WebEx vs. GoToMeeting vs. MyTrueCloud
Thomas Friedman famously announced that "the world is flat" in his 2005 book of that name. He was writing about globalization. In Friedman's view, voice over Internet (VoIP), file sharing, and wireless were the "steroids" that have accelerated the flattening of global commerce. Today I would add video over Internet, which has become more and more prevalent as bandwidth has improved.
Fri, October 25, 2013
InfoWorld — Thomas Friedman famously announced that "the world is flat" in his 2005 book of that name. He was writing about globalization. In Friedman's view, voice over Internet (VoIP), file sharing, and wireless were the "steroids" that have accelerated the flattening of global commerce. Today I would add video over Internet, which has become more and more prevalent as bandwidth has improved.
The two leaders in the business Web conferencing space are Cisco WebEx and Citrix GoToMeeting. A new product, My Web Conferences from a company named MyTrueCloud, promises to offer these leaders some lower-priced competition, though it lacks some of the refinements of the older products -- and the established players are both upgrading their offerings and decreasing their base prices in response to less expensive business services and free consumer offerings.
Some businesses do use consumer products for voice and video over the Internet: Microsoft Skype, Google Hangouts, and Google Voice (no video) are three I've used extensively. While these can be useful, they don't quite meet the criteria for business-grade Web conferencing.
These higher-end products are expected to simultaneously deliver desktop shares, video, and audio; to provide high reliability and high quality; to integrate with common desktop software; and to work with mobile devices. They're also expected to handle large conference broadcasts, either in the base service or via a separate product. As we will see, there's a bit of variation among the business-grade products we are considering in all of these areas, as well as some differences in the bundling strategies.
Cisco WebEx Meetings
The doyen of the teleconferencing world, WebEx is now a total solution for preconference planning, conferencing, and postconference follow-up and action. In addition to supporting Windows, Mac, and Linux, WebEx has mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry, and it integrates with most Office and Office-like applications. (Microsoft Office plug-ins are provided by WebEx; Google Apps connectors are produced by a third party.)
One notable differentiator for WebEx is its ability to stream media from its servers to all participants. As a video producer, I often need to show media to remote audiences, and WebEx allows me to do that without serious lag or awkward workarounds. The downside of this capability is that WebEx converts uploaded video to a compressed but proprietary format. Similarly, WebEx allows recording of all conferences, but employs a proprietary format that requires using a media converter or special viewer application.
While the proprietary file formats are annoying, I wouldn't eliminate WebEx from consideration because of them. There are reasonably good technical reasons for those formats, primarily high compression, and the benefits outweigh the inconvenience.