OED is providing you with a second blog this month, looking at video conferencing and its many facets. While the COVID-19 pandemic has a sizable portion of the workforce working from home, video conferencing is demonstrating how useful it can be with keeping business
operations, students and groups moving during these unusual times. With this rapid ubiquity, we consider the reasons for its popularity, suggestions on how to choose software according to needs, and look at a few examples of platforms available to keep us connected to our workplace, colleagues, and teachers.
Video conferencing provides the ability for two or more participants to meet and collaborate from different locations. It’s accessed via a high-quality video and audio feed and can be used with computers, smartphones, and tablets that are connected to the internet. Video conferencing services are utilized for meetings, remote classrooms, webinars, job interviews, and much more.
The increased popularity of video conferencing
- Remote work has had a recent jump in growth, even before the explosion of people working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Video conferencing has become an important tool with those working from home, as communication is more effective when you can see the person you are talking to.
- Video conferencing software has become far more simplified and cheaper to use, making it available to businesses of all sizes, whereas before it was used primarily by large corporations because of cost and complexity.
- Businesses want to cut down on employees traveling between multiple sites to save on their bottom line.
- Increased meeting attendance is a result because the location of attendees isn’t a barrier.
Things to consider when choosing video conferencing software:
- Cost – There are many free options available, but these can come with limitations, such as the number of participants and meeting length. Most of the paid subscriptions have different levels of use and offer free trials, typically for 30 days. Paid subscriptions are generally scalable to your needs, concerning the number of hosts and attendees, and the length of a meeting.
- Ease of Use –The user interface should be easily navigable for those utilizing it, to avoid delays and frustration. Also consider how easy it is to sign up for the service, to create a meeting, invite participants, and to set up audio and video controls. Checking on what the end user’s experience will be from the attendee’s perspective is beneficial as well.
- Reputation – Evaluate the track record of a product in terms of reliability, performance, and security. Check online reviews and consumer assessments to see how others feel about differing services.
- Features – Some applications are frequently integrated within video conferencing services, such as screen sharing, Google Docs and PowerPoint, whiteboard tools, and chat options.
A few examples of video conferencing options:
- Zoom – It’s currently one of the most popular platforms, but not without recent controversy about security due to the outbreak. Being proactive with its security settings should be at the very top of your list when using it. There are free and paid options to choose from, though with the free version, you can hold one-on-one meetings or group meetings up to 100, however, for meetings with more than three attendees, there is a time limit of 40 minutes. There are many features in the free version that you would have to pay for in a competing product.
- Google Meet – Google is ever-changing their communication platforms, and Google Meet is their paid video conferencing software, and is part of G Suite with different tiers to suit your needs, with Basic, Business and Enterprise options. It’s an improved version of their free Google Hangouts service (which is available until 9/30/2020, and will then become part of the G Suite Basic paid service). It was created to be a first-class conferencing service for business needs. There isn’t any software to download and can be used in most browsers, and also on iOS and Android devices. The available feature options depend on which tier you use.
- Skype – This platform is a familiar name to many, as it has evolved into different formats since its release in 2003. It is currently owned by Microsoft, and its free version is suitable for group video calling for up to 50 people. Skype can be used by downloading their app, or in a browser, which is handy because you can invite
others to join by just using their email address. They have a screen sharing option, the capability to blur backgrounds, record chats and even subtitling. If you require more meeting attendees, Skype offers a paid business version, now known as Microsoft Teams, that supports up to 250 participants with office integration and more robust security options.
- Cisco Webex Meetings – Cisco is usually associated with enterprise tiered products that are pricey. The Webex Meetings software does offer several tiered plans, although their free plan is full-featured with the ability to have HD video meetings with up to 100 participants, no time limit for meetings, screen sharing on desktop or mobile devices, online storage up to 1GB, and much more.
These are only a small handful of the video conferencing platforms available right now, with numerous other choices within the paid and free realms.
Whether you are new to it or are curious about what other services are out there, take into consideration what makes a video conferencing platform a prevalent choice and evaluate your needs before making a final decision. Most importantly, make sure that you are fully versed in the security settings in whichever platform you choose. Video conferencing is a valuable tool for businesses, students, and groups who want to stay connected over long distances – also while social distancing – and it has ostensibly come into its own. OED will continue to work to provide you with important information on helping your business survive during this COVID-19 challenge.