As the team that I work with grows and becomes even more virtual, and the need to stay connected increases, the technology that we use to keep us in touch has changed and become more complex.
A few short months ago, I was the only virtual attendee of our Monday morning meetings, and a webcam-enabled laptop in the room with my colleagues was sufficient to get me in attendance. We used Skype for simple point-to-point video calling and it really worked quite well.
But now that there are three remote team members, we find that Skype by itself, is no longer sufficient. Even though Skype has added multi-camera support, it’s not available on the Mac, which makes using it a challenge as we use both Mac and PC. We really like the Skype platform, though, and use it for our IM and individual chat needs, so when looking for a way to overcome our technical challenges we looked for ways to “piggyback” on our existing system, rather than move to an entirely new solution. After a couple of weeks of testing I believe we have found our solution with VuRoom, a video conferencing plugin for Skype.
From a participant standpoint, using VuRoom couldn’t be easier. I join a call in Skype as I normally would, then click a special link that the host provides. A web-based viewer launches showing me the video feeds of all participants. For the host it’s a bit more involved to initiate a call but the process is straightforward. Only the host needs to install the Skype plugin, so it’s possible to get new folks involved and attending with little fuss. Upon connecting with your participants, the VuRoom plugin starts automatically and steps you through the creation of your meeting. The current VuRoom product supports up to eight video collaborators. Video and sound quality is good and in my use so far I’ve not had any issues with dropouts or lost calls.
In addition to the conferencing functionality, VuRoom also offers desktop sharing and other collaboration functionality, including slide sharing. This lets the host do presentations and share documents with the participants. In our meetings we frequently see demonstrations of new products and so far this functionality has worked really well. The document or screen share pops up in an extra window the web view so I can still continue to see the others participants on the call in addition to the host presentation.
In looking for a solution, one of our challenges was finding something that was not only useful, but affordable. While most competing services seem to have per-seat licenses, VuRoom offers a fixed $10 per month fee for unlimited usage for up to the eight participants per meeting so it’s very cost-effective. VuRoom works with both PC (s msft) and Mac (s aapl) versions of Skype and all modern browsers. A free 15-day trial is available for testing before purchase. Overall, we’ve been very pleased with VuRoom.
How do you keep your team connected?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): How to Manage Consumer-Grade Collaborative Tools in the Workplace