As virtual meetings become increasingly popular in the enterprise, collaboration vendors are working hard to improve the usability of their Web conferencing offerings.
Web conferencing and instant messaging vendor WiredRed Software Corp. next week will launch a new version of its E/pop Web Conferencing tool, while storage giant EMC Corp. has just rolled out a new version of its EMC Documentum eRoom Enterprise collaboration tool.
The new version of E/pop will allow users to launch Web conferences from within Microsoft Corp.s suite of Office applications. Users can initiate a Web or video conference with one click, and meeting hosts can send Outlook Calendar invitations that allow participants to join from links in their calendars.
Mark Epstein, director of IT for the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, said the nonprofit group chose WiredReds Web conferencing tool because it found it cheaper than other high-end offerings and liked that it could host the service in-house instead of outsourcing it. The company, based in Jamaica Plain, Mass., uses the tool to conduct regular meetings with its employees, who are dispersed across 30 offices.
Epstein said that integration with Microsoft Office applications could make the Web conferencing tool "more convenient" to launch meetings, but he added that "its already pretty darn easy to use."
One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of Web conferencing tools, right from the beginning of their appearance on the enterprise scene at the end of the 1990s, was that they were difficult to get up and running. Many enterprise customers complained that users would have trouble staying connected or would be unable to view portions of a presentation.
Most of the Web conferencing vendors have taken those criticisms to heart and addressed the usability and connectivity problems, making their tools vitally important in an era when a lot of companies are cutting down on corporate travel.
The new tool from WiredRed, of San Diego, gives users the ability to share desktops, applications, documents and PowerPoint presentations as well as multipoint audio and synchronous video conferencing features.
E/pop Web Conferencing software with support for Microsoft Office is available now. It is priced starting at $3,000 per year for five concurrent users.
The latest version of EMCs Documentum eRoom Enterprise adds new features such as support for IM, a new dashboard to allow users to view multiple work spaces at once and to customize that view, improved integration with EMCs Documentum Content Server so project teams can be notified of new content, and role-based access control.
Tindall Corp. also selected E/pops Web Conferencing tool because it sits behind its firewall and because it was easy to get up and running.
"From our perspective, the power in E/pop is the ability to share applications on your desktop. That means if Im an AutoCAD user, and you dont have AutoCAD, I can bring it up and we can go into E/pop and it doesnt matter if youre in Walla Walla and Im here in South Carolina," said Steve Flacey, director of IT for Tindall, in Spartanburg, S.C.