Achieving a suitable work-life balance has become increasingly difficult in the Information Age. For most of us, employment is like a shadow, following us wherever we go and disappearing only when we turn out the lights. We work at the office, we work from home and sometimes we even work when we’re supposed to be on vacation. That’s where the best video conferencing software comes in.
Overwhelming as it may be, there are some perks to our state of constant productivity. For one, we’re no longer confined to a single work environment. Video conferencing allows us to take our meetings with us, whether we’re walking a few steps from the office to a local co-working space, or we’re traveling internationally to experience the world outside of our professions – if only to catch our breath. But how do we choose which video conferencing software to use?
Well, whether you’re scouring the market for a burgeoning startup or an enterprise heavyweight, we’ve covered the entire category, from simple call and messaging platforms to full remote support services. Let’s dive in.
- We’ve also highlighted the best online collaboration tools
A remote support, access and meeting service rolled into one, ConnectWise Control (formerly known as ScreenConnect) is best recognized for its friendly user interface, easy-to-digest functionality, and affordable price tag from month to month.
Gone are the days when video conferencing was simply a case of connecting two parties for a chat. ConnectWise, a leader in its category, enables you to run sessions with simultaneous collaboration from multiple users, control other machines remotely, customize the software’s appearance to fit your brand, adjust security settings to fit the compliance needs of your customers, and a whole lot more.
There are a number of products and packages that can be tailored to the needs of you and your organization. Compatibility is a plus, as your customers can be supported whether you’re logging into ConnectWise from a PC or Mac, or on the move via iOS and Android.
Pricing starts at $19 (£14.50) a month and remains reasonable going up the scale. This is a multifaceted and powerful piece of communications software that gives you good bang for your buck – especially if remote support is a business need.
Like ConnectWise, TeamViewer offers remote support and access in addition to online meetings. In its own words, the platform “allows users to access their office PC from the road, video conference across town, and share their screen for remote support from the other side of the world.”
When it comes to features, there’s a lot in the TeamViewer locker. We’re talking device and contacts management, instant messaging, file transfer and whiteboard tools, remote audio and video, session recording tech, and service desk integration enabling users to manage incoming tickets directly from within their email application.
In terms of remote control of other devices, users can restart, print and install in addition to the usual controls, while reporting features help you log incoming and outgoing connections and learn exactly who did what, when, and for how long.
Despite this wealth of features, using TeamViewer is fairly straightforward. Furthermore, the app should effortlessly fit into an organization’s software roster, especially with the pre-built integrations with Freshdesk, Zendesk, Avira and others.
If your communications scope goes beyond English speaking borders, that shouldn’t be a problem either, as you can run TeamViewer in more than 30 different languages. Pricing starts at $49 (around £38) per month.
Whereas TeamViewer is all about packing features into a video conferencing app, GoToMeeting (from LogMeIn) delivers on the convenience and accessibility fronts.
Trimmed down when compared with competing services, GoToMeeting lacks the string of collaboration tools and remote access abilities that some other software has. However, it does exhibit a helping of nifty characteristics that make it stand out from the rest of the pack when paired with its glitzy UI.
For starters, up to 100 people are able to join an online meeting from their Macs, PCs, iPhone or Android devices. At the same time, when using GoToMeeting, you can share any application you have on your computer in real-time. A handy scheduling tool lets the host arrange a meeting in advance while all guests join free of charge. Clicking a link or entering a meeting ID is all that’s needed for attendees.
The in-call experience is enhanced by hosts being able to see exactly what the attendees are viewing via their dashboard, while presenter duties can easily be handed over mid-call, and attendees are able to share their screen with others too. More recently added was built-in support for Lifesize, Cisco and Polycom devices.
So while GoToMeeting may not have the fancy add-ons and remote control capabilities of the services we’ve looked at up to now, as a piece of video conferencing software, it’s very difficult to fault. Pricing starts from $14 (£11) per month, and if you want to set up your own meeting room specifically tailored to GoToMeeting, LogMeIn sells the software bundled with all the equipment you need to use it as well.
Also a service from GoToMeeting developer LogMeIn, Join.me has stuck to the essentials of video conferencing, offering a streamlined platform that allows multiple people from multiple locations to connect and collaborate.
Among the features at your disposal in Join.me are text chat, screen sharing, scheduling invitations, mobile access and call recording. Joining a call is straightforward and inclusive, as attendees can connect via desktop, VoIP, mobile devices (iOS and Android), and a phone line from 40 different countries.
If you need to run presentations or training sessions for larger numbers of people, Join.me stands up well, with a maximum of 250 participants able to call in – more than double that of GoToMeeting’s limit. Another appealing factor is the platform’s compatibility with Outlook and Calendar when organizing meetings.
With a 14-day free trial and prices starting at just $10 (£8) per month, you can see why Join.me is a popular choice for organizations seeking a clear-cut solution to their conferencing needs.
We simply couldn’t round up the all-time bests of the video conferencing world without mentioning Skype. Or more specifically, Skype for Business, which goes above and beyond the platform’s standard capabilities by throwing in tools and features that make it worthy of full enterprise deployment.
The service offers advance scheduling, real-time screen sharing, VoIP support, and accessibility across desktop, iOS and Android devices, while up to 250 people can join a single meeting.
Want to take this even further and stage a webinar? Skype Meeting Broadcast may be the upgrade for you, enabling up to 10,000 attendees, full producer controls, Azure streaming, Bing Pulse polling and audience participation via Yammer.
Being part of the Microsoft family makes Skype for Business particularly appealing for organizations already using an Office 365 corporate package, as the associated applications come tightly integrated.
Though it wasn’t always the case, Skype for Business now requires a subscription to the Business Premium edition of Office 365, which costs $12.50 (£9.50) a month if you commit to an entire year. If you want to pay month-to-month without shelling out for the whole year, the price hikes up to $15 (£11.50) per month.
Best of the rest
Google’s G Suite, once known as Google Apps for Work, is an increasingly comprehensive collaboration hub, and the video conferencing side of things has been upgraded in recent times thanks to Google Meet, which allows up to 30 participants at a time. This is a perfect communications tool for SMEs already active in Google’s productivity platforms.
Unsurprisingly, enterprise behemoth Cisco has a well-equipped video conferencing platform to throw into the mix too. With WebEx, participants don’t even need an account to join a call, while nifty whiteboarding, note-taking and annotation tools are available to hosts and attendees alike.
Although it’s light on features compared to some of the other products we’ve gone over here, Zoho Meeting is a foolproof alternative to the more complicated video conferencing software solutions. Because it lives in your browser, you never have to worry about installing anything on your computer. You can use it for both audio and video calling.
RingCentral claims its cloud-based communications platform is “more flexible and cost-effective than legacy on-premise systems.” It enables voice and video calls, team messaging, online meetings, and even includes a nostalgic nod to the old school by supporting fax.
If quickfire instant messaging is a bigger priority for your business than long group meetings and training seminars, HipChat may be the most suitable offering. It allows users to set up chat rooms internally, and with clients, to share files and discuss projects in real-time, and it still supports video calling and screen sharing if needed.