Licensing for cloud-based web conferencing services and on-premise software has changed considerably, making it more affordable for companies of all sizes. On the lowest end of the scale, several vendors offer pared-down versions targeted at SOHO users and individual consumers. For example, LotusLive from IBM and ConnectNow from Adobe are both available in versions that are geared towards small numbers of participants, while Microsoft’s MeetingSpace is offered for free.
Cloud-based web conferencing is a common option for SMBs and for larger enterprises that don’t have a frequent need for conferencing. Hosted web conferencing can 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 pay per minute based on the number of participants, and no long-term contract is required. This model is more expensive on a per-minute basis, but it is potentially less costly compared to alternatives that require long-term contracts or minimum fees.
Hosted services may also be delivered in a more traditional licensing arrangement, with fees based on the number of seats instead of the number of minutes used. In this scenario, there may be unlimited 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, though it is not required for any external participants – an arrangement that is very practical for users hosting events such as webinars or public conferences. In some plans offered by a hosted provider, licensing includes a package for a maximum number of conferences and minutes, with overage fees applied if that number is exceeded.
Most major web conferencing vendors of hosted services offer a licensing model which provides a single site license that 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 regular users of web conferencing services, an on-premise solution may be worth consideration. This requires 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-premise solutions are priced just like any other type of software, with a one-time license fee that is valid for an indefinite period. However, there is also likely to be an annual maintenance fee for support, upgrades, and patches.