Collaboration

Collaborate online with GoToMeeting

Collaborate with technical staff in remote offices using the Citrix GoToMeeting application.

While having three or four people looking over a high priority issue seems like a good way of reducing the time it takes to find a resolution, having three or four people connecting to the same box and poking around trying to fix the same problem is a recipe for disaster. A much safer approach would be to work collaboratively as a team with only one person having control at any given time.

As part of a recent application migration project I found myself needing to work closely with technical consultants and sys admins in other towns, countries, and continents. During that time I was introduced to GoToMeeting, a great little Web conferencing service from Citrix. The host can schedule meetings and invite guests via the GoToMeeting Web site, e-mail or Instant Messaging. Attendees receive a URL and view the host's screen via a Web browser-- Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari are all supported.

GoToMeeting has a nice set of features including keyboard and mouse sharing, allowing the host to hand over control to an attendee. There are various ways the host can present his screen -- Selecting the "CLEAN" option enables a presentation mode that hides any desktop icons, wallpaper, and the taskbar. If focus needs to be on one particular application, then that application can be shared leaving the host free to use other applications at the same time without other participants seeing them. A voice conference session is created with each meeting the details of which are displayed on attendee's screens.

The ability to rapidly set up meetings and pass control around between attendees makes it an ideal tool for allowing technical staff to shadow one another. It never hurts to have a second pair of eyes looking over your shoulder; another person may spot something like a typo, which is easily overlooked especially after an overnight session. Quite often specialist skills are required; with remote conferencing, other support staff can watch and learn as their colleague explains exactly what they are doing.

Of course, there are many Web conferencing and remote desktop tools out there. VNC is a good example of a free utility enabling remote desktop and screen sharing. The only issue I have with VNC is that it requires firewall ports to be opened whereas GoToMeeting doesn't. Add the free telephone conferencing in to the mix, and I think GoToMeeting's relatively low monthly cost is easily justified. For just $49 / month an unlimited number of meetings can be held with up to 15 attendees .

GoToMeeting has been my first Web conferencing experience, and I have to say I don't see any reason to look elsewhere. I'd be interested to hear what other people are using for conferencing and online collaboration; leave a comment and let me know what you use.

5 comments
slanely
slanely

Another option too look at is RHUB's Turbomeeting 4-in-1 appliance. It comes in a small box that includes web conferencing, remote support, remote access, and webinars so you don't need multiple accounts or pay monthly fees. It's much more secure than the hosted solution because you can place it behind your own firewall. http://www.rhubcom.com

tlane
tlane

Vyew provides desktop sharing, web conferencing and collaboration on content in an always-on workspace. It's free and requires no software download. www.vyew.com

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I would be interested to see a comparison between it and WebEx. WebEx appears to be a more ubiquitous when considering business.

AnnekeRudegeair
AnnekeRudegeair

Voxwire is a relatively new web conferencing company that offers the most comprehensive features at the best price, better than WebEx and GoToMeeting. Voxwire is all browser-based so it works on any platform with no downloads. You just send invites to atenddees and they follow a link to join the conference. Spread the word! Here's a link: http://www.voxwire.com

Schuylkill
Schuylkill

My company just did an evaluation of these two products, along with iLinc and Microsoft LiveMeeting. We used LiveMeeting for two years before switching to GoToMeeting. We wanted to move away from LiveMeeting because of two limitations that mattered a great deal to us. In order for me to remotely control an end user's pc, LiveMeeting requires that an ActiveX component be installed, which requires admin rights to the pc. Also, LiveMeeting is limited to 15 attendees per meeting. WebEx, GoToMeeting (corporate version), and iLinc all would have fixed these issues. All of them can use Java instead of ActiveX, and all of them can host 25 attendees per meeting. All three have their good and bad points. WebEx is the most feature-rich, and is the most popular in the business world. WebEx is owned by Cisco, and that partnership is bringing some interesting new technologies to the table - asset management, help desk, software deployment, etc., all using the same services model as their meeting technology. WebEx had two downsides - cost and time for the meeting console to load. iLinc is an interesting competitor in this space. They have less bells and whistles than WebEx, but they (and WebEx) do have a video component, which is nice on a support call. I could have a webcam on my pc, and instead of trying to explain to an end user what an RJ-45 connector looks like, I could show them. Our big concern with iLinc was their financials. They do not have the backing of a Cisco or a Citrix. GoToMeeting was very inexpensive compared to WebEx. It does not have all the bells and whistles of WebEx or even iLinc, but this can be an advantage - the GoToMeeting console launches faster than any of the others. Also, the interface is very simple and straightforward. If I am conducting a spontaneous meeting, which is what I usually do in a support role, then I can send an e-mail invitation with a web link, or I can just as easily walk someone through browsing to GoToMeeting's website and launching a meeting. I can get someone who has never participated in a web meeting before into a GoToMeeting session in under three minutes. Really, there are a lot of competitors in this space, even beyond the three listed here. It all comes down to three elements - what features do you need, how much do you want to pay, and do you trust the company to be around a year from now. For us, GoToMeeting fit the bill.