Chances are that your small business will require collaboration and video conferencing software at one point or another. Modern video conferencing solutions let small business owners and employees meet with anyone at anytime to easily demonstrate new products and to collaborate on business opportunities -- while saving on travel expenses and avoiding traffic delays.
In this article we review video conferencing software from Nefsis, a company that offers both on-site and hosted video, audio and content sharing options for small business.
Nefsis Installation and Setup
For this review we looked specifically at the hosted version of Nefsis, which offers a free trial. The hosted service includes two components: the browser-based management interface for setup and scheduling, and the client-side application that actually runs the service and delivers the collaboration capability.
The browser interface lets people with administrator access set up and schedule conferences. Configuration options allow for a password setup as well as duration for a conference.
You can schedule conferences, configure passwords and set conference duration through the Nefsis admin panel.
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While you use a browser to access the Nefsis service, that doesn't mean it's installation-free. The administration interface requires no additional software installation, but to actually get the conference part going requires a bit of installation. In Firefox, as soon as you click the "join meeting" notification (either from an email invite or from the menu in the browser interface), you get a Firefox dialogue to install a new plugin.
Unfortunately Nefsis isn't using the more modern type of Firefox plugin, so when you first install Nefsis, you need to restart the browser. That's not always a good thing, as you might lose your browser history. The install experience on Microsoft IE does not require a browser restart, making it a somewhat simpler and cleaner install experience.
In case you don't want to (or for some reason can't) install the browser plug-in, you can opt for a client install (a basic .exe file that you click and install) that does the same job as the plugin.
Features and Performance
Once you're connected with the Nefsis client, the real work of collaboration can begin. The conference host sees all the participants as well as the capabilities of their systems (in terms of PC performance, bandwidth and camera). That's a useful feature that isn't always included on collaboration tool platforms. Knowing what systems capabilities other users have can be critical to troubleshooting performance issues.
The conference host also has the power to turn on other users' connected cameras and audio. This is also particularly useful as it means the host doesn't need to wait for other people to click a button, and he or she can truly moderate and control the video conferencing experience.
Network tools provide visibility into the network environment to ensure a good experience.
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The video collaboration portion of Nefsis appears to be flawless, that is, it just works. During limited testing using both low-res VGA and HD cameras, we were able to connect and use Nefsis without issue. The video is fast and, on decent connections, lag is not an issue.
Speaking of lag, the Nefsis client (both for the conference host and other participants) clearly rates the bandwidth quality for the connected machine using a scale of 1 to 5. Additional performance views provide network tools and a bandwidth monitor. These features give an administrator visibility into the network environment to ensure a good experience.
Nefsis also includes excellent control settings for video quality. The admin can set the resolution anywhere from 160x120 all the way up to 1280 x 720 HD and adjust settings for frames per second (the more frames per second the smoother the video, and the higher the bandwidth demands) as well as sharpness. Don't be afraid of all the settings though. In out testing we found the default settings worked well, but it's always good to know that you have more control if you want it.