Home > Business Services > Free Conferencing Calling: You Get What You Pay For (Part I)

Free Conferencing Calling: You Get What You Pay For (Part I)

If you’re reading this and you’re in business that has any technology element to it, it’s likely you’ve done your share of web conferences or conference calls through WebEx, GoToMeeting, InterCall and a long list of competitors. 10 years ago you’d likely use an operator supported reservation oriented service provided by your business’ telco. Not today. Using Conference call service as a Google search term will yield you 68 million hits. This is a seriously crowded space, only further muddied by the rise of free services (especially for audio only).

Larger companies who need to host conference calls regularly are likely to stick with the big guys for guarantees regarding quality of service and supporting services. For smaller guys like me, it can get expensive very quickly, especially if you mix desktop sharing/webinar elements to your audio conference. But even audio conferences alone can be expensive. For example a recent call between my engineering team, a manufacturer’s technical support group and a customer ran up 386 minutes of talk time ($46.32). From a small business perspective, this adds up. Last month (not a particularly heavy month for us, we spent $113.20 on top of our regular phone and mobile phone services).

So Why Don’t You Use Those Great Free Services?
We’ve played around with various free conferencing services on the audio side, including: Rondee, InstantConference,  and Free ConferenceCall.com (yes there are tons of others). And although the services in some case came highly recommended, we found reliability and quality issues with each of these providers. Probably the most common thing we experience is users dialing into the call-in number and the service not picking up (e.g. just rings and rings), but we’ve also had call drops, and unacceptable audio quality.

And if you dig in and understand the business model of these types of services, you will begin to see why it’s hard for them to provide reliable and high quality services (this blog begins to explain what this is about). The folks in this space are in most cases skinny little businesses with some hardcore technology working on the backside, hoping desperately that they can get enough mass to have those pennies they share with local rural carriers add up to real money and enjoy a 4-hour work week 🙂

Sticking with What You Know (and cheapie workarounds that work)
So even though it can get expensive, we’ve stuck with InfiniteConferencing.com when we need to do calls with customers as it is reliable and customer friendly. For team calls, we often use the conference feature of our hosted VoIP system and daisy chain our calls (Kenny calls Bill. Bill puts Kenny on hold and conferences Paula in. Paula puts Kenny/Bill on hold and conference Mark in). Sounds painful, but it works, and is also free.

And while I continue to be open to alternatives, with conference calling being a regular day-to-day business operations, this is not something I can afford to skimp on.

Part II of this post will cover an interesting exchange between myself and Yugma (a desktop sharing/webinar oriented service) regarding audio quality.

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