With millions of professionals now working from home, some for the first time in their careers, IT managers across the country are working feverishly to establish essential video conferencing software and tools so that workers resume vital connections and can simulate meetings. For some, no longer having access to physical meeting space and tools have presented a unique challenge.
Working from home, however, doesn’t need to be difficult, as there is a multitude of free and paid software and online meeting platforms that can deliver all the same comforts as the office. In this article, we’ll focus on one of the essential tools: video conferencing software.
Video Conferencing Software Explained
Video Conferencing software or video applications allows us to take advantage of a webcam and microphone to bring your team together and provide a dynamic meeting space that will allow a remote team to collaborate. Most video conferencing platforms offer multiple ways for employees to share via audio, video, and text data. Not only do video conferencing software applications allows us to stay connected but can also increase productivity and cut costs. Additionally, they allow users to share and collaborate on files. Video conferencing software helps make the transition to remote work much more relaxed, especially when works with the other programs that you are already utilizing.
What’s the Best Video Conferencing Software?
To be straightforward, there isn’t necessarily one best video conferencing software. However, some video conferencing software is better suited to the individual needs of your business. Let’s break down some of the top picks you may have heard of before and explain their best uses.
Zoom offers meetings, Video webinars, virtual conference rooms, phone system, and chat, all for free. Zoom also offers a nifty whiteboard feature for brainstorming sessions. Pro, business, and Enterprise plan offer up advanced features such as more than 100 participants, user management, MP4 meeting recording, single sign-on, and cloud storage.
Security concerns surrounding Zoom have recently surfaced with “Zoombombing.” By default, Zoom’s free tier didn’t require passwords or waiting rooms for meetings, allowing anyone to drop in on your team meetings. Zoom quickly addressed the issue by turning these privacy and security features on by default. This minor debacle promptly pointed out the need for a virtual IT staff to work as administrators for all your online accounts and tools.
By far, the powerhouse of video conferencing software is Microsoft Teams. MS Teams gives you and your team access to a multitude of online services either through a web browser or thought the Teams App. With MS Teams you have calls, a sharable calendar, chat, and files that are all centrally located in a cloud environment and accessible to everyone on your team.
Compared to other popular video calling applications such as Zoom or WebEx, Microsoft Teams comes with the heftiest price tag via your Office 365 Business subscription. However, the Microsoft Teams app comes with a “freemium” version, which allows your team to have unlimited chat, group audio, and video calling, 10GB of file storage, and 2GB of personal storage space.
If you already have a subscription to Office 365, you don’t need a separate license for new users, either. You or your managed IT can use Azure AD to add free accounts for up to 100 new licenses for free until January 2021.
Team Viewer is not only an online meeting platform that allows users to conduct online meetings and web conferencing but also enables team members to gain immediate remote access to other computers. This functionality makes Team Viewer the darling of remote IT technicians, as it will enable them to gain access to your system for IT troubleshooting and configuration. Team Viewer offers a free download and trial period to test everything out and afterward, is billed monthly per seat. Additionally, there are multi-user and team licenses available for larger teams.
Google Hangouts is a video conferencing software included in your Google Account. You can find it by clicking on the square icon next to your account icon in the upper right-hand corner of your browser (when signed into Google). Google Hangouts is a very simple, easy to use method to hold online meetings, phone calls, and chat conversations. It is also available on Android and iOS in app form.
Of mention-worthy, in 2017, Google launched Google Hangouts Meet as a stand-alone product. Google Hangouts Meet offers additional collaboration tools for a more productive meeting and is included with G Suite accounts.
Another very popular web conferencing and video conferencing software is Cisco WebEx. You can grab a free Cisco WebEx account for personal use that allows up to 100 participants in each meeting, no time limitations, call-in functionality, and unlimited sessions. Additional packages are available that offer enhanced capabilities such as meeting recording, user management, 24/7 support, and even Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory sync, cloud storage, and branding and customization.
GoToMeeting, created by the company LogMeIn, is another web-hosted online meeting and video conferencing software package that allows you to host and attend online meetings. Outside of a 14 free trial, GoToMeeting doesn’t have a free plan for those wanting to host your own meetings, although you can use it for free to attend video conferences. If you want to get started with HD Video, screen sharing, and dial in capabilities, their plans begin around $12 per month. Business and Enterprise plans are available for other cool features such as Smart Assistant, note-taking, and unlimited cloud recording.
Skype is a universally used video conferencing tool. Using VOIP, you can make free internet calls and even call friends and family on non-Skype enable phones for a nominal fee. Skype has been historically associated with personal video chatting, but can with a little poking around, can be used to hold business conferences. The “Meet Now” function allows you to create a call with the touch of a button, share the invite to specific people, or allow anyone to join your call. We like Skype because it’s free video-conferencing software and can be used on smart devices. The primary cons of using Skype for business is the call quality sometimes suffers from lower bandwidth users and that it lacks many features that other video conferencing software provide.
Skype for Business
A more business oriented product from Skype is Skype for Business. Aside from being a stand alone app from Skype, there are several distinct differences between the two products. Firstly, Skype for business offers an administrator role with different permission levels for greater control over you team. Furthermore, the business application gives you access to larger conference calls and virtual meetings. Skype for Business also offers a great degree of integration iwith both Microsoft Outlook and Office 365 if your team is already using one of those software tools. One advantage for users who are already familiar with Skype, I that you won’t have to learn an entirely new product as the UI for Skype for Business is nearly identical.
Jabber is a productivity and communication applications that were recently acquired by Cisco. Cisco Jabber’s unified communication application totes the ability to work on any device, mobile, desktop, and even Android wearable devices. This video conferencing software has the same look and feel as Microsoft Teams and offers the same functionalities of team messaging, call, chat, desktop share, and video conferencing. Jabbers sets itself apart from WebEx or Unity Connection by offering extensive telephony features such as conferencing and video bridge capabilities.
Also developed by the company LogMeIn, online meetings, screen sharing, and team collaboration all come standard on the Join.me app. It’s free to join a meeting, and they offer a free trial for hosting meetings. For companies hosting many meetings per month, you’ll want to look at their pricing plans. A pro account offers 50GB of cloud storage, a toll-free number, recording, and live webcam streams. More storage and an increased number of users (up to 250 per meeting) are available through their Business plan, which runs $30 per month or $20 if you run a non-profit.
The last free video conferencing and web conferencing software we’ll cover is ezTalks. ezTalks’ free Starter plan ranks high among user satisfaction as they offer MP4 local recording as a standard free option.
Additionally, you can hose up to 100 participants on each call. A disadvantage of ezTalk Free is they impose a 40-minute limit on group meetings. Their paid plans include unlimited meeting time, online storage, and a REST API.
If you have an iOS mobile device, you are probably already familiar with FaceTime. Group FaceTime isn’t a true business video conferencing software, but it does allow you to have up to 32 people on one call at that same time. Another downside of FaceTime is that other users must have an iOS phone or tablet in order to use the video conferencing software. These facts make FaceTime great for personal communication to friends and family, but not necessarily a robust business application.
Google Duo is another free product that is a mobile app and works very similarly to Facetime. Google Duo is an excellent option for individuals looking for FaceTime capabilities on Android devices. It can be used by Google Home/Google Hub and is a unique way to stay in touch with family members and friends. Just as with FaceTime, Google Duo features are somewhat limited from a business use case, so this video app isn’t the best way to stay connected while working from home.
East Tennessee IT Professionals for Businesses
The good news is that there are many different video conferencing software options for most small to medium businesses.
Are you looking for assistance integrating video conferencing software, productivity software, or centralized hosting? Contact Elemental Technology Solutions today online or by calling 888-499-5898 for a free consultation. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses decide on the right technology and with getting remote IT infrastructure for business up and running quickly and securely. No matter which video conferencing software works best for your team, we can help configure it and monitor security, so your valuable business data is protected from malicious actors.