Webcasting Made Simple

Review: VBrick Systems' VBCorpCast appliance is suitable for internal communications, but it's not quite a full-blown Webcasting solution and not quite a full-blown Web conferencing solution.

Companies looking for a relatively affordable way to test the Webcasting waters will find VBrick Systems VBCorpCast appliance a straightforward tool for delivering interactive corporate communications.

The $5,495 VBCorpCast combines a small appliance with a Sony Handycam DCR-HC36 video camera and the VBPresenter Microsoft PowerPoint add-in as a way to deliver presentations with streaming video content.

/zimages/7/28571.gifCollaboration vendors work hard to improve the usability of their Web conferencing offerings. Click here to read more.

When testing VBCorpCast, eWeek Labs came away with the impression that the product is a tweener—not quite a full-blown Webcasting solution and not quite a full-blown Web conferencing solution—despite having features associated with both platforms.

This impression really came from the camera, which is better than a USB camera but not as good as a video production camera. But, for companies that dont have the resources to build a Webcasting studio, putting the camera and the appliance in an office presents a simple solution that will be sufficient if the message is more important than the medium.

On the Web conferencing side, the software delivers the functionality of slides, plus polling, text questions and recording. But it doesnt offer the integrated voice conferencing and whiteboarding youd expect with a Web conferencing system.

We tested the product in combination with one of VBricks streaming partners, PowerStream, which provides Windows Media Server streaming services. VBCorpCast includes 2GB of streaming services in the first year, which would certainly be enough for the occasional sales meeting. Pricing for additional streaming bandwidth ranges from $375 for 100GB per year to $700 for 1,000GB per year.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read a reviews of WebEx Meeting Center and Microsoft Live Meeting 2005.

For presenters, the VBCorpCast interface is a relatively simple PowerPoint add-in tool bar that manages everything from uploading presentations to follow-me browsing. From the tool bar, we could upload slides in advance of a meeting and quickly send out an e-mail to attendees.

The upload process converts Power-Point slides to JPEG files and uploads the files to the streaming server in a dedicated folder, along with the HTML files necessary for features such as polling.

The product has one feature we found especially convenient—a button that allowed us to see the streaming video before going live. We also appreciated that we could easily record a presentation and publish it as a Windows Media Format file for later viewing.

From an administrative standpoint, appliance and streaming server settings can be controlled from the tool bar or managed through a dedicated administration utility. The appliance is managed through a browser interface that we found easy to use.

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

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