Rhub GoMeetNow Delivers Basics Well

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.