As interest around cloud computing and Web conferencing continues to grow, companies such as IBM, Cisco and Microsoft are offering small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) more cloud-based services than ever before.
Today, Big Blue announced its newest cloud service for Web conferencing, Lotus Sametime Unyte 8.2. The company also announced a new distribution partnership with conferencing and collaboration company InterCall to deliver Lotus Sametime Unyte's online meeting capability to InterCall customers worldwide.
With many SMBs looking for ways to save money in a stumbling economy, conferencing technology that allows partnerships to function without crisscrossing the continent will likely be received with enthusiasm. Moreover, Web conferencing technology also gives SMBs the "enterprise sheen," which conveys confidence and a level of sophistication that was previously unaffordable. By extending the capabilities of its Web conferencing service to the global market, IBM is signaling to SMBs that the company understands there is a groundswell of demand for cloud-based communication services.
The partnership with InterCall offers more proof that major technology corporations are responding to indicators that show a growing business demand for online collaboration services. InterCall is the latest service provider to bolster its portfolio with a cloud-based solution from IBM, enabling businesses to use the Lotus Sametime Unyte Web conferencing service to collaborate anywhere around the globe.
IBM isn't the only player in this space; Cisco offers a version of its WebEx conferencing software for the SMB space. The company provides free webinars and online demos to get interested companies up to speed on its offerings. Cisco also offers a free 14-day trial offer where SMB owners can hold unlimited Web meetings.
Microsoft also offers Web conferencing through its Live Meeting service and also provides a free trial period. Citrix Online gives SMB owners a third choice with GoToMeeting, a Web hosting service that works, like IBM's, on any browser.
These SAAS (software-as-a-service) models are appealing to SMBs because they require little up-front investment and offer pay-as-you-go pricing. There is no need for new capacity, new servers or other new equipment. Most all Web conferencing platforms offer around-the-clock support and free training, though Web conferencing platforms are marketed as user-friendly and easy to install.
IBM points out that online collaboration technology can be a growth catalyst for SMBs, such as Padgett Communications, a provider of audience response systems. Using software to measure participant reactions at corporate events, meetings and media events, Padgett Communications maintains a global customer base with a staff of 25 full-time employees.
"Lotus Sametime Unyte gives us the ability to show our clients how our audience response system works through a visual demonstration, rather than just telling them about it," says Padgett's director of business development, Lauren Traviesa. "We have drastically reduced the costs of travel for our sales and support team, which is a huge windfall of cost-savings that we're able to pass along to our customers. If our customers have questions about our service, we can connect directly to them with the push of a button, from any computer in our office, at home or on the road."