Web Conferencing License Models

Licensing for web conferencing services as well as on-premises software has changed considerably, making it much more affordable for any size company. On the lowest end of the scale, several vendors are also offering scaled-down versions targeted at SOHO users and individual consumers. LotusLive from IBM, and ConnectNow from Adobe for example, are both available in versions that are geared towards small numbers of participants; and Microsoft’s MeetingSpace is offered for the best price of all—free. Offering free versions of web conferencing, designed for two or three participants, is really just a marketing maneuver designed to establish brand awareness and seed the market.

Cloud-based web conferencing is a common option for SMBs, as well as for larger enterprises that may not have a heavy need for conferencing. Hosted web conferencing may be sold as a pay-as-you-go service, which may be the most appropriate for newcomers to the service or those with only occasional needs. Under this model, you simply pay per minute based on the number of participants. No long-term contract is required. This model is more expensive on a per-minute basis, although may still be less costly overall compared to alternatives that require long-term contracts or minimum fees.

Hosted web conferencing services may also be delivered in a more traditional licensing arrangement, with the fees based on the number of seats instead of number of minutes used. In this scenario, there may be unlimited web conferencing for a flat per-user fee per month. Microsoft Office Live Meeting for example, offers a licensing option whereby a license must be purchased for all internal users, but any external participants will not need to have a separate license, an arrangement that is very practical for users that host events such as Webinars or public conferences. In some situations with a hosted provider, licensing may allow for a package of a maximum number of conferences and minutes, with overage fees applied if that number is exceeded.

Most of the major web conferencing vendors offering hosted services offer a licensing model which offers a single site license, which can be used by a set maximum number of users for unlimited conferencing. Integrated VoIP or external phone bridge services are also available, but typically for an extra charge.

For very heavy users of web conferencing services, a premises-based solution may be worth consideration. This would require up-front capital expenditures for web conferencing equipment and a web conferencing server, and deployment would have to assume adequate high-speed upstream and downstream bandwidth. On-premise web conferencing is typically licensed on a concurrent basis, which does deliver a cost advantage for larger organizations. Under the concurrent pricing scheme, it is not necessary to buy an individual license for every potential user; rather, the licensing is based on the maximum number of concurrent users at any given time. In addition, many on-premises solutions are priced just like any other type of software, with a one-time license fee that is good indefinitely. However, there is also likely to be an annual maintenance fee for support, upgrades, and patches.

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