VOIP Cuts the Cost of Web-Based Meetings

Better hardware, audio processing will smooth technology's bumps.

No matter how full-featured the interface or how fast the video frame rate, its really tough to collaborate virtually without voice. For this, the telephone is the most natural tool. Weve been collaborating virtually over our phones for more than a hundred years now, so almost everyone has a phone and knows how to use it.

Still, the fact that phone calls are typically charged by the minute, combined with the reality that Web-based meetings are designed to accommodate variable numbers of attendees for variable durations, can make it difficult for companies to budget accurately for Web-based virtual meeting costs.

The inability to accurately plan for Web-based virtual meeting costs stood out as one of the most common concerns of the judges who participated in our eValuation tests at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, Wis., so its no surprise that nearly all of them expressed interest in VOIP (voice over IP) as an alternative to standard phone traffic for virtual meeting audio.

VOIP can be good for dial-up users who dont have separate lines for data and voice, and the technology also provides for other compelling features, such as helping to identify whos talking and enabling presenters to manage who has the floor.

Of course, providers of integrated teleconferencing and Web meeting services such as Latitude Communications Inc. or Genesys Conferencing can provide those same features over standard phone lines.

VOIP can lead to substantial cost savings for companies that use it. To a certain extent, however, you get what you pay for—when it comes to reliability and quality, VOIP sometimes seems as fledgling as telephones are mature.

Beyond these obstacles, one of the main difficulties with VOIP involves client hardware—most corporate desktops support audio, but its not at all uncommon to find them without speakers. Even when theres support for audio output, these machines are rarely outfitted with microphones for audio input.

We expect advances in array microphones and better audio processing to pave the way for better virtual meeting experiences.

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.