Conferencing and Live Broadcasting

A number of conferencing solutions are available for online meetings. These are available in free or low priced versions which cater for up to 15 remote sites in their basic form. Some have an optional management console which permits control of all participants, and some offer enterprise versions or hosted conferences which can scale to thousands of users at a higher price. Note, however, that bandwidth requirements can be demanding when multiple sites are involved and cost will be a significant issue with large scale conferences.

All of these solutions depend on each user having a webcam and microphone built in to their laptop, or externally attached. Many operate simply via web browser and claim not to require any special software to be installed. However, they still depend on each browser's capability to render HTML5 video content as described above and, therefore, some browsers may not be able to participate unless the appropriate plugin is installed. Google+ is unique in being integrated with a social media products which provide additional services such as text chat, building contact networks, posting messages, enabling searches for content, and analysis of usage patterns.

Current best practice is that Google+ web conferencing should be used where appropriate for small meetings, such as committee meetings.

As discussed, web conferencing technology may be adapted for use in a lecture style meeting by using a tripod mounted camcorder or webcam attached to the meeting coordinator's laptop. When this is used with a Google+ Hangout, there is an option to select "Hangout on Air" which broadcasts the meeting to a linked YouTube channel. This enables a very large audience to receive the broadcast in real time, or to view a recording of the event afterwards, and is especially valuable when immediate access to the content is more important than high quality.

Current best practice for live broadcasting is to use Google Hangout on Air.

Other live broadcasting solutions are available with the Tricaster configuration at Southampton Street. These require the use of Adobe Flash Media Encoder to forward a video stream to an external streaming server which runs the appropriate Adobe streaming software. This requires higher levels of technical skill for set up and operation.