Best video conferencing and virtual event software

4_join_skype_for_business_meeting-100752488-orig.jpg

4_join_skype_for_business_meeting-100752488-orig.jpg

Credit: Peter Sayer/IDG

A lot of people the world over have been working from home far more than usual thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Out of nowhere, Zoom has become a household name and is seemingly more popular than Skype, the service that pioneered video calling software.

If you can’t decide which platform is best for your needs (or indeed your business’) then you’ve come to the right place. It could well be Zoom that has all the features you need at a price you can afford, but given there are so many others video conferencing services out there, we decided to take a look at the other options to help you find which one is right for you.

Here’s our detailed Skype vs Zoom comparison if you think one of these more basic services is right for you. 

The services we’ve looked at are specifically for desktop and laptop use and include paid tiers with business-focused features, though we’ll point out if they have an accompanying mobile app. But as so many virtual meetings are large, phone screens quickly become overrun with tiny little faces of your friends or co-workers, so a monitor or laptop screen is preferable to better see everyone and to manage the call with the tools each service provides.

Some of these platforms are even suited to hosting virtual events such as webinars or town hall meetings. It may well look like there’s too many too choose from, but at least it means there’ll be one that suits you down to the ground.

All prices are in US Dollars as most of the services are US based. Some will show you fees in Australian or New Zealand dollars, but not all. 

The participant ranges are the maximum at the lowest tier to the maximum at the highest tier.

Zoom

Credit: Zoom

Free tier / US$14.99 per month per host

100-1000 participants

The newly-minted daddy of them all, Zoom is now part of the global lexicon. Most people are now aware that it’s free but calls are limited to 40 minutes. Anyone with a work profile (from US$14.99 per month per host) can send out meeting links and you can chat to your heart’s content with up to 100 participants. 

On the business side of things you get granular user controls and admin management, custom personal meeting IDs, cloud recording of meetings and even company branding of the service in the higher paid-for tiers.

It’s become popular for people doing pub quizzes at home with their friends, but the business options are tailored and suitable for webinar, education and even telehealth use cases. 

ClickMeeting

Credit: ClickMeeting

5-1000 participants

Free for 25 days / from US $25 per month

ClickMeeting has a reputation for being one of the best services with which to host webinars thanks to its thoughtful presentation tools. You can screenshare (as can most of these services) but the way it allows participants to take over the host’s mouse to control slideshows is an excellent feature. 

It has long-tail value too, so if your business relies on data from webinar sessions ClickMeeting’s tools will collect this and funnel it into its analytics platform for you to report engagement. It has features like automated follow ups to webinar attendees, though it’s worth noting that toll-free calling is a paid add-on to the monthly pricing (other services include toll-free options in their packages).

All in all, if it’s webinars that you need to host the most, ClickMeeting is a top pick. 

Cisco Webex

Credit: Cisco

Free up to 50 minutes / US$13.50 per month per host

100-200 participants

Cisco’s Webex is a popular choice for business video conferencing thanks to its generous paid tier. Though meetings are limited to 50 minutes, it supports up to 100 participants and you can conduct unlimited numbers of meetings. 

It also provides Webex Teams collaboration tools such as interactive whiteboards, unlimited messaging and file sharing and full mobile support for iOS, Android and some wearables. The three paid tiers are priced per month per host and allow for up to 200 participants, which is less than rivals and notably more expensive than Zoom’s 1000 participant pricing. 

So Webex is best suited to smaller business use with fewer host logins, but we like it for its generous free tier, clean user interface and the ability to dial in using the desktop or mobile apps, or a web browser. 

BlueJeans

Credit: BlueJeans

From $9.99 per month per host

50-100 participants

BlueJeans doesn’t allow as many participants as other services and nor does it have a free tier. But it is a good reliable service with thoughtful features such as the ability to assign actions tasks to participants during meetings and an AI feature that automatically creates meeting recap highlight reels. You can also manually break down entire recordings into chapters. 

With standard, pro and enterprise tiers BlueJeans is set up similarly to Zoom but you might prefer BlueJeans’ admin features that let you tailor features available to certain groups of users. The interface is also very easy to pick up quickly, which is not true of some of the other services on this list. 

It works on mobile too, and we like the Low Data and Commute options that the app has. The former strips the video out of the call for you but keeps other content, and the latter is audio only for if you’re on the move but simply have to attend that virtual meeting. 

GoToMeeting

Credit: GoToMeeting

Free limited version / From US$14 per month per host

3-3,000 participants

GoToMeeting is a polished video conferencing service that has a completely separate inventively named free product called GoToMeeting Free. It has a 40-minute limit with a maximum of 3 participants so it’s very limited for business use. But if you need a service for one to one calls it provides screen sharing and mobile support and could be all you need. 

Read more: How would you use a 100Mbps Internet connection?

The paid tiers give you 150, 250 or 3,000 maximum participants, the most of ay service we looked at. However, the latter is part of GoToMeeting’s enterprise package and like all enterprise packages with these business video services you have to contact a sales team to purchase on behalf of a large business.

There are solid features in the well-designed program like screen sharing meeting transcriptions, full mobile support and more but be aware that toll-free numbers for phone dial in are paid add-ons. It’s also a pain that you have to pay US$20 per month extra for GoToWebinar services, making this one of the more expensive options.  

Microsoft Teams

Credit: Microsoft

Free / From US$5 per month

250-10,000 participants

Teams is often seen as a competitor to Slack, but adds video calling and deep collaboration tools to elevate it to a different sort of product. If your business is already using Microsoft 365 (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, etc.) then you might even already be paying for it as it comes included in the Business Basic, Business Standard and E3 packages.

Teams is also available free to individuals and is a pleasingly unlimited service – unlimited chat and search, video calling, 10GB team and 2GB personal cloud storage and of course integration with all Office apps. 

It is an excellent all-round platform for collaboration, but it’s more focused on that than as a scalable video conferencing platform. Insanely, you can have up to 500,000 users so it is a brilliant option for the largest companies in the world. 

It has its annoyances though, like not supporting video calling on iOS and needing to have the full Office suite downloaded to your devices for seamless integration but if you live in Microsoft’s world then it’s a great, affordable choice.

Google Meet

Credit: Google

From $6 per user per month as part of a G Suite subscription

250 participants

Google’s chat and video services are notoriously confusing as there are so many of them. Google Meet used to be called Hangouts Meet, and it’s the business focussed paid-for video calling service that you get when your business pays for a G Suite subscription.

This means you can use Meet along with your company Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive and a ton of other Google apps. Meet offers a pretty simple interface but excellent cross-platform usability, but its cap of 250 participants is low compared to other services. 

It’s one of the few video services that’s actually more pleasant to use on a mobile device like a phone or tablet and it goes without saying that it integrates seamlessly into every other Google service – you can make Meet calls from the Gmail app in browser, for example. Handy features like dedicated meeting phone numbers for access to audio without mobile data and more make it flexible, but it’s not suited to webinar hosting. 

Conclusion

If you want to make simple video calls to one person at a time you can get by with GoToMeeting Free. But if your work requires you to have larger video meetings and you want features like transcribing and recording then the full GoToMeeting or Zoom are good bets.

It’s best to follow the links provided here and delve into the features. ClickMeeting is the best platform for hosting and analysing webinars while Microsoft Teams is great if you are already using Office apps.

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By Henry Burrell

PC World
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