Most of the web conferencing products available in the market today are packaged software or hosted based (or SaaS) but there is another solution: web conferencing appliances. And while many companies are starting to use and understand the benefits of appliance based solutions, some others still don’t grasp what web conferencing appliances mean and what they can offer when compared with software and web-based products.
Hosted web conferencing products have two major downsides. One is security and the other is the cost. Hosted web conferencing services are the most insecure of the three because companies have no control over a third party server (where the product is hosted) and its security measures, making it very difficult to control if someone unwanted is listening to the conversation. Cost-wise is also more expensive in the long run because these services are usually priced per month or year, becoming an ongoing cost to the company. On the upside, hosted services are usually easy to use and are always updated.
Packaged software, being hosted by the company who owns it, is much more secure than hosted products but still has several costs attached to it. Usually software solution has high upfront total cost because you should have a dedicated computer to host it to avoid disruptions from other applications. In addition, software requires extensive time to setup and maintain.
The best solution is appliance based products. The upfront cost is low because you have got a complete hardware and software bundled and pre-configured package in appliance. So, you could save money from purchasing another dedicated computer. In addition, appliance is easier to deploy because most of appliances comes in as a plug-and-play mode and require no IT ongoing maintenance since the appliance would update itself. This is contrary to the common understanding, appliance only for IT professionals. If you could setup your own router, you should be able to setup it and never worry about the ongoing maintenance.
Appliances (and packaged software) are safer because it gives you much ehanced access security. As we all know, the weakest security point in web conferencing is access security. Every web conferencing system today uses meeting IDs and/or passwords as a simple access security measure to protect web meetings from unwanted attendance. However, the problem is that meeting IDs and passwords are usually emailed to attendees before scheduled meetings start. This process can easily compromise the access security. Your computer screen may be captured within seconds once a hacker intercepts. Once you realize you have been hacked, it is too late to close your meeting. The best way to protect against the security breaches described above is to use an on-premise appliance where you could choose your own way of appliance deployment and use firewall to protect your meetings. In addition, hosted web conference makes it is impossible to integrate with LDAP because of potential security risks.
Comparing the three types of web conferencing solutions, it is clear that appliance-based web conferencing is the best choice. These are not only the most secure, they are also cheaper in the long run and easier to deploy and maintain.
Today, many telephony and video conferencing appliances come with limited web conferencing functions. Certain security appliances such as those from Juniper include web conferencing option. However, as far as we know, RHUB Communications is the only vendor dedicated in delivering web conferencing appliances. Starting at $995, RHUB appliances are claimed to be paid off by 3 to 10 months of subscription fees compared with hosted services. After quick research, we tend to believe the claim.