Web conferences don't have to be expensive to offer a quality experience to participants or the audience.
When faced with an unfamiliar Web conferencing platform, even the most
experienced PowerPoint ranger can be baffled by the seemingly limitless options
and capabilities of the most advanced conferencing platforms. But with
complexity comes cost, and there's room in the market for a powerful, yet
low-cost alternative to brand-name services such as Citrix's GoToMeeting and
Cisco's WebEx, and Rhub Communications has one, in the form of its GoMeetNow service.
GoMeetNow is based on the TurboMeeting software foundation that powers
Rhub's line of TurboSupport appliances and the TurboSupport.com service.
GoMeetNow includes everything one might expect from a modern Web conferencing
platform, such as desktop and application sharing, file transfer options,
whiteboard functions and webcam support.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of GoMeetNow is the relatively low cost
commitment required on the customer's part. Pricing for the hosted version of
the service starts at $12.95 a month for two attendees, and additional
attendees can be added to the package for $1 per month per attendee. The user
count can be adjusted as necessary from one month to the next, giving
organizations the flexibility to host one-off events for a couple hundred
people or standing sessions for a few dozen. Another option for organizations
that want hands-on control over the conferencing environment is an on-premise
deployment using Rhub's hardware appliances.
One interesting feature of GoMeetNow is that it gives organizers a choice of
ways to provide the audio side of the event. Attendees can dial a toll number
hosted by Rhub or another number of the organizer's choice. The first option
may seem expensive at first glance, but given the availability of
all-you-can-eat long distance packages for SMBs (small and midsize businesses)
and remote workers such as those offered by VOIP (voice over IP) providers such
as Vonage, that's not much of an obstacle.
GoMeetNow is also well-suited to situations that don't require interactive
exchanges with attendees. In the "seminar" model, most attendees will sign in
as "view-only" clients. Panelists and presenters join as they would for an
ordinary interactive session.
In the case of systems running classic desktop operating systems such as Mac
OS X or Windows, joining a meeting as a full participant invokes the download
of client software. Users with mobile devices such as the iPad and iPhone can
participate in view-only mode without any client at all. Although I found the
view-only mode to lag a little bit on an iPad 2 behind other devices, a browser
refresh cleaned things up quickly enough, and I'm inclined to chalk some of that
up to local networking issues rather than the software itself.
The GoMeetNow client for meeting organizers and presenters is intuitive to
use. I found it simple to set up a meeting, invite attendees and hand off control
of the meeting from one attendee to another. The software recognizes when
people are connected to the meeting in view-only mode and won't allow those
attendees to be given control of the presentation or the meeting itself.
If you're trying to host thousands of people in a seminar or conference,
GoMeetNow may not have the horsepower for the job. But in my experience, many Web
events will be in the sweet spot for Rhub's technology. The company claims that
its hardware and software support more than 200 concurrent listeners. GoMeetNow
is certainly an economical option and one well worth considering.