Best Video Conferencing Apps
Let’s talk about Zoom, a name you might not have heard before the Covid-19 pandemic. It is now one of the most popular video chat apps out there, with its user base exploding last year. However, with the rapid expanse in usage, Zooms security was scrutinized and it was found to not be up to scratch. Zoom did respond to this and provided several updates to fix these issues. With these security issues resolved and the huge number of features Zoom offers, it’s a great option for business use.
Let’s take a look at the features that make Zoom so good.
This is a god send for those who want to look professional in a home environment. You can set your background to almost anything, images and videos, to hide clutter, stop distractions or even to highlight your brand. This tool will also help those who might have children who are home schooling, or sharing a home office with a partner. It might be a simple feature, but it’s one that employees get the most out of every day.
This is a great little security feature; you can always make sure you are letting people you know into the meeting. You can add people one at a time or all at once and send messages to those who are waiting.
So screen sharing is nothing new, but Zoom now lets multiple people share their screen at the same time. This means group projects and presentations can be more easily viewed over video chat. It works particularly well if you have a two screen set up, you can have the two most recently shared screens side by side.
Touch up my appearance
Maybe not the most important feature, but if you have an early morning meeting, have had a rough night, or have terrible lighting in your home office, you can get Zoom to touch up your appearance. It gives soft focus for your whole screen, meaning you can look professional even when you don’t feel your best, or of you don’t have time to get yourself fully ready.
Like we mentioned the waiting room feature is a great way of monitoring who comes into your meeting. You can also set passcodes for all types of meetings, which the account owner has complete control over. There is also a ‘join by domain’ option which requires participants to sign into a pre-existing Zoom account and/or ensure their email address is on an approved lost that allows them to join.
If you are hosting a meeting then you will have access to a security icon on the toolbar, meaning you have quick access to handy in-meeting security controls. Another option for a host is to ‘lock’ a meeting, stopping any new participants joining once the meeting starts, keeping out any unwanted guests. If one person is causing an issue in a meeting then the host can put them on ‘hold’ which disables their audio and video connection. You can also; mute, report and remove participants from meeting, which means as a host you can protect your employees from any issues that might occur in a meeting.
Zoom also end-to-end encrypt your calls, so no one, including Zoom, can have access to any data shared in a meeting.
What is it best for?
We think Zoom is best for work calls and meeting, as it’s geared up for presentations and file sharing. So it’s perfect for internal work meetings as well as presentation and meetings with outside companies.
Teams is the video conferencing app created by Microsoft and it’s great, if you or our business already uses Microsoft products. There is a ton of features and some great tools… if you can find them. Teams is a love or hate type of app, if you know where to find everything you need then you are going to love it, but if you are unfamiliar with Microsoft then you might hate it.
The collaboration with Microsoft 365 can increase productivity as it brings together all your conversations, chats, meetings, shared files and tasks into one app. You can also use third party apps that mean you wouldn’t have to leave the Teams app to get all your work done.
We will take you through some of the features Teams offers;
The Chat function
There is a great chat function on Teams that allows you to instant message colleagues. You can also send gifs, emojis, praise and attach documents. This kind of flowing communication allows for easier working and interaction with colleagues.
Document Storage in SharePoint
Every business that uses Teams will have a site in SharePoint Online, this will contain an automatic document library folder. All files that are shared across Teams will be saved automatically in this folder. However, you can tweak this feature if you are sending confidential or sensitive information across Teams.
Online Video Calling and Screen Sharing
Teams offers, fast and smooth video calls to internal staff and external clients. Reliable video calls have become very important when conducting business and Teams provides technical assistance via screen sharing and multi user real time collaboration.
Seems like an obvious one, but Teams can host up to 10,000 users and meetings can include people inside and outside the business. You can also make use of the scheduling aid, a note taking app, file uploading and an in-meeting chat function.
With all these new-fangled video call platforms, some old school basic functions have been forgotten – but not with Teams. Audio Conferencing means that anyone can dial-in to a meeting via phone. This means even people without internet access can be a part of any meetings.
Teams has a robust security system, it enforces a team-wide and organization-wide two-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory, and encryption of data in transit and at rest. All data is encrypted including files, conversations and video calls.
They offer a safe attachment feature that acts like antivirus software. It will check and detect malicious attachments. It will stop your network being harmed by these attachments by preventing them being sent to users or being clicked on.
What’s it best for?
Definitely work, this is no social app. For those just looking to chat to their friends, there are simpler videoing conferencing apps available. Teams is heavy on features, that make working from home easier.
Skype is one of the oldest and well-known video conference platforms; it’s been around since 2003 and dominated the market until recently. Skype, like Teams is owned by Microsoft and in 2015 over 300 million people were using Skype for their video conference needs. Skype is still a key player in the video call field. You can have video chats with up to 100 people, share your screen and have real time translation.
We will go through the features that make Skype a giant in the field.
Rather than having a fake background, whilst you’re on a call, with Skype you can use background blur. This could give off a more professional image than having a picture from your holiday in turkey on display.
You can share photos, videos, and other files up to 300 MB by dragging and dropping files into your conversation window.
This is a fabulous tool, especially if you do business with clients overseas. By translating speech or text, you can get real time translation in dozens of languages. The fact that it can all be done in real time is a real benefit. What’s clever is that Skype translator will learn the more you use it, by recognising repeated phrases, so it can be quicker and more precise with its translation.
A cute little feature for those who hate interrupting a meeting will love. If a participant would like to say something while someone is speaking, they can virtually raise their hand, which alerts the other participants that the person wishes to speak. This should help to stop the awkward stopping and starting that can occur with video calling.
Skype does have the standard security protocols for any video conferencing system. However, they did have a data leak in 2013, it emerged that Skype had given personal data and communications to the US National Security Agency. So, if you handle particularly confidential data, this might put you off. Skype offers encryption for all messages and calls which will protect your data from third parties, but unlike some other video calling apps, it does not protect your data from Skype itself. You can however access to opt in end-to-end encryption, which does hide your data from Skype, it’s not fully inclusive however as you can only maintain one private conversation at a time.
What is it best for?
It’s worth noting the ‘Skype for business’ no longer exists and has been replaced with Microsoft Teams. So this might be a good platform to speak to friends and family, or if you have always used Skype for your business, there’s nothing wrong with continuing to do so.
Now we have definitely moved on to a more social video calling service. Facetime is only available to Apple users, so that might be a limitation on what member of your family you can call. Facetime doesn’t have the same capabilities of Teams or Zoom, one downside being it’s only available on apple products, so isn’t accessible over your PC (unless it’s a mac). So, you can’t do screen share or send files, however if you and your friends all have Apple products and want a catch-up call, then it’s nice and simple. Facetime also offers audio calls as well as video, so if you decide you don’t want to show your face then you can still join in with audio.
WhatsApp video call
WhatsApp is an app you must have heard of as there are around 3 billion WhatsApp users around the world. You may have mostly used it for instant messaging friends and family, but it does have a great video chat feature. The video calls are (mostly) free, as it uses your internet connection rather than your phone plans minutes, so you can call for hours without worrying about an expensive charge.
You can document share on WhatsApp, you can send; PDFs, documents, slideshows and others up to 100MB. But in our opinion, WhatsApp is best for sharing calls with family and friends. WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption, so not even WhatsApp can read the messages you send to your friends.
Houseparty is a relatively new video platform that allows up to 8 people to video chat in a virtual ‘room’. Although there is a limit of 8 people per room, a user can have unlimited access to as many rooms as they like. The app will let you know if a friend opens the app, so you can join friends in a chat quickly. Although there is a feature that allows you to ‘sneak in’ which means none of your friends will be alerted when you open the app.
The feature that makes Houseparty different from other apps is the built-in games. You can easily access these games by pressing the dice icon at the top of the chat screen. You can play games like; Heads Up!, Trivia, Quick Draw, and Chips and Guac.
Houseparty is definitely an app for catching up and playing games with friends, it’s not an app designed for the business world.
There are so many video conferencing apps out there and they all offer a wide range of features. What’s most important in this time of social isolation is that you connect with your friends and family as much as possible and these apps allow you to do that. Zoom, Teams and Skype allow for the smooth running of businesses while employees work from home, which means businesses can continue to make profit and people can stay employed.
We don’t know when life will return to ‘normal’ or if it work and socialising will ever go back to the way it was before, so getting yourself familiar with these type of apps is essential.