Web Conference Functions
A recent study on Software Advice revealed that small businesses are increasingly relying on desktop software and Web apps for their conferencing needs, rather than on conference bridges and other traditional methods and hardware that were popular pre-2000. As a user of online meeting software, this may come as no great surprise to you. However, of greater interest, the study also revealed the top benefits for using Web-based solutions, the most popular use cases for Web conferencing software, and the importance of different features and functionalities to small businesses.

The study shows that Web conferencing is definitely becoming one of the fastest growing “green” business practices today, due to the fact that it reduces carbon emissions involved in traveling to meetings. However, there are even further reasons, other than the environment, for why individuals will benefit from this technology, such as the time savings that online meetings have to offer.

While online meetings benefit large corporations by streamlining operations, and saving on travel expenses, small businesses have also started to take advantage of this technology to boost sales via online demos, provide better customer service, and conduct trainings.

Adoption Rates for Conferencing Technologies

From the results of the study, adoption rates for conferencing technologies show that the trend is set to continue growing, with audio conferencing in the lead with 50%, and video conferencing and screen sharing a shared second, with a 45% adoption rate each. This suggests that presenting applications and desktop content in real-time via screen sharing is almost just as important to business users as making a conference call. For communication clarity, it makes perfect sense to us that the two go hand-in-hand.

Web Conferencing Adoption Rates

The Rise of VoIP Technology over Phones

Technology continues to become smaller, yet more powerful, so it is only fair to assume that nobody wants to be glued to large desk phones or conferencing phones. In this study, 45% of users eschewed apps that required for software to be installed to participants’ computers. Instead, they preferred Web apps that run within browsers and are accessible from various Web-enabled devices.

The study shows that:

  • 45% of respondents rely on Web Apps, while only 39% rely on mobile and desktop apps.
  • Only 20% of respondents still use hardware such as conference bridges and desk phones.

The study administrators, Software Advice, concluded that the popularity for Web-based apps is an indicator of today’s shift towards Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.

These findings were of particular interest to us at Mikogo due to our software’s HTML Viewer. One of the core strengths of the Mikogo service, the HTML Viewer enables participants to join meetings from any device or browser, with no downloads, no plugins, and no additional software required.

This means that participants can attend meetings from anywhere, anytime, due to the nature of the World Wide Web and the easy access of such Web services. For example, when a busy exec is traveling overseas, but an urgent meeting is called, he can simply excuse himself from whatever he is doing for a quick 15 minute online meeting, allowing the business to effectively function in his absence. Previously, a meeting would have been postponed until he could access the necessary hardware or conference phone, which might have put important, productive decisions on hold, potentially costing the business a fortune in lost earnings or profits.

Growing Shift towards Web-Based Services

According to the study, modern Web conference providers are turning their attention to WebRTC, a project that enables them to develop API platforms that allow Web integration of real-time communications within Web browsers without the need for downloads or plugins. Again this was of particular interest to Mikogo, following the release of our own WebRTC-based video conferencing product, Magnocall, back in late 2013. Magnocall runs purely within a browser without any downloads and allows individuals to make instant video calls between users.

Faster Meeting Time – The Top Benefit of Online Meetings

So why the shift towards the relatively-new Web-based services and away from the traditional conferencing technologies? As mentioned above, ease of access from any location worldwide must be a benefit. However the number one reason why small businesses choose Web conferencing, is that browser-based online meetings can start quicker than any other conferencing technology. Small business owners value the simplicity and speed of modern Web conferencing solutions, and the ability to speedily act upon important events or impulses, thus enhancing productivity.

Benefits of Online Meetings

It’s understandable that business users want a reliable solution which is fast and easy to use. It was also particularly interesting that many (39%) of respondents were in favor of “click-to-join” instead of PINs. It’s true that inputting a series of numbers correctly in order to join a meeting or call is an extra step, and people will have trouble joining if they misplace the code before the meeting. Removing PINs would no doubt make conferencing easier, but not necessarily better.

From our point of view at Mikogo, the use of a unique PIN or “session ID” as we call it in the Mikogo software, is essential for security. Along with other security measures in place in the Mikogo software, the unique session ID prevents unwanted people from joining your online meeting. I wonder if the respondents who preferred “click-to-join” services would in fact prefer a PIN or session ID system if it meant a more secure experience for themselves and their meeting clients. What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Screen Sharing, File-Sharing and Scheduling are Crucial Features

Certain software functionalities are important in everyday business life when it comes to communications, as they make things easier and more convenient. When the respondents were asked about various functionalities they use on a daily basis;

  • 56% said that they use email scheduling.
  • 49% said that they use calendar scheduling.
  • 54% said that they do file sharing.
  • 31% said that they do screen or desktop sharing.

Scheduling is clearly an important factor to consider when it comes to deciding on a company’s conferencing system of choice. The Mikogo online meeting software is not only based on screen sharing technology but comes with an essential feature for businesses: a meeting scheduler. This allows you to save multiple meetings to your Mikogo software account, complete with global times, duration, recurrence (whether it is a one-time meeting, or a weekly pow-wow), and reminders. You can even save the scheduled session in your email calendar and send invites to your meeting participants.

Web Conferencing Functionality

During an online meeting or training session, being able to look at the subject matter proves invaluable. The study supports this with a third of small businesses using screen sharing on a daily basis, while 89% of respondents rely on sharing desktops at least once a month.

Software Advice’s conclusion from these findings was that the aforementioned Web conferencing functionalities, such as audio conferencing, screen sharing and scheduling, are in fact “vital elements” to many small businesses nowadays. We second these findings based on our own learnings from the Mikogo users and customers.

Screen Sharing Fulfills Multiple Purposes

Finally, the study looked at the purposes for which small businesses would use conferencing solutions. Planned business meetings ranked as the number one use case for 84% of respondents. Interestingly, 55% of respondents said they use Web conferencing solutions for online product demonstrations. This is something we also learned first-hand from the Mikogo user base when asked about their use of our software. We discovered that screen sharing enables a variety of companies to immediately demo their products and services to prospective clients, saving all parties valuable time and money, while adding vital clarity to their sales calls.

Web Conferencing Use Cases

In Conclusion

It is clear that small businesses are making a shift towards the simplicity of more cost-effective Web-based conferencing platforms that require no software downloads for participants. Some of the most important functionalities for online meetings was scheduling, file sharing and screen sharing. It was also found that faster meeting times is the number one reason for small businesses to opt for online meetings over traditional conferencing methods.

The study and above findings were first reported by Daniel Harris on Software Advice, who conducted a 10-question survey and collected 148 responses from small businesses (i.e. 50 employees or less) who use Web conferencing.