Web & communication software

Host Free Conference Calls

Conference call service--like most telecommunications--has become a commodity. Dump costly companies, and save your business money with one of many free options.

While the name and URL sounded like a typical Internet scam, FreeConference.com, lives up to its promise for basic service. Up to 150 people can join the call, giving ample headroom for nearly any small- or medium-business situation.

You'll either schedule the call in advance or set up an access number for an impromptu meeting at anytime. Planned calls let you input a few extra controls, such as the organizer being able to mute the entire group of callers.

In either case, participants call into what is likely a long-distance number, enter an access code, and chatter away. Everyone can talk for up to four hours on a scheduled call or three hours on an unplanned meeting. You're only charged--from your own phone company--for any long-distance fees.

FreeConference.com sells upgrades if you need more features. A $9 monthly fee enables either call recording or PC desktop sharing tools. (Pay twice for both.) Or you can add either service to a single call for $6.50 each. If you want participants to dial into an 800 number, it'll cost the host $.10/minute per participant, billed to the host's credit card.

You might consider those extras in certain situations, such as allowing clients to call in on an 800 number. But depending on your needs, there's a good chance you'll get by with the free service for most--or all--calls.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.

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