More and more meetings, presentations and business deals are being done online through the help of web conferencing. But with wide range of products and a relatively large array of options, you cannot help but wonder what type really fits your needs. If you are just beginning to get acquainted with the concept of web conferencing and are trying to figure out what really suits you, then this may help you find what you are looking for.

Basically, web conferencing is both an activity and a tool where two or more people interact online. This is not similar to email where there is a passive exchange of messages online. Web conferencing uses audio, video, text and interactive features to communicate in real time or in an asynchronous environment.

Products can be roughly categorized into free web conferencing and hosted web conferencing. Free web conferencing tools are readily available online for download. Some popular products are Skype for audio; Yahoo Messenger for instant messaging, audio and video (webcam required); and Vyew for text chat and slide presentation. These products are really cost-effective since you do not have to maintain an account and pay the monthly or annual charges. However, free web conferencing tool may only work for small or medium enterprise as it has a number of security issues. Since it is free, hackers can easily enter into your “conference room”, access your files and steal vital information about you, your business and other participants.

A hosted web conferencing is far more secured. Hosts impose strict security measure and standards to prevent unauthorized users to enter and get access to your information. A typical hosted web conferencing works by allowing its subscriber to use its server where it can conduct online conference (sometimes with a designated URL). Access requires security pass-code so that unauthorized users are barred to join the conference. This is often called shared hosting as you use the host’s server to conduct the conference. Hosting companies can also allow you to use your own server or lease one of their servers for better security, ease of use and technical support. Packaged solutions are also offered where vendors can give a set of useful features for a specific price.

Payments schemes are differ but usually, vendors are paid per month, per minute of use or per named user. There can be a yearly membership fee as well. Price ranges from as low as $99 a month to more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. The price may sound ridiculous but it is relatively cheaper than a conventional meeting where participants have to fly to a particular location, not to mention the expenses on food and hotel accommodation.

Special features that set web conferencing system apart from a typical online communication tools include file sharing, desktop sharing, co-browsing, white board, recording and playback, PowerPoint presentation and Keynote, text messaging, scheduling programs and surveying.

Some of these features are intended for a particular web functions such as costumer service, training and coaching, meetings, presentations, education, seminars, business proposals, public relations, sales and marketing. These things should be noted when choosing a particular hosting company.

Large companies often prefer hosted services for security reasons and ease of use. But either type can be used.

The way people do business has become global and web conferencing happens to be the solution to the changing face of business communications.

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