There are other administrative, reporting, and infrastructure functions that some web conferencing service providers offer to enhance your meeting:
Web-based audio (also known as internet audio or "VoIP"): Broadcasts the audio portion of your conference via streaming audio, instead of a separate conference call. This way, participants with speakers can avoid audio conference calling charges and keep their phone lines free. Usually, this takes place in "listen-only" mode with participants able to hear but not to speak, although some solutions allow the speaker to mute and un-mute select participants, perhaps for Q&A purposes. Some solutions also allow the speakers to present via internet audio; however, they need a USB microphone.
Video conferencing capabilities: By adding a webcam at the presenter's location, attendees can view the presenter during the event. While there is some variation in video quality depending on participants' bandwidth, this video feed can help them associate a face with the voice guiding them through the conference. More advanced applications also incorporate multiple video feeds, so that demos, meetings and training sessions can be enhanced by seeing the faces of several to many participants.
Monitoring: Most web conferencing service providers have a participant window for you to view a roster of attendees as well as their web and audio status. You can also monitor who is entering your conference and bounce people you don't want at the meeting — a competitor or someone that didn't pay for access to a fee-based course, for example. Some tools also allow the session leader and/or speaker to use this participant window to quickly assess which audience members are paying attention-and which aren't. Finally, many applications allow the session leader to control the audio of participants (e.g., muting and unmuting) directly from this window.
Backup systems: Redundancy, or "conference continuation", allows the hosted web conferencing solution to seamlessly move to a second server should the first server fail unexpectedly. If the moderator loses the connection to the conference, the attendees are alerted to stand by while the connection is fixed. All meeting materials are stored so critical data is not lost.
While this addresses the potential downtime associated with problems with the web conferencing service provider, this does not cover the potential downtime due to computer, network or Internet connectivity problems experienced by the participants. While most providers guarantee nearly 100% uptime for their programs, they have little control over attendees' connections or hardware. To address this, some applications do incorporate automatic reconnect for users with poor bandwidth.
Security: Almost all web conferencing service solutions include encryption to protect your information. For some, Secure Socket Layers (SSL) — high-level security technology that protects and secures confidential data — is a critical security measure for any web conference. Some companies charge extra for it while others include advanced security measures in their standard software and pricing. For others, security is less critical — there's no need to pay extra to protect public meetings or simple sales calls.
Recording: Archiving allows you to replay part or all of a meeting. As the presenter or host of the meeting, you can use archives internally to review your work and find potential improvements for future conferences. More importantly, you can make archives of the event available to anyone you choose for future training events, sales calls, or marketing activities.
If archives are important to you, find what editing and exporting options are available from the web conferencing services you're evaluating. Some providers include editing features you can access through their web sites while others only permit you to download the entire presentation. You'll also want the archive available in a standard format that anyone can view later.
Reporting: Get conference activity such as full text chat transcripts or data from survey and quiz results. You can also find out when participants logged in and out and receive customized reports of how each attendee answered a particular question.
Integration options: Some applications allow you to integrate your email, CRM, or other software tools with the web conferencing system, allowing you to easily pass data between the two systems. They may also offer hooks that allow your developers to create custom integration with any applications you choose.
Emails and registration pages: Most web conferencing systems will help you create registration pages where potential attendees can sign up for your event. Additionally, many will allow you to create and customize invitation and confirmation emails to registrants, attendees, or both.