Buoyed by sinking travel budgets, remote conferencing is increasingly being used as a substitute for travel, even for high-level meetings where sensitive information is discussed.
According to the Washington D.C.-based Travel Industry Association of America's 2002 Air Travel Survey of 4,000 frequent flyers, virtual meetings of all kinds are on the rise, particularly teleconferencing, which was used by 42 percent of business fliers in the past year as a substitute for taking a business trip.
In some cases, remote conferencing is even used in caucuses where delicate issues are decided. For example, the holiday-time election of Bill Frist as Senate majority leader of the U.S. Congress took place in a teleconference attended by 41 senators, some of whom used mobile phones to cast their votes.
However, some planners recommend leaving confidential data out of remote conferences. Chris Meyer, CEO of San Francisco-based Conference Planners, says that when it comes to sending proprietary information over the Web, "You have to assume it will get into the hands of your competitors."
Computer security expert Ralph Logan, manager of the VigilEnt Intelligence and Threat Analysis Lab for San Jose-based NetIQ Corporation, says security for remote conferencing has improved greatly, and that if precautions are taken, attendees should be comfortable discussing confidential data in remote conferences. "Lay people can in fact secure their networks, depending on the amount of money and effort they want to put into it. Planners should start their research by contacting a consultant."