Your Options for Video Conferencing

September 19, 2023

Video conferencing was something we all used from time to time prior to 2020, but as soon as Covid hit, it became probably the most used method of communication for us all. It allowed us to maintain social contact with friends and family and maintain our former face to face networking.

Despite the lifting of lockdown, these apps have continued to be used in business, freeing us up from the time taken to travel to meetings and giving us more time to perform other duties.

Here are some of the most commonly used video conferencing apps that offer a free basic set up which is ideal for the majority of SMEs:

  1. Zoom: Zoom offers free video conferencing with features like screen sharing, recording, and group meetings. However, free group meetings are currently limited to 40 minutes in the UK, so you will have to all redial in if you take longer.
    Updates are needed from time to time; so it’s worth checking.
    https://zoom.us/
  2. Google Meet: Google Meet is integrated with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and offers free video conferencing for up to 100 participants, with a time limit that was extended during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s user-friendly and integrates well with Google Calendar.
    I needed to have a Gmail account to set up meetings and it runs fine in the “Chrome” browser.
    Perhaps not too popular with businesses as its predecessor “Hangouts” was associated with scammers and interactions of an adult nature.
    You can find out more about Google Meet from this support page:
    https://support.google.com/meet/answer/7317473?hl=en
  3. Microsoft Teams: has a free version that includes video conferencing for up to 300 participants, with a 24-hour meeting duration limit. It’s integrated with Microsoft 365 apps and services.
    I have never been able to set up a Teams account with a Gmail account; best to set up a Hotmail or Live one that you only use for this App.
    You will find that most local councils and government departments require staff to only use this software. If you’re working with a larger company that has a licensed copy, then you can interact outside of meetings in a secure project area.
    https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software
  4. Skype: Skype was first released in 2003 and offers free video and voice calling. You can also message and send files and pictures. It’s suitable for personal and small business use.
    The only negative I have found over the past 18 months is that it seems to need very regular updates which then freezes my laptop until I re-start and allow the software to download. Now linked with Microsoft.
    Further information about Skype from the following link:
    https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA34665/try-skype-without-a-skype-account
  5. Cisco Webex: Webex offers a free plan with video conferencing for up to 100 participants, HD video, screen sharing, and recording. It’s known for its security features.
    I’ve never used this one personally.
    https://www.webex.com/
  6. BlueJeans: offers a free plan with features like HD video conferencing, screen sharing, and integrations with other apps.
    https://www.bluejeans.com/
    NOTE: Please bear in mind that the company has advised users that it will be sunsetting its service in the first half of 2024. Unless one of your clients only uses this software, then it’s probably best to pick others to install on your equipment.
  7. WhatsApp: formerly a social messaging favourite, this is now branching into business. Easy to set up groups and share files and pictures. You can download your chat history easily.
    I’ve not used it for business, so cannot comment.
    https://www.whatsapp.com/

The above links were all live as of Tuesday 19th September 2023. If you experience any problems, please type the App name into your usual browser and check.

 

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