With several virtual meeting platforms available, deciding which is best for your workplace can be challenging. It may feel more confusing when they all seem to offer similar features. So how do you pick one that meets your needs? This guide explains your options, plus some points to consider as you select an online video call provider for you and your team.
Virtual Meeting Technology Options
A quick search for video conference platforms reveals more than a dozen available options. There are the big three, of course: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. Other notable services include BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx, RingCentral MVP, and Zoho Meeting. Some of these are free, while others require paid subscriptions. Others offer no-cost and premium versions to suit users' budgets and needs. Premium versions typically support longer meeting sessions and more users per account and provide extras such as cloud storage.
No matter how many great features a video conferencing platform has, your organization can only adopt the technology if there's room in your budget. Fortunately, the availability of free and lower-cost services makes it possible to use a virtual meeting platform for your organization.
Google Meet may be your best bet if you're on a bare-bones budget and need free or inexpensive video conferencing. Google offers two versions of its service: free and premium. The free version has everything that's offered in the Premium edition, with a couple of exceptions:
15 GB storage for free vs. 2 TB with Premium
VPN for iOS and Android with Premium
Free versions of Zoom and Microsoft Teams exist. However, the no-cost version of Microsoft Teams is mainly intended for home users. Zoom plans include the free Basic edition plus Pro, Business, Business Plus, and Enterprise. Microsoft Teams subscriptions for businesses and nonprofits include Essentials, 365 Business Basic, and 365 Business Standard.
Since Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, the telephony and group video chat platform has continued to offer most of its features at no cost. Skype currently supports video and audio conferencing for up to 100 participants.
Video conferencing providers typically offer several different levels of service. These plans are usually designed to accommodate specific numbers of users simultaneously. For instance, Zoom's Pro service supports up to 100 attendees in Zoom meetings and allows up to 30 hours per meeting. Microsoft Teams' Essentials, Business Basic, and Business Standard subscriptions permit up to 300 attendees per meeting. Google Meet supports up to 100 attendees per meeting and allows up to 60 minutes per session on its free version.
With all these services and plans, you can undoubtedly find one that can meet your workplace's needs. You should keep some recommendations in mind as you consider your typical meeting sizes to help you choose a provider. Meeting size can impact productivity and your team's ability to accomplish its goals. Most meetings should ideally not exceed 15 participants. Problem-solving and decision-making are best with meetings between four and seven participants. To set an agenda, try limiting your meeting to between five and 15 attendees.
That said, video conferencing platforms' generous support for larger meetings isn't for naught. Consider company-wide gatherings and seminars as relevant examples. When evaluating video conferencing services, look at your organization's typical and maximum anticipated meeting sizes.
Nearly every video conferencing service offers support for users on multiple platforms. However, examining the minimum and recommended system requirements is still essential to use the software successfully. These requirements change regularly, so it's wise to check for the latest and greatest before picking your service.
Microsoft Teams' minimum system requirements include a dual-core processor with a speed of at least 1.1 GHz. Systems should have at least 4.0 GB of RAM and 3.0 GB of hard disk space. You'll also need one of the most recent operating systems — Windows 10 or 11 or macOS 11 (Big Sur) as of 2022. System requirements are similar for Zoom and Google Meet. Keep in mind that you'll want to double-check bandwidth requirements. If you're regularly hosting meetings, your system should be above the minimum specs to support smooth audio and video.
Besides the basics, you'll want to evaluate any extra features each video conferencing platform offers. For instance, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet features include support for virtual backgrounds. To have a virtual background ready for your meeting, you'll need to upload it to your platform and then apply it before your meeting's start time. Most recommend using image files in PNG or JPEG format. Look for other functionalities like whiteboards, screen sharing, cloud storage, and group calendars.
Selecting a virtual meeting platform requires picking the best pricing and features balance. With many options to evaluate, accomplishing this feat may be daunting. However, you can succeed by considering your organization's budget, IT infrastructure, and needs.