Yugma Creating Virtual Meeting Places
Date: Tuesday , March 03, 2009
Today Desiree depends on Yugma for its interactions with clients and teams because it is an easy to use application that allows people to join a Webinar and see what is being presented on his or her desktop. In addition to hosting Webinars, Bella uses Yugma to teach clients how to use their e-commerce software. This allows its clients to easily participate from their own computers in their offices or homes at their convenience. Training sessions can be either pre-planned or instantaneous with this service.
Yugma was founded by Lingaraj Mishra in 2005 in Minneapolis, MN, and launched in mid 2007. With offices in Minneapolis, New Delhi, and Silicon Valley, Yugma today has over 260,000 registered users, with approximately 50,000 conducted meetings per month, with 25-minute average meeting times. Currently, they also have over 2,000 paying subscribers of all sizes (large enterprises, SMB, SOHO). The company launched the product at a time when the demand for high quality, easy to use Web collaboration and screen sharing was growing significantly. Unlike the majority of other technology products and services, Web conferencing is one bright spot where the current economic situation has resulted in increased demand. "The macro-economic factors of the global slowdown, higher travel and energy costs, and consumer adoption of green technologies are heavily weighted in favor of exponential growth of the market for Web conferencing and unified collaboration solutions," says Vas Bhandarkar, CEO of Yugma.
The Yugma edge
The Web conferencing market is a very competitive one with large companies like Webex, Microsoft, and Citrix offering Web conferencing and Webinar solutions. The product was launched at a time when there were already a few big players in the market. But Yugma made use of Cloud computing technologies that made the product easy to use and far cheaper than those of the larger players in the market. Using the latest developments in Cloud computing not only lowered the infrastructure costs for the company but also helped to build a remarkably lightweight architecture for the application. Since Internet penetration and bandwidth in countries across the world may not be identical, this architecture helps the product to interface and interact with Web applications more efficiently.
This experience was further corroborated by Sajan Inc., an early adopter of the product. Sajan, which provides language translation services, had used both WebEx and GoToMeeting, but became frustrated with both because of outages, downtime, and high costs. "Yugma just works," says Geoffrey Lee, CEO of the company. "The software is quick to download and setup, even if clients have never used it before." Sajan uses Yugma with their technical team to share and collaborate with developers in India.
Unlike many of its competitors' solutions, which just run on the Windows platform, Yugma can run on any Java enabled computer platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux), thus making it a universal solution. Another benefit of Yugma is that it has a slimmed down version thatís available for free! With the Yugma Free version, the user has the capability to share their screen with up to 20 people at a time. It also gives you a free conference call number or the option to use Skype (VoIP) for all participants to be able to connect for the audio part of the service. For written communication, public and private instant messaging is also included.
With an upgrade to a paid Yugma Pro account, users are also able to share keyboard and mouse, change presenters, record and archive sessions, schedule meetings in advance, and access annotation tools (highlight aspects of screen or presentation). The premium users of the product can even create shared online directories of information and files in order to improve workgroup productivity and access to team or project information. It is particularly useful for groups that are using large files in their projects that are not easily handled by their email systems. While Yugma Free is positioned for desktop sharing and presentations, Yugma Pro is a fully interactive online meeting room used for Web collaboration.
An optional 'Webinar' feature is also available for paid users, which allows the user to have a personalized Web space where participants can sign up and directly access the Webinar. Widget buttons and html code allow users to easily embed the Yugma service into their website, blog, and Intranet as a Widget.
Yugma has also partnered with Skype to create YugmaSE (Skype Edition), which is a Skype Certified Extra that builds upon Skype's offering by adding instant desktop sharing and collaboration functionality. Now 300 million plus Skype users can instantly begin sharing their computer screen with anyone, anywhere - regardless of the application, software, or operating system ó with Yugma SE, using the 'Tools->Extras' or 'Tools->DoMore' options. Its integrated functionality makes it possible for Skype users to instantly Web conference with their Skype contacts or non-Skype contacts. Once Yugma SE is installed, it automatically recognizes your Skype Name and allows you to instantly host or join a Yugma SE meeting. "Yugma is one of the most popular Web conferencing and online collaboration tools available for use with Skype," says Antoine Bertout, Skype Partner Relations Manager, who is based in Skype's London office. "We are delighted that Yugma has enhanced its popular Yugma SE application to support simpler sign-on for our users who can now simply use their existing Skype Name to collaborate online using Skype."
Technology Ė the Back Bone
Behind such a dynamic product should be an equally dynamic technology, which is robust, scalable, and bug free to ensure customer satisfaction. Yugma was developed using open source software running on Red Hat Linux servers. The application servers, website, blog, forum, and database servers run on utility computing servers that are highly secure in a robust data center and have highly reliable network architecture to prevent single points of failure from affecting the performance of the services. "We wanted to ensure that high-quality Web conferencing services were available to all people, no matter what platform they were on, at affordable costs," says Mishra.
Though Web conferencing is an easy and affordable way to interact, concerns over security prevent its adoption on a major scale. Understanding this, the company has taken extra measures to protect the privacy and integrity of each userís sessions and data; protecting hosts, participants, and the Yugma service itself from potential compromises. Yugma assures the privacy and integrity of the sessions by using SSL encryption for all session content, including application sharing content and public and private instant messages in both inbound and outbound communications. This method guarantees that session data cannot be interpreted or altered by someone eavesdropping on the Internet.
Moreover, the Yugma client download is certified by Verisign, and assures the identity of the download and service. It uses full 128-bit encryption for all transactions (all e-commerce, data communication, session data, and authentication related informational transactions). The architecture further provides for a central server level authentication for valid users (hosts or presenters), and a session-identification for all participants for attending a session.
Equally important is a robust service operation function that continuously monitors the overall service performance and plans capacity growth of platform resources to accommodate increasing service usage. Yugma has put systems and processes in place to monitor the health of the application software, the servers, underlying network transport, and the connectivity to the Internet to ensure that the application service is performing to the targeted 99.9 percent service availability and system response times. Yugma has a team assigned to monitor the service platforms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During non-business hours, it also has an escalation service, which rapidly alerts monitors about any anomalies that are detected.
Yugma Pro customers receive customer service via live chat, telephone, and email requests. Live chats and calls placed to the Yugma Customer Service Center are handled primarily by staff in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Interestingly, the overall market for unified collaboration products (audio conferencing, video conferencing, and Web conferencing) and services estimated today at $6 billion is forecast to grow to $17 billion by 2011 (Source: IDC Group). This is a small fraction of the total $529 billion that SME businesses spend on information technology products and services in the U.S.
The company targets SME businesses, which generally find it difficult to make huge investments in technology and related infrastructure. For these SME's the SaaS based Yugma model is an affordable, appropriate, and reliable solution. This application doesn't require the deployment of a large infrastructure, which eliminates or drastically reduces the upfront commitment of resources. Yugma also plans to tap the 8 million SME market in India, which does not have any legacy solutions in IT, but are adopting cost effective technology solutions to move ahead in a competitive market. In fact Yugma has its third largest user community in India.
The product is a thin Java client application that can be easily downloaded to the computer and is designed to be very easy to use with little or no training. "We can be extremely flexible on scheduling because it's just a matter of firing up Yugma and connecting to our client's computer, be it a PC or a Mac," says Steven Cohen, CEO of Exact Accounting, a company that offers Quick Books consulting and training services to clients in the United States. By sharing screens and controls, Exact Accounting's accountants can quickly understand their client's business model and show them exactly how to use Quick Books to fit that model.
Fast Paced Adoption
"During tough times, responding with flexibility to changes in the business as a whole is more critical than ever to an organization's success," explains Shanker Trivedi, Vice President of Marketing, Yugma. Hence companies that have geographically dispersed divisions that need to deliver training (internal and external), give online sales presentations and demonstrations, provide online customer support, collaborate on dispersed technology and product development, and share and modify files in real time are using Yugma Pro instant Web conferencing. The increased popularity of mobile telephones, chat applications, and Cloud Computing is raising user expectations to connect and work with colleagues in an 'anywhere, any way, right now' mode and this also accelerates the adoption rate. As FileMaker Pro expert Dwayne Wright of Seattle puts it, "I have written documentation, screen shots, and even tutorial movies on my website. But using a Yugma interactive presentation with my customers goes a long way towards getting the sale."
While the IT and ITES segments were typically the early adopters of Web conferencing, due to the growth in the number of R&D centers, and shared service centers in multiple locations, the technology is now making strong inroads into sectors like education, government, and BFSI. Leading professional institutes are also migrating to Web conferencing for guest lectures and classroom discussions, while the governments are already investing in conferencing solutions for efficient administration and reduced travel costs. Large banks have plans to invest in conferencing to manage their widespread operations across multiple branches. "This fast paced adoption has also helped to create and support a culture in which people think about the nature of their interactions with colleagues and customers and also about how best to meet their particular communications objectives," adds Trivedi.
Research and the Road Ahead
To keep pace with the competitive environment, the company has initiated several research and development activities to develop products that consistently exceed market standards in terms of features, performance, and cost. "We are focusing our R&D investments to exploit the opportunity for innovation in Web conferencing driven by Cloud-computing, and Ubiquity," explains Bhandarkar.
Yugma also plans to bring in several new features such as VoIP for Webinar meetings, enterprise self-service, pay-per-use meetings, video support, and much more. Though it looks like the Web conferencing market has yet to mature, products like Yugma will act as a catalyst for wider adoption and help many to beat the heat of recession. With its undeterred focus on robust technology and agile services and attention to customer needs and market trends Yugma is well poised to be a leader in this market segment.