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Conferencing in a Box

Sonexis has a different and cheaper way of doing videoconferencing and teleconferencing.

Their product is a box that you hook up to a T1 line and to your PBX system. The box does web conferencing and teleconferencing, just the way the services (Webex, YourTelco) do, but at a fixed cost, which can turn out to be cheaper than the service.

To you and me, a Sonexis behaves just like a Webex web conference. (There are some differences in appearance, of course.) To set up a web conference, you URL into an administration area, give it a password, and set up the call. to view it, you URL into the place where you've been invited. One advantage over, say, Webex web conferencing is that you don't have to provide the PPT file to them in advance. The box is in house and can use your internal network for access to the file.

Ditto for teleconferencing. to set up, you log in and create the call, then provide the users with a dial-in number.

We haven't done a feature by feature check, but Sonexis did hold a briefing for us that used their box. To us, it looked like a standard web briefing, something we get a lot of. There was no difference in speed, ease of access, or core features.

How is this possible? Well, Sonexis got its start selling the same boxes to the myriad telephony service providers that sprung up post-deregulation. After that market went bust, they shifted gears and decided to sell to the general public.

Clearly a box--theirs or anybody's--gives you more control and potentially the advantages of a fixed cost. In particular, if you use more (up to the capacity of the box), you don't pay more.

We have no way of verifying this, but Sonexis tells us that the fixed price box and the per-use service will cost about the same amount over the long run if you do, say, one web conference with 12 participants once a week. Do more, they say, and the box saves you money.

It is not at all easy to check up on this claim. Sonexis charges you for a certain number of ports in the box, which you can use as much as you want. The teleconference provider charges you a per-minute surcharge over the normal telephone costs. And the web conference provider does a mix of these--a certain per-hour cost for up to a certain number of participants. Comparisons are difficult.

One industry client of ours did try to see if they would break even with the box. But it turned out that it was quite difficult to figure out how much they were really spending on teleconferences and web conferences. Try reading a corporate telephone bill these days, and you'll see why.

If you do take a look at Sonexis, let us know what happened. But it does appear to us as if this really is a better idea.