Videoconferencing systems not only help in times of crisis but can also increase productivity and reduce costs. We introduce you to the most important collaboration tools for remote meetings. Video conferencing systems and other Collaboration tools are currently in high demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s not just in times of crisis that tools for remote meetings are valuable to companies: they drive productivity and efficiency and reduce travel costs. As practice shows, a notebook or desktop PC with a webcam is often enough for a meeting with individual members or the entire team, regardless of where they are physically located. We’ll introduce you to some of the most important video conferencing platforms and their scope of services.
Zoom Meetings: Freemium Collaboration
After its successful IPO in 2019, Zoom is positioning itself as one of the leading providers of video conferencing. The key to success is the ease of use and an attractive freemium offer. With the free Basic version, users can already hold an unlimited number of video conferences with up to 100 participants – but only for a maximum of 40 minutes. 1-to-1 meetings are possible for an unlimited period. Features include HD voice and video playback, speaker view, local recording, full-screen view, telephone participation, and collaboration features such as breakout rooms, private or group chat, screen sharing, and whiteboarding. Anyone can dial in or join zoom meetings if they have the appropriate link.
With the Pro version, the basic functions are supplemented by things like an unlimited meeting duration (24 hours) with up to 100 participants, an individual personal meeting ID, admin Management, the possibility of streaming via Facebook and YouTube Live as well as reporting and recording and storage in the cloud. Also, a REST API gives you access to an add-on marketplace, which is useful integrations with all kinds of applications, including Slack or Teams. The paid subscription plans differ primarily in the number of hosts, and the potential participants and support.
Microsoft Teams: Video Chats with Office 365
The successor to Lync and Skype for Business is not a standalone product, but part of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite. However, anyone with a Microsoft account can sign up for the free version of Teams. With up to 300 members, Teams Free is suitable for small businesses and supports guest access as well as single and group video calls, screen sharing and document colouring for online office applications. However, shared file storage is limited to 2 GB per user and 10 GB per team. There is also no support for scheduled meetings, phone calls or audio conferencing, and no access to management tools for managing users, applications, and generating usage statistics.
Therefore, Microsoft Teams as a video conferencing solution only makes sense in conjunction with the business or enterprise versions of Office 365. Team members can share files, schedule meetings directly from Outlook, record meetings, and collaborate on documents online with desktop office programs and SharePoint. In turn, admins have a whole range of management, security, and compliance tools at their disposal. To promote work from home in the current Coronavirus crisis, companies can test the premium version for free for six months. Also, Microsoft announced that users of the free version will now also be able to schedule meetings.
Google Meet: G-Suite Video Conferencing
The positioning of Google Meet is similar to that of Microsoft Teams because the solution is firmly integrated into Google’s Office product Workspace (formerly G Suite). Because given the strong demand for videoconferencing, Google Meet has been available to all users free of charge since May. The service allows web-based video and teleconferences with up to 100 participants in the free version. Features include real-time subtitles in English, an individual layout, and screen sharing and scheduling. Like most Google services, Meet is designed for Google Chrome and other browsers based on Chromium and works here without plugins. Mobile applications for Android and iOS are also available. Gmail users will also find the Meet feature integrated into their mail program (browsers and apps).
To differentiate itself from Zoom, Teams & Co., Google refers to a high level of security measures. For example, the meeting codes are complex and therefore effective against so-called brute force attacks, and anonymous users (users without a Google account) cannot participate in meetings created by private accounts. According to Google, the Meet video conferencing itself is encrypted during transmission; all records stored in Google Drive. As for the controls, the host can allow or deny participation in a meeting and mute or exclude attendees as needed.
Cisco WebEx: Video Conferencing System Veteran
Founded in 1995 and acquired by Cisco in 2007, WebEx is the veteran conference solutions. The Cisco subsidiary is one of the players that respond to the spread of Covid-19 and related travel bans with free offers. For example, the free version of WebEx supports meetings with a maximum of 50 minutes meeting duration and up to 100 attendees until further notice, and features such as HD video, audio dial-up, personal conference room, screen sharing on desktop and mobile devices, 1GB of cloud storage, and recording.
WebEx also offers the paid versions. The difference lies mainly in the additional cloud storage as well as various management and integration functions. For example, a special admin portal is available for the Plus version, and the Business version allows administrators to synchronize user information with Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory.
BlueJeans: pioneer of browser video conferencing
Similar to WebEx, BlueJeans is a pioneer in browser-based video conferencing via WebRTC. The company, acquired by Verizon in April, focuses specifically on spontaneous connections via an app or browser (without download). BlueJeans’ meeting solution also supports conference systems (depending on the subscription plan) and can be embedded in business applications such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. Another feature is the integration of Dolby Voice for improved audio playback.