web conferencing

Top Nine Web Conferencing Vendors for 2015 Plus Trends

The top nine web conferencing solutions for 2015. Ideal for webinars and web meetings. Includes trends.

I know what you are thinking.  You are wondering – “Nine?” Why not 10?  Well, every one who puts lists like these together always goes in a top 10 angle.  Not me. No sirree.  I’m thinking out of the box all the way here.

And it kick it out of the box, you need to say – hey you know blah blah is not number one.. because XYZ.  And it isn’t because their product is outrageously expensive – but yowsa many of them are, when was the economy fully out of a recession yet (globally)?  I must have missed that announcement.

Let’s Hit The Trends then my Top Nine.

Web Conferencing  Pricing

Did I mention how expensive most of them have become?  Well, that is a trend and the pricing is being seen in three options

  1. Free –  up to a small number of participants, and with limited features.  Participants typically hit in the three to five range.
  2. Per Host –  My number #1 vendor goes this route, but they and a few others push ultimate options with a minimum number of hosts and I’m not even talking Enterprise yet.  Anyway in most cases, the host angle includes x number of participants.  Usual numbers are 10 or 25.
  3. Per Participant/User-  Yessir – you get charged per human or other entity that decides to go into your conference.  That is assuming you are having each person on their own computer or mobile device and not say, huddling around your screen or sitting in a giant conference room or conference room for that matter, sharing the presentation screen.  I mean who does that? : )

In the pricing spectrum most go yearly, although the monthly does appear and no surprise it is higher.  What you need to watch out for is the “default” as in the default is usually the “yearly”.  And getting out of a yearly contract is not so simple, so always read those little fine notes they have at the bottom of the screen or talk to the salesperson about their cancelling agreement approach.  Monthly isn’t such an issue, but always find out anyway.

Other Trends

  • Push towards Enterprise – a lot of this going around –  sure there are smaller options, but Enterprise – Hello!  Which reminds me you have to call them to find out more, so “Hello” truly implies in this case.
  • Extensions/Connections – You say new trend. I say, “ABOUT TIME”.   Most common are Box.com, Dropbox, Google Drive.  There a few vendors who offer a lot more, but nobody is doing like 30 or 40 extensions at this point.  I would add that to me, social media extensions shouldn’t be listed within this area – but yeah, I have seen Facebook and LinkedIn plugged in (with LinkedIn tied to your connections).
  • Integrations – You want to tie into Salesforce.com?  Sure.  Expect to pay though, but yeah we can do that.  Integrations are on the rise.
  • Add APIs – In reality those “extensions” are APIs, but separately there are vendors making mention that they can accept APIs too.
  • Social Media –  From pushing out notifications to enabling people to register via social media – it is on the upswing –  most common – Facebook, Twitter.
  • Mobile Apps –  If you are missing it, you should have to use a Blackberry for the next 10 years of your life.  Anyway, native mobile apps are in play here, iOS, Android.  With most vendors showing their mobile items using a smartphone.  Uh, okay.  Personally, I would use a tablet or phablet – but.. ; I have to wonder if Windows 10 will cause some vendors to add an app for it, especially with the boost in popularity of Surface 2to1 or even other 2to1 tablet/laptop (I use Dell).
  • Google Analytics, Analytical tracking of some sort – on the rise
  • 3D maps using geolocation or just geolocation without 3d map –  I’ve seen several vendors offer this – not sure I care that Steve is in Woodland Hills, CA, Mark in in Tampa, FL and Laura is in Melbourne, AUS.  I mean I care more they are on the call, than where they are physically in the virtual world.  This isn’t a game of WoW here.
  • PayPal –  I’m in the money.. I’m in the money.. wait, you are in the money – as PayPal is on the move up to be added for those wanting to go webinar route even with small participant lists.
  • Separate pricing for webinars versus web meetings –  Sure there are vendors that do not, but more on the whole that do.  Pricing tends to be monthly but you are ideally pushed towards “yearly” with a month or two free – Awesome – where is my Crackerjack toy with that super deal?
  • Personal URL/Branding (As in LESS) –  Some offer it, some don’t –  I like it and wish it was included across the board, especially if I am doing webinars (it should be included), but the majority of vendors do not include “branding as part of their standard feature set”
  • Standard features are becoming universal standard included BUT…  –  Do not assume that even at the first tier level (fee based) that features such as recording which is usually a standard is uh, a standard and included. Fuze, last year’s fav; doesn’t include it for its first level pricing.   The usual standards though – whiteboard, screen sharing, VOIP – funny, I saw one vendor pitch that they include “VOIP toll free” – what?  VOIP is usually free – that is why people have it..  Anyway.. – length of meeting time is unlimited, although under some freebies it is now being limited (not universal)

Other standards – chat, raising of hands, recording (FUZE UH, YOU DO SEE THIS RIGHT?), HD video, calling in – with a non 800 number, international calling in (sadly not universal, but more than not, so it goes into standard),  drawing tools, upload of documents, video, etc. and sharing them with folks in the conference, including PPT too; web touring, scheduling meetings/conferences, registration links, reminders; viewing via webcam or whatever web video device you are using

  • Video streams – on the rise – now as to the quality of you seeing those video streams – that is another story –  which is why some folks who can include “video” in their web conferencing meetings choose not to..

I also am seeing more on-site deployment, which I admit seems backwards.  Every one is pushing SaaS and yet, there are web conferencing vendors offering on-site deployment as a useful feature.

The Rankings

Factors included

  • Feature sets – Standards yes, more points if product offered feature sets beyond the standards that made sense – forward thinking
  • Mobile – iOS and Android are the standards.  Feature sets within mobile equally scored points
  • UI Design –  No one likes something to look like it rolled out in 1998.  UI is still relevant for web conferencing – Oh, a High Five to Webex for having a slick UI – finally!
  • Download or No Download –  Do I as the user have to download anything prior to using the product?  If yes, you lose points.  What about as a host – same thing.
  • Ease of use – If I can’t run my meeting without needing assistance or looking for that number for help; then ease of use exists – the easier the more you received points
  • Pricing – It played a factor, but not as much as you might think –  I mean free vendors are not listed here (okay an audio conference vendor – which is free and rocks, but they are not in the top 9 web conferencing, since seeing someone via webcam or however video must be part of the feature set_
  • Stream Test –  What does your product look like when someone is using a webcam – does it flicker?  Does it go in and out?  Does it make the other person wish you would stop using your webcam?
  • Drop Test –  How often do people get dropped or booted out of the product, and not due to them clicking the wrong button?  I had several folks do the testing on this, over the course of a year and report back.  Plus, many readers of the blog and social media followers sent in their feedback on products they were using or had been in “on web conferences as well”
  • Support –  Yes it should matter, and here it does.  Same with training – you can have a great product, if I can’t understand or view tutorials on how to use it, worthless.

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#9 –  Click Meeting – Pricing is on the higher side, but quality is there.  Feature set includes the standards, but I did like the real time chat translation (multilingual), APIs and re-branding.

#8 –  Google Hangouts –  Product does its job. Has a nice set of extensions, which can expand even more with partners. Video quality is a mixed bag, one minute great, next minute I want to punch my screen, but realize that it is worth more than Hangouts.  Has only one way to go up – which is more than I can say for Google+ (don’t let the door hit you on the way out.. yuck, yuck)

#7  GotoMeeting –  The free version – they offer one – is a major disappointment – I’d rather pay for one, it was that underwhelming.   But, the fee-based solution, which is this one – definitely a stronger solution.  Continues to improve, and hits the feature notes well.  What I didn’t like was the lame number of participants available for each package.  The Starter allows five.  For $24/M billed annually. Oh and no recording on that either.  Did you guys have a talk with Fuze before coming up with that brilliant product strategy?

#6 Fuze –  Yes I am piling on them – because they went from a dynamo product that was #1 to #6, due to some strange product strategy approaches.  Wonderful on mobile and streams are top notch. Webcam views/i.e. video is strong.  Pricing is a tad lower compared to the bigger name vendors like Connect and such.   Extensions from Box.com and Dropbox is a very nice touch.

#5 Skype –  I use the product often mainly for calls (including landline/mobile) and have had web conferences/meetings with it.  I still find it to be a very solid offering and strong in many ways, but the video does drop a tad more than I would want.  Screen-sharing is quite good overall.  Support used to be great, now it is average (a minus for me).  Pricing is outstanding for what you get.  Mobile is solid too – works, but that Wi-Fi thing is yucky.  If you love VOIP and are willing to ignore the UI – its solid but not great by any stretch then Skype might work.  To me it is best suited for five or less participants.  But that’s just me.

#4 WebEx –  Three cheers for the new UI! (uh, you can do that on your own).  Features (standards) haven’t ever been the issue for me on WebEx – the drops, UI and advanced feature set have been.  They have improved in many areas and this is a very strong offering.  You will see them in many LMSs BTW (as a partnership still a separate license), but that shouldn’t be the reason to go – must have, must have – since you can nowadays pretty much have anyone due to APIs.  That said, WebEx has awakened from a slumber – that to me has been in the Rip Van Winkle stage.

#3  Adobe Connect –  Pricing is high, which is a big downer for me, because this is a solid solution.  The apps (extensions are good) and if you want to push this product to a whole new level, then check out their partners which add some nice components (fee based mind you).  Streams have always been excellent.  Right now it is a separate cost to go into Adobe Captivate Prime (Adobe LMS scheduled to launch soon), but who knows in a few years.  Anyway, I wish support was better – in terms of the human touch.  This is for their meeting offering and I admit their webinar offering is very solid. Bonus for ADA 508 compliant – you would be surprised to learn many vendors are not (as a whole in the industry).  Features are quite good.

#2 Join.me –  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  They have been around for a bit, but have gone the extra step. Mobile includes Amazon Fire – which hello – says forward thinking.  The whiteboards for mobile is only for iOS, but hey its a start.  The ability to include iOT (Internet of Things) with Apple Watch scores another forward thinking approach – even though Apple Watch has a long way to go IMO – but hey another start!  Standards are there, and as you can see more than standards – are definitely there.  The free version includes ads;  but the fee based do not. 

#1 Zoom –  If you have never heard of them before, don’t worry you are not alone.  Standard feature sets exist in the offering and advanced definitely hits the bells and whistles stop.  For me I wish they included branding in the Pro version (up to nine hosts), but it exists in Business version (min. of 10 hosts).  Pricing is fantastic compared to others in the market – albeit, the min. number of hosts for Business should be lower, but again that is my take.  

The only minus to me is the UI – it is easy to use, full functioning but for me, having modern at its finest isn’t there.  This was really a downer for me, because the product itself rocks.  Reviewers told me that the product delivered, streams were excellent.   Pro has a wealth of features, Business just goes up a bit more including custom emails, SSO, managed domains and for those in the HE space, LTI integration (which is nearly non-existent in the LMS/LP/LCMS corporate SMB, Enterprise and EE spaces). 

Bottom Line

There they are – the top nine for 2015. 

As Veruca Salt (the character and not the band) once said,

“I want it now” so here they are

the top nine web conferencing solutions for 2015. 

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