By Kevin Savetz
In an era of heightened airport security and frazzled travelers' nerves, Web meetings have a new appeal. If you'd rather keep your feet on the ground but still need to meet with offsite colleagues, Reality Fusion's TeamView is an attractive choice. By Kevin Savetz
In an era of heightened airport security and frazzled travelers' nerves, Web meetings have a new appeal. If you'd rather keep your feet on the ground but still need to meet with offsite colleagues, Reality Fusion's TeamView is an attractive choice.
Question on the floor
TeamView lets you hold online meetings with up to 250 people. Participants with a Webcam and a microphone can see and hear other attendees in your private meeting room, and if you don't have those extras, you can simply watch and communicate via text messages. You can see as many as 6 conference participants at a time. The software follows the meeting action and automatically shows the person who is speaking. A moderator runs the "room," controlling who has the floor. Participants who wish to ask a question may "raise a hand" by clicking a button, an invaluable feature for large groups. Even so, the program supports full-duplex audio, so more than one person can talk at a time. Attendees can also send text messages or speak to one another privately without disturbing the rest of the group. For more intimate discussions, the software supports 2-person video calls.
Participants need at least a 300MHz Pentium II PC with Internet access, running Windows 98 or later. TeamView works well at any connection speed, from dial-up modem to T1, adapting itself to the bandwidth available to each participant. Video and audio are clear, with low latency, even over slow connections. The service works flawlessly behind firewalls and proxies.
Chatting gets expensive
Unfortunately, TeamView lacks a whiteboard tool and document-sharing functions. The service isn't cheap, either. For $360 per month, you get 1,200 minutes of conference time. You can also opt for the pay-per-use option, at 30 to 40 cents per user-minute. At that rate, an hour-long conference with five people would cost $120.
For one-on-one videoconferences, Microsoft NetMeeting, Windows XP Messenger, or Yahoo Messenger are acceptable--not to mention, free--alternatives. But TeamView shines for conferences of more than two or three people. Its excellent bandwidth- and participant-management tools mean you'll have constructive meetings with minimal fuss.