“You get what you pay for” is one of those truisms that stand the test of time. Over the past several months Iotum,
FreeConference.com’s parent company, has been working to prove that old chestnut wrong for small business teams that want low- and no-cost ways to collaborate online.
Iotum acquired the pioneering online communications service in 2011 and relaunched it last year with free, no-download video conferencing and screen sharing along with higher-quality audio calling. "FreeConference.com was the original free audio bridge. It created the vertical; it created this market," Jason Martin, CEO of Iotum, told Small Business Computing at the time.
Iotum's recent business moves seem to be paying off.
Improved Conference Call Quality
During a recent telephone interview with Martin—using FreeConference.com, of course—the service delivered clear, steady audio despite challenging conditions, namely traveling over a cellular network from a moving vehicle. Not all cellular connections are created equal, but in this case, every single syllable was crystal clear, and at times it seemed as if this writer was riding along with Martin as the blare of the occasional emergency vehicle and hint of road noise slipped into the conversation.
Martin credits his company's continual investments in technology. "We continue to tune our network; it all operates on an HD [high-definition] basis," he said. "We use a very robust network."
Improved call quality is only part of the equation. Ease-of-use is another, and you don’t need an IT pro to schedule and manage an online conference call with up to 200 participants. A user-friendly interface, moderator controls, and features like automated invitations and reminders help small business owners organize virtual meetings with consumer-like ease.
"We make it easy to connect and take your call live—as simple as dirt," said Martin.
Once you schedule a call, FreeConference.com sends participants an email invitation, where users can confirm their attendance, take a peek at the agenda, and view dial-in information. Alternately, attendees can click a link that allows them to attend the call using a headset or their devices' microphones and speakers. Fifteen minutes before a call, FreeConference.com issues a reminder email.
Calls are secure and private, each with its individual URL and PIN. In the unlikely event an uninvited guest sneaks onto a FreeConference.com call, moderators can kick off him off.
Since the relaunch, usage is up 10 percent per month on average, reported Martin. In February, typically a month when usage dips, it rose 13 percent. With increasing demand for business conferencing solutions, and after establishing "tons of free dial-in numbers around the world," he expects business to keep picking up.
Taking Free Conference Calls Global
FreeConference.com now offers dedicated dial-in numbers in more than 40 countries. These in-country numbers open up new ways to communicate with foreign colleagues and can help small businesses and their international partners avoid long-distance fees. As connected consumers and business professionals, it's easy to take cheap broadband and mobile connectivity for granted in the U.S.
Not all regions of the world have the same options, and often a local call is the most convenient and economical solution.
As noted in a recent announcement on the company's website, the "new International dial-in numbers allow anyone to participate in your conferences, no matter where in the world they happen to be. Our Tokyo-based number is perfect for the caller in Japan. Instead of dialing across the world to a number in the United States, callers can pick and choose the location that's best for them."
Iotum has more improvements and enhancements in store for 2016, hinted Martin. The company is working on refining the FreeConference.com user experience and making it even easier to use. He also teased new partnerships that will provide seamless integration with small business workflows.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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