Real-time collaboration is a type of business tool that has come into common usage, thanks to the power of the Internet. Essentially, the various types of web collaboration tools make it possible for people situated in a wide range of physical locations to come together in a single virtual environment, and work together on a common project as if they were in the same room. Tools of this type may be used as part of an internal network within a company that operates a number of facilities around the world, or be obtained for use from a telecommunications company that supplies online web conferencing solutions along with audio conferencing capabilities.
A basic real-time collaboration tool will allow participants in the meeting to actively participate in the creation or editing of some type of document. The document may be a proposal that is being prepared for presentation to a new client, a slide presentation that will be used at an upcoming sales or industry conference, or even the creations of some sort of in-house document like an employee handbook. Typically, an individual who is identified as the group moderator or leader has the ability to empower each participant in the meeting to participate in some manner, ranging from using his or her computer to make real-time changes to the text or look of the document, to engaging in group chat via an audio connection or instant messaging.
This type of real-time collaboration is sometimes known as whiteboarding or whiteboard collaboration. Essentially, the process relies on either uploading the document to the server of the company hosting the real-time conferencing session, or using what is known as desktop sharing to allow all participants to see the desktop of the group leader. The leader displays the document on his or her desktop for all to see, then grants group members the ability to make changes to the document through the conference interface. Once the changes are made, the leader can save the changes to the source document just as if the edits were done on site.
Depending on the structure of the real-time collaboration tool that is used, the audio interaction may be provided by a companion audio conference call that is occurring simultaneously with the web conference session. At other times, the audio portion of the meeting is provided by a Voice over IP connection that allows the moderator and participants to communicate with the use of speakers and microphones that are attached to the desktops and laptops used to attend the virtual meeting. In both scenarios, the moderator has the ability to control the real-time collaboration by locking the meeting once all required personnel are present, and choosing who has editing and other privileges at any point during the session.