Transcript of "6 Steps to Successfully Selecting an Audio & Web Conferencing Provider"
A UBM TECHWEB WHITE PAPER NOVEMBER 2012Six Steps to Successfully Selecting anAudio and Web Conferencing Provider What SMBs Need to Consider When Choosing a Cloud-based Service Brought to you by
Six Steps to Successfully Selecting an Audio and Web Conferencing Provider What SMBs Need to Consider When Choosing a Cloud-based Service2 By Andy Mazer As SMBs strive to grow and meet customer 54 percent of IT professionals said improv- demands, agility, speed and effective decision ing employee collaboration was an important making are critical. The ability to collaborate in driver for deploying unified communications.2 meaningful ways, especially with a growing mobile Vendors of collaboration tools offer an over- workforce, separates the leaders from the laggards. whelming smorgasbord of solutions, from simple Today’s digitally savvy workers expect to be able audio conferencing to high-end telepresence to set up small conferences at a moment’s notice systems. SMBs often cobble together disparate ABOUT THE AUTHOR or schedule webinars to share information with tools from a variety of vendors, trying to cre- dozens — or hundreds — of colleagues, partners, ate a solution that works for most of their endSince 2004, Andrew Mazer or customers. Business and technology managers users. Too often, however, SMBs end up creatinghas worked as site editor and at small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) should a situation in which users are frustrated and ITsenior writer on numerous be considering their options and seeking ways to pays too much for the services it uses. SMBsTechWeb-sponsored projects. allow employees to collaborate effectively, without need to find an easy and affordable way toAs an information technology overwhelming the IT department. enable their employees to collaborate.journalist, he has written about Collaboration is clearly a priority for com- Fortunately, the former generation ofsubjects including virtualiza- panies of all sizes, ranking first among 14 expensive and difficult to administer on-premisetion, storage, consolidation, projects in the Information Week Global 2012 solutions is being replaced by SaaS offerings.cloud computing and opti- CIO survey. In fact, 39 percent of executives These cloud-based conferencing solutions canmizing IT infrastructures. who responded said they planned to make cut costs, dramatically reduce the burden on ITIn addition to writing case a major investment in collaboration technol- administrators, and deliver a greatly improvedstudies, white papers and ogy this year. 1 And in another recent survey, user experience.feature stories, he has designednumerous surveys and writtenreports on wide-ranging tech- 1. “Global CIO 2012,” InformationWeek Reports, March, 2012. http://reports.informationweek.com/abstract/83/8690/IT-Business-Strategy/ research-global-cio-2012.htmlnology themes. 2. “State of Unified Communications,” InformationWeek Reports, November, 2011. http://reports.informationweek.com/abstract/9/8548/ IP-Telephony-Unified-Communications/research-unified-communications.html
A UBM TECHWEB WHITE PAPER | Six Steps to Successfully Selecting an Audio and Web Conferencing Provider Companies who are using public cloud options should provide the level of security services are generally impressed—81 percent that’s required for a specific event as well as of the technology professionals who are using the ability to generate leads and insight after cloud-based applications say they are better or an event. equal to in-house options3. But not all cloud- Most SMBs will want at least several based conferencing vendors are the same. IT valuable features, such as the ability to share administrators charged with selecting a con- desktops and applications, use annotation ferencing service provider should be aware of tools to make a point, manage meeting par- the factors that can determine whether events ticipants, and record and post conferences for meet expectations or chronically disappoint. later viewing. Most companies will expect their conferencing vendor to have advanced security The Needs of SMBs in place, so they can be confident that event Out of a desire to save money, some SMBs have content is protected. encouraged their employees to use free audio Of course, vendor pricing is especially or web conferencing tools. However, free tools important to SMBs. Businesses need to make come with a cost — they lack the high quality sure their conferencing vendor offers flex- audio and video standards that most businesses ible pricing options, including subscription demand, as well as important features like plans that significantly reduce per-minute or robust registration and data security, the abil- per-user rates. Most importantly, the vendor ity to record and archive events, and integration should commit to making sure your company with other collaborative applications, such as is always receiving the best possible rates based Microsoft Outlook Express and Salesforce.com. on usage. Most importantly, free services lack respon- One feature that IT administrators often sive customer support to assist users and ensure overlook when selecting a conference vendor is events go smoothly. In fact, free online services the ability to provide customized billing to indi-3 make no promises about reliability or perfor- vidual user groups. If the vendor provides only mance and are especially subject to network a single bill with a customer’s total usage fees, outages and unexpected technical snafus. then the IT department will likely be saddled with the tedious chore of figuring out how much to charge its business units. “The personal attention we got from IT managers often believe that the safest choice is going with one of the largest ven- ReadyTalk was especially helpful during those first years. dors. However, the biggest players lack the They really helped us get to the point where everybody personalized training and customer service that often spells the difference between success and knew how to use the service and what to expect.” failure. For this white paper, we spoke with Denver-based ReadyTalk, which specializes in — Larry Bollick, CIO, Aquent attractively-priced, user-friendly services backed up by attentive personal training and support. As with any service, you get what you pay Let’s look at six key considerations for for. With free conferencing, no one is paying for ensuring that your organization selects the service-level agreements (SLAs), so a business’ conferencing vendor that best meets its needs. reputation is on the line every time it gambles on a free service for a scheduled event. Easy Implementation and Transition SMBs should seek out a leading-edge, The last thing an IT manager wants when intro- cloud-based conferencing vendor with services ducing a new service is complications. Because that are well matched to their needs. Audio and web conferencing and online events are initi- web conferencing should have the innovative ated and managed by a company’s end users, features, but not be overly complex or cumber- it is critical that the technology be easy to learn some to operate. Meetings should be easy to and use. Yet many conferencing vendors pro- schedule and launch, and flexible registration vide only a library of pre-canned training videos 3. “Global CIO 2012,” InformationWeek Reports, March, 2012. http://reports.informationweek.com/abstract/83/8690/IT-Business-Strategy/ research-global-cio-2012.html
A UBM TECHWEB WHITE PAPER | Six Steps to Successfully Selecting an Audio and Web Conferencing Provider and a help desk with long wait times to support and what to expect,” says Larry Bollick, CIO of stymied users. the leading staffing firm Aquent. ReadyTalk holds to a different philosophy. Of course, there are no extra fees for ser- From basic audio conferencing to web confer- vice, support or training. ReadyTalk provides encing to large webinars, ReadyTalk designs its refreshers, extra training and one-off training services to deliver the optimal end-user expe- whenever a client requests it. This personal rience. This commitment starts with a close commitment to its customers’ success is one of partnership with IT administrators, who are ReadyTalk’s key differentiators. assigned a dedicated transition manager. Keeping in touch by phone, email, even Impact on Infrastructure onsite visits if required, the ReadyTalk transition When introducing a new service, any IT organiza- manager is a single point of contact who will tion is naturally concerned about the impact on tailor a transition plan to meet the needs of the its infrastructure. ReadyTalk designed its audio IT manager and his or her end users, answer and web conferencing services to have virtually questions that arise, and arrange for training no effect on IT environments. Audio and webinar users on a convenient schedule that meets their conferencing will work seamlessly with whatever needs. ReadyTalk knows that IT professionals network connections your company has. need to solve problems and get answers quickly, “ReadyTalk webinars use minimum system so their account managers provide a direct line overhead and bandwidth. ReadyTalk is simply of access. easier to use and less taxing on our infrastructure To enable both local and remote end users than using streaming video services. So that’s the to get up to speed quickly, ReadyTalk provides direction we’re going,” says Michael Tuchmann, a transition guide for clients with step-by-step IT specialist at the Illinois Educational Association. instructions, as well as an extensive set of From a software perspective, ReadyTalk recorded training modules. has designed its conferencing solutions to sup-4 “The personal attention we got from port a broad range of browsers and operating ReadyTalk was especially helpful during those systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac. first years. They really helped us get to the point Custom apps for the iPad and (in the near where everybody knew how to use the service future) the iPhone, are free at the App Store, AQUENT DEPENDS ON READYTALK’S SWISS ARMY KNIFE When the Boston-based staffing company Aquent turned to ReadyTalk, it was looking for a single vendor to support events ranging from small audio conferences to large webinars. The large company that had been providing its conferencing services had poor customer service, especially when problems arose. “I recall the time that our former provider switched our usual conferencing phone number without warning and all our worldwide offices dialed into another customer’s call,” says Larry Bollick, CIO of Aquent. “That would never happen with ReadyTalk—they answer the phone quickly, address issues knowledgeably, and are invariably pleasant to deal with.” Aquent employees continually use ReadyTalk audio and web conferencing services, launching ad hoc meetings on a moment’s notice directly from their desktops. “Using ReadyTalk for both small conferences and larger webinars is an advantage because our employees are familiar with the platform. And because we do all our conferencing with a single vendor, we receive excellent pricing,” says Bollick. Aquent also uses ReadyTalk to record and store training presentations, which employees can access at their convenience. Presenters simply launch a conference session and record their audio and screen actions. “ReadyTalk is sort of a Swiss Army knife of conferencing tools,” says Bollick. “We no longer need their customer care as much as we used to, but we know they will go the extra mile for us if we need it.”
A UBM TECHWEB WHITE PAPER | Six Steps to Successfully Selecting an Audio and Web Conferencing Provider enabling mobile users to join conferences “Security is important to us, and ReadyTalk’s wherever they are. ability to use additional codes for specific events ReadyTalk’s interactive application is Flash- avoids the possibility of people inadvertently or based (a Java version is available as a fall-back), so intentionally joining an event they shouldn’t be there’s no need for individual users to download at,” says Tuchmann. or maintain specific versions of these add-ons. “One of the great things about using ReadyTalk is that it’s essentially a cloud-based service. We didn’t need a switch onsite or any SIX CONSIDERATIONS infrastructure to support conferencing,” says FOR SELECTING A Bollick. “There’s negligible impact on our IT infra- CONFERENCING SOLUTION structure using ReadyTalk.” • Easy implementation and transition Robust and Flexible Security • mpact on infrastructure I Any business that uses SaaS conferencing to • Robust and flexible security discuss, share, and store business knowledge • Easy-to-use, full feature set should be concerned about security. Not only • Service reliability and quality do you need to ensure that only authorized people attend online meetings and audio con- • Easy to access and knowledgeable customer support ferences, but also you must be confident that confidential data, such as recorded meetings, is securely stored. To deliver the most robust security possible, Similarly, chairpersons and co-presenters ReadyTalk contracts with carefully vetted U.S.- not only can control how content is displayed based providers to host its conferencing services at webinar events, but also can disconnect par-5 in ISO 9001:2000 certified data centers. These ticipants, lock conferences, gather registration leading-edge facilities use multiple layers of information and view lists of all attendees. IT security including 256-bit Advanced Encryption administrators can flexibly control overall settings Standard (AES) disk encryption, video surveil- to determine whether users can retain slides lance, software and network monitoring, and from a conference, record audio or video, or physical access logging. The data centers also share applications and desktops. operate on multiple city power grids, battery The bottom line is that ReadyTalk provides systems, and diesel backup to protect against comprehensive security in storing and sharing prolonged power outages. conference data, as well as the flexibility to tailor ReadyTalk uses a range of safety features access and privileges according to your com- including secured controls, encryption, unique pany’s needs. meeting IDs, and passwords to protect user accounts from security breaches. All network Easy-to-Use, Full Feature Set paths from the data center to individual par- ReadyTalk audio and web conferencing ser- ticipants are encrypted with a unique session vices have all the features users need, yet key to ensure privacy and message integrity. are easy to learn. Once a company employee ReadyTalk supports both 128-bit AES and 256- establishes his or her credentials, ReadyTalk bit AES encryption, depending on the user’s remembers them, so there’s no need to repeatedly browser capabilities. type passwords. Because security needs vary widely, depend- Starting and joining meetings is simple, since ing on company policies, the content of a ReadyTalk integrates with end users’ workflows. conference, and people’s roles, ReadyTalk has A “Quick Launch” icon in every user’s desktop engineered its services to accommodate a flexible tray enables anyone to start a meeting instantly. menu of options. For example, chairpersons can The ReadyTalk Scheduler for Outlook makes require participants to pre-register with specific it easy to schedule events or start on-demand information (i.e., company name, phone number, meetings directly from Microsoft Outlook. email), as well as require a one-time security code The Outlook calendaring feature lets users in addition to the normal meeting access code. schedule ad hoc or recurring meetings and send
A UBM TECHWEB WHITE PAPER | Six Steps to Successfully Selecting an Audio and Web Conferencing Provider invites to all participants. A simple click of a link addressing, and the ReadyTalk customer care automatically connects invitees’ computers to the team will conscientiously follow-up. web conference and their phones to the audio portion of the event. For scheduled conferences, Service Reliability and Quality chairpersons can set registration requirements, IT administrators demand that their conferenc- defaulting to a name or a few fields for internal ing solutions be reliable and high-quality. With events, or impose added security for meetings 99.9 percent uptime for both web and audio con- with a wider set of participants. ferencing, ReadyTalk is among the most reliable “ReadyTalk provides conference chairper- conferencing vendors. A tier 1 network of audio bridges with echo cancellation ensures users will experience crys- “ReadyTalk webinars use minimum tal clear sound during conferences. ReadyTalk’s redundant global bridging infrastructure and active system overhead and bandwidth. ReadyTalk is simply easier to bandwidth management capabilities enable it to use and less taxing on our infrastructure than using streaming deliver highly available, reliable services 24x7x365. video services. So that’s the direction we’re going.” ReadyTalk’s back-end management means that even conferences with hundreds of participants on —Michael Tuchmann, IT Specialist, Illinois Educational Association an internal network will not create capacity problems. Easy to Access and Knowledgeable sons with some very handy tools,” says Bollick. Customer Support “The ‘mute all’ button cuts everyone’s audio W ith an average hold time of less than except the presenters, so you don’t hear music if 10 seconds, ReadyTalk’s North America- someone is on hold or there are other distracting based customer care center relieves client sounds. Plus, ReadyTalk enables chairpersons to IT organizations of having to troubleshoot6 leave early or take another call without termi- common problems. ReadyTalk users never nating a meeting. And, it’s easy to do things have to navigate automated voicemail like record an event or ask for an operator at a systems; callers are quickly connected to a moment’s notice.” ReadyTalk representative who is thoroughly Often conference organizers want infor- trained on its products. mation about who attended a meeting, so Cloud-based conferencing frees a company’s ReadyTalk offers a range of useful reports. IT organization from managing a potentially com- Standard meeting reports list conference plex infrastructure. But problems that users cannot attendees and how long they were in confer- resolve with a quick phone call inevitably end up on ence. With pre-registration meetings, ReadyTalk an IT administrator’s desk. That’s why it’s important can identify those who showed up, along with to choose a provider with responsive and capable the no-shows, as well as chat reports for each customer support. attendee, and polling reports with each par- “Our ReadyTalk account manager really ticipant’s response (which is useful to align keeps on top of all the issues that concern us. people with insights like purchasing time- Unlike with our previous provider, I don’t have frames). Reports can also capture custom fields. to call ReadyTalk to find out if there’s a better For marketing campaigns, ReadyTalk pro- pricing plan for us. I know ReadyTalk will guar- vides unique URLs that can be used to track antee us the best possible rates,“ says Tuchmann. the locations from which users enter a meeting ReadyTalk believes that great customer care (such as from Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.). is critical to business success. It’s part of the Reports are also available through ReadyTalk’s company’s culture and mission statement. And public API and other integrations, so data can its value is revealed in the many customer sur- automatically be pulled into third-party systems. veys that state ReadyTalk’s customer care is one ReadyTalk is constantly enhancing its con- of its best attributes. ferencing services and pays particular attention “When you call ReadyTalk customer care, you to customer feedback and requests. Conference never have to negotiate a maze of voicemail menus,” chairpersons have the option to complete post- says Bollick. “An actual human being promptly event surveys to identify any issues that need answers our calls, which is a big bonus these days.”