Friday, September 16, 2011

affordable online collaboration

There are all kinds of cloud spaces for all kinds of collaboration. From meetings to webinars and filesharing to software development, it's "out there." We're all familiar with the leaders in online meetings and webinar software; GoTo, WebEx, Live Meeting, Adobe Connect, and others. Did you know there are less expensive, robust, and reliable options available for less cost?

Our team of curious collaborators checked out a variety of free and fee-based services this month to bring you some affordable and effective solutions that add value to your business processes. Here's what we found...

yaM is an easy-to-use conferencing application that integrates nicely with Google Apps. Scheduling a meeting is as easy as importing your Google contacts. yaM uses your contacts as a participant list and you can add others, too. Our Google calendar shows up on the "Calendar" tab allowing us an easy way to identify open times for a meeting.

Our favorite feature wasn't ease of use or the clean interface or even the integration with Google apps, but the "All Action Items" tab. All action items from the test meetings we conducted are listed on this tab. Great for anyone who doesn't take notes during a meeting and forgets what was assigned to them.

Downside? It's a beta release and we all know what that with beta products we can't predict the final product or final cost. But in the meantime it's a winner.

According to the product description YuuGuu users can "share screens, hold web conferences and work collaboratively with anyone on the Google Talk IM network all via the Yuuguu application".

You will need to download the desktop client to initiate meetings. We found this application to be a bit clunky. It wasn't as easy to navigate as others we tried. As for price we found it to be a bit pricey in comparison to other applications we tried that offered many of the same features.

This is a free collaboration space that is ad-supported. We spent some time setting up the profile, color scheme, and links to embed in our website. We then launched a meeting that went very well. The video was smooth, audio was clean, and files were easy to upload and share. After this success we launched another meeting and one user asked why there were so many ads.

While we were pleased with the functionality of AnyMeeting and thought the profile section along with the administration end of the software was easy to use and very professional - given that it's free - we didn't think to test the user view. Unfortunately, the user sees what the screen AND a list of ads long the right side of the window. When we tested it from a participant's perspective we decided it was too distracting to use as a professional meeting and webinar tool. In our opinion AnyMeeting would be a top-runner if it allowed for reasonably priced subscriptions that would remove the ads.

Vyew is also ad-supported, but the ads are small and unobtrusive. They are located in the upper right corner of the participant's window so they are seen, but don't distract from the focus of the meeting. It also doesn't take away from your professional look.

More than the minimal ad presence Vyew offers inexpensive, full-featured subscriptions to meet the needs of a single owner business to full-fledged multi-million dollar organizations.

The feature we found most appealing is the "anytime" meeting feature. Even if the presenter is logged out invited guests can stay and continue to collaborate or return at a later time to add to the work. Vyew truly allows you to "meet and share content in real-time or anytime."

JoinMe is a lean screen sharing application with full-featured meeting options available. This is a LogMeIn product offering users the ability to share screens and collaborate for free. It looked like a great app for conducting a presentation for up to 250 users quickly and easily. The free version even has an app for iPhone and Android. Upgrade to the Pro version and there are meeting scheduling tools and more.

Unfortunately, JoinMe didn't work out very well for us. Three eparate attempts to create an account using three independent email addresses failed. Looks like we'll stick to Skype for teleconferencing and screen-sharing.

Truth be told you'll have to decide for yourself what best meets your needs, but for our money yaM and Vyew really caught our attention.