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9/14/2012
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Free WebEx Competitor Gets Boost From VMware's Zimbra

AnyMeeting, which essentially does what WebEx and GoToMeeting do (but for free), wins new friends in Zimbra app gallery.

Social Studies: Obama vs. Romney
Social Studies: Obama vs. Romney
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AnyMeeting's free Web conferencing system has integrated with the Zimbra email and collaboration service, tempting cheapskates everywhere to try something different.

One who has succumbed to temptation is Chris Murtagh, CTO of RE Technology, a Web startup that publishes reviews of software and services for the real estate industry. "We could have 200 people on a single conference, all using video, and it's completely free," Murtagh said in an interview.

AnyMeeting is a webconferencing, webinar, and videoconferencing service you can use for free, provided you don't mind an advertisement running in the corner of the screen. Murtagh said he has paid for one upgraded, ad-free account that the company can use for public events such as its own marketing webinars or sponsored online events, where having someone else's advertising on the screen wouldn't look good. However, he encourages other employees to use the free version, which is fine for routine collaboration. "Even the free version is just one ad banner on the side," he said. "It's not intrusive."

[ Think free is good? Read Free Social Recruiting App Winning Over Larger Companies.]

The AnyMeeting integration in the Zimbra app gallery lets you schedule online meetings through the Zimbra calendar and add participants from the Zimbra address book.

Zimbra was swept up in last year's series of social and productivity software acquisitions by VMware, along with Socialcast and Sliderocket. Popular with small businesses as an affordable alternative to Microsoft Exchange, Zimbra can be deployed on premises, on an appliance, or in the cloud through hosting partners.

Cisco's WebEx has been available as an integrated service with Zimbra for years, and it was the only webconferencing product in the gallery until AnyMeeting came along. "We think this is an opportunity to inject a nice, small-business friendly alternative into that mix," said Chris Bechtel, VP of marketing for AnyMeeting. AnyMeeting is also available through the Google Apps Marketplace and offers similar integration with Google's productivity suite.

RE Technology had been using WebEx, and Murtagh said he was happy with it except for a few glitches reported by Macintosh users--who happened to include several members of the executive team.

With that, "I decided to find something that works with everything," Murtagh said. After seeing AnyMeeting listed in the Zimbra directory, he tested it across Windows, Mac, and Linux (a requirement for his development team) and found it worked well. Having it be free also made it easy for him to make it available to everyone.

Murtagh said RE Technology started out using Google email but graduated to Zimbra to get a more capable collaboration suite. Webconferencing has emerged as a more important requirement over the past couple of years, as RE Technology has started outsourcing more work to teams outside the U.S. and needing to support traveling salespeople and executives calling on real estate software companies and data services.

"We do inter-department meetings, and a lot of times the team is dispersed, but we always have to have a weekly team meeting through the video chat. Also, twice a week we get together with our two [software development] houses over it, and we do a lot of whiteboarding," he said. The recording feature AnyMeeting provides also means those who missed the live session can watch a playback later.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)

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