Archive for the ‘Web Conferencing’ category

Are Free Virtual Conferencing Solutions Really for Free?

June 12th, 2017

True hidden costs of free virtual conferencing products could be more expensive than you expect.

Who has been never allured by free conferencing tools at least one time in life? Yet, you should remember that nothing comes for free: paid solutions can be expensive, but they have their pros. On the other side, it is a common misconception that the free version of a product must be as effective as the paid version. The reality could be far different: in this article, I will explore the most common flaws of free tools for virtual conferences.

Be aware of the phone bill

Free conferencing solutions are often based in the US, which means that users are charged for their calls. This could be very burdensome for your customers, especially if they have to call from abroad, as long-distance rates are decisively high. So, don’t be surprised if your foreign customers are reluctant to join your conference calls.

The missing functionalities

The usual marketing trick of most producers of virtual conferencing solutions is to provide users with a limited set of functionalities in the free version, so that they are enticed to shift to the paid version in a second time. So, don’t be too much surprised to discover that the function you desperately need is available in the paid version only.

On the other side, paid solutions are very rich in functionalities that greatly improve security and productivity, from speaker identification to reporting and recording. Naturally, you have to give something for some more comfort.

Free, but not scalable

When your business grows, a conferencing solution with limited features becomes a real bottleneck.  Unfortunately, not every free product is scalable. And migrating from one platform to another is often a pain in the neck. It is better to spend something more and start immediately with an inexpensive, but scalable, paid solution, than regretting after.

The customer service that is always out of service

When something is free, money must be saved somewhere, mustn’t it? The somewhere is usually the customer support. So, don’t be surprised to get little, if no help with a free conferencing product when something goes wrong. In other words, free solution is not 100% reliable, which might be acceptable for private usage, but it is too bad for business usage.

The take away from this article is that free conferencing does not come really for free. You buy cheap, you buy twice. You’d better spend something more in the beginning in order to get a reliable and full service rather than trudging along with unsatisfactory, incomplete free software.

Are you interested in virtual conferencing? You are going to find more interesting resources on R-HUB`s blog at http://www.rhubcom.com

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What are the Most Popular tools to Manage a Virtual Team?

May 21st, 2017

A quick overview of some of the most popular tools that helps to manage remote workers, from Dropbox to TurboMeeting.

It seems that virtual teams are more productive and efficient than traditional teams. Is that the reason why going virtual has become so popular in any digital and non-digital industry today? In any case, almost every manager will certainly have to deal with virtual teams and remote workers in next future. Therefore, be wise and ride the changes by starting to learn the ropes of virtual team management right by now. A fundamental step is to get an idea of which tools are available on the market for the purpose.

R-HUB TurboMeeting

Let’s start this quick overview with TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com), a suite of servers for virtual conferencing developed by R-HUB, a company based in San Diego.  A TurboMeeting server is an all-in-one solution that enables clients to perform a huge set of tasks, likehosting video and audio conferences and having access/giving support to remote computers. It is also a good solution for collaboration.

TurboMeeting strong points are:

Its intuitive GUI that is easy to learn and use and that provides you with all the necessary functionalities to interact with your team in real time quickly and efficiently.

Its lightweight and compact size that allows user to get rid of server rooms and server cabinets.

– Its being self-installing and self-updating machines. TurboMeeting servers do not require any devoted IT team and they scale up to 3000 participants per conference  without additional costs, as R-HUB adopted a flat license policy.

It is safe. The on-premise server based technology that R-HUB use is deemed as the most reliable and secure. This makes TurboMeeting a great solution in industries that needs extra care for data protection.

Google Apps

Google does not mean only the most popular search engine of the world. Among the several activities of this famous brand, we find also office and communication tools that are daily used by thousands of clients throughout the world, like Google Doc, Google Calendar, Gmail Chat). They are all applications, which mean that it is not necessary to bring home any piece of hardware.

Google Apps strong points are, in my opinion:

  • There is a free version of each tool that enables users to utilize almost every feature of the paid versions. This makes Google Apps really cheap and in everyone’s reach. Small organizations and start-up with budget constraints will love it.
  • Their design and layout looks very similar to Microsoft office. Google Doc mimes perfectly Microsoft Office, at the point that I had nothing new to learn when I was asked to use it for professional purposes. So, no retraining is necessary for your remote workers.
  • You can use Gmail with your .com domain name, which gives a professional appearance to your email communication.

Yammer

Described as a social network for companies, Yammer is featured by a social media-like atmosphere similar to Facebook. Among its users, we found giants like 7-Eleven, eBay and Groupon.

Yammer strong points:

  • Social media-like atmosphere: Micro blogging, profiles, groups, private messaging, file uploads are some of the functionalities of this tool that applies the principles of Facebook design to virtual work environments.
  • Tested directly from Yammer. Their team is completely virtual and global, being composed of thousands of distant workers spread throughout the planet. Therefore, the team that test Yammer is the same that use it.

Dropbox

Dropbox is not exactly a collaboration tool, being purposely and specifically designed to share files of any sort thought the internet. It’s free, which makes it a popular solution despite its evident limitations, like the impossibility to implement read-only permissions for certain users.

Basecamp

This on-line collaboration tool is expressly designed for virtual team managers. Basecamp is not only about sharing information; it offers all the necessary functionalities to carry on with your team projects.

Basecamp strong points:

  • Purposely designed to manage teams. Basecamp allows you to perform almost all daily tasks that are necessary to manage your team. This allows you to stop using dozens of different applications to fulfill each individual managerial task.
  • Very rich in features. It is possible to share documents and files, to arrange virtual and real meetings, to set deadlines, to create to-do lists for your team members, and more.
  • Ease of use. You can see at glance what needs to be done and who is responsible for that.

If you are interested in tools for working from remote, you are going to find more resources on R-HUB`s blog at http://www.rhubcom.com

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From Third World to World Class – Through Virtual Conferencing

May 2nd, 2017

How new technologies in general,  and video conferencing in particular, can address many traditional problems of third world countries in less than no time.

There are some basilar services that are taken  for granted in the US  or western Europe,  but that are often missing in a town ofthe third world, like uninterrupted electricity or water supplies. In Nepal, for example, people are extremely pleased when they get continual electricity supplies for eight hours a day. In most African countries, the fulfillment of a simple task as going to the post office can be extremely challenging and time-demanding due to the poor state of roads. In the Philippines, the state of toilets in public schools is so poor that students meet great difficulties in doing their business in the bathroom.

However, the situation of public services has been slowly improving even in the poorest areas of the world thanks to technology in the last few years. The combination of mobiles, mobile apps and virtual conferencing has proved to be a great strategy to tackle many problems connected to distance, bad transportation and lack of a proper network to dispatch electricity. In this way, implementing good levels of governance become possible even in the worst possible conditions.

A smart example of the results that a wise use of technology allows government to obtain is given by mSurvey, a program launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve democracy and participation. Being 65 % covered by rainforests, this African country has the typical problem of difficult transportation that makes travelling and consulting people extremely difficult. The solution has been to develop a mobile app though which citizens can obtain information about budget meetings. In this way, they can vote online and check what was decided simply by using their mobiles. They can also remind local authorities of their commitments and press them to take actions to fulfill people’s needs.

The success of MSurvey is not surprising. In many areas of the third world, it is easier to make a mobile work than continual electric light or water supply. On the other hand, a virtual conferencing product like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) allows a charity or a municipality to implement a local consultation system with the population safely and inexpensively. Being plug and play devices, the servers of the TurboMeeting suite do not need a devoted IT team; they are compatible with the existing main operating system for mobiles, and their graphic interface is optimized for small screens.

In Brazil, the State of Rio Grande do Sul has gone even further. Through the joint use of their mobiles and video conferencing, citizens can actively co-design solutions to address specific problems of their town or village. The “Governor asks” initiative has allowed more than 60.000 people to submit proposals and feedbacks and even face-to-face meetings with politicians and state officials.

In Kerala, a program called Akshaya makes it easy for citizens to obtain elementary services or documents like their driving license through their mobiles. In Bolivia, Nepal, Ghana and Zambia on Track enables students to report teachers that do not show up for class through a text message.  This mobile app has been developed with the aid of the World Bank with the purpose is to improve public services through a bigger citizen involvement.

What is the secret of this new success of virtual conferencing? In my opinion, the reasons are three: the easiness of implementation, the inexpensiveness, and the use of a common device like the mobile to vehiculate it. While it is difficult for many people to access to facilities like proper housing, mobiles are really at everybody’s reach. And implementing a system of consultation through video conferencing is certainly easier, quicker and cheaper than building roads, bridges and infrastructures.

These are only some few examples of how technology in general, and video conferencing in particular, can be used to improve people’s life. If you wish to learn more about this topic, you are going to find more resources on R-HUB`s blog at http://www.rhubcom.com

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6 Little known ways to quickly Enhance the Public action through Online Conferencing

April 24th, 2017

Emergency and crisis management, budget optimization, internal efficiency optimization, local governance empowerment: these are the main areas where online conferencing has proved to be more helpful for both citizens and public administrators.

In 2012, the superintendent of a school district of a county in Pennsylvania had to fire one fifth of his workforce and close three schools because of a multimillion deficit. He was not alone: 500 other superintendents were forced to take similar measures in the same period. More in general, the public action at all levels has been heavily hit by the necessity of cutting down on budgets in the last few years.

This does not come as a surprise:  the necessity of implementing severe budget reductions is a long-term trend that has been constantly troubling governments all over the world since the beginning of this century. According to an estimation of Calculated Risk (http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/) , over 600.000 jobs were lost in the US administration for this reason during Obama’s presidency only.

How can the government get by during hard times? The solution is technology. And among the available technologies, online conferencing is the most promising, as it allows the administration to improve performances at lower costs.  Have a look at the bills to understand this point: today, a good conferencing server like one of R-HUB`s TurboMeeting suite (http://www.rhubcom.com) is available on the market for less than 2000$. A public servant, for much more.

How can online conferencing enhance the public action once put on the field? I have counted six main areas at least:

Emergency preparation:  Webinars are a great and inexpensive way to prepare and train citizens to a catastrophic event. This reduces damages, panic and havoc when the event comes along.

Distance work: Clerks are able to communicate with supervisors and chefs in just one click, with substantial reduction of time and money wastes.

Crisis management: Information can be shared in real time and at zero cost. Unities on the field are able to keep constant contact with the central command at any stages of the operations.

Training and distance learning. Especially education could really profit from online conferencing. In rural areas, pupils will stay comfortably home, as their classrooms become virtual and the need of physical buildings to host those decreases. Parents will save a lot of time and money, and superintendents as well.

Planning and collaboration: In traditional bureaucracy, most of the time is lost in internal communication and coordination. Virtual conferences speed up bureaucratic processes and greatly help teams to fulfil tasks, like taking budget decisions or working together on projects.

Local governance: For officials, the personal interaction with citizens becomes a real possibility through virtual conferences, while access to officials is much easier for citizens. In this way, administrators can hear the citizens’ voice, set their actions consequently and build trust.

In conclusion, municipalities, local and state government can profit from virtual conferencing in several ways.  The benefits are also for citizens: they will enjoy a greater ease of access to public officers and services, while costs to bear will be fewer and, consequently, the amount of taxes to pay less.

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Distance Learning: 3 Major Challenges that Web Conferencing vendors have to face immediately

March 26th, 2017

Privacy concerns, mobile compatibility and full integration with the existing  equipment are three major challenges that producers have to take to craft specialized solutions for  educational institutions and continue growing in this segment of the web conferencing market.

Education is still an under-represented segment of the market of web conferencing, according to 2016 Contact North’s report (https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/exploring-future-education/web-conferencing), but its potentiality of growth is high. According to Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 report, it is just from education, health care, manufacturing and retail that the foreseen 8.4% web conferencing market expansion of 2020 should come from. Yet, distance learning shows some critical issues that producers must take into due consideration, as they heavily impact on the decisions of educational institutions on this matter.

Privacy has always been an important issue for universities and colleges.  It is not a matter of obscure quibbles imposed by a weird legislation; behind, there are real concerns of safeguarding the academic freedom, and the desire to provide students with a seamless learning environment. For this reason, the more secure a web conferencing product is, the better it is.

This explains the reasons why on-premise server based solutions are preferred by educational institutions. R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) and Cisco’s WebEx are two example of this kind of products. They both offer a high level of security, integration and compatibility with tablets and mobiles. The difference is price. R-HUB is able to sell  their TurboMeeting servers  at a lower price than Cisco.

Mobile compatibility is crucial, as millennials learn using tablets even earlier than walking.  So, it is not surprising to discover that many students have relegated the old pc case tower to the museum and do everything by typing on the small screen of an iPhone 6. So, that much is true, designers of web conferencing products for education must pay particularly attention to create flexible, adaptable UI that works well even on these small devices.

Last but not least, integration with existing learning technologies is important, as educational institutions have already massively invested on educational equipment in the last few years. So, they prefer agile solutions that can be easily combined with the equipment they have to unified (but not-flexible) communication suites (UC). On the other hand, there aren’t yet available UC on the market that specifically target the needs of educational institutions.

In conclusion, educational institutions pose some specific challenges to vendors that shall be addressed in the near future.  On-premise server based solutions are still the most suitable for the segment, as they are able to combine privacy safeguard with flexibility, integration and mobile compatibility.

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