Video Conferencing is Back in Vogue
Which video conferencing tools for business is a frequently asked question as the world embraces working from home due to COVID-19. There’s always been an expectation when working away from the office – unless on sick leave – that we’re required to stay connected and contactable via email or some form of online chat platform that’s been individualised for your business or team.
Working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted these accessibility expectations to the next level. The added uncertainty around time frames for working from home, in addition to social distancing measures, has seen a surge of thousands of businesses and organisations adopting video conferencing technology to remain operational.
Video conferencing is now a communication requirement for management and employees alike. Merely being accessible online is no longer sufficient; we now have to actually see one another.
This has shifted the expectations of accessibility from just being on-line to now being eye-line…
Video Conferencing Tools for Business – Options, Many Many Options!
The good news for those of us incorporating video conferencing tools into our business operations is that there’s so much choice.
The bad news however, is that there’s so much choice!
With the sheer number of widely available options, there’s confusion over which platform to use. It must be user-friendly for the tech novice and sophisticated enough for those in the know. Should it be proprietary, subscription based or free to use?
Compiling your own pros and cons and comparison charts for each platform or app, just adds unnecessary levels of frustration and confusion that no one needs at the moment!
Video Conferencing and Taking the Guesswork out of the Networks – Our Top 5
We’ve made this choice easier by doing these comparisons for you, so all you have to do is choose the one that will work best for you and your business.
In no particular order:
Zoom is a free video-conferencing program aimed at corporate users that can have up to 100 participants, and up to 500 with the large meeting add-on. Conversations of three or more members are limited to 40 minutes, so you can either restrict your meetings to 40 minutes or you can upgrade to a paid plan that will remove this as well as other restrictions. There are no limits to the number of meetings you can host, so if you’re not keen on paying for the upgrade, you can end calls at 40 minutes and then call everyone back for an additional 40 🙂
Some key features of Zoom include:
- Being able to record video and/or audio locally,
- Muting your colleagues when they start talking about something that doesn’t involve or concern you, returning when the topic becomes relevant (if only we could always do this in meetings!),
- Sharing screens so meeting participants can see what you’re seeing, especially when wanting to share files/images/videos or take them through presentations/training,
- A couple of bonus features included are the touch up my appearance tool and the virtual background function which are game-changers in the current climate of working from home often with bed hair, no makeup and the washing hanging in the background! Why not touch up and change your background to represent some gorgeous distant land..
Google Hangouts is easily accessed through your Google account using your Gmail email address. If you have free Gmail and G Suite Basic accounts, you can have up to 25 people per call. Meeting participants join using a shareable link sent by the meeting host.
The advantage of using the Google platform is that it integrates other Google Apps, Google Drive etc as well as their G Suite accounts. The app also allows you to share your screen, post statuses, photos, videos, maps, emojis, stickers and animated GIFS adding some fun to what might be some mundane and uninspiring meetings.
Google has adjusted their G Suite and G Suite for Education customers, regardless of their tier, allowing customers to hold video conferences for up to 250 users, streaming videos to up to 100,000 viewers within a domain, and the ability to record and save meetings directly to your Google Drive. These allowances will be available to Google participants until July 1, 2020.
Skype is another free video calling program that allows you to video conference and instant message your contacts, connecting to them using their Skype ID or unique Microsoft username. Those without a Skype account can connect to landline and mobile networks globally buying credit in advance for these calls and texts at a comparatively low price.
The app has evolved over the past few years adding an array of functions including a conference function allowing up to 25 Skype users to take part in a group chat at the same time, including the ability to screen share with them all.
You’re able to send files through their instant messaging service and also edit or delete messages after they’ve been sent which might benefit some companies or put them under the spotlight for choosing a platform that makes this allowance. This also means that any disparities that may occur through Skype might not be admissible or included as evidence in any legal disputes due to this feature so it’s probably best that those companies requiring paper trails as part of their operations opt for another platform.
Skype platform is accessible across all desktop (macOS, Windows, Linux) and mobile (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile/Phone, Blackberry, etc.) platforms and also offers its ‘Skype for Web’ function, allowing users to make a Skype call as a web app directly via the browser.
Microsoft Teams is the communication and collaboration platform that combines ongoing workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration. It’s basically Microsoft’s answer to the Google Drive platform. Their positioning line for their product is, ‘the hub for teamwork in Office 365’.
This platform allows you to host audio, video and web conferences with anyone, including features such as scheduling assistance, meeting note taking, screen sharing, meeting recording and instant messaging. The hosting audio, video and web conferences feature refers to webinars and company-wide events and/or presentations reaching an audience up to 10,000, both from within and outside your company and can be accessed via Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices as well as conference room devices/phones.
Their video conferencing has some really cool features that would be useful at the moment when working from home surrounded by your family. Features like being able to check your audio and video outputs and having more control over what people can hear and see during your call; having live captions during your meeting; using the background blur feature making your family look like they’re living surrounded by dried ice, and adding some magic when sharing your screen that safeguards other programs or apps you don’t want visible to others and having them show up as a grey box.
Microsoft Teams is really impressive and extensive in its offering, so it might be too much if you’re only looking for a video conferencing tool and not full integration across your entire business.
CISCO Webex Meetings
CISCO’s web conferencing solution, Webex, is free to join and allows meetings of up to 100 participants for an unlimited time. You get 1 GB of cloud storage with your free account that includes support for features like screen sharing, video recording and file sharing as well as a personal room feature.
This platform also integrates with other known apps, storage and synchronisation services like Google Drive, Google Task, Google Calendar, Salesforce, Zendesk, Twitter and Box to name only a few. You can view the entire list on the Webex App Hub. Participants who choose to use webcams can use dedicated desktop apps or mobile apps for iPhone and Android (complete with their own screen sharing features).
Before you go…
The following are well worth a mention:
- FaceTime that comes installed on all Apple products and allows group chats (text or video),
- Facebook Messenger that is simple to use and is accessed via your FaceBook account. The advantage of Messenger is that it’s already integrated within iOS and doesn’t require any additional software or advanced setup, however, using Messenger requires connection via your personal FaceBook account which you might not want, and may have spent a long time carefully avoiding! You can connect via Messenger without being friends on FaceBook and update your privacy settings to protect your account from your Messenger contacts, but you may need to consider the social implications of this if you’re friends with some colleagues and not others!
- Whatsapp is another great chat and video option with connectivity made using mobile phone numbers. It’s super easy to use and navigate too.
- Oh and not to forget HouseParty which, like Whatsapp is fantastic and easy to use, but as the name suggests, it’s built around the concept of more fun than work 🙂
So there you have it! A round up of 5 of the best performing video conferencing apps you can start using today to keep your business engaged with employees, clients or patients. We can’t change the current climate of isolation, however we can stay connected!
If you need to extend more of your business functions, services or products online, get in touch to see how we can help. Our current price point has been discounted 50% to help businesses adapt during these challenging times.