Am I using the right video call software for my business?

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Video calls are an essential part of the 'new normal' and the statistics agree. Zoom for example, reported an 85% increase in revenue since October and reached a peak of over 200 million daily users. Yet what many of us fail to realize is that video call software is not a one size fits all. How many of us are guilty of not researching into which video tool really suits the needs of our business? Don't worry, we're here to help.

The best video call software for your business

Selecting a tool

Zoom. WebEx. Whereby. Skype. These are some of the many options for virtual meetings to choose from. But which one will make the most sense for you and your needs? Here are some key questions to consider before looking at your options:

  • How many people will be connecting? Is this a team meeting? A partner meeting? Or for a large group?
  • Who will be participating in the meeting and how will they need to access it?
  • How long will the meeting(s) be?
  • Will the meeting be held one time or repeatedly?
  • What types of features and interactive functions are important to you?
  • Will you need to record the meeting?
  • What is your budget? Are you only interested in free options? (Note: due to Covid-19, some special prices might be available. Check the individual website links to confirm the latest offers.)
  • Are people already familiar with the technology?

A tool by tool guide

Skype

While Skype is well-known for one-on-one calls, Skype can also be used as a free solution for group calls of up to 50 people. A Skype account is not required. Anyone can create a free meeting by going to their website, and attendees can join via a unique URL. As it is web-based, the meeting can be accessed on all devices – mobile, desktop or tablet. It is not possible, however, for people to call into a group call with a phone number. Recordings of the calls are possible, free, and available for up to 30 days. Key features include screen sharing, chat, file sharing, polls, which makes interaction possible. While Skype is a great choice for small meetings that take place in one online meeting room. Breakout rooms, or places to have smaller group meetings, are not available with Skype. Webinars, for very large meetings, are also not possible.

Pros

  • Create free meeting at website
  • Web-based
  • Available on all devices – mobile, desktop, tablet
  • Good solution for small meetings
  • No time limit
  • Recordings available up to 30 days

Cons

  • No dial-in option
  • Features are basic: no breakout sessions
  • Not appropriate for more than 50 people or webinars

 

Jitsi

Jitsi is an open source and has built a reputation around this. Similar to Skype, you can create a free meeting by going to their website. No sign-up or download is required, and you can invite attendees by sending them the URL. Key features include screen sharing, chat, and hand raising. It’s also possible for attendees to  collaborate with Etherpad. Unlike Skype, a free dial-in option is available for some countries, which makes it possible to include participants who only have access to the phone. It is also possible to share a live stream via YouTube. Recording of a call is available, but only with a linked Dropbox account to store the files.  As an open source solution, you also have the option to host Jitsi on your own server.

Pros

  • Create free meeting at website
  • Free dial-in options for some countries
  • No time limit to meetings
  • Easy live stream to YouTube

Cons

  • Record only with Dropbox

Whereby

Whereby is a good solution for small, frequent meetings. With the free version you can have up to 4 participants with no time limit.  A key distinguishing feature is the ability to create your own meeting room links (whereby.com/yourname), which you can reuse for repeating meetings. This makes it an excellent option for regular one-on-one or team meetings. Features include screen sharing, chat, and the ability to lock a room for extra security.

Pros

  • Very quick to set up and join
  • No need to remember password
  • Unique URL to use for same meeting room
  • Can lock rooms
  • No time limit

Cons

  • No recording option for the free version
  • Maximum of only 4 participants with free version
  • Paid versions are comparatively expensive to other alternatives
  • Maximum of 50 participants; not suitable for large meetings

Zoom

Zoom has two products – Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinars (only available on the paid plans). Zoom Webinars is for late meetings, accommodating up to 100 panelists and 10,000 attendees. It is used for large events and broadcasts. There are 4 types of participants: hosts, co-hosts, panelists and attendees (who are in listen-only mode and do not interact with each other). Only hosts and panelists can share their screens. For Zoom Meetings, there are 3 types of participants—hosts, co-hosts, and panelists—all of whom can share their screens. Key features of Zoom include screen sharing, chat, file sharing, polls, and an interactive whiteboard. It’s also possible to share audio in Zoom, which gives hosts the ability to play music, for example while people are joining the meeting or during long meeting breaks, or to include as content.

Zoom Meetings has a breakout room function, enabling the host to create additional rooms to facilitate small group discussions. And within these small group meetings, it’s possible to collaborate sharing the screen or writing on a joint white board, as examples. While Zoom meetings can be recorded, individual breakout room meetings cannot be recorded. Recording is possible on both free and paid plans, with an option to save recordings locally or in the cloud. The free plan for Zoom meetings limits the call length to 40 minutes.

For both products, Zoom Webinar or Zoom Meetings, it is possible for an attendee to dial in using the telephone and calling a local number in most countries. This makes Zoom a good alternative to bring together people who do or do not have a good internet connection.

Pro

  • Dial-in for audio
  • No limit on the number of meetings
  • Instant and scheduled meetings
  • Meeting recordings on free plan
  • Breakout room

Con

  • Concerns about “zoom bombing” and privacy, which the company continued to actively address. It’s important as a user to look out for the software updates and make them as soon as possible.

WebEx

Cisco WebEx provides two options – meetings and webinars (only available with paid plans), which are used to accommodate meetings with more the 200 participants. Features include screen sharing, interactive whiteboard, chats, notes, raise hand, polling and small meeting rooms. Meetings can only be recorded using the paid plans, which can also include meeting transcriptions. Dial-in numbers are available, making it possible to connect with people who are online or only have telephone access.

Pros

  • Dial-in for audio
  • No limit on the number of meetings
  • Instant and scheduled meetings

Cons

  • Meeting recordings only available on paid plans

Additional Platforms

For users of Office 365, there is an integrated web conferencing program called Microsoft Teams, which replaces Skype for Business. Teams is part of a comprehensive Microsoft solution which makes it possible to use easily with other Microsoft features, such as sharing documents via SharePoint, sending out invitations through the calendar application. It’s not possible to purchase Microsoft Teams as a standalone solution but is an important one to mention as an option to those organizations already using Office 365. Teams can easily be used for internal meetings, whereas a complementary platform such as Zoom or WebEx might be necessary for meetings with external attendees.

For those organizations looking to offer webinars as stand-alone products, there are a few additional considerations. These include integration with payment platforms (such as PayPal or Stripe), scheduling or event applications (such as Eventbrite). While paid plans of Zoom and WebEx (and its webinar sister company GoToWebinar) both offer these features, there are others vendors to look at, including Demio, WebinarJam and Easy Webinar.

Summary

With more people than ever needing to work online, all of the providers above have been offering Covid-19 special offers and support services. For information about pricing and specific features, do visit their websites for the latest information.

Many organizations opt to use a combination of solutions, such as Whereby or Microsoft Teams for team meetings and Zoom or WebEx for larger group meetings.  Carefully consider the number of people who need to connect, the specific features you will need on the call, and what people find easy to work with. As with any technology solution, you’ll need to spend some time getting to know the software and exploring what works well for your needs and/or organization.

Thanks to Bridge entrepreneur Kim Ochs, founder of Guiding.io for writing this article

If you would like to write a guest article for our blog, please email: euphemia@bridgeforbillions.org

Or, if you’d like to know how to develop your business through our platform, click here

Phoebe Smith

Phoebe Smith

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