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Conferencing Recommendations

Northwestern provides a variety of conferencing solutions for effective collaboration among members of the University as well as external colleagues.

The table below offers conferencing scenarios and the recommended conferencing service that best fits the scenario described. A comparison of conferencing services offers and service features is provided in the Conferencing Service Comparison section at the end of this page.

To request a consultation for your particular conferencing needs, contact the IT Support Center, or your school or department technical support representative.

Conferencing Scenario Recommended Service

I want to have a videoconference where sensitive regulated data will be shared. e.g. health information, export controlled research, and data regulated by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

Skype for Business

I want to have a one-to-one videoconference call.

Blue Jeans

WebEx

I want to have a videoconference for multiple people with fewer than 100 people.

Blue Jeans

WebEx

I want to have a videoconference for multiple people with more than 100 people. WebEx
I want to hold a small-group meeting from a conference room. WebEx
I want to run a synchronous video session for my class in Canvas. Blue Jeans
I want to run a synchronous video session for my class in Canvas and collaborate on content (white boarding, polling, remote access, etc.). Adobe Connect
I want to offer virtual office hours. WebEx, Blue Jeans
I want to record a videoconference.

Blue Jeans

WebEx

I want to share content in a videoconference.

Blue Jeans

WebEx

I want to have a three-way audio-only conference call. WebEx
I want to have an audio-only conference call with four or more people. WebEx
I want to host a videoconference with a remote presenter.

Blue Jeans

WebEx

I want to collaborate on content in a videoconference. WebEx

Conferencing Service Comparison

While the services listed for each conferencing scenario above are recommended by Northwestern Information Technology, you or your department may decide to use another conferencing product. Please see the following tables for a list of the features of each conferencing service.

Service Overview

Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
Description The WebEx system is composed of four Centers – Meeting Center, Event Center, Training Center, and Support Center – which offer a variety of functions:
  • Centralized space for managing activities and information.
  • Deliver online training and e-learning.
  • Stage large-scale online events.
  • Deliver efficient, personalized customer service and IT support.
Cloud Video-Conferencing Bridge Communications service that connects people anytime and from virtually anywhere by delivering collaboration capabilities. It gives users access to presence, instant messaging, audio and video calling, rich online meetings, and extensive web conferencing capabilities.
Usage Scenarios Meeting Center
  • Presentations and collaborative meetings
  • Product and project coordination, demos

Training Center

  • Faculty, Staff, Student, and Partner training
  • Certification and IT training
  • Distance learning
  • Product rollouts and launches

Event Center

  • Webinars, events, and conferences
  • Employee communications

Support Center

  • Remote IT support
  • Collaborative Sessions
  • Internal/External Meetings
  • Presentations
  • Events
  • Employee Communications
  • Distance Learning
  • Collaborative Sessions
  • Internal/External Meetings
  • Product and project coordination, demos
  • Presentations
  • Events and conferences
  • Employee communications
  • Remote employee and customer IT support
Recommended number of attendees*
  • Meeting Center:
    Up to 1,000
  • Training Center:
    Up to 1,000
  • Event Center:
    Up to 3,000
  • Support Center:
    Up to 4 concurrent sessions

*The maximum number of participants may vary dependent on how participants connect to the conference.

  • Up to 100
  • Skype for Business Online up to 250
  • Skype for Business – Broadcast Meetings up to 10,000

Information Sharing

Option Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
Real-time desktop, application, document, and web browser sharing Yes Yes Yes
Whiteboards and annotation tools Yes; only annotation tools in Support Center No Yes
Video Streaming Yes Yes Yes
Text chat and Q&A (managed and moderated) Yes; threaded Q&A in Event and Training Center only Text Chat Yes
File Transfer Yes No Yes

Audio and Video

Option Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
Audio WebEx Cloud Connected Audio, WebEx PSTN, VoIP, Telephony Service Provider Audio Broadcast supported only for Event Center Phone Conference, Audioconferencing Yes
Audio Features Integrated scheduling and reservationless conferencing; Dial in, Call Me, or Connect with My Computer (with high definition audio); Active speaker indicator and intelligent video switching; Mute/Unmute participants; Invite by phone; Seamless switching between telephony audio and VOIP Dial-In, Connect with My Computer, Computer Connect, Voice Recognition, Intelligent Video Switching, Mute/Un-mute participants, Robust Security Options Integrated scheduling and reservationless conferencing; Dial in, Call Me, or Connect with My Computer (with high definition audio); Active speaker indicator and intelligent video switching; Mute/Unmute participants; Invite by phone; Seamless switching between telephony audio and VOIP; Robust security options
Video Meeting Center and Training Center:
  • HD video; multipoint; full-screen view; expanded full-screen view
  • Product and project coordination, demos

Event Center

  • High-quality video; full-screen view; multipoint

Support Center

  • WebEx desktop only
HD video; multipoint; full-screen view; expanded full-screen view HD video; multipoint; full-screen view; expanded full-screen view
Video Devices Meeting Center:
  • Cisco and third party endpoints; Cisco and third party soft clients; WebEx mobile, desktop, and web; Microsoft Skype for Business; Cisco Spark
  • Product and project coordination, demos

Training Center and Event Center

  • WebEx desktop and mobile (attendees)

Support Center

  • WebEx desktop only
WebClient, Mobile Client and Desktop Client Skype for Business desktop, web and mobile (attendees)

Specialized Features

Feature Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
Personal Room Meeting Center only Yes No
Avatars Meeting Center only No Yes
Participant List Yes Yes Yes
Polling Yes; except Support Center No Yes
Program and campaign management and post-event surveys Event Center only No No
Lead source tracking and enrollment scoring Event Center only No Yes
Registration management Yes; except Support Center No Yes
Testing, instant grading, and instructor scorings Training Center only No No
Breakout sessions and hands-on labs Training Center only No No
Permissions-based remote control Yes Yes Yes
Reports Yes Yes Yes
Language Support English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese (simplified and traditional) English, Spanish, French, German English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese (simplified and traditional)

Connection Options

Option Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
Operating system support (Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris) Yes Yes; but no Solaris Yes
Join and attend from mobile devices Yes; except Support Center Yes Yes
Join and attend from web app (no download) Yes; except Support Center Yes Yes
Invite People Email only Yes; except Support Center Yes Yes
Inbound support request Support Center only; click-to-connect, WebEx WebACD N/A N/A

Other Tools and Options

Option Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
Network-based recording Yes Yes Yes
Recording File Format .ARF (can convert to .WMV,.SWF, or .MP4) MP4 N/A
Access to Recordings Online/Download Online/Download Local
Microsoft Outlook integration Yes Yes Yes
Enterprise Integrations Cisco Jabber, Cisco Endpoints, Cisco Spark, H323, Spark Board, and Microsoft Skype for Business Cisco Jabber, Cisco Endpoints, MS Lync, H323 Microsoft Skype for Business, Surface Hub, Cisco Jabber, Cisco Endpoints, Cisco Spark, H323, AOL and Google
Single Sign-On Yes Yes Yes
Multi Factor Authentication Yes No Yes

Management

Option Cisco WebEx Blue Jeans Skype for Business
User Management Yes Yes Yes
Site Management Yes Yes Yes
Site Report Yes Yes Yes
Encryption 128-BIT SSL Encryption, 256-BIT AES Encryption 128-BIT SSL Encryption, 256-BIT AES Encryption 128-BIT SSL Encryption, 256-BIT AES Encryption
HIPAA Compliant Yes No Yes

Last Updated: 8 November 2017

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