FleetPride, a large distributor of parts and services for the
trucking industry, located in The Woodlands, Texas, needed a
communications solution for its network of more than 160
offices. The company required an internal network solution,
particularly for training purposes, and it also needed external
Web access for communications with its national accounts and
wholesale sales divisions that include outside customers and
vendors. Security was a top concern and FleetPride network
security officer Ken Grimes was sensitive about opening up the
company's internal network to outside communications.
FleetPride compared several different Web conferencing
solutions, including hosted and pay-per-use services. According
to Grimes, most options were expensive and included many
features that were not going to be useful. Pay-per-use solutions
were excessively expensive, he says. After evaluating the
available options, he decided to use RHUB Communications'
TurboMeeting Web conferencing servers - based on cost, ease
of use and the feature set.
Businesses of all sizes are embracing Web conferencing. With its
increased capabilities for interactive sharing and recording of
information, Web conferencing is becoming a viable alternative
to face-to-face meetings. While face-to-face meetings allow
attendees to take in the subtleties (and distractions) of body
language and tone, Web conferencing offers the ability to save
and review meeting content, instant sharing of documents and
data, and interactive presentations. Web conferencing also
eliminates the time and expense of business travel required for
face-to-face meetings, allowing widely separated employees to
collaborate on short notice.
For FleetPride, TurboMeeting was configured as an on-premise
server, whereby the firm purchased and installed the units in
its facilities, giving it complete ownership, control and
security, and eliminating monthly fees. This also means that
FleetPride must maintain and troubleshoot the system, but Grimes
says it was easy to install and operate, and does not require
extensive IT support.
"We were looking for a Web conferencing solution that would
allow our staff to support and train over 2,000 users - without
breaking the bank or overwhelming our network with unnecessary
features we would never use," says Grimes. "TurboMeeting is an
server that has a very clean and easy interface for setting
up, scheduling and conducting webcasts."
SERVER AND WEB SOLUTIONS
FleetPride uses two units - a TurboMeeting 500 for internal
network use, for large meetings with many attendees, and a
TurboMeeting 200 unit for more limited external use. The company
is using TurboMeeting for a broad range of communications: IT
help desk support, corporate training, sales training, accounts
payable, accounts receivable, payroll and IT user training of
new programs and policies.
The servers are small, about 9" x 6" x 1.4", with
installation as simple as plugging in network and power cables,
and following a simple configuration process. According to
Grimes, steps for configuring the unit include:
- install TurboMeeting unit on the internal network in the
DMZ of the firewall;
- TurboMeeting negotiates with the DHCP server to get an
internal IP address and registers as "myonlinemeeting";
- the administrator accesses TurboMeeting using a Web
browser, as myonlinemeeting, and assigns a static IP address
to the unit;
- firewall ports are mapped to the unit;
- a domain name is set up and mapped to the static IP
- user information is input for those who will be hosting
The TurboMeeting 200 Web-access installation is the same as
the internal network installation, with the difference being
opening a port on the firewall, allowing the system to operate
over the Web. It essentially has a small window open through the
firewall, allowing only specific inside users to use Web access
with outside participants.
SHORT INSTALLATION TIME FRAME
FleetPride's complete installation for the initial TurboMeeting
500 unit on the internal network took about two hours, Grimes
says, including adding all users, printing training documents
and initial testing. The TurboMeeting 200 installation on the
Web took about three days, primarily for management approval of
opening FleetPride's firewall, and determining who needed both
internal and external access. There were some image resolution
issues with some wide screen and dual monitor setups, but those
have been resolved in the latest product update.
"Last November and December, we completed physical inventory
training at all of our service centers, over 160 locations,"
Grimes offers. "This included training on the actual PC systems
our users work with. We broke the training sessions into groups
of 20 locations at a time, with two webcasts per day.
TurboMeeting worked very well, and we completed the entire
organization's training in six days."
Every organization has its own Web conferencing requirements,
and TurboMeeting has a variety of options and features that
allow users to select those they need. FleetPride uses "seminar
mode" as its primary training format. Interactive mode is used
primarily by sales training personnel and IT support for the
iSeries IBM mainframe.
One useful option for FleetPride is the "view only" mode, which
allows the moderator to continue the meeting and answer
questions without stopping the webcast to allow users to join
in. This can be useful for users with low-end PCs or handhelds
with limited RAM, because no download is required, or for users
with firewalls blocking outbound traffic, or with locked-down
As FleetPride has become familiar with the product, staff is
finding new applications. In one example, local area managers
are using TurboMeeting to perform one-on-one training with new
employees, and to provide specific training to address
individual or isolated issues.
"We had been using pay-per-minute Web conferencing services, and
we estimated that our savings with TurboMeeting would pay for
itself within a year," explains Grimes. "In fact, our sales
force has already saved enough in travel expenses in only a few
months to pay for the TurboMeeting 500 unit, and we expect the
units to save us even more, as we are identifying new uses."
George Nibler is a technology writer specializing in the
evaluation and interpretation of emerging technologies and their