Easy to Use Video Conferencing Software

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Easy to Use Video Conferencing Software

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the spotlight on how to stay in touch. Easy to use Video Conferencing Software has suddenly become the go-to tool to make this happen. Whether you need a way to explain a complex issues to a remote colleague or you are looking to interview a new hire

But what if you have never participated in a group conference before or are confused by the array of avoid-a-hiring-disaster/apps out there and can’t decide what works best for the team?

Here we throw a spotlight on five of the most popular video conferencing software apps and explore a few pros and cons to help you make a better purchasing decision.

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Zoom

Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing tool. Created with large companies in mind, it enables users to host and record meetings, participate in group chats, and collaborate as if they were in the same office. The app works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS operating systems.

Zoom is not without its critics. Recent reports have highlighted that users have been breaking into calls and blasting users with disturbing images and videos. While security investigators have found that some video sessions are being routed across servers in China. Furthermore,  Zoom has been found to be collecting user data such as videos, comments, and user information for advertising.

In response, Zoom has been forthcoming and transparent about these issues. CEO Eric Yuan has even gone on the public record and apologised for these oversights. To their merit,  Zoom has now beefed up their security infrastructure, made high profile new hires and added a security option on the meeting control toolbar to enable a number of in-meeting security features.

These security fixes make us cautiously optimistic that Zoom has addressed its recent failing and is serious about creating a safe and usable platform for its customers.

Zoom continues to be available as a free service (with a paid option for Pro, Business and Enterprise users) and allows group meetings with up to 49 on-screen participants and a meeting duration of 40 minutes.

Free features include many of the same options found in the subscription level service. Standard features include breakout rooms, group messaging with presence, whiteboarding and localised voice recording. These features, together with their well-earned reputation of delivering a super easy process for connecting people, makes Zoom a standout product and worthy of investigation.

Meeting Owl Pro - our go-to product for smart video conferencing

We recommend the Meeting Owl Pro as our go-to device for video conferencing when you have 3 or more participants in a room. The Meeting Owl Pro integrates a 1080p 360-degree video conference camera, microphone and speaker. Smart focus is included which redirects the video and microphone to the participant who is speaking.

The Meeting Owl Pro seamless integrates with all the video conferencing software solutions listed in this post. Check out the video below to see the Meeting Owl Pro in action, especially the 360 degree panoramic image it creates of all the participants in the room.

Smart Owl Pro video conferencing device

Skype Meet Now

Skype is the ‘granddaddy’ of voice and video communication platforms. Launched in 2003, it has transitioned through a number of owners and feature implementations.

Microsoft is currently the owner of Skype, where it forms part of the Microsoft Teams division with platform support on Windows, Mac, IOS, XBox, Linux, Android and Amazon Alexa. If you are already using Microsoft Office 365 then you will more than likely already have Skype on your computer.

Feature wise, Skype includes the option to use instant messaging, hold video chats, and make local, domestic, and international calls. During a session you can share both your computer screen and share documents, create a whiteboard session, post polls and hold a Q&A session.

A standout features that we haven’t encountered elsewhere is the ability to conduct live voice and text translations. Skype supports 10 of the major spoken languages and over 60 language using realtime chat translation.

Skype have only recently introduced their Meet Now feature on both their free and paid versions of the product. This work within any web browswer and allows you to easily generate and share an online meeting in 3 simple clicks. There are no account signups or software downloads required. Meet Now allows you to generate a single link that can be shared with up to 50 participants to enter your video or audio conference.

Skype continues to evolve as a powerful audio and video conferencing platform. Under the tutelage of Microsoft not only is the future success of the platform assured but the quality of its voice and video performance will be maintained and improve. Skype is now part of Microsoft Azure, the formidable Cloud engine that offers immense processing power and connectivity reach around the world.

Skype remains one of our top picks for video conferencing and in either paid or free implementation offers excellent results.

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Skype Meeting Now

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts Meet, or just Meet, is Google’s enterprise video conferencing software. This app is similar to the video calls in the free, consumer version of Hangouts, with a few additional features like real-time captions, voice recording and support for up to 250 participants and 100,000 live stream viewer.

If paying a monthly licensing fee is not your thing, and you already have a Google account you can access Google Meet. This supports video conferencing with up to 10 participants, with participants accessing the meet room via a shareable link.

In response to the coronavirus crisis, Google has relaxed some restrictions for all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers, regardless of tier. Customers can now hold video conferences with up to 250 participants, live stream for up to 100,000 viewers and record meetings. This offer extends up until 30 September, 2020.

You can use Google Hangouts in most web browsers, or via the Google Hangouts apps for iPhone and Android.

Google use a ‘shareable link’ to sharing a meeting room with participants. This typically takes only a few clicks and can be shared by email or across an instant messaging client.

The free version of Google Hangouts with support up to 10 participants provides an easy to use and accessible method to video conference with customers and work colleagues if they already have an existing Google account. While the free version lacks a few of the features found in competing products such as Skype and Zoom, it does offer high-quality video, on-screen display of all participants and high-definition voice communication. These are the key features which ultimately stand as the barometer of success for many users. 

Google Handouts

GoToMeeting

The best video conference system for small businesses should be easy to use and accommodate a wide range of meeting attendees. GoToMeeting does both. Plus, it offers a wide range of features, including essentials such as HD video conferencing, recording and dial-in conference lines.

GoToMeeting offers several different service plans that can support anywhere from 10 to 2,000 participants in each meeting. Of those attendees, up to 25 can be on camera at one time. But if you need to host a meeting with more than 25 participants, you can still choose which attendees you want on camera at any given time.

Any device with Internet access can be used to host or join a GoToMeeting conference call. So whether you’re using a Mac, PC, or mobile device, you can participate from anywhere. GoToMeeting is simple to implement and doesn’t have a steep learning curve, making it ideal for smaller businesses that often don’t have the luxury of a full-time IT team on staff.

GoToMeeting offers a straightforward web conferencing service. While the tool set and interface aren’t as good as the higher-ranked services, its extensive international features and audio and visual options make it worth considering, especially for businesses with customers or employees in over 50 countries.

As a business conferencing system that focuses on delivering high quality voice and video, GoToMeeting does not have a free plan. Rather they offer a 14 day free trial with GotoMeeting Professional plan starting at $12 per month per organizer. This gives you the ability to host meeting of up to 150 participants with no limit on the meeting duration. Participants do not need to have a GotoMeeting account. Anyone can join a meeting from a phone, a tablet, a desktop app or a web browser.

GoToMeeting has taken the complexity out of business conference calling. From the initial setup to the call quality and meeting management features, it’s easy for anyone to use. By only requiring the ‘meeting organizer’ to hold a subscription account, their platform is both highly affordable and accessible. As such it carries a strong recommendation for our business users seeking a professional and high quality voice and video conferencing platform.

BlueJeans Meetings

BlueJean video components for conferencing

Like most of their competitors, BlueJeans works from within any Internet Browser and will operate on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, & Android. Unlike the bulk of its competition, BlueJeans doesn’t have a free plan. Rather, if you want to take it for a test drive, BlueJeans opts for the 30-day free trial route.

BlueJeans most affordable plan is their Standard tier. This is priced at $9.99 per organiser per month and supports up to 50 conference participants. There are no limits on the duration of the meetings and each meeting includes up to 5 hours of conference recording per host. The next tier is BlueJeans Pro. This is priced at $13.99 per organiser per month and supports up to 75 conference participants. In addition, the Pro tier adds another 20 hours of conference recording and includes analytics and collaboration integration with Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Their top tier is BlueJeans Enterprise. This is without doubt a ‘top-of-the-line’ video conferencing and Dolby voice solution offering support for meetings of up to 100 participants, ‘one-touch’ connectivity, unlimited recordings, corporate branding, dedicated Bluejeans Technical and Customer support, and optimised call quality and Premium access across China. (Our Sense Corp. video customer story below demonstrates the many intangible benefits that BlueJeans Enterprise can bring to an organisation).

A differentiating features of BlueJean is their integration of HD video and Dolby Voice audio. This is appealing if you regularly conduct customer facing engagements across video. And if you are not planning on subscribing to the BlueJean Enterprise tier, we would recommend that you install a Meeting Owl Pro in your conference room to maximise both the HD video and Dolby Voice capabilities of the system. BlueJeans includes a wide array of features and matches most of the competitors discussed on this page. The fact that you don’t have to download or install anything is a major plus as is their low monthly pricing for a single meeting organiser.