Cisco Revamps WebEx Meetings for SMB Collaboration

Cisco this week took a big step in retooling WebEx for the mobile and social media era. First, the company unveiled WebEx Social, formerly known Cisco Quad, with new functionality in tow.

New features include video conferencing sessions with seamless high-definition (HD) video switching, Microsoft Office integration, updated iOS clients and cloud and on-premises deployment options. Yet amidst these enterprise-flavored updates, Janine Pelosi, senior manager of Marketing Communications at WebEx, says that there’s plenty of on tap for SMBs, SOHOs and even solo professionals such as consultants.

Mobile and Social Meets Collaboration

The SMB-tailored WebEx Meetings product inherits many of the social features that are being propagated across the platform. These include file sharing, timelines, contact lists and real-time updates — Facebook-like features that have been steadily creeping into all sorts of software, including Intuit’s social-CRM enabled QuickBooks.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Meeting Spaces.  The interface consolidates and neatly arranges a list of attendees, meeting notes, live comments and, naturally, documents and files pertaining to the virtual gathering. Familiar WebEx capabilities like desktop sharing and whiteboard support are also included.

The overarching goal, says Pelosi, was to make sure that all of this content was organized and accessible for attendees. “We want to make sure it’s not lost in someone’s email,” she says. “We are centralizing those things in one place.”

The WebEx Meetings dashboard is “your home page in WebEx,” according to the company. From the dashboard, you can monitor WebEx group updates, including new files and upcoming meetings. The Collaboration Toolbar accesses common functions like scheduling and launching meetings and uploading file and documents.

And meetings don’t have to be over when attendees make their exit, says Pelosi. Persistent online storage supports files of up to 200 MB in size of various types, including video and audio recordings. It stores meeting notes, comments and related files so that authorized attendees can revisit the themes and topics discussed during a session — a handy feature for information-dense sessions, adds Pelosi.

WebEx Meetings now supports HD video at 720P, integrated instant messaging and profile personalization — including one’s profile picture. Mobile users can now show their faces during WebEx Meetings sessions using new iPhone two-way video support. Voice over IP (VoIP) also now works over the iPhone and iPad.

WebEx Meetings is available now. The free, Basic package supports one host and up to three participants per meeting and supplies 1 GB per user, but is limited to standard, non-HD video. The Premium packages, which cost up to $49 per month per host, add support for up to 25 participants, HD video, 5 GB of storage per user and expanded call-in options.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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