and couldn’t wait to test them. There are different ways of bringing the third dimension into web conferencing. We started with the one tool that seemed most fun: Tixeo WorkSpace3D.

What’s fun about web conferencing you ask? Well, for starters, Tixeo lets you create an avatar and gives you the choice between different hairstyles or differently colored shirts for example. You can then chose between a set of meeting rooms in which you see the other participants’ avatars during a meeting and can walk up to them to literally join the group. If someone wants to present a document, a screen pops up and hovers above the ground. The avatars are pretty fast too, but you cannot jump or punch the other participants…

So much for the fun part, which really is more of a gimmick. A scenario where the 3D bit offers additional value is e.g. if architects or realtors want to give the participants a feel for the planned building or the apartment for sale. With Tixeo you can walk participants through the rooms.

If we step down one dimension again and look at the basic functionalities, Tixeo doesn’t do too good in comparison to other tools. There is no Outlook integration for the invitation process, the host cannot lock the meeting room, and meetings cannot be recorded. Then again, this is an early version, and all the basics are there. But to consider it for our ranking we will have to wait for improvements in future releases.

So what do you think about 3D for web conferencing: Yay or nay?

Microsoft looses ground while GoMeetNow leaps into our top 5

We have done a lot of testing in the last couple of weeks including one of our top-5 old timers.

Every tool in our top 5 undergoes close scrutiny at regular intervals. They really have to earn it! Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007 couldn’t cut it any more and has lost its top 5 ranking. The solution is still one of the better ones on the market, but the other vendors are not keeping idle and have made greater improvements to their software than Microsoft.

Fuze Meeting has improved its ranking. The new version 3.1 includes significant enhancements. A “remote desktop control” functionality has been added and the invitation process is a breeze.

RHUBS’s solution GoMeetNow has made the biggest jump in our ranking: From number 11 to number 4! This online collaboration tool offers a load of functionalities without cluttering the interface, and keeps usage easy and intuitive. And it runs on Windows and Mac. Really an impressive job by the developers.

Just as an aside: RHUB has developed the appliance TurboMeeting which is the base for its hosted web conferencing service RHUB GoMeetNow 4.2.

You can have a look at our ranking and detailed evaluations of the online conferencing tools here.