Web Conferencing Tools

By Rikk Anderson

Clark-Atlanta University Summer Intern



Contact Person:            Jim Gray     512-263-8445                     email: jgray@webex.com


Getting Connected:

WebEx proposes a reliable product where their sales personnel says it tops the best.  The capabilities of this product I have had an opportunity to test.  WebEx is usable on both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator (the newest versions of browsers are highly recommended).  You do not need to download and install any software just a plug-in for their web browser.  Once the plug-in is installed you can attend the “Live Daily Demo” presented by WebEx or create your own meeting by registering for a “My WebEx office” account. 


Presentation and Sharing:

The WebEx interface is a Java applet that allows the user to upload and show PowerPoint files. When presenting the slide show the presenter can mark, highlight, point arrows and even type in text on the slide itself.  The markings are erasable so it does not permanently affect the slide.  Application sharing is WebEx’s most marketable feature compared to the other services I’ve seen.  This feature allows anyone in the audience to control an application on the presenter’s desktop.  All the presenter has to do is open the application wished to be shared and enable sharing to all or to selected person(s).  Once selected, the application can be controlled and changed by that person, for example, if there is an error to be corrected, the selected person can fix it.  While sharing, the presenter still has complete control of the presentation.  Whenever the presenter wants the take back the controls, a simple double click of the mouse will temporarily remove shared privileges until permanently set.  WebEx can also exchange presenters.  If there is a training class being held and one of the instructors has logged in from another site, the current presenter can pass “presenter” privileges to that instructor.  The original presenter does not loose control privileges though.   It is the same as application sharing it can be taken back at any time. 



Video streaming is the only streaming that they provide.  It is a real-time video, for a better resolution the presenter needs to adjust the frames-per-second rate.  I’ve found the setting of “1000” to be good.  There is no need to set up the camera; for the computer that I was on all I had to do was turn on the camera and it worked, make sure that the camera is on before you start your presentation.  There is no audio streaming capabilities.  The audio is handled by calling in to the location of the presentation  (training room, personal office, conference room) and set up a conference call.  WebEx handles that but you do have the option to create your own conference call without WebEx.  I think there is an extra charge if WebEx handles the call. 



WebEx Cost/Pricing


Initial Term (90days):

The Initial term includes training to all personnel who will use WebEx for presentations, classes, or whatever need they have for WebEx.  This term helps the customer decided if they want to go with the services or not. 


            Type of service:             90 day “Initial Term”

10 concurrent licenses:            $6000            minimum price, unlimited time.

Users over 10: $25 per hour quoted by contact person Jim Gray a different price is stated on the documentation



            According to their web site the cost is:


            Cost:                                        $0.20 per-min per-user


Free Usage:

Any meeting no greater than 4 people.  It gives 10 minutes of premium services.  You can set that up by opening a “My WebEx office” account and registering for a free office.  It’s pretty simple.



Contact Person: Madelyn Gunning            650-526-6108            email: Mgunning@placeware.com


Getting Connected:

Connecting to PlaceWare’s services is basically the same as WebEx.  You only need a web browser and to download the plug-in.  To receive services you can call Madelyn Gunning, the contact person, and/or register for a “My PlaceWare” account.  Registering will enable you to create meetings and invite others to attend.  A free meeting is set at no more than 5 people with many limitations (the limitations I will list latter).  PlaceWare also has a trial offer located at www.placeware.com/trialoffer which will give you your own private conference room for 30 days and for up to 25 people in a single meeting.



            The presentation of PlaceWare is impressive.  It does not have streaming but it does have a strong slide show.  The interface is a Java applet that is pretty easy to manage.  It does not have too many hidden features; you can pretty much figure out how it works by yourself.  So spending a lot of time training an instructor is not needed.  But I do suggest that a least one person undergoes whatever training PlaceWare has to offer in order to achieve maximum usage of the PlaceWare interface.  The interface has an upload slide feature that allows you to upload PowerPoint slides.  The good thing about this feature is, in a training class situations, sometimes the instructor does not have the presentation ready until 10 minutes before the class.  The “upload slide” feature allows the instructor to walk to the class, start PlaceWare, pop in a disk, upload the PowerPoint slide show, and begin the class.  It also keeps the name of the file as the name of the presentation, making it possible to upload multiple slide presentations that the presenter can switch between.  The presentation of the slide show at this point is that the slides are shown inside the Java applet.  Miss Gunning mentioned that the newest version of the PlaceWare interface enables the audience and the presenter to view slides at a 50% greater size.  With that improvement, the presentation can be projected onto a large screen or canvas.  During the presentation the presenter can annotate the slides with arrows, check marks, boxes, straight lines, and type in text.  These annotations do not permanently change the slide but it does remain there until erased.  The presenter can also create and delete slides at will.  There are six creatable slides.  A “draw” slide is a plain white board where the presenter can mark on at will.  The “text” slide allows the presenter to type anything on the slide and the audience can cut a paste the information to their application if wanted.  “Pole” is a question and answer slide.  “Web” allows the presenter to show an Internet based site.  “Snapshot” is basically a camera; it takes a snapshot of anything you would like to show in your presentation.  And finally, the “live” slide.


The “Live” slide:

            This slide enables a real-time live presentation of anything on your desktop.  The presenter can open an application and show it by using the live slide.  Once the slide is created you can size the live window it creates to fit your application then press the “Live” button.  The application will then be presented to the audience (note: the application is open only on the presenters desktop not the audience).  Once live the presenter can make changes to the application and it will be reflected to the audience.  The presenter has complete control of the live show and the audience cannot change the presenter’s application.  This is best used when showing a website where the presenter does not want the audience to surf but to see the links he/she selects.


PlaceWare Cost/Pricing


Annual Subscription:


            Cost-per-seat:                                   $400

            Recording/Archiving:                 $1000            for 10 hours

            Branding with logo:                   $4000            logo is our business logo


Trial offer:


            Free for 30 days


Free Usage (many limitations):


            No greater than 5 people.  The presenter will have to load slides 1/2 hour in advance and once the presentation is given, the presentation goes away.  It will not provide the presenter with Attendance Reports, the meeting needs to be scheduled one week in advance, and there is no Q&A or Seating chart.



Astound Incorporated


Contact Person:             Isabelle Vaillant-Barret             877-278-6863 ext 156

                                    email: isabellev@astound.com


Getting Connected:

            The tools you need are a web browser and downloaded plug-in.  Connecting with Astound Inc. is as easy as the services before.  Astound does have free services which is widely presented on their web site.  All you have to do is go to their web site www.astound.com and select the “try it free” link.  This link will set you up to register for a free account and you can start scheduling meetings from there.  You can also talk to Mrs. Vaillant-Barret for free and other services available.



            The presenter is a java applet and it’s appearance does not agree with it’s capabilities.  I have also had an opportunity to test this system but I’ve had little success using it.  Without receiving a training course on usage I found it hard to get started.  I had no success using the “application sharing” feature and I could not find out how to upload slides.  There was even a time that my browser froze up on me.  I had to close out Netscape using NT’s Task Manager.  I’m not sure what may have caused the problem but my computer has had trouble running a web based program which otherwise worked perfectly on other computers (Microsoft Netmeeting was the other).  I was able to test out the applet’s annotation markers.  Presenters can mark their slides with checkmarks, finger pointers, highlights and a few more annotations available in the annotation window.  I have included the Pricing Options and literature sent to me by Mrs. Vaillant-Barret.


Astound Incorporated Cost/Pricing


Hosting pricing:


            Customers can lease conference facilities based on concurrent user capacity and time period.  Additional services such as branded lobbies, content creation, and administration are available.


·        12 Months @ $500.00 per seat, minimum 10 seats

·        Voice over IP usage is $5.00 per seat


Event Pricing:


            Customers can hold one-time events at the conference site.


·        $15.00 per seat, minimum 10 seats, voice over IP included

·        $1,500.00 setup fee (includes 2 one-hour rehearsals, 90 minutes live support during event, first 10 seats free)



Optional Services for Event and Hosting:


·        Archiving - $1,000.00 per event, CD copy to customer included

·        Archive hosting - $5.00/hour/hit for Voice, $25.00/hour/hit for Video

·        Professional Services:  $1,500 per day (Travel Cost Extra)


Free Usage:

            Any meeting no greater than 5 people.  I think this excludes optional services like archiving and recording.




Contact Person:            Steve Murray email: smurray@centra.com


Getting Connected:

            The major connection requirement is a Web Browser and a downloaded plug-in.  Like all of the services I have mentioned earlier Centra works on both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.  They also require you to register for an account with them before you can schedule a meeting.  They do have a free meeting option, which may be useful for quick small party meetings.   One of Centra’s set backs is their customer service; it is unacceptable.  I have emailed them several times and received no response to my questions.  When I talked to their sales representatives they seemed uninterested in a customer who wants to know more information about their services before they make a decision in the future.  Once I told them that I am not the decision maker but higher personnel will read this report and call them, the representative was less enthused to help me.  For a business that is supposed to be the World’s Largest, I think they could treat their potential customers better. 



            This interface is a nice Java applet that has many features.   The presenter can annotate the slide show with lines, arrows, stars, and pencil markings.  There is also a highlighter feature, which is the best highlighter I’ve seen compared to the other services.  This highlighter is a sizable box that fills in after you have dragged the box to an appropriate size.  The applet has an audience window that gives the current status of the audience; for example they may have their hand raised or if the presenter asked a question the audience can check yes or no as a response.  You can upload slides to Centra by using the applet’s import feature.  Once selecting import, an import tool will allow you to find your PowerPoint file and upload it.  What the applet does is open your PowerPoint application and uses it to convert the PowerPoint file into *.gif files, then it completes the upload.  The downfall to that is, what if the computer you are on does not have MS PowerPoint as if, uploading from a floppy?  Unfortunately I have not been able to test that.  Centra has a sharing feature that does a semi-live broadcast. It is similar to PlaceWare’s live slide but the difference is the sharing feature takes a snapshot of what the presenter has done or is doing where PlaceWare reflects everything that is going on inside the live window.  Centra is kind of like viewing a cartoon where you have several poses, then when put together it becomes a full animation.  An upside to their sharing slide is that you configure the Capture Rate, Default Size, and Client Lag settings.  Another feature is the presenter has the option to grant a person in the audience to co-presenter.  As a co-presenter the audience member has the same privileges as the presenter.  The presenter does reserve the right to remove co-presenter privileges.



            Centra supports audio streaming.  All you need for your computer is a microphone for you to speak during the meeting.  The sound quality of the microphone is clear and it has a 2 second delay but the delay would not be noticed unless the presenter and audience are in the same room.  The presenter can enable and disable sound broadcasting by clicking on a button with a microphone image on it.  The audio streaming is not restricted to the presenter, the audience can speak and ask questions by raising their hand and the presenter gives them the mic.


Centra Cost/Pricing


Unfortunately I have not received any literature or pricing information form Centra.  I have taken into consideration that I have an unreliable email service but I have received emails with attached literature from the other web conferencing services.




ACT Teleconferencing


Getting Connected:

            Connecting to ACT is pretty much the same as the others.  You need the latest Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator web browsers that have the proper plug-ins to used ACT’s system.  In addition to having a browser, it is recommended that you have player software installed also.  The player software suggested is Windows Media Player (6.4 for NT) and/or Real Player 7.0 by real.com.  The player software is used to broadcast Video and Audio with your presentation.  To my knowledge ACT is not like the other services were you could go to their web site and schedule a meeting.   To schedule a meeting you will have to call a contact person and schedule the meet with him/her. 



            This is also different from the previous services.  ACT has full control over your presentation.  They have a presentation staff that controls the switching of slides and broadcasting of video and audio along with other services they provide.  As for us, the customer, we will need a person who coordinates with the instructor and notifies ACT when to do these actions.  For example, if I were the instructor I would have an assistant on the phone with ACT’s presentation staff telling them to switch slides when I give him the signal.  ACT’s interface is impressive and I have enjoyed looking at the demonstration links that Chris Smith has emailed to me, but I have had a little trouble viewing them using Netscape.  I suggest that if you would like to see a live demonstration, contact Chris and he can guide you through.  I needed him to help me set up my computer to view the demos. 


ACT Cost/Pricing


            Mr. Smith has sent me an email with the cost of ACT’s streaming services and I found it best to include the email to show their pricing.




Thank you very much for you inquiry. I look forward to working with you to produce your events. As promised, I have attached the link of where you and your staff can go to attend a live event for our interactive product. I think it would be a great idea to attend one of their presentations first, so that you can get a feel for the event. Once you have an opportunity to view it, that should give you folks a better idea of how to prepare you slides for your events. I will, as discussed, pass along suggestions for a better presentation. We have a document we call "Best Practices" (attached below)


ACT does offer the service of a personalized demo. Currently, the 27th and the 31st would be the best two days for such a demo to take place. Let me know which day works best for you. I will be happy to assist you with your demo, just call me.


I have also attached a copy of our pricing for streaming services. ACT offers a complete lineup of products. We perform audio only streaming we call Action Cast. We perform video streaming we call Action Video. The demo you are going to view is called Action Conference Interactive. There is also a version of it with fewer features we offer for less, called Action Conference Presents. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any

questions regarding our products and pricing.


Internet link for viewing a live demo:



Pricing sheets:


The streaming packages are broken down into "Service Packages" and "Feature Packages".  All of the Service Packages come with Standard Security, WYSIWYG archives, Basic Reports, User Certification and Access through ACT Web Page.


Audio Streaming -- Actioncast


Package Name                                      Basic                      Plus                        Premium                 Archive Only   

Price                                                       $375.00                   $650.00                   $1000.00                        $450.00      

Live MSS                                               100                          500                          1000                        N/A  

File Formats                                          1                              1                              1                              1      

AOD Storage (months)                                1                              1                              1                              1

AOD MB Transfer                 1GB                         2 GB                        4 GB                        2 GB   

Overage per Live Stream                    $3.85                       $1.54                       $1.15                       N/A    

AOD Overage (monthly) per MB                    $0.12                       $0.11                       $0.09                       $0.11



Video Streaming -- Actionvideo


Package Name                                      Basic                      Plus                        Premium                 Archive Only   

Price                                                       $1000.00                $1875.00                $2500.00                        $925.00

Live MSS                                               100                          500                          1000                        N/A  

File Formats                                          1                              1                              1                              1      

AOD Storage (months)                                1                              1                              1                              1

AOD MB Transfer                 5GB                         10 GB                      20 GB                      10 GB   

Overage per Live Stream                    $7.08                       $5.00                       $3.75                       N/A    

AOD Overage (monthly) per MB                    $0.13                       $0.12                       $0.09                       $0.11


Conference Duration

The above pricing applies to conferences of 4 hours and under.  For

conferences longer than four hours, an incremental charge of 25% of the

package price will be applied for each hour the conference continues.


Event Service Packages:

(ActionConference "Presents" and ActionConference"Interactive")


Package Name                      Basic                Plus                Premium                SatelliteDownlink                 Techical Support

"Interactive" Event Price                $1000                  $1667                $2666                      $240/hour                            $150/hour    

"Presents" Event Price       $433                $583                $1166                      $240/hour                            $150/hour

Producer Fee*                      $150/hr                $150/hr                $150/hr                   N/A                                        N/A

Live Participants                  100                500                1000                        N/A                                        N/A

* Three hour minimum (quoted per event.)

These packages are in addition to the Action Video or Action Cast Packages described above.  The ActionConference Interactive or Presents Event Service Package chosen must correspond with the size of the Action Video or Action Cast Service Package selected.  The ActionConference Interactive Service Packages include full Netpodium functionality, with presentation content control, "Web tours," facilitated Q & A, and polling synchronized with the streaming services.  The ActionConference Presents Service Package includes presentation content control, but it does not include "Web tours," facilitated Q&A, or polling synchronized with streaming services.


Feature Upgrade Packages (these are add-ons to the service packages)


Package Name                                    Features Included                                                 Price  

Security Package                                        Includes Ability to upload Authenticated List         $ 333.00

security and on-line reporting of participant



Extended Archive Package                        Includes one additional month of storage and         Audio - $ 292.00

2 Gb and 4 Gb of transfer per audio and video Video - $ 500.00

package, respectively.



Additional File Format                                                                                                                    Audio - $ 166.00

Video - $ 500.00       


I look forward to speaking with you soon!


Thank you,


Chris Smith

Account Manager

ACT Teleconferencing

303 205-7339