Web-Based Collaboration Tools That Save You Money - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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Big-Name Competitors

LotusLive competes directly with products from other large providers such as Microsoft’s OfficeLive, a file-sharing service currently in beta, and Live Meeting, Microsoft’s Web conferencing service. Unlike LotusLive, Live Meeting uses integrated voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) for the audio and video portions of a conference.

It also competes with the Cisco Collaboration Portfolio announced last September. The Cisco portfolio includes SaaS versions of WebEx Connect, the pioneering server-based Web conferencing system that Cisco acquired in 2007, as well as Unified Communications (VoIP-based hosted PBX) and TelePresence (video conferencing).

Google meanwhile offers a set of services around collaboration as part of its Google Apps suite – for the rock-bottom price of $50 per user account per year, which includes 25GB of online storage and a 30-day free trial.

Google Apps Collaboration includes Google Docs (document sharing and version control), Google Sites (intranets, extranets and team blogs) and Google Video (video sharing for business).

The big players theoretically offer greater stability, security and reliability. That said, GoogleApps went down for 30 hours one day late last year. Nobody’s perfect.

Some of the most innovative and cost-effective services, meanwhile, come from independents. CallWave with Fuze Online Meetings is a good example.

Fuze Online Meetings

Fuze is a Web conferencing service that makes it possible to share video in real time. And not just any video – Fuze supports HD. In fact, it has been used to collaboratively edit video for a movie trailer.

Everything is transmitted by Fuze in HD resolution, including still images. So when you’re showing a PowerPoint presentation, for example, you can zoom in on an element in a slide and the image won’t go all blurry and pixilated.

Fuze lets a meeting organizer pass control of the meeting to a participant. The software includes annotation tools – lines, shapes, freehand doodling, text – so that organizers or a participant can mark up a document under consideration.

CallWave provides low-cost audio conference bridging for Fuze meetings, but it also has a version that integrates with Skype. The Fuze service will even bridge together participants using Skype and people using the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Another key differentiator: Fuze provides mobile clients for iPhone and BlackBerry that allow an organizer (or a participant) to connect to a meeting while mobile. Organizers can even send HD video from a mobile device (assuming they have a 3G connection.)

Fuze is priced at $29 per month per meeting organizer for unlimited use during the beta period. The price will go up to $49 next year. Attendees pay nothing for Web conferencing and don’t have to download anything, either.

There are other products like Fuze. Yugma offers very similar features, including Skype functionality and free audio conference bridging – but not support for HD resolution.

It also has a whiteboard feature that lets participants add comments, and a file-sharing feature so that organizers and attendees can upload files to the Yugma server, where others can access them for viewing during the conference.

Keep an eye on Toktumi. It’s not a true Web-conferencing tool, yet. Toktumi is a very inexpensive hosted PBX that uses VoIP over the Internet and also offers effective and inexpensive (or free) audio conferencing. The company plans to add chat functionality at some point.

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This article was originally published on February 18, 2009
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