Cisco is a front-runner in internet communications, firmly taking the position of marketplace leader when it comes to online collaboration tools. We’re of course, referring to the WebEx video communication platform and also Cisco’s Spark.
The two platforms fill similar, but distinct roles when it comes to video conferencing. Both have seen much success, and it’s really no surprise they’ve emerged as strong options in the marketplace.
Video meeting and collaboration tools are extremely popular with businesses moving towards work-from-home environments, as well as those doing business in other markets. They make it possible to stay in touch with both employees and clients in such a way that mimics face-to-face interaction.
So to ensure you’re keeping up with the times and choosing the best video conferencing software for your business, you need to understand the options available. And as we’ve mentioned above, Cisco offers two must-have tools.
But should you choose Cisco Spark or the WebEx platform? We’re here to help you decide.
Cisco Spark vs. WebEx
Before we break down each tool individually it’s important to understand that both Spark and WebEx fill a very similar role, and in fact have overlapping features. It’s very possible that each program could work just fine for your needs.
However, to get the most out of your choice you should understand what each platform can do, and what each platform was designed to do. While they often can do each other’s job, that doesn’t mean one isn’t better than the other at certain tasks.
Chief among the discussed overlap is collaboration. At their core, both tools bring together people over long distances to exchange information. Video is a must and both programs work well to bring face-to-face interaction to people separated by any number of miles.
WebEx is what you could call the flagship program of Cisco’s collaboration platforms. It’s been around since the 90s and owned by Cisco since 2007. It was and still remains the video conference software. Through and through, WebEx is a video calling app.
Compared to the Spark platform (detailed below) WebEx focuses specifically on meetings. From features to usability, the platform makes bringing together people separated by any number of miles a surprisingly pleasant task.
It’s a web-based platform, meaning everything you’ll do happens from within your browser (there is also a desktop app option). Though with a number of third-party integrations you can start meetings (Microsoft Office, for instance) and join meetings (through any supported video platform like Skype, etc.) from outside the web platform.
As a self-contained meeting platform, WebEx brings to the table more features than most vendors. Basic features like screen sharing, markup, various audio options (video, VoIP, landline, microphone), scheduled invites and more are all standard.
Though where the platform really shines is features that work well, thanks to the meeting-centric nature of the program. First, we like the ability to invite people to view who can’t interact with the meeting. Giving control to only a few people mimics a real conference.
Second, the file sharing is second to none. Those with control in a meeting can both send files for viewing and download. It doesn’t seem like much, but file sharing in a controlled environment, combined with the ability to discuss those files, removes a significant portion of the distance barrier.
As an added bonus, the program also lets the meeting host record the meeting and share it at a later date. This means that even different time zones can’t stop WebEx.
Finally, the contained meeting space allows for messaging between active users during the meeting. If you’re keeping score, there’s easy face-to-face communication, markup for difficult explanations, and file sharing to keep everyone on the same page. It’s an awful lot like sitting in a conference room.
Instant meeting invites do exist, but no communication happens until you’re inside a meeting with other active members. This means there’s no on-the-fly collaboration happening. A void that Cisco fills with…
Cisco’s Spark is the company’s answer to businesses needing an always-on work environment, even if workers aren’t located in the same location as one another. Think of it as a giant virtual office.
When you come to work you’re surrounded by your co-workers, meaning you can always talk to them, listen, ask questions, and collaborate on the fly without setting up a meeting. Spark does the same thing, only in a virtual space.
Virtual “rooms” exist where team members can then participate in the free flow exchange of information. Anything you’d like to share or say is visible to anyone in your “room,” across any of their devices.
Meetings can start in an instant, with team members creating and joining them at will. Any scheduled meeting appears on the sidebar with the ability to set alerts so you never miss anything important.
Messaging features abound with the ability to share conventional messages in the “room” as well as direct messages. File sharing is also available by sending files to the “room.” And then there are the whiteboard features which allow custom drawings sent to individuals or the greater room.
Beyond internal features, Spark also integrates with third-party platforms to make file sharing and other productivity options simpler than ever. For instance, Google Docs integration allows easy sharing and collaboration on GDocs.
Perhaps most crucially, Spark embraces its business first roots, offering end-to-end messaging encryption, protected search within the app, and secure meetings that keep contained with specific “rooms.”
For all its good, Spark is still rather limited in some aspects. For instance, actual meeting features aren’t in depth. There’s no individual document sharing without sharing your entire screen, and there’s also no meeting recording or participant management.
That’s why Cisco keeps the two platforms separate. Where Spark falters is where WebEx excels and vice versa.
Choosing Between Spark and WebEx
The choice isn’t so much which program is better, but rather which program works better for your needs. Spark mimics working in a dynamic team environment, while WebEx prefers to operate more akin to conference room meetings.
As such, the meeting tools of WebEx are more in depth, but the hands-on nature of Spark could make all the difference if your employees constantly work in tandem. All in all, both platforms make an excellent option.