Zoom, BlueJeans, WebEx, AnyMeeting, Slack
Which video conferencing platform is right for your business? We’ve gathered details about 10 leading services, all capable of providing high-quality video with collaboration tools. You might not get any frequent flier miles, but you’ll get plenty of work accomplished.
It’s a scientific fact that communication is more effective when you can see the person you’re talking to. Seeing the other person’s facial expressions, for example, makes it easy to tell a serious request from an offhand remark or a joke.
But you don’t have to endure hours of air travel for an effective face-to-face meeting when video conferencing software and collaboration services are widely available. With a desktop webcam or a mobile device, you can meet one-on-one or with a group, no matter how dispersed the members of your team are. We’ve assembled the leading conferencing software platforms, all capable of providing high-quality video and full-featured collaboration tools. While many of these video conferencing platforms also offer live streaming and webinar capabilities, our focus here is primarily on virtual meetings.
After a successful IPO in 2019, Zoom solidified its status as one of the leaders in the video conferencing industry. Its conferencing software allows simple one-to-one chat sessions that can escalate into group calls, training sessions and webinars for internal and external audiences, and global video meetings with up to 1,000 participants and as many as 49 HD videos on-screen simultaneously.
Zoom sessions can start from a web browser or in dedicated client apps for every desktop and mobile platform, with end-to-end encryption, role-based user security (including HIPAA compliance), and easy-to-use screen sharing and collaboration tools. Meeting invitations integrate smoothly with popular calendaring systems, and meetings can be recorded as local or cloud-based files, with searchable transcripts.
The free tier allows unlimited 1:1 meetings but limits group sessions to 40 minutes and 100 participants. Paid plans start at $15 per month per host and scale up to full-featured Business and Enterprise plans.VIEW NOW AT ZOOM
Microsoft Teams, a successor to Skype for Business, isn’t so much a product as it is a feature of Office 365, which tells you a lot about its design and who its features are best suited for. Anyone can sign up for the free version of Microsoft Teams using a Microsoft account; that tier supports up to 300 members, with guest access, one-on-one and group video and audio calls, shared files (2GB per user and 10GB per team), screen sharing, and document coloration using online Office apps.
Where Teams begins to deliver its full promise as a video conferencing solution is in an organization that runs on a Business or Enterprise version of Office 365, where Teams is just another feature (and the successor to Lync and Skype for Business). In that environment, administrators have access to a full range of management, security, and compliance tools. Team members can share files (up to 1TB per user), schedule meetings directly from Outlook, record meetings, and collaborate on documents using the desktop Office programs and SharePoint Online. Those paid plans also support online training sessions and webinars.
For organizations that aren’t deeply embedded in the Microsoft Office way of working, the Teams feature set can be baffling. But for anyone who already lives in SharePoint and Outlook, Microsoft’s conferencing software should be a tight fit.VIEW NOW AT MICROSOFT TEAMS
LogMeIn has been on an acquisition tear in recent years, with GoToMeeting and a collection of related collaboration tools acquired from Citrix back in 2016. A major update to the video conferencing software released in late 2019 includes a long list of new features and what LogMeIn calls “a completely reimagined product” that works in a web browser (no download required) or through desktop and mobile apps. After a 14-day free trial, you’ll need to choose a paid plan; options include Professional ($12 per organizer per month, up to 150 participants) and Business ($16 per organizer per month for up to 250 participants). An Enterprise plan supports up to 3000 participants.
The reworked user experience in LogMein’s GoToMeeting conferencing solution is consistent across platforms and integrates with calendar solutions and platforms from Office 365, G Suite, Salesforce, Zoho, and Slack. For each call, you can take notes in real-time, which are then embedded and saved in the meeting transcript. Besides the normal option to save to video, you can also capture presentation slides from a meeting and share them in a PDF for later download.VIEW NOW AT GOTOMEETING
Webex is truly one of the graybeards of the video conferencing software segment, founded in 1995 and acquired by Cisco in 2007. The free conferencing plan (up to three users) is surprisingly full-featured, with HD video, screen sharing on desktop and mobile devices, and limited recording options; it supports up to 50 participants per meeting, with meeting times capped at 40 minutes and online storage limited to 1GB.
If the limitations of the free tier get in your way, three paid plans are available: Starter ($13.50 per host per month, 50 attendees), Plus ($17.95 per month, 100 attendees), and Business ($26.95 per month, with a five-license minimum, supporting up to 200 attendees). Enterprise plans are also available. Each step up includes additional cloud storage and management features; single sign-on and support for Exchange and Active Directory requires the Business plan. An interesting add-on, Call Me, allows you to start a meeting by receiving a phone call; you’ll pay $4 per host per month for this feature for domestic calls, with the tariff for international calls going up to a pricey $35.75 per month. VIEW NOW AT CISCO WEBEX
Google’s ever-evolving lineup of communications and collaboration apps split in two back in 2017, with the classic version of Google Hangouts video conferencing marked for retirement. Google Hangouts Meet is the business version, enabling video meetings for G Suite subscribers. External participants can also connect.
Naturally, the service is designed to work in the Google Chrome browser (although limited support for Internet Explorer 11 is also available), with mobile apps available on iOS and Android. The exact feature set depends on your G Suite version; the number of participants, for example, is limited to 100 for G Suite Basic, 150 for Business, and 250 for Enterprise. For live streaming (up to 100,000 audience members) and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive, you’ll need G Suite Enterprise.
If your business is standardized on Google’s productivity and email tools, this video conferencing option should be on your shortlist.VIEW NOW AT GOOGLE HANGOUTS MEET
If your organization has a paid workspace that uses Slack’s collaboration tools, you already have access to a handful of limited video calling options that might be good enough for basic meetings and team collaboration needs. Just be aware that video calls are available only on desktop platforms (Mac, Windows, and Linux); the iOS and Android apps are limited to voice calls only.
For the full range of screen-sharing features, including options to stream presentations and draw on a shared screen, you’ll need the Slack app. With Google Chrome (the only supported browser), you can view a teammate’s screen, but you can’t start a screen share. The company’s support site warns Mac users to download the Slack app from its website for full access to screen sharing features, which are not available in the App Store version.VIEW NOW AT SLACK