By Brian Sheinberg, ChannelWeb
3:25 PM EST Fri. Feb. 06, 2009
With the economy in a downturn,
businesses are thinking twice about travel expenses, especially
for meetings and presentations. As a substitute, many are
turning online to Web conferencing. While relatively less
expensive than most trips, these services are still costly. San
Jose, Calif.-based RHUB (Real-Time Collaboration HUB)
Communications is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the
situation with its line of Web conference appliances.
We've had the low-end model TM-200 installed in the Test Center
for a few days and are very impressed with the ease of
installation and quality of performance it brings to the table.
At 9 x 6 x 1.4 inches and weighing 2.4 pounds, the TM-200 is
slightly larger than a SOHO router and is nearly effortless to
install. A small grey box with five status LEDs in the front,
the back has only an RJ-45 Ethernet connection, the AC adapter
jack and a nine-pin serial connector. There is also a pin-hole
reset button. Connection consists of running a network cable
between the LAN and the device and plugging in the power
adapter. The serial connector is for a console cable reserved
for support uses.
Once installed, all we had to do was log on to the device from a
Web browser on the network and finish the configuration.
Although the management console is very intuitive, the
administrator manual does a good job of explaining, with
illustrations, the three types of deployment: Outside the
Firewall; Inside the Firewall and accessible by users outside of
it; and Inside the Firewall and not accessible from outside of
it. We chose the second, which offers the most usability.
While not necessary, reviewers set up a free, hosted DNS with
DynDNS.com and followed the directions embedded in the
configuration screen of the console. After that, we created user
accounts, forwarded the necessary ports on our router (also
explained simply in the administrator guide) and did a quick
read of the user manual to see what the appliance is capable of.
Within minutes, we had a meeting up and running with attendees
being able to see everything on the host's computer screen that
they wanted us to see.
In this type of meeting, called an interactive meeting, it is
just as easy for the host to turn over control of his or her PC,
or turn over hosting duties to another person in the meeting.
Another meeting type is a seminar, where the host can't turn
over control. One big difference between RHUB's implementation
and its competitors' is that users only have to download and
install a client on the TM-200 if they are hosting. Attendees
can use any Web browser, on any operating system.
Besides interactive meetings and seminars, the meeting can also
be configured as remote control, which allows the host to take
over control of the attendee's computer as soon as they join the
meeting, and remote access, which allows the host's computer to
be controlled unattended. Respectively, these meeting types are
great for support technicians and accessing a work computer from
home or the road. In testing, they all worked without incident.
All meeting types give the host the option of creating a
password that attendees need to enter and can be scheduled in
advance or started impromptu. Pre-populated e-mail invitations
can be sent out to attendees with a URL and access code if
desired. Additionally, all RHUB appliances include audio
conference call service at no extra cost. Although it is not a
toll-free number, this is a nice feature that makes the
appliance a complete, one-time purchase product.
Including the $995 TM-200 model, RHUB currently offers four
different models of the appliance, the larger two of which are
1U rack-mount chassis. The most basic TM-200 has a default
capacity of two meeting rooms and ten concurrent users between
them, and can be upgraded to a maximum of four rooms and 20
users. The largest of the devices starts with 50 meeting rooms
and 200 concurrent users, expandable to 200 rooms and 2,000
RHUB estimates that the products pay for themselves in three to
five months compared to subscription-based competitors, and
after some quick Web shopping, we would tend to believe it. The
extremely easy installation and almost flawless operation make
it a no-brainer for any company needing the services it