The best video conferencing apps for businesses
Video conferencing is more important than ever given the wholesale shift to remote working models – teams are scattered to the four winds, and many clients have now taken to video calls as a way to schedule more regular check-ins than were previously possible
While you’re probably familiar with Zoom at this point, there are a wide variety of video conferencing options available, all of which have different strengths and weaknesses. Below are five of our favourite video conferencing options for businesses, and an explanation of what each one brings to the table, from high quality video to file sharing and collaboration.
An app that needs no introduction, Zoom was perhaps the buzzword of the pandemic. The use of Zoom for both family catch-ups and business meetings speaks to its flexibility, and it continues to be the best-known and most popular option for cross-platform video calls.
Part of the success and broad appeal of Zoom is how easy it is to use. Meetings are easy to set up, and the links can be joined by anyone, with the option to use your browser if you don’t have the app installed. Everything you need within a call is also right there in the interface, with buttons for recording, screen sharing and other features clearly displayed.
There’s also the benefit of familiarity. At this point, most people have used Zoom, particularly in a business setting. This makes it a reliable option that everyone should have access to and experience with. If you email someone a Zoom invite, there shouldn’t be any danger that they can’t join the call – or respond with half a dozen questions about how the software works.
One of Zoom’s greatest perks – and the reason it became a global phenomenon – is its reliability on a variety of internet connections. Most of us are used to buffering in videos and streaming, where the video briefly pauses while the next bit loads in. This isn’t ideal when you’re in a live video call, and you miss what someone has said because of a bad line.
Zoom fixes this problem by dynamically changing the quality of someone’s video and audio when the quality of their connection varies. This might mean dropping from HD to standard definition or below, at least for a short period, but it means that you can continue to see and hear them throughout – something most of Zoom’s competitors can’t manage.
Limitations for free users
While relatively few of Zoom’s many features are locked behind a paywall, the most obvious limitation is that free users can only have meetings up to 40 minutes long. While some may welcome this as a convenient cap on meeting times, preventing them from dragging on longer than necessary, it can be a genuine impediment – and a limit that simply encourages clients to arrange more meetings.
While Zoom calls can be joined via a standard web browser, Zoom constantly prompts you to use the app for them instead. This becomes a problem when you go to join a meeting and realise your Zoom app needs to be updated, or finish installing a recent update, or you aren’t logged in. The scramble to complete these tasks before apologetically joining the meeting late is all too common, and a major downside to not using a Cloud-based service.
This is also a problem when features of Zoom are changed or introduced to new updates. Old versions of the Zoom client will almost always let you join a call without updating, but they may deny you access to some features that have been altered, such as removing the option to record a call. This can lead to confusing exchanges where you spend 5 minutes looking for a Record button that everyone else has except you, as your client isn’t up-to-date.
If you used a video conferencing app before Zoom that wasn’t called Skype, it was probably Google Meet. That’s a lot of qualifiers, and Meet requires some qualifying, as it won’t be for everyone. But it’s as solid as you’d expect from a Google product, and it benefits greatly from its integration with other apps, particularly those also made by Google.
Meet is often considered the best video conferencing app for businesses that use Google Drive or Calendar. Any event you create in Calendar will also create a Meet link by default, making it easy to arrange and share video meetings. You can also create and join meetings directly from apps such as Google Sheets and Gmail, saving you time and energy.
Meet also benefits from some unique and powerful tech that’s only available to Google. A great example of this is the captions feature, which uses Google Translate to provide on-the-fly closed captions for the person who’s currently speaking. Meet also allows file sharing from Drive, touchscreen integration with Jamboard, and tab sharing with Chrome.
While there is an app for mobile devices, the main way you’ll connect to Meet calls is through your browser. This is great because it ensures that everyone is always using the same version, meaning that every feature within Meet is available to everyone. Here, there’s no wondering whether a feature isn’t available because of a setting or because you don’t have the latest version installed.
Being browser based also means that you’ll never have to update it, as all of this takes place in the Cloud. This means no disruptions from people having to update their app before they can join, and no waiting for the app to slowly load up and for people to trickle in. If you can open your browser to do some emailing, Google Meet should work a treat.
As much as being browser based offers many advantages, it also has one significant disadvantage: performance. The bigger your meeting is, the more participants will be on screen at the same time, meaning more work for your browser to do. Since your browser isn’t set up to do this as perfectly as an app is, your system performance can suffer.
Ironically, this is particularly true of Google Chrome, which is a notorious resource hog (particularly in terms of RAM). While you can limit large meetings so that some people only see the person presenting on screen, and not everyone in the meeting, this is an unfortunate limitation that can force you to use other software, and negate the benefits of Chrome integration.
Teams is a great video conferencing option if you’re highly invested in the Microsoft 365 software suite, as it benefits from integration with many of those apps. It may not be the best or fullest featured video conferencing software, but it’s a solid and reliable option geared specifically towards businesses.
The other entries in this list have some chat functionalities, but they’re primarily geared towards video conferencing. The popular communication software Slack offers video, but it’s primarily geared towards chatting and sharing files. Teams is the only software that does both seamlessly, and this can be of huge benefit to many businesses.
Text chat and video are seamlessly integrated, with chats that take place during conference calls being saved for future reference. As a general communication app, meanwhile, setting up and joining calls internally can all happen within a single interface, making it extremely quick and easy to conduct internal meetings, reviews, team discussions and one-to-ones.
Where other video conferencing apps focus on nailing the quality and seamlessness of video calls, Teams looks to provide new features that augment video conferencing. Tools such as the whiteboard – which takes your scribbles and turns them into smooth, legible shapes – makes it the perfect choice for giving interactive, engaging presentations.
Meeting notes can also be taken and shared with participants, while the software can even automatically transcribe meetings, and record these for future reference. There are also a wealth of more gimmicky visual features that will replace your backgrounds or put you in the same virtual space. They aren’t enough to sell it, but a little bit of fun can go a long way.
The main problem with Teams isn’t that it lacks functionality or features, but that it can have too many. Where Google spend their time acquiring and then ditching new products, Microsoft seem to spend theirs fiddling with their existing software. The result with Teams is an interface that can often become cluttered with new features, many of which you’ll never need, and which can make the useful bits harder to find.
You may not have heard of Whereby, but that isn’t a reason to discard it as the best video conferencing app for businesses. In actual fact, Whereby does several things better than Meet, Teams and Zoom – including the way that Google’s own software is integrated.
Whereby is perhaps the most no-frills video conferencing app out there. As a browser-based app, starting a meeting is as simple as clicking a couple of buttons and sending someone the link. Joining a meeting is extremely quick and easy, with no need for anyone to install software, or even to have an account. This makes it ideal for when different people or businesses use different software, and you have to settle the difference.
The interface is extremely clean, with simple and prominent buttons for features such as screen sharing, recording the meeting, and text chat. It also supports up to 100 people for free, with paid options for more participants, multiple admins, or multiple simultaneous rooms. These payment options are equally simple – $6.99 for professionals and $9.99 for businesses.
The most remarkable thing about WHereby is that it actually integrates better with Google’s software than Google’s own offering. Rather than just making it easy to share links to or download files from Drive, Whereby actually allows you to open a Docs file within a video call, and all edit it together alongside the video.
Similarly impressive integrations include Trello, where you can follow progress on boards from inside Whereby; and YouTube, where you can watch YouTube videos together and post your own emoji reactions. These features will undoubtedly be picked up by the bigger players eventually, but for now, they give Whereby a genuine edge.
What about Skype?
Skype is perhaps the oldest popular player in video conferencing, and is still hanging around in its consumer format on desktop and mobile. However, Microsoft has just retired Skype for Business this July, marking the end of its use as an enterprise meetings app.
The emergence of Microsoft Teams had already diminished the value of Skype, and the wealth of extra features in Zoom led to a huge drop in market share through the pandemic. Despite several attempts to reconfigure and redesign it over the years, Skype seems like a service in decline, and not one that any business should really consider using.
These are some of the most popular video conferencing apps for businesses, but not without reason. Each one offers different features that support better collaboration and efficiency, whether that’s integrating with apps such as Drive and Office 365, or making it easier to arrange and invite people to meetings.
All of these platforms provide a generous free offering, with flexible payment structures that are adaptable to the needs of all sizes of business. Each one is a great choice for your video conferencing needs – and an ideal start for more integrated and optimised business communications.
Sota’s professional managed services for video conferencing support a wide range of applications, and can help provide you with the connections, hardware and software necessary to support seamless, high quality video conferencing. To learn more about our video conferencing expertise and other services, get in touch with us today.