With more companies taking advantage of remote, online meetings, especially during the Coronavirus outbreak restrictions, here are four very good software for video conferencing, with powerful free packages.
When using these software, keep in mind that during the COVID-19 outbreak more people than usually are working from home, so there’s an added stress on the infrastructure behind these services, which can lead to various glitches. On the bright side, with the increase in demand for video conferencing, developers are now competing to add more features to their software and lifting some limitations on their free offers.
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1. Cisco Webex Meetings‘ free package now offers:
+ Up to 100 participants in each meeting (previously 50)
+ Unlimited session time (previously 40 mins)
+ Unlimited number of meetings
+ 1 GB of cloud storage
“Effective immediately, we’ve expanded the capabilities on our free Webex offer in all countries where it is available, not only those impacted by COVID-19. This includes unlimited usage (no time restrictions), support for up to 100 participants, and offers toll dial-in (in additions to existing VoIP capabilities)”
– Sri Srinivasan, SVP and GM, Team Collaboration Group at Cisco.
2. Zoom‘s free package includes:
+ Up to 100 participants
+ 256-bit TLS encryption
– 40-minute limit for larger meetings (1 on 1 has no limit, but from 3 persons and above you get this 40 mins per session limitation)
Zoom is cross-platform, offering desktop apps, browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, an Outlook plugin, as well as Android and iOS apps. Links to all these options are here https://www.zoom.us/download.
Microsoft’s Teams comes with a free version as well, which offers chats and collaborations without a group limitation, but the up to 250 users video conference option is available on the paying tiers only. Schools (staff and students) can get a Office 365 version for free, which includes the Teams app as well.
4. Skype from Microsoft
Usually looked as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, Skype can actually hold video calls with up to 50 participants.
+ cross platform
– limited to 50 participants
Google is also offering free access to premium Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities on all G Suite and G Suite for Education editions, to customers globally (at no additional cost until July 1, 2020). This means you get 250 participants per call, and live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain. These features were previously available in the Enterprise edition of G Suite and in G Suite Enterprise for Education only. See the full blog post about it here.
With increase usage of these stay-at-home video conferencing solutions (Cisco, for example, reports a 700 percent increase over the pre-Coronavirus rates), we’ll have to see if this type of remote work will stay a trend for longer or not, and how much will it challenge the current Internet infrastructure, networks and providers alike.