With the situation we are experiencing at the moment and the increased popularity of home office in general, virtual meeting platforms have become a needed communication tool.
Whenever used to catch up with colleagues, friends and family or to have a more formal meeting with customers, the availability and functions of those platforms have definitely improved over the years.
It is important to know which features you will need before installing one of those applications. What is a must have criteria. Do you want to be able to record a session, host a webinar or a meeting, does it have to be free or is the video quality the most important feature?
We have compared and listed some of the most versatile and user-friendly platforms for you.
This tool is part of the Cisco Collaboration Portfolio and offers videoconferences, Voice over IP, instant messaging and screen sharing.
You can setup a free meeting account with a personal meeting id, where you can host sessions of up to 100 participants, video, screen sharing and messaging included. The good news, there is no time limit on your meeting sessions!
If you require additional features such as cloud storage for the recordings, toll free dial in numbers or several hosts for example you will need to start paying. Overall it is a great tool but the interface is a little bit outdated. If you want to schedule and invite straight out of the tool you will have to spend a little bit of time getting used to all the options and features.
Zoom is very comparable to Webex but easier and quicker to get your head around it. The user-friendly platform offers a great application/client which makes it very easy to start a meeting and invite participants. Video quality is great and also here you can setup a free account. You will be limited to 40min meetings if you only have the free option but can immediately reopen the session so participants can rejoin. If you download the outlook zoom plugin you can schedule and invite to a zoom meeting straight out of Outlook. Most interactive features such as breakout rooms, polling, chat etc are included in the free option.
I can also recommend the phone application for this tool if you are on the run.
If you want to have more cloud storage, toll-free number or the webinar option, which is more presentation oriented with panelists and an audience, you will have to get a paying membership. A bonus are the free live tutorials sessions from Zoom which are offered regularly. I can only recommend attending one if you want to become a “master host”, especially for webinars.
This tool is part of the “Microsoft Family” and is a little bit more than just a videoconferencing platform. This tool is more of a sharing platform for people of the same organization. You can setup channels, activities, you have a calendar, chat rooms, you can upload and download material. Everyone who is member of your organization or channel will be able to access everything that is shared and exchange via Teams. You can have an activity feed which is more like a forum or a private conversation via the chat function. Notifications can be turned on and you can create Tabs where you can ping things on the “wall”. As Teams does not only focuses on videoconferencing but on many more features around the workflow within an organization, you will be a little bit more limited within the videoconferencing as you would with “pure” videoconferencing platforms. Even if you haven’t got a Teams account you will still be able to join a Teams video call. As this platform has so many options and features it might take some time to get to know each function and how they work. The meeting option hasn’t got as many features as other platforms, and the Webinar option (called Teams Live Event) your attendees will not be able to talk. Nevertheless, you are looking for a versatile platform where cou can exchange with colleagues and track the workflow of an activity or save your documents in a cloud this is the right tool.
4) Skype for Business
Some 10 years ago before we had all those different devices and platforms available everyone had Skype. Skype was used as a messenger platform via chat or to have video calls with up to 25 participants. This was a very basic video conferencing platform with not many features. In 2015 Microsoft rebranded its business communication platform Lyncs to Skype for Business. The interface look and feel is based on the traditional consumer Skype tool bus includes some more features such as video calls for up to 250 people. In the Business option you have an administrator who can manage the different users within his organization. Here you can also have an outlook plugin to quickly invite to a meeting. People form outside your organization will also be able to join a call. From my experience with this tool I have unfortunately quite often had audio issues when joining a call from another organisation. Participants could not hear me. I had to rejoin several times and sometimes it wouldn’t work at all. But again, if you are looking for an internal communication platform within your company this is a good tool. Skype for consumer might be for free but Skype for Business does come with a cost per user.
All in all there are many more features and options for each of the above tools which I am not going into detail as otherwise this post would be very long but I wanted to give you a glance of the most popular tools out there.
You have probably already used most of them before and have your preferences which also depend on your needs and what your organization might use. But as we all know, technologies are moving fast, and video conferencing platforms are constantly evolving.
I can only recommend using them to stay connected with your friends, colleagues and loved ones, wherever you might be. Don’t be scared to integrate those tools in your organization or private life you will get the hang of it faster than you know