Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and their team have to find novel ways to remain productive and stay connected with each other. With work from home notices across the world, video conferencing tools are booming, helping teams connect in real-time and allowing for remote networking. However, with this also comes the question of the effectiveness and usability of these online video chat software. Some can be pricey for a small business, while some open platform tools perform better than others.
Companies are increasingly finding and experimenting with online video conferencing software to find the right fit. The ideal choice is one which is easy to use, accommodate the various sizes of your department/teams, compatibility with various devices, operating system and so on. A business, even in this trying time, has to maintain its bottom line and thus ensure standard operational productivity by their employees.
Here are the 10 best video conferencing tools to engage with your remote teams:
This platform has seen its business suddenly booming during this crisis. Zoom offers both free and paid versions, however, it has become the go-to platform for many small businesses. Up to 100 participants can join a single conference with a time limit of 40 minutes. For more advanced features such as meeting recording and multiple admins for additional controls, the Pro version costs $15 per month, per host. If you wish to use this for a larger gathering of around 300+ participants, one can upgrade to business or enterprise plan for $20 per month, per host.
- For short usage, the free plan is great as it comes with screen sharing option and allowing 100 participants
- Easy to set up meetings, link-based access to invitees to join a meeting
- With Paid plans you can access analytics reports, user management, and administrative controls, along with this, you also get cloud space to record and save your meetings
- Fun Fact: Say good riddance to dull backgrounds and uplift your look with a face filter called “Touch Up My Appearance” along with a virtual background
- Meeting feed will cut off at 40 minutes since the start of it with the free version
- In the news for privacy concerns which the company is currently addressing
- Multiple hosts and add-ons become expensive on the paid version
Zoom has become one of the most popular platforms for various businesses due to its various offering in the free version. However, choosing a paid version will cost you per host, so be mindful of who can have access to undertake a video meeting.
2. Google Hangouts Meet
Not to be outdone by others, Google for a long time had come up with their own version of video call feature with your Google account called Hangouts. It’s free for personal Gmail users, supports up to 10 participants in its unpaid and G Suite Basic, and 25 people with the Business or Education accounts. Furthermore, Google’s paid video conferencing is Google Hangouts Meet which can allow up to 250 participants. Google Hangouts Meet is part of the G Suite features, pricing starts at $6 per user, per month.
- Suitable to those already inducted with G Suite, as meetings can be integrated with Google Calendar
- Easy access, participants can join from any device through browser link or app
- Compulsory sign up with G Suite to use Hangouts Meet
In this COVID-19 pandemic, Google has opened up its Hangout Meets access to schedule a meet for free, without having to sign-up to G Suite. However, this may not last for long and you will need to arrange for an account with Google.
3. Microsoft Teams
At the outset, Microsoft Teams does not provide any free version, but this software is more than a simple video hosting platform. As part of Office 365 Business Essentials, it allows for collaborative tools and full-access meeting service. Compared to other services in MS Office’s tools, this is a cost-effective tool starting at $5 per user, per month.
- Easy integration with other Office 365 apps such as Powerpoint and Excel
- Participants can access a meeting without having to install or create an account with Microsoft Teams
- Unless proven as an educational institution, there is no free version
- Linked with Microsoft, so if you’re an Apple or Mac user, a training session will be required
The video hosting tool is one part of Microsoft Teams. Unless you or your organisation already have an overall MS Office set up, the meeting service can be a bit costly for just hosting meetings and video calls with your team or clients, as there are other services for this purpose.
4. Cisco Webex
Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, currently the unpaid version allows up to 100 participants with no time limit. Webex provides three plans to choose from, depending on your needs. Small business owners or team might better be suited for the starter plan of $13.50 per host, per month. The other two plans are more focused on midsize and large businesses.
- Free plan is quite generous just by itself
- Every host is considered as a “license,” thus, every time someone sets up a meeting, it can become expensive
Overall, Cisco Webex is the best video platform for business training, online learning, and webinars. The free service has also become a great choice for smaller teams and businesses for video conferences.
Under the free version, only three participants are allowed for a video call, while the paid versions, ‘join.me Pro’ and ‘join.me Business’, allows up to 10 participants.
- Personalized and branded URL for meetings
- Easy screen-sharing option
- Video conferencing tool seems ad-hoc and not a strong suit
- Limited access: one can only join a meeting with an iOS mobile device or Google Chrome.
Join.me plays on vanity psychology with its circle-shaped video bubbles and personalised URL. Access is limited along with small participant limit. If you wish to host a meeting with over 10 people, this may not be the best bet.
Starting at $12 per month, per organizer, GoToMeeting can host up to 150 participants. The other feature is the business plan for $16 per month, for hosting up to 250 people. This platform also has advanced features like drawing tools and meeting transcripts. The annual subscription plan is more cost-effective for businesses of any type.
- Easy to join meetings with a single click from any device
- Personalized “meeting room”
Belonging to the same parent company as join.me, GoToMeeting is the better product of the two.
Skype has often been the go-to platform for making video calls as it allows free video calls for up to 50 people from any device – mobile, tablet, or computer. The only paid service is for making international calls via the Skype platform.
- Every participant can screen-share, not just the host
- Portrait mode, blurring the background and camera focus on you
- Limit of only 50 people for a video call
Skype has been around for a while and many are familiar with it and remain a strong choice for the occasional video meetings. However, it may not be a suitable choice to host a video conference involving a larger group of over 50 people.
Similar to Skype, BlueJeans can host up to 50 participants. While prices are quite cheap, starting at $9.99 per host, per month, it can record up to five hours of meeting. You can upgrade to the $13.99 monthly plan which can host up to 75 people and provides more advanced tools such as analytics and integration with other business tools. Custom plans are also available for Enterprise levels.
- Cool features such as real-time chat, raise hands during meetings, and intelligent meeting recaps
- Powerful Dolby voice audio and background noise cancellation
- No downloads or installation needed
- Lacks a free plan
- Paid plan has member limit of 50 and 75 participants
BlueJeans caters to the professional aspect of video conferencing, brand agnostic and can easily integrate with Microsoft, Google, or Apple, for a seamless experience. However, there are other better resources available for both free and paid service to hosting a video conference.
9. Cyberlink U
It comes with a basic plan for free, hosting up to 25 participants with a 30-minute time limit. The paid plan amounts to $29.99 per month, per host, with a 50-person meeting limit, where to host 100 people, one will need to upgrade to the $49.99 per month, per host, plan. Enterprise plans are also available with advanced meeting analysis however, pricing is undisclosed and accommodates only 100 participants.
- Live notes or message during an ongoing meeting
- Share a specific application, instead of the entire desktop, along with a range of annotation tools and a whiteboard mode
- No downloads, registrations, or complicated dial-in numbers
- Steep pricing of its paid services, compared to other video conferencing platforms
Cyberlink U’s interface has plenty of unique features. For a short meeting with a small number of participants, the free plan is quite suitable. For heavy usage, other platforms are far better than this one.
Lifesize’s free plan can host up to 25 participants, with no time limit for a meeting. The standard plan is for $16.95 for one host per month and can host up to 100 participants. For small to medium-sized businesses, the $14.95 per month, per host, plan, allows to host up to 300 meeting participants which can be a suitable choice, however, there is a minimum sign up for a minimum of 15 hosts.
- End-to-end encryption for video calls
- 4K hosting experience for a more professional meeting
- Limit of only 25 people on the free plan
A cloud-based videoconferencing and collaboration platform, Lifesize, can work on all devices and platforms. It also offers a free trial to excite interest for a limited time period.