Official MS NetMeeting Book - Chapter 12

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Bob Summers
ISBN 1-57231-816-3 

Chapter 12 and the Table of Contents of the Official MS NetMeeting Book reprinted with permission from Microsoft Press. 

Table of Contents


Part I: Getting Started with NetMeeting 

Chapter 1 NetMeeting Overview 

What You Need to Know to Use NetMeeting Effectively
Teleconferencing Explained
From Here...

Chapter 2 Preparing Your System 

Preparing Your System for NetMeeting
Connecting Your Computer
Getting Your Audio Devices Ready
Setting Up and Testing Your Video Capture Device
From Here...

Chapter 3 Installation 

Downloading NetMeeting
Preparing for Installation
Installing NetMeeting
Setting Up NetMeeting
Changing Settings After NetMeeting Is Installed
Customizing NetMeeting Sounds
Troubleshooting with the Intel Connection Adviser
From Here...

Chapter 4 Making Your First Call 

Using NetMeeting with the Internet or a Corporate LAN
Connecting with NetMeeting on the Internet or Corporate LAN
Using NetMeeting's SpeedDial
Connection: What Happens Now?
Alternatives When Connecting Proves Difficult
From Here...

Part II: Using NetMeeting's Features 

Chapter 5 Chat and Whiteboard 

Using the Chat Feature
Using the Whiteboard
From Here...

Chapter 6 Working with Audio 

Audio and Your PC
How Computer Telephony Works
Full-Duplex and Half-Duplex
Understanding Audio Standards
How Your Machine Compresses Audio
From Here...

Chapter 7 Video Conferencing 

Understanding Internet Video Conferencing
Video Conferencing Technology
Video on Computers versus Video on TV
Shopping for Video Conferencing Equipment
Optimizing Your Video Conference
Understanding the Role of Codecs
Improving Video Performance with ISDN
From Here...

Chapter 8 Application Sharing and File Transfer 

Application Sharing Explained
Setting Up Application Sharing
When to Collaborate and When to Work Alone
Experimenting with Application Sharing
Sharing the Clipboard
File Transfer
From Here...

Part III: NetMeeting in the Business World 

Chapter 9 Hosting a Group Conference 

Understanding Multipoint Conferencing
Planning a Multipoint Meeting
Hosting a Meeting
Business Uses of Multiparty Meetings
Third-Party Products
From Here...

Chapter 10 Considering Security 

Understanding NetMeeting's Security
Making Your NetMeeting Session Secure
Utilizing Network Security
Understanding Online Safety
From Here...

Chapter 11 Configuring Corporate Firewalls 

Recognizing NetMeeting's Limitations on Corporate Networks
Understanding Permissions and Other Network Concerns
Tracing NetMeeting's Path Through a Firewall
Understanding the Limitations of Proxy Servers
Using NetMeeting on a Corporate Network
From Here...

Chapter 12 NetMeeting as Part of Your Network 

Incorporating NetMeeting
Enhancing Your Conference Calls
Using NetMeeting from a Home Office
Using the ILS to Create a Community
From Here...

Chapter 13 Setting Up Your Own NetMeeting Place 

Installing Your Own Corporate Internet Locator Server
Configuring Your ILS
Administering Your ILS
From Here...

Chapter 14 Programming the NetMeeting SDK 

Introduction to ActiveX?
The NetMeeting ActiveX Control
Conferencing Example
From Here...

Part IV: Troubleshooting NetMeeting 

Chapter 15 Troubleshooting Audio 

Solving General Audio Problems
Solving Problems with Full-Duplex Operation
Fixing Poor Audio Quality
From Here...

Chapter 16 Troubleshooting Video 

Solving General Video Problems
Video Configuration Options
Performance Issues
From Here...

Chapter 17 General Troubleshooting Techniques 

Troubleshooting 101
Common Problems, Questions, and Issues
Connecting to the ILS and Other Networking Problems
Dialing and Connecting
Application Sharing
File Transfer
Troubleshooting the Whiteboard
From Here...

Part V: NetMeeting Resources 

Chapter 18 Products That Extend NetMeeting 

NetMeeting Online Support
Products for Everyday NetMeeting Users
Corporate NetMeeting Products
From Here...

Chapter 19 Frequently Asked Questions 

General Questions
Network Questions?
Making and Receiving Calls
Using Audio and Video
Sharing and Other Features
From Here...


Appendix A Glossary 

Appendix B Additional Online Information 

Resources on the Internet
Useful Programs and Utilities
Companies of Interest
Video Capture Hardware
Online Documentation


Chapter 12 NetMeeting as Part of Your Network

In this chapter, you will learn:

  • Online integration. NetMeeting can work with your other online systems and corporate network, and you'll see how to make that possible.

  • Enhance your conference calls. Tips for spicing up your conference calls with NetMeeting.

  • Telecommuting. Use NetMeeting from home so that you don't have to go into the office.

  • Build an Internet Locator Service community. Create an online community by using the ILS. 

Most corporations have spent a fortune equipping their employees with computers and networking these computers together. The driving force behind the deployment of networks in corporate America was, and continues to be, the need to rapidly share and utilize central data banks of information and other resources.

For example, you are sitting at your desktop and, for a presentation, you need to access company records about last year's sales trends. Your network and network servers will play a vital role in helping you accomplish this task.

There is no doubt that your network and desktop PC are valuable to you and to your business. What you may not realize is that if you add NetMeeting to the applications on your network, you'll have the ability to enhance your network's capability and to ascend to another level of network usage.

If you are thinking, "This NetMeeting is pretty cool, but how can I really use it?" then this is the chapter for you. The central focus of this chapter is how you can use NetMeeting to empower your network and its users with a new tool that saves your company time and money. Obviously, this chapter is designed for the corporate or small business user that has a networknot the home user. However, there is no reason that the home user, who probably can access a network at the office, cannot get value from this chapter.

Incorporating NetMeeting

If your business is like most, then you have an Internet Web site, an internal network, a firewall, and limited access to the Internet from within your organization. The network is used as a communication tool. You communicate company information to a broad spectrum of employees through an internal Web site, and you communicate on a group and individual basis through the use of electronic mail. The days of the hardcopy memo are not gone yet, but they are drawing to a close. If you are really advanced, then most of your business transactions go through your network.

What can NetMeeting do for your network that your network is not already doing? It can add real-time interactive communication. By real-time, I am referring to "live" as opposed to delayed transactions. A telephone conversation is an example of a real-time application because the moment you speak into one side, your voice comes out the other side. Email is a good example of a non-real-time application because the message is not instantaneously received by the recipient. The message is sent to a mail server and is relayed and stored for retrieval. You may have experienced near real-time email with someone who was online at the same time that you were, but this is not actually real-time.

Note If you have a firewall or proxy server on your network and you want to use NetMeeting on the Internet, you will have to make some changes for NetMeeting to work properly. See Chapter 11, "Configuring Corporate Firewalls," for details on how to configure your firewall or proxy server properly.

All of the features of NetMeeting are real-time. When you use the audio features to transmit speech, that voice is received and played back on the remote computer a fraction of a second after it is recorded and transmitted. When you move your hand in the video window, it is sent and played back on the other side the moment you move your hand. When you mark on the Whiteboard, all members of the conference receive those marks on their Whiteboards, too, at the same time.

Caution Be aware that high network traffic can introduce delays that lower the Quality of Service (QoS) of the transmission. This affects the real-time capability of NetMeeting.

Each of NetMeeting's features can add a unique new capability to your network. Understanding how they work will help you understand how to use them properly. Each feature is highlighted in its own chapter for more detailed reference on implementation and capabilities. Here's a quick rundown of how your organization can use these features:

  • Text Chat. Multipoint mechanism for communicating online--good for those users who may not be equipped with sound and/or video capability. Since video and audio are not multipoint, this feature is a great way to bring people together online for group discussions without requiring a lot of network bandwidth or computing power. This is also a good tool for hearing-impaired individuals.

  • Whiteboard. Create technical drawings or have brainstorming sessions. This is especially good for engineers who are in different locations and need to collaborate graphically on a common drawing.

  • File Transfer. Instantly send vital documents during a conference. This can be more efficient than application sharing by sending the required documents and synchronizing the interaction. You can send your PowerPoint presentation to all participants and allow them to go through it at their own pace during the session. You can then use Chat to give them direction--for instance, "Now go to page 4 of my PowerPoint presentation."

  • Application Sharing. Remotely control a computer for technical support or interactive collaboration of a document. Your users can take advantage of this tool to jointly edit and create a PowerPoint presentation or Word document. Actually, any application can be shared by a group and used collectively.

  • Audio. Allows speech communication during a conference. Use your computer network as a telephone network.

  • Video. Add expression and color to your virtual presentations. This makes the other features more personal than when used alone. 

Separately, each of these features is useful, but when used together they can really be powerful. Let's say that your marketing department needs to create a new pamphlet on a hot new product. In order to create this new piece of product literature, they need to communicate with the product development team, which is at another office thousands of miles away. Your company could either pay to fly one group to the other, or you could use NetMeeting.

What is required to make this happen? First, both sides have to be networked together either through your intranet or the Internet. See Chapter 4, "Making Your First Call," for information on how to connect two sites together. It does not matter which way you connect, although an intranet will be more reliable and more efficient than the other options. You will also need two computers equipped with NetMeeting and the appropriate hardware. For our example, we are going to use all of the features, so we will need a sound card and a video capture card installed in both computers. See Chapter 3 for installation instructions.

Once we have fulfilled all of the hardware and software requirements, we need to set up the meeting. Establish a time for the two groups to meet online and ask both groups to prepare the material they want to present. The marketing group should have a mock-up of the pamphlet prepared and the product team should have any product literature ready. Let's assume that the pamphlet is a hardcopy representation, not electronic, and the product literature is in Microsoft Word format. Any useful information should be gathered prior to the meeting to avoid wasting time.

Now we are ready for the meeting. Connect the two sites together (see Chapter 4 if you have any trouble). Both groups should be able to see and talk to each other. It is always good to start the meeting by introducing all the members of each group. This will also test out both computers and the connection between them.

In this example, the marketing group is going to lead the discussion by using the video feature to show the mock-up pamphlet to the product team. They may need to select the "large" and Highest Quality video options for the pamphlet to be properly displayed on the product group's computer. See Chapter 7, "Video Conferencing," for tips on using the video feature. Undoubtedly, the product group is going to have lots of suggestions. This is where the other features of NetMeeting come into play.

First, they use the Whiteboard to draw a new prototype and brainstorm about various topics of its design. Next, the marketing group opens the software that they created the pamphlet with and shares it (application sharing). Now the two groups apply their brainstorming work from the Whiteboard into the electronic version of the pamphlet. Keep in mind that during this entire time, both groups were also using the audio and video features of NetMeeting. The file transfer feature was used to transfer the product specifications to the marketing team. These will be inserted into the pamphlet later.

When they are finished, the marketing group should have an electronic version of the pamphlet, which was a collaboration of the two teams, ready to print. Both teams were able to stay at their own offices, which allowed them easy access to their resources and saved them traveling time and expense. I am sure you will agree that is a much more efficient way to complete the task than bringing the two groups together in a physical meeting.

Enhancing Your Conference Calls

Conference calls are a good way to get two or more groups of people together on the telephone to discuss business. You might hammer out details of a business deal or discuss the technical specifications of your company's newest widget. In both cases, several people work together and discuss ideas from remote locations, using the telephone as a communication tool. One or more of the participating locations is probably in a conference room for the call and is full of people.

If you have ever been a party to a conference call, then you know that it can be difficult to coordinate meeting times and get the conference going. Once you start, you are at the mercy of the speaker phone to manage speaker volume and sensitivity. A conference call can be a valuable communication tool that can save you from having to travel. But there are still some limitations of a conference call that force you to have a physical meeting anyway. What are these limitations and how can NetMeeting overcome them?

One of the biggest limitations of a conference call is the lack of visual aid. If you are presenting a new idea or tearing apart an old one, visual aids such as slides or diagrams can help get a point across to others. How do you show a modified sales structure through the phone? You could describe it, but the message could be misinterpreted or misunderstood. In many cases, there are no substitutes for visual assistance.

The electronic Whiteboard feature in NetMeeting is just one of the many capabilities that can add visual interest to a conference call. With the Whiteboard, you can draw figures, type words, and even present slides by pasting images. These are just a few things that the Whiteboard can do. Even better, all members of the conference can see, manipulate, and make marks on the Whiteboard. This lets every member interactively communicate new ideas in real-time so that everyone can see and build on those ideas.

The Whiteboard is great, but what if you have a document that you want to work on together? You want the changes and ideas of the meeting to immediately affect the document. Let's use a proposal as an example. Within your organization, there are two groups (Group A and Group B) that are working on a proposal for a new contract, but these two groups are separated by 1000 miles. How can you help them be more efficient? You could let them bounce the document back and forth as an email attachment with the modifications highlighted, or you could show them the application sharing capability of NetMeeting.

Application sharing enables the two groups to work in the same program, such as Microsoft Word, on the same document at the same time. I really mean the same program, not two copies of the same program, but one original, and a visual copy of the original. How does this work? You should read Chapter 8, "Application Sharing and File Transfer" for the details, but basically a visual mirror image is sent to the remote computer. Any mouse clicks or mouse movement on the mirrored user interface (on the remote computer) is duplicated on the source (host) computer. If you look back at the example, Group A runs Microsoft Word on their computer and loads the proposal. Then both groups run NetMeeting. The order is not that important, so both could run NetMeeting first. Next, they establish a conference and Group A shares Microsoft Word. Group B, the remote group, gets a live, mirrored version of Microsoft Word with the proposal already loaded. Note that Microsoft Word does not have to be loaded on the remote machine.

Tip You may find that the quality of the audio provided in NetMeeting does not suit your needs. This is especially true if you have more than one person at each side of the conference and they are not using headsets. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to equip 10 people in a conference room with headsets. In this case, you may find that using your telephone conferencing system while you use NetMeeting works great. There are also devices designed specifically for room conferencing with your computer (see Chapter 18, "Products That Extend NetMeeting"). In any case, your speaker phone is designed to handle a room full of people better than NetMeeting and provides you with better audio communication.

Now both groups can make modifications together and cut down the amount of time required to complete the document. Remember that you can use all of the other features at the same time, so you can have the audio and video going when you are sharing applications and using the Whiteboard.

The video feature is one of the most powerful visual tools provided by NetMeeting. You might wonder why you need to see the other people in the conference room. You would be surprised at how much video can enhance what would normally be a voice conference call. Facial expression and body movement are important communication signals that are especially helpful in getting your message across. These nuances are lost completely when you use the telephone.

Video adds a personal touch to a meeting. If you have ever used a video conferencing system before, then you know what a difference it can make.

Combine video with all the other features and you have an electronic conferencing system for your desktop that can truly save you and your business time and money. All it takes is two multimedia-capable computers set up in remote conference rooms, or offices with NetMeeting installed and a network between the two. These are items that you may already have.

The more you use NetMeeting to enhance your conference calls, the better you will get at it. You and the others will have to learn how to take advantage of this new way to communicate. This book provides you with many tips to enhance the conferencing experience.

Using NetMeeting from a Home Office

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular with many large and small businesses. It is also popular with employees. Telecommuting allows you to work from home, using your computer and a network connection to interact with your employer and clients. I can't think of a better environment to work in than one's own home. NetMeeting is an application that facilitates telecommuting by providing you with additional communication tools.

I am an avid fan of telecommuting and use it in my own business. Actually, it has become a way of doing business. My business is software application design, development, and consulting. I am always traveling, but I'm always connected to my office and to my clients through email, voice mail, and even through online conferencing. I use the Internet when I am on the road and dial into my company's network when I am at home.

Like me, you can use NetMeeting from home by dialing into your company's network or through an Internet service provider. The first method is more secure and more efficient. The easiest way to implement dialing into the company network is to use the Remote Access Service (RAS) of Windows NT. It is outside the scope of this book to describe the details of how to set up RAS on Windows NT. The Remote Access Service provides network resources to a dial-in user. It allows you to use file servers and network printers, for instance, from your home. This service, when properly configured, provides the necessary Internet protocols so that you can also use NetMeeting from home. Consequently, you can also use your Web browser and other Internet applications too.

Note Your firewall will have to be configured properly if you use the Internet to connect to someone on your corporate network. See Chapter 11, "Configuring Corporate Firewalls" for more details.

Using NetMeeting from home is no different than using it from the office, except that you get to stay at home, which is definitely a plus. All of the functions operate exactly the same as they do when using it on your network at the office. In the examples in this chapter, any of the participants could have easily been working from home instead of at a company office.

Using the ILS to Create a Community

The Internet Locator Service (ILS) is used by NetMeeting to provide directory services. Directory services help you connect with other users on the network. Actually, NetMeeting does not require that you use an ILS to make a connection, but an ILS does make it easier to establish connections. It does this by providing a list of currently active NetMeeting users on your network (as explained in Chapter 4). See Chapter 13, "Setting Up Your Own NetMeeting Place," for instructions on how to set up your own ILS. You will also increase the security of your NetMeeting sessions by creating an internal ILS. Chapter 10 and Chapter 13 cover this aspect of the ILS in detail.

When NetMeeting is started and configured to use the ILS, it will log into the ILS server and report several pieces of valuable information to the server. This information describes the NetMeeting user that is logging on to the server: name, location, email address, comment, audio capability, video capability, call status, and user type, are transmitted to the server. The ILS associates an IP address to this information. In return, the ILS provides a list of other NetMeeting users that are available online. If you have an ILS installed on your Windows NT Server (required for ILS), then you can configure all of the NetMeeting clients on your network to log on when they are running.

Note You must have the TCP/IP protocol available on your network to use the ILS with NetMeeting.

A directory of online users enables you to verify who is online and available. When a user is in a call, NetMeeting informs the ILS, and likewise, when a call is terminated, the ILS is also notified. With this call status information, the ILS can indicate whether a user on the listing is not only online, but if they are in a call. When a user is in a call, there will be a red star on the top right corner of the computer icon in the user line listing.

Note NetMeeting can be configured not to log on to the ILS or not to list the user. Refer to Chapter 4, "Making Your First Call," for details on how to configure NetMeeting in this manner.

Setting up your own ILS creates a permanent, virtual meeting place for your users that will make everyone's lives easier. Otherwise your users will have to type in network host or IP addresses to make connections. If your network uses dynamic addressing, this can be a real headache. Setting up an ILS will facilitate the use of NetMeeting, as it can only work when it is running and people have a method of establishing a connection.

From Here . . .

In this chapter, I have shown you some ways that you can take advantage of NetMeeting to give your network users new capabilities. Whether you're in a corporate office, remotely linking with associates and clients, or working at home in your bedroom slippers, NetMeeting lets you "be there now" and gives you face-to-face capabilities.

For more information about the topics addressed in this chapter, see the following:

  • Chapter 9, "Hosting a Group Conference," covers how you set up a multipoint conference for a group meeting.

  • Chapter 11, "Configuring Corporate Firewalls," discusses the changes required to your network firewall or proxy server for NetMeeting to operate properly.

  • Chapter 13, "Setting Up Your Own NetMeeting Place," demonstrates the steps needed to configure an Internet Locator Service (ILS) on your network.