Quick look: Web-based collaboration tool
Many years ago I visited the Energy Department to see a new scientific network designed to let DOE scientists work together in virtual laboratories using videoconferencing tools. Energy called its creation a co-laboratory.
Today, that same technology is available to anyone who needs it. And the Virtual-WorkSpaces tool from VirtualDesign.Net Inc. of Portland, Ore., is easy to use. With a plug-and-play interface, users will be online and videoconferencing in no time.
VirtualDesign.Net hosts the videoconference on its servers. You simply plug in a standard Web camera and, if you really want to be fancy, a headset with a noise-canceling microphone. It is up to the user to decide which camera and microphone to use, though the system works best if each individual user has his own station.
Setting up the network is easy. You simply have to validate the number of users to whom you would like to give access to the server. Each user will need to be validated on the server, though users can set up shared passwords. The GCN Lab ran the application from a notebook computer and it worked fine.
You can post a data file, such as an article to be edited, and each person can use a mouse to draw on the file, while also talking about corrections in the video window. The tool works best with high-bandwidth connections, though it can work with a 56-Kbps connection, just not very efficiently.
Virtual-Workspaces gives everyone a powerful collaboration tool that previously was only available on proprietary networks, and it does it simply and with little effort.
Price: $119 up to five seats; sliding scale pricing after that
John Breeden II directs the GCN Lab. Follow him on Twitter: @GCNLabGuys.