In Or Out: Web Conferencing Is Available Hosted Or In-house
The first important decision a company must make regarding Web conferencing is whether to go with a service provider or deploy software and servers on-site. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Consider two examples:
For the law firm of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP, the decision was relatively simple. The firm used to depend on Microsoft's NetMeeting, the one-to-one conferencing application that ships with Microsoft XP. It wasn't long before the firm needed a more robust system. NetMeeting is managed from the desktop--when two people want to have a NetMeeting, they simply arrange it between themselves. On the other hand, a conferencing server that can accommodate multiple participants requires maintenance and administration, putting an added burden on the IT department. With a subscription service, control is in the hands of the users.
"We already have lots of applications to manage," says Patricia Gardner, practice support manager in the firm's Silicon Valley office. "Our network is a pretty complex creature. The less we have to add and complicate matters, the better."
The firm signed up for WebEx Communications Inc.'s subscription service, and it has no intention of looking elsewhere. "If it's not broke, don't fix it," Gardner says.
On the other hand, Doug Kandel, VP of IT for Datatec Systems Inc., a provider of technology deployment services, knew that implementing an on-site Web-conferencing system was a matter of simple arithmetic. The company bought a complete 24-port Web-conferencing device from Sonexis Inc. for $16,000, mounted it on a server rack, and had a live conferencing deployment in about an hour. The financial payoff was evident so quickly, and employee adoption came so fast, that the company soon purchased another 24-port device, doubling its investment to $32,000. A 3-cents-per-minute toll-free dial-in number that's routed through the Sonexis server provides voice conferencing to augment the device.
Compare that to the $3,000 a month the company had been paying for WebEx's service, plus $8,000 a month or more in teleconferencing charges, and Datatec earned a return on its Sonexis investment in just two months.
Best of all, Kandel says, "it's brought a new sense of unity to the company." Having the system in-house lets people conference at will, without considering whether they need budget approval or have reached their department's conferencing allowance. Taking those concerns away practically makes collaboration a sure thing.