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In today’s new virtual world, video chat, conferencing and teleconferencing are the hot topic – and no doubt, there are plenty of options. There is no doubt that leaders in the market are scrambling to gain more market share, but in the office and the home office.

While many IT managers are grasping for their comfortable options (and scrambling to discover how to improve their VLANs, secure their networks and support their remote workforce), small businesses have plunged head first into options that work for them, but is that the right option? I’m dealt with a wide range of video conferencing solutions; including Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Zoom conferencing, Skype, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangout. It’s only within the last few days that I’ve started to explore Google Meet. Each platform offers several common features, but they also offer some unique features. I’m going to take a little bit of time to delve into each for you, and offer some use-cases to successfully utilize them in your business.

Keep in mind that these options are being discussed during a global pandemic, and all providers are offering specific features at reduced or no-cost to individuals (and some small businesses). I’m focusing on features best for individuals looking to connect with friends and family, or virtually connect their small (or home-based) business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoom

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Zoom is a great tool; one I’ve used almost exclusively since 2014 and it definitely has great features but can come with a price.

Zoom’s free platform offers countless features that will help individuals connect with friends and family. With an ability to host meetings upto 100 participants using its ‘active speaker‘ (ability to focus on the person(s) talking), this is an easy to use platform. Originally marketed (and still publicized) with a 40-minute limited on group meetings, I received notice thru my account a couple weeks ago that the 40-minute limit has been waived during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1 to 1 meetings are unlimited always and have some techie-friendly features:

  • Virtual background (change your background so you’re on a tropical beach or an office in Greece)
  • Virtual waiting room (ability to allow and remove participants as needed)
  • It’s secure (meeting passwords, private and group chats)
  • Simultaneous screen share
  • SSL 256-bit encryption
  • Screen share iPad/iPhone app!

For larger groups, Zoom offers breakout rooms (you need to configure it before you can use it). If also offers whiteboarding, host controls (mute, remove participants, etc.) and also offers recording functionality.

Most importantly, it is OS (operating system) agnostic. It works on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.

To sign-up for a free account, click here.

Platforms

  • Zoom
  • Google Meet
  • Microsoft Teams
    (Skype for Business)
  • WebEx (Cisco)

Use Case

  • Small offices
  • Home business (small teams)
  • Health & wellness (trainers, nutritionists, life coaches)

Microsoft Teams

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Microsoft Teams is way more than a video and chat platform. It truly is a collaborative platform that offers businesses a great complement to the traditional intranet. Microsoft Teams is the ‘baby’ of a merging of Microsoft solutions Skype for Business, Exchange and SharePoint (including OneDrive).

Microsoft Teams is a relatively new platform, launched in 2017 and has been gained momentum during these times. Teams is an ideal collaboration platform for organizations large and small, but I struggle to recognize the individual opportunity. From calendaring, in-group chat, file sharing and video chat, Teams is growing in the enterprise workspace. I’m also certain that Teams is gaining momentum in small business, potentially on a limited basis with limited-time specials through Microsoft.

Teams is secure and definitely an business platform, but I wouldn’t recommend it for friends and family. I also wouldn’t recommend it for fitness facilities or those with “unique” meeting options. I’m going to explore more, and write a separate post on Teams in the coming days.

To sign-up, start here. To learn more about Teams, and how to use it, explore Microsoft’s vast collection of video trainings here.

Google Meet

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

I’m excited to see that Google has announced Google Meet as a free platform. I’m equally excited that I can book a Google Meet directly from my Google Calendar (note: you can also book a Zoom meeting from Google as soon as you authenticate between the two). I’m still exploring Google Meet and later this week I’m going to see the power that Google Meet has, and see where I think this platform has its place.

Since it’s built into the Gmail space, I’m excited to say I know it has powerful options for connecting with family and friends. It eliminates the need for an additional account and service. Through September 30, Google is making the premium features available at no charge. After that, pricing will be determined by your GSuite subscription level.

Keep your eyes open – I’m excited to give this one a try (and will rate it then)!