WiredRed Software, makers of the e/pop secure instant messaging product, added itself to the growing list of Web conferencing technology providers. The company this week released its software-based e/pop Web Conferencing service that combines audio, video, presentation and application sharing accessible via an ActiveX control and hosted by the customer.
WiredRed is going after the mid-market level with its product and taking an out-of-the-box approach to installation and use. “The server piece takes about 5 minutes to install: Run the setup, answer few questions and you a have fully capable Web conferencing, audio, video and application sharing,” says Allen Drennan, CEO of WiredRed. “You don't need to know about those type of things to make it work.”
Viewers access the server via a Windows 95 machine or greater and a standard Web browser. On their first visit, an ActiveX control is downloaded and installed. The application then presents them with a list of available conferences to join. It also automatically detects whether they have a microphone and Web cam available. Video is encoded using a combination of H.264 and MPEG-4 while audio is delivered using a GSM variant. The conference moderator controls the video frame rate, a useful feature in low bandwidth situations. Currently, only other WiredRed clients can participate in the conference. The company does have plans for a SIP gateway in 2004.
The viewer’s screen layout is similar to that of most Web conferencing applications, with slides and application sharing taking up the majority of the real estate. A collapsible video and participant list is anchored along the left side. WiredRed does provide a tabbed viewing metaphor that lets users switch between various views such as different applications being shared. The moderator can also pass control over to a participant, allowing them to share their desktop and application with the rest of the audience.
Bond Street Capital (BSC), a commercial real estate finance business, is using a beta version of e/pop Web Conferencing to connect its two headquarters (Los Angeles and West Palm Beach, Fla.) and 38 affiliate offices around the country. The company uses it mostly for presenting new programs to its affiliates and sharing marketing materials.
Joe Forman, principal and COO at BSC, says he tested a number of Web conferencing options, both hosted and premise-based, before choosing WiredRed. When evaluating a system, one of the criteria he looked at is how easy it was for a user to connect to a conference. “I don’t like scheduling a meeting, going through the exercise of downloading and doing the whole [setup], then finding out [a user is] blocked by firewall or the server is slow,” Forman says. “[With WiredRed,] I’ve never had failed connection yet, which is impressive since I do a lot of business with banks [with strict firewall policies.] As long as they have port 80 open, and most do for Internet traffic, it will work.”
Forman also likes the ability to share just a portion of his desktop with viewers as well as being able to turn control over to another participant. Because he’s on a 384K-bit/sec connection, the video portion has been a bit trickier to get working properly, but he says video is more of “a bell and whistle.” The presentation content is most important.
The e/pop Web Conference product starts at $2,000 per year for up to five concurrent users. The server component requires Windows 2000 or greater.