So, we’re on Day 1,206 of lockdown here in Seattle, and all of us are pretty used to videoconferencing by now. In fact, we’re so used to it that some of us forget what it was like in the Before-Times, the Long-Long-Ago. You know, that ancient era when we all used to go out for cocktails and backyard barbeques and stuff. (sigh)
But onward and upward, right? Since we’re all stuck at home (with undeniable perks like no commute, less expensive cocktails, and very clean hands), we’re meeting remotely. And that means every Seattle business has started to rely heavily on videoconferencing software.
Sadly, Zoom has fallen on disfavor lately and the FBI has felt the need to issue an official warning against it, so businesses looking to protect their cybersecurity need to get moving on another videoconferencing tool. Plus, as it turns out, Zoom’s interface is exhausting (all those faces staring!), so other tools may be able to help you maintain your productivity better.
This comparison of videoconferencing tools can help.
In the past few weeks, Zoom’s 200 million users discovered that Zoom has a dark side. In a practice known as “Zoombombing,” trolls are hopping on to other people’s public Zoom get-togethers and littering everyone’s shared virtual space with racist messages, hateful iconography, and pornography.
Clearly, this is not something you want on your work conference call. Pornography and work do not mix well.
Unlike the strangely negligent CEOs of other troll-heavy online platforms (ahem!), Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan is responding well to this issue, admitting that his company had blindsides and had overlooked how easily the software could be misused in a situation in which the entire world suddenly started working remotely. The company has been working hard to patch known issues, close security loopholes, and search for unknown vulnerabilities – and it looks like lovers of the software may be able to trust Zoom again in about 90 days or so (AKA 4,762 years of coronavirus).
In the meantime, we strongly suggest that you use a different videoconferencing tool, such as one of the ones we list below.
Okay, let’s start by saying that Zoom is actually pretty cool. The feature-rich video hangout tool is so easy to use even your grandmother identifies as a Zoomer Boomer (we don’t know if that’s a thing, but it should be). As you switch to another tool, you may feel a small twinge of disappointment that your new tool doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as Zoom does, but you’ll find other things to love with the other tools. (Of course, you can keep using Zoom and just apply all the security settings outlined in Zoom’s security guide – but cybersecurity experts have also identified that Zoom leaks a lot of data and can leave your webcam open to hijacking, so again, we strongly suggest you choose another option for now.)
The following options are all great (our favorite is #5 – we saved the best for last).
Blue Jeans is an enterprise conferencing tool with great security, reasonable pricing, and flexible features that largely mimic Zoom’s wide feature set. Blue Jeans also has one incredible, additional feature that will blow your mind because it’s freaking awesome.
Here’s the breakdown:
The really cool, blow-your-mind feature is that Blue Jeans offers this thing called Smart Meetings, where participants can tag important points in the meeting and assign action items and mark decisions on the fly, so you can watch a highlight reel of the meeting if you missed it. Seriously, a feature that makes it so people don’t have to re-watch an entire meeting because they were busy attending a different meeting at the same time? That’s incredible!
Another nifty feature? Blue Jeans also offers auto-transcription of your meeting.
Webex, powered by the enterprise videoconferencing experts at Cisco, is a strong, extremely secure tool that works well – and has for a very long time. Right now, you can get a feature-rich version of Webex completely free, which we can all agree is a great price.
Here’s the breakdown:
GoToMeeting is another industry-standard in the conferencing world. The software has a great administrative control feature that helps you manage the tool really well, it’s got rock-solid security, and they’re trying to go head-to-head with that Blue Jeans Smart Meeting feature – but GoToMeeting has upped the stakes a bit.
Here’s the breakdown:
The super-killer-awesome feature that GoToMeeting has is automated detection of action items and decisions. GoToMeeting doesn’t have the slick meeting highlight recap feature like Blue Jeans does, but while Blue Jeans requires meeting attendees to manually enter decisions and action items into the software during a meeting, GoToMeeting can automatically detect that stuff and enter it for you. All meeting attendees have to do is, you know, meet and stuff. (Go figure!)
Google Meet is the enterprise edition of Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts is kind of like FaceTime for Google: easy to use, easy to use… and did we mention it’s easy to use? Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Google Meet is easy to use. You may, however, be surprised to hear that it’s currently 100% free for G Suite users. (Bonus!)
Here’s the breakdown:
Full disclosure: We love Microsoft Teams and it is our most favorite videoconferencing / team communication collaboration tool in the world. Not only is Teams always included (for free!) with your Microsoft 365 (aka Office 365) plan, it’s also 100% free right now during the coronavirus. Teams is an all-around team communications tool, including chat, calls, videoconferencing, and collaboration tools – and it’s heavily fortified with security features that meet strict regulatory requirements, including HIPAA (wow).
Here’s the breakdown:
By the way, let’s clear up a few misconceptions about Teams, which we’ve been hearing from people:
By the wayLastly, we’d like to send a small shout-out to Microsoft, which did a great job responding rapidly and decisively to the COVID outbreak here in Seattle and continues to do a great job supporting our community and the world during these scary times. Thank you, Microsoft. ☺
Wondering why we didn’t list Slack? Here’s why: Slack only works for in-team calls, which is cool and all, but isn’t very helpful if you need to videochat with someone who isn’t on your team. Like a partner, or a prospect, or a vendor… or your Zoomer Boomer grandma.
The list above only included tools that you can use with out-of-team people, though you should be warned that outside dial-in isn’t always freely included with the software.
You’ll also notice that the list excluded FaceTime. While FaceTime kicks butt for Apple users, it doesn’t offer recording features, dial-in, business tool integrations, or any of those other things you’ll want when you have a serious meeting.
But FaceTime is great for casual chats – and it’s so easy to use that maybe that Zoomer Boomer can transform into a FaceTime Fiend? (Somehow that one isn’t as catchy. Help us out here, people – send suggestions for fun FaceTime rhymes!)
By the way, technically we’re misusing the term “videoconferencing” in this article because “videoconferencing” historically refers to room-based conferencing software (where you wire your whole conference room to connect to another conference room). “Webconferencing” software refers to a program you run from your computer, which can run video if you choose the right solution.
To us, this seems like a needless technicality, because no one except tech geeks have ever heard the term “webconferencing.” Since we deeply dislike using tech terms that no one else knows about, we’re officially calling these videoconferencing tools – but we wanted to let you know about that small technicality, in case you were interested (and so that we can prove to other Seattle geeks that we know what we’re talking about).
In Part 2, we’ve put together an simple guide with 12 important features and capabilities to look for while you’re researching videoconferencing tools!
Since 2001, the friendly (and really nerdy) IT experts at Interplay have been helping Seattle businesses like yours stay on top of their technology. Interplay is happy to lend a hand with your cybersecurity, your new tech set up, your long-term and strategic tech planning, and your middle-of-the-night Help Desk calls. (We’re always there for you.)
In addition, if you ever need us to, we’ll come to your office, roll up our sleeves, and get to work fixing your tech in person. Because, in our opinion, you shouldn’t have to lift a finger when it comes to handling your business tech. Right?
Contact Interplay to learn more about how we can help your business run better, every single day, especially when you’re working from home.