By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2004-05-03 Print this article Print

Security should always be a top concern when using Web conferencing services or software. Juniper Networks Inc.s NetScreen Secure Meeting is a good choice for companies that want more control than most products provide over security for Web conferencing in an affordable appliance.

NetScreen Secure Meeting doesnt have the multimedia bells and whistles found in most Web conferencing services and software, but it ably handles the basics of presentations and application sharing while giving administrators granular control over presenter and attendee rights.

The Secure Meeting appliance began shipping last month and is priced starting at $14,995 for 50 users with simultaneous access. The product can be upgraded with a 10-concurrent-user license priced at $1,995.

The Secure Meeting appliance is less expensive than hosted conferencing services, most of which cost $25 to $100 per user per month. Web conferencing software usually costs $35 to $70 per user but doesnt include server hardware and a means of managing policies without additional software. Secure Meeting includes server hardware and policy management features, so the appliance is more affordable than its price tag might suggest.

The Secure Meeting software is a relatively simple presentation tool for users to master, but it lacks features such as polling and presentation capture and replay, which are found in entrenched competitors such as WebEx Communications Inc.s WebEx Enterprise Edition or Microsoft Corp.s Live Meeting.

Because of Secure Meetings fundamental focus on security and user policies and rights, the experience of presenters and attendees can be markedly different from that with a service such as WebEx. For example, Secure Meeting presenters by design cannot upload presentations to the server prior to an event and present via a whiteboard application. Most services and software give users the option of presenting by using a dedicated tool or by sharing an application.

The appliances security options give companies considerably more control than other options over the day-to-day management of Web presentations and how theyre integrated into business processes. For example, companies can avoid situations in which departments purchase Web conferencing services and dont initiate the security policies that prevent publicly listing upcoming events—not an uncommon occurrence. With Secure Meeting, a company can provision its own subdomains and create service-level agreements for those domains to manage presentations for partners.

Furthermore, we could define a range of authentication requirements from no password to two-token authentication for different sets of users, and we could tightly control the process of creating and distributing passwords for meetings. We also could manage the tools available to presenters at a very granular level. For example, we let a presenter share an application while using a policy to prevent accidentally passing control of the presenters system to attendees.

Secure Meetings options for controlling policies are impressive and far-reaching, but we found that the user interface could use some simplification and aggregation of settings.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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