GCN LAB REVIEWS
When telecommuting is more than just a phone call
We all know that telecommuting can be a pretty efficient way to do business, but only if it’s managed correctly. And employees need to be able to communicate as effectively outside of the office as they can when sitting around the conference room.
Let’s face it, the current technology for bringing everyone together hasn’t really kept up with those demands. How many meetings have you attended where everyone dials in using the conference line and a 10-digit password but you still really don’t know who is on the call? Then during the meeting you hear a set of beeps and know that someone dropped off, but not who, especially during a meeting with a lot of participants. And most people have participated in meetings ruined by someone’s dog barking in the background in the middle of the call.
The InterCall Unified Meeting system can fix a lot of those problems. It’s a piece of software and a command center that’s perfect for offices with a lot of telecommuting needs, or ones that schedule many meetings.
InterCall Unified Meeting
Ease of Use: A+
Government Price: 10.08 cents per minute
Pros: Very easy to use, secure, good call quality
Cons: Nothing significant
Unified messaging can make efficient use of your communications
Let’s look at setting up a typical meeting and how it worked out in our testing. First, the InterCall system integrated with our Outlook e-mail, so scheduling a conference was as easy as setting up a meeting there. Only now you have the option to invite each participant into the conference call. People on the receiving end get an e-mailed invitation and have the option to tell the InterCall system to dial them up at a number of their choice. So you don’t have to wait until 11 a.m. next Thursday and then dial into a conference line with your code. Simply tell InterCall to phone you at your desk or on your cell phone or wherever, and at the right time, it will call you.
The meeting host at the “command center” can see who has joined the call. Because security is an issue, every participant who arrives first goes into a lobby area. Hosts can then authorize each user they want to allow into the actual meeting room. This means that the host always knows who is on the call, and no unauthorized people are listening in on private conversations. This also eliminates the need for passwords as the host is able to individually authorize each person. So leave those 10-digit passwords at home.
If anyone drops out during a meeting, a simple glance will tell who it was, and you can choose to wait or not, depending on who they are. If you wait, they will show back up in the lobby and can be reauthorized.
Because everything is in the hands of a user, there is no need for an operator. However, as a nice bonus, you can dial one up at any time. So if you are having trouble with some aspect of InterCall, help is ready. We can’t really see why help would be needed given the easy-to-use interface, but it’s nice to know that safety net is part of the overall package.
In fact, there is a lot that can be done in the conference by entering in commands right on your phone’s keypad. You can break the conference up into groups, dial out to bring in someone new or mute people. This adds a lot of simple yet powerful controls to the standard enhanced conference call beyond showing a PowerPoint slide or two.
Mobile phone perk
There is also a mobile app that can be downloaded for any of the major mobile devices. This app eliminates the need for a land lane and a computer, as calls can be instigated and controlled right from the phone. There is no additional charge to use the app, which is another nice little perk to the whole InterCall setup.
Call quality was fine, the same type we have heard from other conference solutions. Even when there were many people on the call during our test period, you could hear all the participants as if they were in the same room, or sitting around a table with you. Another great feature is that calls can be recorded at no extra charge. So if someone is unable to make the meeting, you can give him or her the ability to listen in after the fact.
The cost for all this is very reasonable, especially for government agencies buying off of the GSA schedule. InterCall can be had for about 10 cents per minute, per participant. Consumers not buying off a government schedule can get the system for just 44 cents per minute, per user, which is quite good. But the government really gets the best deal here.
Because we’ve seen one too many bad conference calls, we can see InterCall fitting in just about everywhere, and not breaking the bank to do it.