In these restricted times, accessing data and working in teams can be a little fraught. We are going to look at the more popular video conferencing applications and see how they compare.

Zoom video conferencing

You most probably never heard of Zoom until the lockdown. This application is for the most part free to use and so it gained instant popularity. More than 2 callers will have a 40-minute limit unless you pay. You can pay a premium to get access to some cool controls over who is in the meeting, breakout rooms, participants mute and video buttons, and length of time of the meeting. As the subscription is a monthly one, it made sense to sign up. The views are Presenter and Gallery, with Gallery allowing you to see up to 49 of the participants.

Zoom is not as secure when it comes to sharing files and other sensitive data. They have tried to increase security with new passwords and waiting rooms, so hosts can limit ‘zoom-bombing’ by uninvited guests. Screen sharing and messaging (chat) is there. However, new recording tools and share screen tools are helping this video conferencing platform grow.

You need a good processor or a green screen to take advantage of the backgrounds, which many do with customised business banners.

Microsoft Teams

If you have Microsoft 365, Teams comes as part of your business package. Microsoft has worked hard to try and bring some extras into the program. You can now see up to 9 participants in the gallery view, these can be part of your team or guests with a link. Absolutely the easy decision to use this if you have a 365 package. It is far more secure, you have access to your SharePoint, files, calendars etc. The integration with your Office programmes is superb as you would expect. Setting up meetings is as simple as sending an email, with acceptance. Attendance and the ability to record all meetings onto the SharePoint as a backup.

Background works better, even for those with older laptops. Microsoft even allows you to customise these.

As it is part of an annual subscription model, Microsoft Teams has not been picked up as quickly as Zoom. However, that will change. As you will see with Skype.

Skype

Love or loath it, Skype and Skype for business were useful tools and many people still use them. MSTeams does now replace Skype for Business. Skype as part of your Microsoft 365 package for Home, Home and Business and Student, will also become MSTeams.

Blue Jeans

I hadn’t heard of this program until a networking meeting popped up using it. You can sign up for a subscription to host. There are no backgrounds and the three views are presenter, gallery and speaker. The presenter view shows the hosts and five thumbnails of last 5 to speak, the Gallery holds 9 thumbnails and speaker view shows the current speaker and up to 5 of the last speakers. A bit confusing to participate if there are large numbers. Screen sharing and messaging (chat) are available.

Other Video Conferencing – WhatsApp etc

Video calls from Google Hangouts, now called Meet, WhatsApp, and Facebook are still around and are useful for on the go chats. However, to maintain business and security you should use these sparely for quick catchups.

Conclusions

If you are looking for an all-in solution for your business, the Microsoft 365 subscription with Teams is the ultimate answer.

If you are just looking to attend a few networking meetings, maybe hold a family quiz night. Then Zoom is more than capable.

Grabbing a quick touch base chat, then any of the platforms will suffice, though if it is an in-house, or client business chat backup from Teams makes sense.