Web conferencing solutions can be divided into two groups based on how documents are presented. Files can either be uploaded into a virtual data room on a server, converted into the tool-specific format, and then displayed. Or, they simply remain on a participant’s desktop, which is then published via desktop sharing.
The second option is more flexible because – without previous conversion – documents of any type can be accessed and edited online by multiple participants at the same time. This also means other participants’ desktops can be viewed. Of course, it is recommended that participants “clean-up” their desktops in advance!
A prerequisite to desktop sharing is that users install software locally. Most tools do not require administrator rights for implementation – simply extended port enablement. The downside: this can lead to problems in large companies with strict authorization policies. E.g. many firms block the use of third-party applications – especially if they are sourced from the Internet.
One of the great advantages of providing documents via desktop sharing is that it can be done spontaneously. When preparing a meeting it is easy to forget to upload a document well in advance, and handling the upload during a meeting is time consuming and might even be blocked by the tool. And what if the meeting goes in another direction than originally planned? Then you can react quickly and just whip out the document you need.
So when it comes to document sharing during a web conference the question is basically: server or desktop? We tend to lean towards desktop…