web-based software for virtual team meetings

Our hiring philosophy at FamilyLink.com has been to recruit the best talent we can find, regardless of location. So we have engineers, designers, and marketers scattered in several states and in two countries as well. As we have grown from a dozen to more than 60 employees and contractors, the challenge of communicating and collaborating becomes very significant.

Our social development team has been holding the equivalent of daily standup meetings for 15 to 30 min each day. We’ve been using some voice-only conference calling systems, but as of today, we’ve officially decided to dump voice-only and implement by tomorrow morning a new web-based collaboration system.

We aren’t going to take weeks to decide which system to use. We’re going to take a few hours. After all, the real-time web makes it possible to harness the wisdom of the crowds very quickly. I will use this blog post, LinkedIn Answers, and twitter to gather the information we need to make a good decision today. It may not be the best decision that is possible–but it will be a good one. And tomorrow’s social developer meeting will be far more effective than today’s.

I know that WebEx and Gotomeeting are traditional and well-known options for virtual meetings (both are in the top 5,000 of Quantcast), but I wanted to find some other options that might be easier to use, less expensive, and perhaps more innovative. Some quick Google and Twitter searches brought up several options that look more appealing than WebEx or Gotomeeting. The top five candidates so far are: Yugma, DimDim, YuuGuu, Adobe Connect, and Zoho Meeting.

We have a small internal team that is hoping to try all 5 services today, and evaluate them for ease-of-use and functionality. By this afternoon, we hope to make a decision. And by tomorrow morning’s meeting, we hope to have about 15 remote workers using the new system.

One of the filters I use when checking out new technologies, before making a decision whether to bet on them or not, is how well funded the company behind the service is. Typing in “company name” and “funding” or “venture” into Google usually helps me find what I need.

Quick Google searches showed the following:

I like to check Quantcast charts for companies too, to see if they seem to have marketplace momentum.

Then I also like to see if the company has been hit with layoffs recently, so I search for “company name” and “layoffs” in Google. I didn’t find any evidence that any of these companies has had layoffs lately, but several discussions about how the software from these companies can help other companies save money and even avoid layoffs by having more effective remote meetings, and boosting productivity.

Here are a few more interesting links:

  • 7 Web-based Collaboration Apps (Information Week, July 2009)
  • Top 12 Web Conferencing Vendors (Inside CRM,  Dec. 2008)
  • review of Yugma from January 2007 (from Center Networks)

If you have love any of the top 5 web-collaboration candidates that I mentioned, or if you use a different one that you think is perfect for a virtual team meeting every day, please share your comments on this blog.

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12 Comments

  1. Kevin Micalizzi, Dimdim Web Conferencing

    Paul-

    I’m assuming you know which service I’d recommend, so I’ll skip right to the areas you look at. We’re well funded and growing fast.

    Let me know if I can help in your evaluation.

    Thanks.

    -k
    Kevin Micalizzi, Community Manager
    Dimdim Web Conferencing
    e: kevin@dimdim.com
    twitter: @dimdim
    facebook: dimdim.com/facebook

  2. I am looking forward to evaluating your suggestions for our own company. Until now we have used Skype exclusively for teleconferencing; We can connect as many employees as we need, it’s simple, cheap (free), and has proven to be extremely reliable. The latest Skype has video conference (one-to-one) and screen sharing (which we use quite frequently to get the point across and save a ton of explanation time). We each have SkypeIn numbers for receiving outside calls and have unlimited calling outbound; all in one tool. We also share files and chat via Skype.

    As you can tell; I am a big fan of Skype and recommend it often.

  3. Hi Paul,

    Will be very interesting to see the results of this and i would not want to influence in any way so I would offer my help after you have done the testing so that you take each company and service the same way.

    Would be really nice to have a chat after the survey and talk more about what you like and what you don’t like as we are investing time to find out how our customers work with our software. What i will say is that we are more than just a Online meeting service and this has been very interesting to us.

    Thank you for including Yuuguu in your evaluation and here are my details.

    Kind regards,

    Neil

    Neil Kay-Jones
    Marketing and Support Manager
    Yuuguu

    neil.kay-jones@yuuguu.com
    twitter: @NeilKayJones

  4. (Disclaimer – I’m on Yuuguu Dev Team)

    We (unsurprisingly) use Yuuguu for all our IM & web conferencing needs (1:1, group, cross platform screen sharing & remote control, Skype integration etc). We all work remotely and use it for code reviews, design meetings and even our end of the week virtual pint!

    We’ve just launched Yuuguu Teams but there is the free version as well as Yuuguu Plus ($15 a month) depending on what you are looking for – details over at http://www.yuuguu.com/pricing/yuuguu-pricing.

    Regards, Phill.

  5. Former Yugma employee

    Things evryone should know about Yugma:

    — employees have not been paid
    — company is transferring assets to debtors inspite of not paying employee dues
    — company has filed for bankruptcy
    — company needs to tell it’s innocent customers the truth

  6. paulballen

    So yesterday after testing several systems our team chose DimDim, but we had trouble getting it working for our morning call today, and we ended up going back to a voice only conference call. I skipped the call to try to get DimDim working. It didn’t work in my Chrome browser, so I had to switch over to Firefox. After several minutes, we got 5 of us on the call, but had trouble with audio from a couple of our team. But the whiteboard feature was cool, and screen-sharing of web pages worked great too. The group chat worked fine also. However, the audio problems scared us a bit. So we decided that we may try Adobe Connect tomorrow, which has reportedly been more reliable for people that have used it. (Though we hear it is not as user friendly in its design, and is slightly more costly per month.) Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get it working. I don’t want to do any more voice-only call-ins. And my main goal with this virtual team software is to make it super easy for any of our remote employees to set up a virtual meeting with one or more colleagues any time, in a matter of seconds, and to be able to share work spaces and look at things together and talk about them, as if they were in the same office. I want to see hundreds of virtual meetings like this every month. The more interaction the better.

  7. I had my first experience with DimDim yesterday. The first 15 minutes of the call were spent by the hosts resolving login and audio problems, and audio over the browser interface never worked right.

    However I did find the “mood” setting useful, in addition to the chat feature (neither unique to DimDim, I believe).

  8. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the informative entry. What I’ve noticed is that there are many web conferencing co.’s out there that offer hosted conferences. A conference solution that I recommend is RHUB’s web conferencing and remote support appliance. You can own it which will save you money in the long haul. Better bang for your buck I think. http://www.rhubcom.com

  9. I am a bit late on my submission I realize but from another post from today it looks as though your team is still looking for the right solution. InteSolv, the company I work for, is an Adobe Connect Pro VAR so right off the bat you know where I am going with my recommendations. However, there are a few unique features that may be important for your team to take into consideration as you continue your search for the perfect web collaboration tool.

    With Adobe Connect you can brand your meeting rooms not only with URL’s (Webex) but with your logo, custom background, color choices for navigating through the room and the entry page to the meeting. If you are going to use these virtual meeting spaces to conduct business outside of your internal audiences, this will be an important feature.

    A quick rundown of other features that may be of interest:
    – Breakout rooms
    – Custom, on-the-fly sizing of pods
    – Mutliple room layouts within the meeting
    – Interaction buttons for attendees
    – On-the-fly attendee permission changes
    – Easy recording and content storage on your Connect database

    Please reach out if you have any questions and good luck with your search!

    Angela Bouma
    Marketing Director
    (559) 733 7500
    abouma@intesolv.com

  10. Anon

    After trying DimDim and having found it lacking… I am still in serch of that perfect – easy / robust / cheap – web conference app. DimDim’s audio is sub-par. Right now, I’m going thru the list.

  11. I would like to throw Proxy Networks into this discussion. I have been using their remote control software for quite some time. Web conferences, tech support and just plain old remote access are really easy with this software, and I have had almost zero issues. The next time you do one of these round-ups, you should consider adding them to the list!

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