Working from home? Six Video Conferencing Options

Young woman working from home

Written by: Mindie Boynton, EWD Business Representative

Most business professionals went from primarily working in an office setting to working virtually with less than 24 hours of notice this past week. This required many of us to think creatively, paper-less and connect with co-workers and clients in a new virtual world.  In less than a week, I have had meetings using 6 different software applications and wanted to share my feedback to help businesses during this transition.

1. Zoom

Zoom has been the most user-friendly application for me so far but I did have an account set up prior to quarantine but rarely used it previously. It was quick and easy to download the app to my phone and schedule meetings. There are also live training sessions and video tutorials free on their website. There is a screen share function and also a polling option which can be helpful for teaching or making group decisions. One downfall is that without a paid license account you can only set up meetings or classes for up to 40 minutes but you can have up to 100 participants with a basic (free) account.

2. Skype

Skype for Business is a supported software by my organization and so it is really easy to set up meetings with my colleagues because there is a button right in Microsoft Outlook calendars. I would recommend this for 1:1 meetings rather than larger groups. I have experienced more technical difficulties with audio and video as more people are added to the meeting. Skype also allows for screen sharing and there is a little paper clip for sending files. Other handy features include live subtitling of conversations, and the ability to record chats. Some of the companies I have tried to connect with through Skype do not allow for the download and install of software due to security or bandwidth. There is a free version and app that can be downloaded for up to 50 people group video calls.

3. Facebook Messenger

Facebook messenger is mostly used for one-on-one or group messaging, but it can be used to send images, emoji and video chat. Messenger is a great application for friends, family and any co-workers that you have added as “friends” on Facebook.  This works for quick chats but I have not used this application for scheduled conference calls or meetings. There are concerns regarding privacy issues as with most Facebook applications and that it can drain your phone battery.

4. GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting was developed for hosting business meetings online and works well if you have global clients. It has screen sharing with the ability to take over another person’s machine if they are struggling with information or a presentation. The only thing that is required is the meeting link and access the GoToMeeting software. There are options to host up to 250 attendees so you could host an all-company event or large training/webinar. There is a free plan that allows up to 3 participants to meet for 40 minutes maximum. There are different levels of monthly paid plans available that offer a suite of resources.

5. Google Hangouts

I tried to set up a video conferencing hangout with a teacher to get instruction for an assignment and was unsuccessful. Google Hangouts has a desktop and mobile application that can also be used in a web browser. The Hangouts chat function can be used for up to 150 people but video chat is limited to 10 participants. This is typically good for smaller groups and participants that have Gmail accounts already set up. It is currently free but requires an invitation from someone that is using a Google+. There have been concerns with security and privacy.

6. Microsoft Teams

If your organization has Office 365, then Teams might be a great option.  Teams gives you the option to set up phone calls or video conferences with two to many people.  I’ve used it very successfully this week for individual meetings and group sessions.  The benefits of Teams is that all of your contacts are already there, it’s pretty intuitive to use by clicking on the Calls section and putting in the email address of the person you want to reach.  The downside, they won’t get the call if they aren’t also on Teams.  My suggestion is to send the meeting invitation in Outlook, with the location of the Teams site you want them to go to.  If you have multiple people, you have to invite them all.  If you contact the same people often they will show up in your favorites or frequently contacted list, making those invitations easy. 

Written by Samantha Rittmeyer