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Free web conferencing software review -- solutions that are truly free

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Free web conferencing software review -- solutions that are truly free

July 22, 2006
By:  Alice Osborn

Many meeting planners are lured by the promise of free web conferencing software solutions, which sound good initially, but after a closer look are designed to hook the user into paying for costly monthly services that are free only during the 30-day trial period. To avoid cost and disappointment, event planners should investigate three free solutions on the market to help individuals and businesses share information and ideas: Vyew, Unyte, and SHARE.

These free web-based solutions allow presenters to share spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides, and charts with their partners and clients. Some, like Vyew, feature whiteboarding to further brainstorming and discussions that can accommodate twenty people, which an ideal meeting size for a small business. These web conferencing applications also hold lots of appeal for friends and family to share maps, drawings, and to solve computer problems. They should also be of interest to small and medium-sized businesses looking for a free web meeting service, and not willing to pay full web conferencing prices.

Why are these web conferencing solutions free?

Vyew is currently in a software beta launch designed to invite users to test the solution before the official release of the software. The downside of using the free beta version is that the presentation may not be as smooth as a tested solution's because the software designers are still trying to work out all of its bugs to test for reliability and level of engagement.

In the case of Unyte, this web conferencing tool is a stripped down version of the company's premium solutions (Unyte+ and Meeting Central), and does not include extra features such as one-to-many sharing, recording/playback, annotation, remote PC access, toll-free voice conferencing, polling options, or file transfers. SHARE is free because its company, Powwownow, wants to increase its web conferencing visibility among its conference call users -- its primary business.

A brief overview of the free Unyte, Vyew and SHARE web conferencing solutions

  • Unyte is a Skype Certified, third party plug-in developed by WebDialogs, Inc. This web conferencing solution requires hosts and users to have a Skype account. Unyte is currently in the beta launch phase and after the beta period; some of Unyte's services will be fee-based. This real-time collaborative application allows free and secure one-to-one application sharing, and costs $9.95/month or $99.95/year for multiple desktop one-to-four sharing. With Unyte, only the meeting planner must download the software. The remote desktop control feature allows access to files and applications to visually solve technical problems or to collaborate on a project while many miles apart.

    Now Skype users can take their web meeting to the next level with Unyte through its secure web text chatting and application sharing features when they're using Skype's conference call services. This software application is simple in design and features and can be easily accessed under "Share" while in the Skype Chat Window.
  • Vyew is a free browser-based web conferencing application that does not require you to download any software. It is currently in the beta phase of development. Vyew features a one-click screen and file sharing, whiteboarding, and a patent-pending screen capturing tool enabling the user to reproduce his or her screen to share it with up to twenty web conferencing participants over the Internet or LAN. If you register on Vyew, you receive 10 Megabits of storage space for up to twenty participants who can be reminded of their upcoming web conference through email invitations.

    Frederick, a user of Vyew remarked, "I've been using this [solution] with some friends of mine and everyone seems to be comfortable with it. I'm particularly fond of the fact that one doesn’t have to install a client -- we had a classmate that was stuck at an Internet café and was able to join the meeting." There is no VoIP in Vyew, so meeting participants must use text chatting to communicate. Another option would be to use a teleconferencing service or free VoIP client like Skype.
  • In SHARE, a free web conference application from Powwownow, the facilitator controls the pace of the PowerPoint and PDF slide shows that have been uploaded into web pages. SHARE can easily convert Word and Excel files into PDF files for viewing when the meeting presenter uploads the files onto Powwownow's secure servers. Like Vyew, there is no VoIP in SHARE, but the presenter can sign up for free "Enhanced Access" conference calling services with Powwownow and have everyone pay separate phone charges. In addition, the presenter can view the names of the participants on the left-hand side of the screen.

    Powwownow is able to offer the SHARE services free because it generates revenue from its Telco partner and from its conference call services. Andrew Peace, the Director of Powwownow, elaborates, “The reason we have decided not to charge for SHARE is that we believe that this service will fuel the growth of the Powwownow conference calling service as a more productive alternative to face-to-face meetings.”

Sign up for free web conferencing services while you can

Vyew and Unyte will not be in the beta stage forever and now is a good time to check them out to start web conferencing for business or at home. Since writing this article, Vyew has created quite a buzz in the industry for what they are offering in their free web conferencing solution. Their website has been updated to provide in depth information about features, competitive comparisons, testimonials, and a news blog with updated information about the Vyew solution. I highly recommend that you give this 100% free, but feature rich solution a try.

If you need to pair your web conferencing with audio conferencing then SHARE and Unyte may be the solution for you since their parent companies are fully established in VoIP, but you can use Vyew with a free conferencing calling solution as well. Determining which solution to choose depends on if you're teaching a class (SHARE) or on how many people you need to share applications with (Vyew is up to twenty and Unyte is up to four). r).

Now as more individuals and companies move to web conferencing, there are more options to suit every price bracket and need, but users need to be aware of what "free" really means for a web conferencing solution before registering.

About the Author
Alice Osborn is a successful freelance writer and contributor to Web-Conferencing-Zone.com.  Your definitive guide to web conferencing services, online collaboration software and web meetings for business.

Also See:  [ Collaborative tools and work environments for online collaboration ]
[ Group collaboration software & groupware applications for collaborative teams ]
[ PowerPoint presentation tips for effective PowerPoint presentations ]

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