How to Choose and Implement a Webcasting Solution

So you want to produce a webcast, perhaps for training, marketing, or sales. You envision a presentation involving a talking head video and PowerPoint, and maybe some extras such as chat and Q&A. Price is definitely a consideration, but you also want to know the trade-offs involved with choosing a lower-cost solution and when a higher-cost solution makes the most sense.

At a high level, you have three types of platforms to choose from. The most obvious choices are webcast platforms such as those provided by On24[1], MediaPlatform[2], and OnStream Media[3], but these are usually the most costly. The least-expensive option will usually be a live streaming service provider (LSSP) such as Livestream[4], Ustream[5], or YouTube Live[6]. Yet another option is conferencing solutions such as Google Hangouts on Air,[7] Adobe Connect[8], and[9], which started as purely collaborative tools but have evolved their toolsets to incorporate learning and webcast modules.

In this article, I’ll review the factors to consider when choosing between these three categories. Since each category contains many products and services, there will be few absolutes in the analysis, but you’ll learn the major strengths and weaknesses of each class of platform so you can make a more informed selection.

Note that most LSSP solutions are offered only as SaaS, which is also the predominant model for webcasting, though some webcasting vendors do sell software for on-premise installation and deployment. Most conferencing vendors also follow the SaaS model, though there are also some, including Adobe, that offer an on-premise option, a hosted SaaS option, and a managed services model, in which the software is installed on dedicated servers that are managed by Adobe Systems. In this article, I won’t make any distinction between how the product or particular features are made available by the vendor. As with all How-To articles, I’ll identify some products and services to illustrate certain points, but I won’t attempt to identify all products in each category. Let’s start with cost.

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