What Is Web Conferencing Software Computer Science Essay

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Web conferencing is used to conduct live meetings, training, or presentations via the Internet. In a web conference, each participant sits at his or her own computer and is connected to other participants via the internet. This can be either a downloaded application on each of the attendees' computers or a web-based application where the attendees access the meeting by clicking on a link distributed by e-mail (meeting invitation) to enter the conference.

Web conferencing software is a powerful and useful technology solution that allows live meetings, such as Webinars, demonstrations, presentations, training, and brainstorming sessions to take place via the Internet. Users log in to a secure URL to view meeting materials such as slides or video, and use standard phone lines or VoIP for audio communications.

Recently, more and more companies choose Web conferencing as their business tool. And it has changed the way how companies do business and even how they will run the business in the future. There are two main Web conferencing technology out there, which are VoIP audio and HD conferencing VoIP. VoIP is a developing Web conferencing technology and it converts human-being's voice, which is analog audio signal into digital formatted data, transmits the data over the Internet. Before VoIP technology is well known, the web conferences are more relied on physical phone lines to connect participants and meeting host. Now, lots of companies are choosing VoIP software as the conferencing tool so that the simple audio communication that between computers becomes real. The set up process of VoIP software is plug-play. To prepare for the meeting, all you need is a personal computer with microphone, speaker, sound card and a fast Internet connection equipped. Now we will talk about the work process of Web Conferencing software and how VoIP technology is combined with in detail.

Technologies used in a web conference

Considering the technology used in Web Conferencing, let's take Talking Communities as an example to see how the whole process works. If it is your first time using Talking Communities, the client software is required to be installed and running on your computer. It is using built-in codecs installed in Windows to convert analog audio signal from your sound card into digitalized data. The driver of the sound card will take care of the process to retrieve the voice and packetize it to the data. The data is then sent from your computer using a win-socket connection which will deal with your computer and the router directly. The router is to relay the data to the modem, which is provided by your ISP. The modem also uses hardware and software to connect via the physical phone line or cable to the Internet provider. Before the data reaches the ISP, the gateway will convert circuit switched TDM voice into packet switched IP if you are making a call with PSTN involved. Each packet has been encoded a destination coded into it to determine the final destination. After other-end user receiving all of these packets, the computer will reassemble the information and transfer it into a usable form. The new form of audio data will always choose the cheapest route as well as the least congest, which makes it very efficient. Once the data reaches the ISP, it then reaches the Internet and gets sent out to more and more routers in different locations. After passing through maybe several routers across the country or even the world, the data finally reaches the data center and server, where it again repeat the similar but reversed process as it did when it was sent out from client computer. The data is replicated by the server software and sent out through the data center to all the participants connected in the conference room. It then repeats the above process, in a reversed order, to reach the client software running on each participant's computer where the digital data will be converted back to analog signal. Finally, all the participants will be able to hear what other-ender user's voice.

Therefore, as we just mentioned above, there are a lot of technologies involved in this process and there are a huge amount companies in this process as well, like AT&T, Microsoft, Comcast, and so on. However, the security and reliability issues exist in this process. Considering the whole process of either send or receiving packets, there are many computer service providers and computer components involved. Any one of these could have a problem somewhere and cause packets to be dropped. Packets dropped may cause the data cannot reach either client or server in the right order and one of the most impact obvious would be lagging or lost in voice. But it could also result in a signal being lost and information being jam-packed in the queue so that no one can speak in the conference room. This is also the neck bottle for most of the web conferencing company.

The whole process mentioned above gives you a rough picture about how everything comes together and works in the right way for web conferencing. However, with the issues we just pointed out, the new technologies are also needed to improve the service. For example, because low latency is so critical in VoIP conferencing, we could provide sub-30ms response time for every conference participant by expanding the distributed network to the far reaches of the globe. Also, the fast development of parallel computing would be helpful if we implant it into web conferencing technology. The distributed cloud and end-to-end parallel processing technologies could shorten the latency by implementing multiple processor core client software.

Figure Web Conferencing Architecture

Advantage and Disadvantage of Web Conferencing

Currently, web conferencing is used primarily for general business communications and education. General business communications include meetings, trainings, sales or marketing presentations, customer service, and technical support. The most heavily used feature of web conferencing in business is real time of sharing of information between the presenter and the participants; depending on the purpose of the conference, to demonstrate a new software or strengthen existing products, users place a premium on being able to tinker with the products or data as it is being presented by someone halfway across the globe without leaving their office, and to contribute substantial input. More and more universities and trade schools are integrating web conferencing in their curriculum; certain classes are being held in part online; while certain courses are being conducted wholly online. Professors and instructors broadcast their lectures from a remote location; it may be a live webcast or an archived broadcast which can be streamed through a multimedia player at any time.

However, the conferences, seminars and other similar events are still being used by among many B2B companies to market their services and products. The motivation for doing so is basically sound, especially with seminars. Usually, most of the B2B companies have long believed a simple notion that prospects who attend conferences are more highly trusted and qualified than those who do not attend. More precisely, it turns out that if someone spends whole day to attend a seminar, he must have a convincing need for the product or service, or at least enough interest in it to make a commitment of a couple of hours of time. This is all this theory about and it is compelling. What's more, one of the major disadvantages of web conferencing is that detail planning is essential for its success. The people engaged in the conference call need to have high discipline and high level of concentration. For an effective conference call the web camera, microphone and other gadgets need to be in proper position and in good working condition. Failure in any one of the key gadgets can lead to the total failure of conference call.

To overcome these disadvantages and make our life easier, as our prediction, the future application would enhance the human interaction and find a better way to balance the conference quality and cost. With the fast development of VoIP technology, the quality and reliability have been improved a lot as well as seamless integration of audio and Internet. The users will not concern the monthly bills from web conferencing since VoIP has gained traction over the last year.

Because of the increasing use of mobile devices, conferencing vendors will have to support the growing needs for both mobile communications and collaboration. Mobile conferencing could be a next Smartphone trend. "Mobile Web conferencing is growing in importance because the people who are most valuable to the company are the same people that want web conferencing on their mobile phones" Schadler says. Obviously, the convenience of running a mobile web conferencing on Blackberry ,iPhone or iPad makes the mobile collaboration more worthy and feasible.

We also believe that the future application have information about how a person wishes to join the conference or preferred mode on contact at the specified time. The person would be called based on those preferences. Features would also be available according to the mode of connection. For example, a person connected via a mobile landline phone may not have or feature a very limited access to desktop/application/multimedia sharing and thus not receive this kind of data. Security can be ensured appropriately at each layer utilizing SSL/end-to-end at network layer, authentication passwords and authorization roles for meetings at application level and custom defined security at the site level. Acquiring connections in our application is similar to the 'voice control' on the iPhone, as users can easily say the name of person they wish to call. Consequently, the application will then recognize the name and start dialing. Our application enhances this method by having the ability to contact the person through multiple routes, in case one route is unavailable at the moment, such as if the user turned off their cell phone.