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New Novell Conferencing Opens the Door to Easy,
Inexpensive and Effective Web Meetings

Written by Ken Baker

You have people in multiple locations across the country, and maybe even around the world, but tight travel budgets make it impossible to bring them together often enough for face-to-face meetings. You may have looked at or tried different Web conferencing options, but likely found that they were too expensive, overly complex or too difficult to use. To make matters worse, these Web conferencing offerings typically aren't able to integrate with your other collaboration tools, such as e-mail and team workspaces. Novell has the answer with its inexpensive, easy-to-host and join Web conferencing product—Novell Conferencing.

Novell Conferencing makes it easy to host and join Web events.

Before we go any further, you need to understand that this is a completely different offering than what was available in Novell Teaming + Conferencing. In fact, that SKU has now been removed from the Novell price list. Novell now has two separate SKUs: Novell Teaming and the newly released Novell Conferencing. If you’re a customer of the old conferencing product, this article will cover how Novell will make it easy for you to take advantage of the new Novell Conferencing product. First, however, let's discuss why Novell made the move to this offering. The answer is opportunity—the opportunity to offer a Web conferencing tool that:

  • Is easier to use
  • costs less
  • provides both video and audio conferencing
  • works on Windows, Linux and Mac clients
  • integrates with Novell GroupWise Instant Messenger, as well as Novell GroupWise and Novell Teaming

Easy Web Events

Novell Conferencing makes it easy to host and join Web events. Unlike other solutions, Novell Conferencing doesn’t require participants to install any software to simply attend a meeting. If you can view a Web page, you can attend a video or audio-based Novell Conferencing Web event and see all the content (PDFs, Web pages, whiteboard content and other documents) involved. Hosting a Web event is just as easy. The only exception is if you want to share your desktop during a Web conference. To do this, you just take a minute or two to install a simple plug-in.

Novell Conferencing works by assigning account owners their own unique conferencing URLs (i.e., conferencing.novell.com/conferencingID). This conferencing URL acts as a virtual meeting place for Web events. When you visit your URL, Novell Conferencing automatically signs you into your account and lets you choose to launch an instant event, launch a previously scheduled event or schedule a new event for a future date and time. (See Figure 1.)

To schedule a meeting, just click the Schedule Meeting button and then enter the details for your meeting, including meeting date and time, meeting name, agenda items, attendees and a meeting key if you want to make the meeting private. (See Figure 2.) You can also configure your preferences for the meeting, such as whether or not you want the audio/video to be set to Camera and Microphone, Camera Only, Microphone Only or None. (See Figure 3.) You can also decide if you want the following meeting preferences turned off or on: public chat, private chat, computer screen sharing, Web page sharing, document sharing, whiteboard sharing, participant list display and meeting recording.

Once you finish configuring your meeting, click Schedule to return to your Scheduled Meetings page, which displays your upcoming meetings. It will also display a meeting widget that Novell Conferencing automatically created for you when you configured your meeting. (See Figure 4.) The meeting widget can be used to easily promote your meeting via a variety of social networking mediums, including Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, Yahoo! Widgets, iGoogle, Technorati and many more. You can even customize meeting widget characteristics when you set up your meeting, such as having the widget display a countdown timer for the meeting, meeting registration information, or embedded links to the recording or transcript after the meeting is over.

Novell Conferencing also allows you to customize your virtual meeting room with a look and feel that aligns with your corporate brand. To do so, click the Personalization tab under Preferences. From this page you can upload a company logo or other image that will display in the bottom left of the meeting console. You can also personalize your meetings’ collaboration URL, which is the Web address that attendees see when they join your meeting. (See Figure 5.)

To join a scheduled meeting or event, invited participants simply browse to the meeting place URL. If they arrive before the event begins, they’ll be directed to a virtual waiting room where they can register for future events or wait for you to start the event. Once the event begins, they’ll immediately be joined to the event, as will other participants that browse to the unique conferencing URL while the event is in progress.

For people that can’t attend your Web event at your scheduled time, Novell Conferencing lets you record your meetings. After the meeting ends, Novell Conferencing will send you a playback URL that you can easily distribute. It also gives you a video-embed code that will let you post the recording to your blog or any other Web site, such as YouTube. As implied earlier, this code can also be automatically embedded in the meeting widget Novell Conferencing creates for you to promote your event.

As a 100 percent browser-based offering, you can host or join a Novell Conferencing event from a Mac, Windows or Linux computer.

Inexpensive Web Events

As a 100 percent browser-based offering, you can host or join a Novell Conferencing event from a Mac, Windows or Linux computer. However, if you're hosting the event and want to share your desktop, you need to be aware that the initial release of Novell Conferencing only supports screen sharing from Windows and Mac clients. The screen sharing plug-in for Linux desktops will be available in a future release.

Once you install the screen sharing plug-in, you’ll be able to start a meeting or share your desktop without even launching a browser. The plug-in lets you pause and play your screen, as well as quickly switch out of sharing your desktop to the other collaboration features provided by Novell Conferencing.

Another benefit of being a 100 percent browser-based offering is that Novell Conferencing doesn’t require any additional infrastructure investments or maintenance. It simply takes advantage of your computer’s microphone and Webcam to integrate voice and video into your Web event. Priced at a fraction of the cost of competing conferencing solutions, Novell Conferencing begins at US$120 per user/year for a 20-participant room, with pricing also available for 50- and 1,000-participant rooms.

Even though this release of Novell Conferencing doesn’t include telephony/PBX integration, that functionality will be provided in a future release. When this integration becomes available, it will use a soft bridge for voice processing. This will represent another significant savings since you won’t have to invest in an expensive voice processing hardware card.

Priced at a fraction of the cost of competing conferencing solutions, Novell Conferencing begins at US$120 per user/year for a 20-participant room, with pricing also available for 50- and 1,000-participant rooms.

Instant Message—Instant Conference

The previous conferencing product from Novell used the Pidgin client, leaving some to wonder about Novell GroupWise Instant Messenger. Novell Conferencing clears up any confusion about what instant messaging platform Novell is moving forward with by providing powerful integration with Novell GroupWise Instant Messenger. This integration enables you to elevate an instant message into a full-blown instant Web conference. In other words, it makes launching real-time Web meetings as easy as initiating an instant message.

Novell Conferencing will leverage this integration with Novell GroupWise Instant Messenger to create integration points with Novell Teaming in the coming months. For example, Novell GroupWise Instant Messenger will become the presence engine for Novell Teaming. In a month or two you’ll also see integrations between Novell GroupWise and Novell Conferencing, including the ability to easily schedule a Web conference using a Novell GroupWise appointment and then allowing attendees to join a Web conference by simply clicking a link within the appointment.

  • Quick and easy to deploy
  • No infrastructure investment except for a reliable Internet connection
  • No client or server software to install or maintain
  • Instant scalability with no need to buy additional hardware or servers
  • Lower initial costs as a result of its yearly subscription model
  • Access to the service from any Internet connected computer
  • Always up-to-date with the latest features at no additional charge
  • No need to maintain a labor-intensive patch and upgrade process
  • Reduced effort from and reliance on IT staff for support

Later this year, Novell plans to deliver an on-premise version of Novell Conferencing as well. Any Novell customer that purchased Novell Teaming + Conferencing and remains current on their maintenance contract will be able to take advantage of the on-premise version of Novell Conferencing without any additional cost.

To learn more about how Novell Conferencing can provide you inexpensive, effective, easy-to-host and easy-to-join Web events, visit www.novell.com/conferencing.

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