Video conferencing is a major example of the way in which technology has influenced business communications. It allows people to connect in real time from separate locations using both audio and video. The application of the technology is virtually limitless, in that multiple participants can be connected, as long as the appropriate tools are available.
Benefits of Video Conferencing
Since its inception, this communication format has offered many advantages to users. In an increasingly globalized environment, the ability to connect with people in distant locations is essential. It allows companies to extend their reach into new markets. It can also be a way to recruit new talent since they will get a real sense of how people operate in business. The most commonly acknowledged benefits of video conferencing are:
- It cuts down on travel expenses. While face-to-face meetings are still considered necessary by some people, many companies are working to minimize travel expense. Utilizing this technology reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for travelling to a meeting.
- It boosts productivity. Since the workers involved in the meeting will not leave your location, they can get back to work when it is over. This will cut back on the number of man-hours lost due to traveling.
- Users have an advantage over their competition. Since the business will be spending less on travel and related costs, the result will be higher profits. They may even be able to provide goods and services at a lower cost.
Finding Free Conferencing Solutions
Setting up a video conference used to be a relatively expensive undertaking, especially for smaller businesses. Typically, it required a dedicated system utilizing high-end cameras, large screens and loudspeakers. Today, the growth of the Internet has given rise to low cost conferencing solutions. Improved speaker and web-cam quality have made it possible for anyone to take part in a session with just a PC or mobile device.
Many free video conferencing solutions exist today. Several of them offer adequate services for most needs, however there also paid or subscription based services for users who want a little bit more. A few of the video conferencing solutions currently available are:
- ooVoo (http://www.oovoo.com/)
This video chat solution can easily accommodate six people via video and six via telephone. Unlike some free solutions, ooVoo’s video quality is good. One of the good things about ooVoo is that you can conduct a video call even with people who do not have the service. You can even have video chats on your Smartphone, which is handy for on-the-go types who may need to be in a meeting but find themselves without a laptop or PC.
- VSee: (http://www.vsee.com/)
While not very well known, this solution offers a lot more than some free videoconferencing solutions. Twelve persons can video chat with the free version of VSee. Designed to enable online collaboration, VSee uses very little bandwidth making possible for people with slow internet speeds to use the service. The collaboration feature enables screen and video sharing, although screen sharing is limited to one session per day for free users. Another great feature is the ability to share files and even control the camera of other users remotely. You can also save meetings for later viewing.
While the free version is geared towards personal use, there is also an enterprise version for companies that start at an affordable $10.00 per user per month. Students with an .edu email account can get a free plus account with lots more features than the free version.
Installation of the software is necessary, but this is easy to do. The main disadvantage is that you can only use it with others who have the software downloaded. Also, users with a free account can only call others who are part of their team.
- AnyMeeting (http://www.anymeeting.com/)
With this solution, up to 200 people can attend a conference free of cost, however, only six can have a video conference. For a small business, this limitation is not an issue as there may not be a need for more than this number of persons to be on cam. Apart from ads, which you can do nothing about, the free version of Anymeeting provides almost all the features of the paid versions. Two of these are the ability to send invitations to meetings, and the ability to promote meetings via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. With this service, you can easily upload and share presentations with your attendees. Best of all, you can have invitees call in via telephone or computer. You can also send a survey to attendees to get their feedback on the presentation.
For the MAC enthusiast there is iChat. Another solution worth watching is MeetingBurner, a new solution that is still in the teething stages. However, it already offers above average service. The MeetingBurner service is web based so there is no need to download and install any software, which makes it a popular choice with many users. Skype’s free video chat feature is a decent one-one solution, but for small businesses who want to have meetings with more than one person, this will not deliver.
Video conferencing has done more than made the world smaller; it has enabled collaboration between people in different time zones. In times past, to have a meeting between people scattered across the globe, travelling was a necessity. Many companies are now offering both free and paid versions of their video conferencing solutions for the convenience of users.