By Chris David
To host important business meetings, and keep up with friends and family, videoconferencing was widely used before 2020. But now, for obvious reasons, the popularity of VOIP and video-conference apps has skyrocketed. And because of its easy setup and free account options, the Zoom app quickly emerged as one of the leading solutions.
However, with easy uptake and low barriers to entry, security seems to have been an afterthought at Zoom. Many high profile incidents and security vulnerabilities have come to light since Zoom reached mass popularity. The company has done much to improve on the security of its apps and service, but for many, the fixes came too little, too late. Several companies have even gone so far as to ban the use of Zoom on their computers/devices.
For those still questioning the security and privacy practices of Zoom, here are four alternative videoconferencing apps to get the job done.
One of the oldest and still one of the best, Skype has been around in some form for over 15 years. Skype has been the industry standard for videoconferencing, podcasters and anyone needing to stay in touch. A free Microsoft account lets you make calls over the internet, to smartphones and computers. And you can also call regular old landlines and cellphones by adding some credit. New versions of the app even let you display your computer desktop or a slideshow.
Usage: Up to 50 in a single call
Best for: Consultants and sole proprietors
Not so popular in the United States as of yet, Whatsapp has become the defacto messaging and video calling app for most of Asia, Europe and South America. One factor in the rise of Whatsapp is that you don’t need to sign up for account, make a password, etc… The app simply uses your cellphone number for identification, so getting started is very easy. Whatsapp is also completely free. Originally, you could start audio and video calls with up to four participants. But the company has just added (in 2020 April) the ability to include up to eight people in video chats.
Usage: Up to eight people in video calls
Best for: Family and friends
Microsoft’s latest evolution for business messaging, Teams couldn’t have come around at a better time. Available as a web site, a native Windows program and smartphone app, Teams lets you organize all files, correspondence and events for your business/group. You can quickly set up custom groups and video conference calling via the Windows and smartphone apps. Teams is included for any Office 365 account (monthly fee).
Usage: Up to 250 for video calling, or up to 10,000 attendees for event streaming
Best for: Small to medium business
With a focus on performance and security, Webex is the best choice for hosting important business meetings. The service integrates with everything from web browsers, to smartphones, to VOIP phones, and also supports strong encryption, user management and options for legal compliance. Webex is a subsidiary of Cisco corporation, so you know they are serious. Webex even includes a generous free tier, and their monthly plans have only gotten more affordable.
Usage: Up to 3,000 participants
Best for: Medium to large business, security-focused enterprises
What does the future hold?
What do you think the future holds for video conferencing? What will be the hot, new app or service? Is there a place for VR and headsets? Certainly we can look forward to higher quality streams, lower latency and better quality audio. All trends say that video conferencing for business and friends/family will only become more common, and even necessary.