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Tag Archives: WebEx Communications Inc.
If you’re still using Skype for video conferencing, now might be a good time to check into WebEx. The company just launched a new package called WebEx 8, which gives subscribers unlimited videoconferencing for up to eight people for $19 per month, or $15.99 a month with a year subscription. Until now the cheapest option was $49 per month for up to 25 participants.
Already a consumer success with more than 1 million units sold within one month of its U.S. launch, Apple’s iPad (from $499 is also gaining traction among mobile professionals looking to remain productive on the go. Not everyone agrees on whether this “magical” tablet was built for business, of course — be sure to read our discussion here – but those who do use it work now have many dedicated applications (“apps”) to choose from at the App Store (part of iTunes). This includes Apple’s own iWork offerings, such as Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets and Keynote for presentations ($9.99 apiece), and dozens of inexpensive third-party apps (see below). “Not only is the iPad built for travel — it’s just a pound and a half and with a battery pushing 12 hours between charges — but its stunning 9.7-inch screen makes it a convincing showpiece to display media, online content or a visual presentation to a client or customer,” says Scott Steinberg, CEO for the TechSavvy Global technology consulting firm in Seattle. “And its online, on-demand apps can transform the device into a portable language translator, note taker, personal digital assistant, information hub, voice recorder, invoice tracker, CSM tool, and so on.” Not only does the iPad feature many dedicated apps for the platform, but out of the box it works with most of the 200,000 apps designed for iPhone and iPod touch. Tim Doherty, research analyst and mobility expert for small and mid-sized businesses at IDC, a Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm, believes the iPad is still “pricey” for widespread deployment in a company, the tablet form factor lends itself well to data capture type applications, such as replacing a traditional clipboard. “Business executives may be drawn to the devices because of its ‘wow’ factor, and what I find compelling is the pricing of the mobile broadband for iPad, which is certainly more attractive than the traditional $60 a month mobile broadband card,” says Doherty. “But ultimately they probably won’t ready to ditch their laptops for this first iteration of the device.” Doherty thinks competition will help drive the price down. “In the future, increased competition from vendors offering Android tablets, a possible WebOS tablet from HP and potentially a BlackBerry tablet from RIM can help drive pricing down and adoption up,” adds Doherty. “Like iPhone did in helping to drive the smartphone market, iPad can do for the tablet market, to the benefit of multiple vendors.” Recommended iPad apps for business The iPad apps you need for business depends on your specific needs, naturally, but along with the aforementioned Apple iWork offerings, the following are five excellent tools to consider. Dragon Dictation (free)Nuance’s easy-to-use and accurate app will transcribe your voice into text like a personal secretary. Once transcribed, you can save the work, e-mail, or send as text message. Also consider Nuance’s free Dragon Search, which lets you ask a question into the iPad’s microphone and you’ll see the relevant answers and/or websites pooled from online sources. WebEx for iPad (free)Need to attend an online meeting but nowhere near your PC? No worries, as you can join the WebEx conference call, brainstorming sessions or presentation on your iPad. Experience live, real-time data and audio wherever work takes you — and save time and money on traveling for meetings. Evernote (free)Got a million dollar idea while on the go? Figured out how to fix your sales hurdles? Type, draw, or speak it inside of Evernote, a powerful tool available for iPad, and so long as you’re online it’ll immediately synchronize with your Mac or PC for safe keeping. The simple interface and powerful options make this app an ideal one for mobile businesspersons. LogMeIn ($29.99)Don’t fret if you forgot an important document or presentation on the office or home PC (or Mac). Use your fingertip on the iPad to remotely log into one or more computers, anywhere on the world, to access what you need as if you were in front the other screen(s). LogMeIn can also be used to troubleshot a colleague’s computer or play Flash-based games if you find some downtime. Square (free)With Square Inc.’s clever software, small and mid-sized businesses can quickly and securely accept card and cash payments on the spot. When the transaction is completed, use this app to generate e-mail and SMS receipts on the spot. Features include itemized lists of sold products or services, adjustable sales tax options, and more.
Still sorting out the difference between webinar, webcast, and Web meetings? Each means of interacting with clients, customers, or staff members via the Web is used to a different end. The one you choose depends on the business situation you’re addressing. You’d hold a Web meeting, for instance, to interact with outside clients or with team members. A webcast would be useful for managers with a message for a dispersed team of employees. And webinars can help build your client base. Obviously, the way you choose to interact with clients and customers will likely change according to your subject. Here are some tips for choosing the best option to suit the message you’re delivering. Decide how much interaction you’ll need between participants Unlike Web meetings, where everyone can participate, talk, and share presentations, both webinars and webcasts have a single presenter, or at least one presenter at a time, says June Bower, vice president of the collaboration software division at WebEx of San Jose, Calif., which offers all three services. The primary difference between a webinar and a webcast is the amount of interactivity between the presenter and the audience. A webcast is a one-way presentation that commonly uses streaming video. “The analogy is to the television experience,” Bower says. Little interaction. Do you have financial numbers to present to team members? A webcast is the way to go, says Bernardo de Albergaria is vice president of global marketing at Citrix Online of Santa Barbara, Calif. His company makes GotoMeeting tools for all three methods of Web interactions. Moderate interaction. Webinars are generally held to communicate about a new service or initiative. They typically feature moderated interaction, with a moderator helping the presenter by organizing questions from the audience. You can present PowerPoint slides, photographs, and software demonstrations during these meetings, Bower says. You’d hold a webinar much as you’d host a sales or marketing presentation in a hotel conference center, de Albergaria says. A lot of interaction. Will you need to discuss an issue? Then a Web meeting, which allows for back-and-forth interaction, is applicable here. Think of it as a conference call with updated visual and collaborative Web functions. “We’ve found our customers use the words Web conference and meeting interchangeably,” Bower says. “They’re for when you have something specific to talk about with your customers or clients that’s not a marketing message. You’re collaborating to get work done.” The medium isn’t the message Whichever Web-based contact method you choose, you’ll still need to follow best meeting practices. You’ll want to make sure attendees will have an agenda to follow, for example. Keep in mind, webinars take much more planning than Web meetings, which can be set up on the fly, de Albergaria says. These Web tools make repeated interactions pretty easy, de Albergaria says. You can archive webinars and webcasts at your website for replay, which makes them powerful marketing or refresher tools. Consider more than one meeting method A first contact may be more applicable to one method, a follow-up meeting another method. “So if you want to update internal people on a new service you’re rolling out you could do it as a Web conference, then follow that up with a webcast,” Bower says. “Of you could hold a Web meeting and point attendees to a pertinent webinar you have archived.” SIDEBAR: Questions to Ask When Choosing a Web Meeting Option Who is your audience? Is your message marketing or informational in nature? How much interaction between participants will you need? Will you need a presenter? Someone to take questions? Or will all participants speak freely back and forth? Should you use a second method for a follow-up meeting?
Web conferencing has become essential in the age of higher travel costs, lower budgets, and online collaboration. But it’s easy to simply rely on conferencing tools as a kind-of stepped up instant messaging system. To wrest the most use of these systems, experts offer tips on how to best use them to communicate and collaborate. Barbara Thompson is training manager at USA Funds of Indianapolis, which trains financial aid administrators on new policies and procedures. Before bringing in Cisco’s WebEx conferencing tool she and her colleagues would use for long-distance training, she asked WebEx consultants for advice. Their main tip: keep it interesting. After all, they advised, the audience will be staring at a screen rather than interacting with a live person, so trainers need to ramp up the visuals and offer many opportunities for interaction. Getting through to employees “We knew that to be effective we had to be entertaining and provide good information and engage the audience,” Thompson says. “We changed the look of our PowerPoint slides to make them more visually appealing.” Changing the look included adding more graphics and brighter colors. Also, two USA Funds trainers now head each conferencing session. Thompson finds that having two people speaking makes the presentation more interesting to listeners. Ruth Folit owns Chronicles Software Co., which makes the journaling software LifeJournal. She began using the GoToMeeting Web conferencing software to help walk her customer’s through LifeJournal’s ins and outs. During Web conferences Folit can actually demonstrate how the software functions. “In the past I’ve had to tell people how to do something by saying ‘look in the top right corner,’” she says. “Now I can point out and highlight and circle things with a bright yellow marker on screen.” And she can reach more users in one session rather than working individually over the phone, as she did in the past. Still, keep meeting sizes small, Folit says. She opens up hers to about 16 users, which allows everyone to ask questions and feel part of the group. Small business owners should consider the added value Web conferencing tools can bring to a business, she adds. “We charge revenue for the meetings and it’s a money maker,” she says. “It’s added value to our journal software because it gives people a let up in learning the best way to use it.” Right conferencing tool for your needs Begin by asking yourself why you’re looking to Web conferencing. Will it be primarily to save time, to save money, to meet with users, to train distant employees? These tools’ capabilities are often tailored to different uses, says Joyce Tang managing consultant at IT consulting company AgilisIT. She consults with customers on selecting the proper Web conferencing package for their needs and suggests asking yourself the following questions: How many people will you meet with online? Different tools allow for different numbers of participants, up to about 1,000. Will you need to access your participants’ desktops via the tool? Again, this capability varies by Web conferencing application. Does the tool need to run over a browser like Internet Explorer—and do all your participants run this browser–or can it be access via the Web itself? Will you need video and camera capabilities? For her larger medical clients, Tang recommends e/pop from WiredRed, which allows users to high-end Web conferencing equipment that lets you zoom in and out and read one another’s body language. SIDEBAR: Costs for Conferencing Capability Folit is billed monthly for her Web conferencing tool, though she could choose to pay annually. She recommends taking advantage of the complimentary one-month product demo. “That gives you a chance to actually get your hands on the controls and you can get a sense of how hard or difficult or easy it is to use,” she says. The costs of these conferencing tools vary widely, though small business owners can easily find tools to fit their budgets and needs. Here are some options: Fuze, a conferencing solution from CallWave Inc. is $29 per month. The conferencing solution works on mobile devices, an aid to those attending without benefit of a computer, and can allow up to 1,000 people in a meeting, says Jeff Cavins, chief executive officer. Zoho Meeting is $12 month and integrated with Skype, says Tang. She often recommends this budget-saving pairing to small businesses. GoToMeeting charges between $39-$49 per month for unlimited meetings with up to 15 participants in each meeting.
Craig Beringer is an IT consultant based in Pennsauken, N.J. For most of his clients that little piece of information is immaterial because they rarely see him. His group of 12 employees at Beringer Associates provides remote IT support to literally thousands of end users for their total customer base. How do they serve so many with so few people and typically without ever leaving their own building? If asked a year ago, Beringer would have given a completely different answer than today. “Before, we were using a bunch of different solutions. Different clients have different sets of issues. For some it’s their firewall, for others it’s working around their VPN,” says Beringer, of virtual private networks. He now believes he’s found a one-size-fits-all solution that conveniently comes in a box. The box, a hardware appliance that houses a set of unique application tools to handle all aspects of remote IT support, is made by Bomgar. The five year old start-up company based in Ridgeland, Miss. “There are two increasingly popular trends in recent years that have come about that are also naturally juxtaposed against each other. Everyone’s mobile and highly networked and at the same time companies are responsible to maintain compliance,” says Nathan McNeill, Bomgar’s vice president of product strategy. “Our product not only allows you to work on any desktop from anywhere in the world, it is all auditable, you can replay sessions and it’s securely centralized and housed on the box.” Products like the Bomgar Box give smaller companies a turnkey option of handling its own remote IT support for staffers working out of the main office. It also makes life easier for IT consultants, like Beringer, offering managed IT services like basic help desk calls. However, Bomgar is only one of a wide variety of solutions available today for small to mid-sized businesses that need remote support for a remote staff that spends little time in the main office. Hired help desk “The options are numerous and now affordable for the smaller consultant or business,” says Sonal Ghandi, an analyst from Jupiter Research. For companies that want to outsource the help desk to an outside vendor, Ghandi categorizes providers into two categories: End-to-end management. Just like it sounds, this means the provider takes care of everything, from buying equipment, implementation, maintaining it, and round-the-clock support. Managed hosting. This works in a variety of ways. “Some providers manage what’s in their complex only. You may rent both the space and equipment, or just the space to house your equipment. Some companies outsource support for only certain applications while keeping others like e-mail, for example, in house,” says Ghandi. Shopping for the right provider Just like hiring any service provider, business owners should always check references, read the company website thoroughly to get a sense of what the vendor can and cannot do, and make sure they hold the appropriate certifications to work on your equipment. “Have everything spelled out in that service contract. You need to understand up front where their responsibility begins and ends with the equipment. Also have a clause to get out of it if they are not performing. The more clearly this is all defined, the less likely there’ll be problems,” says Ghandi. Keeping it in-house It is increasingly easier for companies to provide their own remote IT support for far flung workers, with products such as the Bomgar Box that requires very little implementation to get it up and running. Other options include software solutions like Numara’s Windows-based “Track It! 8.5” and “Remote” applications and WebEx’s fairly new Web-based Remote Support software on a subscription basis. Not only are more companies pricing products like these for smaller businesses, the technology has become easier to use and more automated, while offering more richly detailed reports. Every company is different Before picking a vendor, businesses would be wise to first evaluate their remote IT support needs. Ghandi offers the following check list to go over before making any major decisions: Guaranteed up time. Very few companies can afford for any part of their network to be down for any length of time. “Guaranteed up time should be around 99.5 percent or 99.6 percent,” says Ghandi. “If they offer less than that, you need to be prepared to live with it. If the provider is only guaranteeing 95 percent up time, that may be okay if you’re a nine-to-five weekdays only business. Most likely that 5 percent of down time will be on the weekends anyway, although it could happen during business hours.” . Web-based or phone support? A combination of both may be the best bet. “With Web-based IT support, hopefully it would allow for escalation to phone support, if it’s an emergency,” says Ghandi. Scalability. Whether it’s an outside vendor or a piece of software being used in- house to provide remote support to workers, growing businesses need to have some idea how fast they plan to build out over a period of time. If a company has 10 employees today, but plans to ramp up to more than a 100 within a year, IT support needs to be able to keep up the pace along with that growth. Security. Most providers are following industry standards, but it needs to be clear who is liable for what. Ghandi points out that while larger vendors may have more security infrastructure in place, they also tend to be more attractive targets for hackers. Smaller businesses are less likely to be targeted. Businesses need to analyze the level of sensitive data each of their applications generates and shop for a provider accordingly. Industry-specific solutions. Providers love to use this as a selling point. For example, a medical records company might use a consultant or software solution specific to that field. “If you’re not a very specialized business then you don’t need to pay for a specialized provider. Don’t fall for that as a selling point,” warns Ghandi.