GoToMeeting Offers Affordable Web Conferencing

By Lauren Simonds | Posted September 23, 2004
In theory, conducting meetings over the Internet is a great concept. You can save a bundle on business travel and still keep far-flung clients and employees engaged and up to speed. In practice, however, Web hosting services like WebEx and Microsoft Live Meeting cost a lot more than many SMBs can pay. Plus, learning how to setup and use one of these services can be an exercise in frustration.

Enter GoToMeeting, a Web hosting service from Citrix Online, the same people who brought you the extraordinarily effective and simple GoToMyPC, a program that lets you access your PC from any Web browser. Citrix Online uses its technology to make Web conferencing equally simple.

According to Brian Donahoo, senior vice-president of products and services at Citrix Online, the goal behind GoToMeeting was to design a Web conferencing service that didn't require any customer training and was affordable enough to use every day. "Existing Web conferencing products are not, widely adopted," says Donahoo.

"Customers often get frustrated and give up — either because the service is too hard to set up or because of sticker shock when the monthly bill arrives."


What's in a Web Conference?
Most people use Web conferences for presentations, product demonstrations (i.e., software) and collaboration. A study done by the Yankee Group notes that 89 percent of Web conferences are used for application sharing, 12 percent for annotation and four percent for white boarding.

"When it comes to Web conferencing, less is more," says Donohoo. "We've stripped out the non-essential bells and whistles, making GoToMeeting easier to use. That builds customer confidence because they master the service quickly — and they use it more."

The company is out to change the rules. "Our product is so easy and so affordable, we believe people will use it for unplanned meetings on an ad hoc basis. We're out to change the face of Web conferencing," says Donohoo. "We want to be a disruptive technology."

The Mantra: Easy, Affordable, Secure
Along with ease of use, Citrix Online is also pushing the boundaries of price and security. The company charges a flat, monthly fee of $49. That entitles you to one organizer plus up to 10 attendees and what the company calls its "All You Can Meet" plan.

You can hold as many meetings — of any duration — every month for that $49 fee. No billing surprises. As any small business owner can tell you, being able to predict and manage your monthly expenses is a very good thing. (There's also a GoToMeeting Corporate version — see the details below).

Every GoToMeeting session uses end-to-end 128-bit encryption — the gold standard for security. It means that no outside intruders and no internal eavesdroppers. This security level comes standard — you don't pay extra for it as you do with other Web conferencing services.

How It Works
First, you start by registering at the GoToMeeting Web site and creating a user name and password. The setup takes a few seconds as the GoToMeeting software downloads onto your PC — no configuration required. A couple more clicks to verify password info, and you're ready to host a meeting. Initiate a meeting by going to the Web site, click Host a Meeting, and send invitations to attendees via Outlook or Instant message. GoToMeeting is tightly integrated with Outlook, but it also works with any other e-mail client.


Citrix Online's GoToMeeting Web conferencing
You can Web conference easier and for less money with GoToMeeting.

The people you invite to your meeting don't have to register or need any pre-loaded software. Once they click Join a Meeting on the Web site, the software downloads and within a few seconds, they'll be looking at the meeting host's PC desktop.

Competition Compared
Here's what you get — and what it costs — for Web conferencing from GoToMeeting, WebEx and Microsoft.

GoToMeeting
• $49 per month or $468 per year (20 percent savings from monthly plan)
• Up to 10 attendees and one organizer per meeting
• Unlimited usage and meetings
• Sold online

GoToMeeting Corporate
• $39 per month per organizer
• Minimum of five organizers
• Maximum of 25 attendees per meeting
• Central administration and control
• Unlimited usage and meetings
• Sold through Citrix Online direct sales force


Join Meeting page
Invited attendees click the download software button to join a meeting.

WebEx
• $375 per month
• Maximum of five people
• Unlimited usage and meetings
• Additional person: $10 per 15 minutes

Microsoft Live Meeting
• $375 per month
• Maximum of five people
• Pay extra to upgrade to 128-bit security

GoToMeeting Features

  • Desktop screen sharing — you can show any application
  • Passing presenter control — for easy role switching
  • Giving control of desktop to others — for collaboration
  • Chat functionality — to communicate with individual attendees
  • Integration with Microsoft Outlook and instant messaging
  • Optional audio service — an audio conference bridge provided free of charge. Attendees pay typical long distances phone charges.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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