Free tools for teleconferencing with a 'virtual presence'

As business travel costs have gone up, there are now free choices that do more than mere instant messaging or video chatting

The Ekiga open source VoIP and videoconferencing client

The Ekiga open source VoIP and videoconferencing client

Ekiga supports industry standard video codecs, including H.263 and H.264. Being connected through a VPN to a videoconferencing unit at the office will allow you to attend meetings with good quality video while using little bandwidth from anywhere in the world.

One satisfied Ekiga user is Guillermo V. Salas, who works for a company that has many offices throughout Ecuador. From these locations, he uses Ekiga on his notebook to participate in high-resolution, full-screen video teleconferences with co-workers located at the main office.

Salas says "Ekiga is very useful and simplifies busy schedules for people who do not have the time, or do not like to travel a lot. The quality of video is clear and is like being with the other people in the same room."

Ekiga can be set up quickly. If your office is equipped with a SIP IP PBX, you only have to ask your admin for the log-in and PIN in order to connect to that IPBX.

Once you are connected, in a few clicks you can add the phone numbers of your colleagues in the contact list to monitor them, place calls, receive calls, transfer them, forward them and consult the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory of the company to look for colleague or customer phone numbers -- all over IP.

Shared whiteboards: Access Grid

A secure, multisite collaboration system, Access Grid was originally designed for scientists and engineers working together online. The software supports conference room installations using multiple computers with cameras, microphones and projectors distributed among them.

Third-party contributor-developers have since extended it to support higher-quality video and shared whiteboards, adding functionality to make it suitable for enterprise use. Anyone is free to extend the features of Access Grid in any way they see fit. "This openness is a huge differentiator in the space in which the Access Grid plays, because it is a largely closed, proprietary playing field," says Tom Uram, technical lead of the Access Grid project.

One strength of the Access Grid is the notion of persistent meeting rooms, or Virtual Venues. Users can enter a Venue for group meetings and share documents and applications. Individual members can enter the Venue at their leisure, or go back at any time to retrieve project documents from an earlier meeting. A virtual working environment like this can build cohesion among the telecommuting members of a group . "I regularly have Access Grid meetings with groups all over the world, and there's a very real sense of shared purpose that arises from our shared experience," Uram says.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Web telephony and conferencing

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Howard Wen

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?