Teleconferencing and voice over IP (VoIP) communications company, Iotum, relaunched FreeConference.com this month, breathing new life into the pioneering service that first appeared in the year 2000.
"FreeConference.com was the original free audio bridge," Jason Martin, CEO of Iotum, told Small Business Computing. "It created the vertical; it created this market."
Indeed, as a cursory Google search shows, there is no shortage of rivals touting free online audio and video calling these days, admits Martin. The competition has gotten tougher, not to mention more numerous, but since Iotum acquired FreeConference.com in 2011, the company has been working to set the standard for user-friendly, mobile-enabled small business communications.
The company has invested in modernizing the platform for the cloud-computing era, expanding both the service's technical capabilities and its feature set. Since announcing the relaunch, Iotum has "migrated thousands of customers" to the newer technology, Martin reported.
"It bridges SaaS [software-as-a-service] and cloud services with classic audio services," said Martin. Add high-definition video and small business teams can conduct virtual meetings, online presentations and sales calls in mere moments—right from their Web browsers without downloading extra software.
And of course, you can access the bulk of the platform's features without paying a penny.
FreeConference.com's easy-to-use dashboard.
Freemium Conference Calls Without Sacrifices
The problem with some freemium offerings is that they offer barebones functionality, locking truly useful features beyond a pay wall. While FreeConference.com offers paid upgrade bundles, the free offering delivers the functionality small business teams need to tackle projects together.
Under the Free plan, you receive a dedicated conference line that they can use at any time, along with an unlimited number of conference calls, which participants can join via the Web or by phone dial-in. The platform supports up to 200 audio participants, which ensures that no one is left out
For more structured online meetings, you can set up personal conference rooms, complete with moderator controls, zero-download screen sharing, automated invitations and reminders, text chat and video conferencing. Support for three high-definition video feeds comes standard.
Android handset owners can access FreeConference.com with a native mobile app. The Apple iOS version is awaiting approval, Martin said.
Iotum did more than just heap on features, asserted Martin. His company has also focused on improving audio, video, and networking performance, all in an effort to "encourage people to use the video and screen sharing" for more engaging and interactive online meetings, he said.
Quality Videoconferencing on the Cheap
During a browser-based call with Martin, video took center stage in a clean, uncluttered user interface. The video quality was clear and responsive, matching up perfectly with the audio. Composing and sending chat messages was a breeze and accessing the service's various other features was a simple matter of clicking clear icons arrayed along the top of the screen.
Of course, varying network conditions between participants can have an effect, but over a consumer-grade home broadband connection, FreeConference.com provided a reassuringly smooth, solid, and glitch-free experience.
Businesses that need to accommodate more participants in their videoconferencing calls can upgrade to the Starter Bundle, which supports an additional two video feeds, for $9.99 per month. For $24.99 per month, businesses can add 500 toll-free and international minutes, an additional three online meeting participants with screen sharing (eight total), and up to five HD video feeds. Finally, the top-of-the-line Pro Bundle includes 750 toll-free and international minutes, and up to eight HD video feeds.
And more capabilities are on the way.
Yesterday, the company announced the acquisition of FreeConferencePro.com, a Connecticut-based provider of automated and secure audio conferencing services. "As with our past acquisitions, we will minimize customer disruption. FreeConferencePro's customers will be well looked after," pledged Martin in a Sept. 30 announcement.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|