Teams that have been thrust into working from home are increasingly relying on videoconferencing software to smooth that transition. Luckily, there is an abundance of paid and free tools to help remote teams collaborate and stay connected with real-time meetings.
To help you navigate this new normal of remote work, we break down some of the best videoconferencing solutions and online meeting platforms to help you find the one that best suits your team’s dynamics and your budget.
What are the benefits of videoconferencing?
Face-to-face connections can help teams stay motivated and keep working without missing a beat. Plus, it gives employees a chance to see everyone and not feel so isolated.
For companies that find themselves setting up remote workforces on the fly, choosing the best videoconferencing software for your needs is important. The goal is to find one that is user-friendly, able to accommodate your team’s size, and ideally, compatible with a wide variety of devices, operating systems, and browsers. Keeping up productivity is key, so you want to avoid getting slowed down because of clunky software.
The free version of Zoom is quite generous and may suffice for basic small business use. You can have up to 100 participants join a conference for up to 40 minutes. If you need more advanced features, like being able to record meetings and have multiple admins with additional controls, the Pro version is $14.99 per month, per host.
If you plan on having 300-plus participants and multiple hosts, you can upgrade to the business or enterprise plan for $19.99 per month, per host, but note that you must pay for a minimum number of hosts (10 for business, 50 for enterprise).
- The free plan has great basic features including screen-sharing, and it allows up to 100 participants.
- Setting up a meeting is simple: All attendees need to do is click the link from the meeting invite to join.
- Paid plans provide analytics reports, user management, and administrator controls, as well as cloud space to record and save your meetings.
- Fun feature: For anyone who’s stressing about how they look online, there’s a face filter called “Touch Up My Appearance” to smooth out your skin. Plus, you can add a virtual background to hide any laundry baskets or kitchen chaos that may be in view.
- The free version will cut your meeting off after 40 minutes.
- The company is in the midst of improving privacy for its users.
- The paid versions can get expensive if you have multiple hosts and want add-ons for your account.
Overall, Zoom is a popular platform for businesses of all sizes, and it has one of the most robust free offerings in the space. Advanced features will cost you, so it pays to shop around if you’re looking for a comprehensive meeting and collaboration tool rather than simply a way to video chat.
There is no free version of Microsoft Teams, but that’s because it’s more than just a videoconferencing platform—it’s a full-fledged meeting and collaboration tool. The least expensive Teams plan is Office 365 Business Essentials, which starts at $5 per month, per user.
- It offers easy integration with other Office 365 apps, so pulling up Excel or Powerpoint files while you’re meeting will be seamless.
- Guests can join Microsoft Teams calls even if they don’t have a Teams account.
- No free version (except for schools).
- It’s very much tied to Microsoft, so if your team doesn’t use those programs, there will be a learning curve.
Meetings (the videoconferencing tool) is just one part of Microsoft Teams. If you’re looking for an all-in-one environment for team communications (including video meetings), this could be a good pick. But if you just need videoconferencing to meet with coworkers or people outside your organization on occasion, Microsoft Teams might be a little excessive.
The free version allows for up to 100 participants with no time limit (note that this is a promotional offer, so it may not last). From there, you can choose from three plans depending on your needs. Smaller teams might go with the starter plan for $13.50 per host, per month. There are two other more expensive plans geared toward midsize and large businesses.
- A generous free plan.
- Each presenter counts as a “license,” so if you have a number of people setting up meetings, it can get costly.
Cisco Webex is best known as a video platform used for business training, online learning, and webinars. But its free service is a solid option for videoconferences for smaller groups.
The free version allows only three participants for a video call, and the paid versions, join.me Pro and join.me Business, allow only up to 10.
- You can create a personalized, branded URL for your meeting.
- Screen-sharing is simply one click.
- Videoconferencing is not the strong suit of join.me.
- You can only join videos with an iOS mobile device or Google Chrome.
Join.me is a cool tool for conference calls, webinars, and screen-sharing presentations, known for using circle-shaped video bubbles. But if you need to have online video meetings with a larger number of participants, there are much better solutions.
The starting plan is $12 per month, per organizer, for up to 150 participants. The next level up is the business plan for $16 per month, and up to 250 people. You also get advanced features like drawing tools and meeting transcripts. You can save money by purchasing an annual plan.
- Join meetings in one click from any device.
- Create a personalized “meeting room” that never changes.
- There is no free plan.
GoToMeeting is owned by the same parent company as join.me. As far as videoconferencing goes, this is the better product.
The Skype video chat app allows free video calls for up to 50 people on any mobile device, tablet, or computer. There doesn’t seem to be any plans available for this feature, as Skype’s paid services are typically for making international calls.
- Group screen-sharing.
- You can blur out the background and focus only on you.
- No options if you need more than 50 people on your video call.
Skype is a solid choice if you need an occasional platform that most people are familiar with to do your video meetings. If you want bells and whistles or the ability to invite more than 50 people at a time, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Google Hangouts Meet
The free Google Hangouts is intended for personal Gmail users, supporting up to 10 participants (with Gmail or G Suite Basic) or 25 (with Business or Education accounts). If you need more advanced tools, Google’s paid videoconferencing service is Google Hangouts Meet (part of G Suite), which can accommodate up to 250 participants. G Suite starts at $6 per user, per month.
- Best for those used to working with G Suite, since it integrates well with Google Calendar.
- Anyone can join from any device via browser or app.
- You need G Suite for Hangouts Meet. If you’re not using a Google environment, making the switch to G Suite might not make sense for you.
The free version of Google Hangouts can suffice if you need only a quick face-to-face with a couple of people in your remote workforce. For more robust videoconferencing with large groups or additional features, Hangouts Meet is the way to go, but only if you’re already immersed in G Suite.
The lowest-priced plan starts at $9.99 per month, per host, with up to 50 participants. That also includes five hours of meeting recordings. The upgraded plan for $13.99 per month serves up to 75 people and has more advanced analytics and integrations with other business tools. Enterprise organizations can also customize plans, but pricing is not disclosed.
- Features like real-time chat, raising hands during meetings, and intelligent meeting recaps are just a few of the extras you’ll get.
- Background noise cancellation and top-notch Dolby voice audio.
- No downloads or installation required.
- No free plan.
- The two paid plans are limited to 50 or 75 people.
BlueJeans is a very professional-looking platform for videoconferencing, and it’s brand agnostic, so whether you use Microsoft, Google, or Apple, you’ll have a seamless experience. More casual users may go with other solutions that offer free tools.
The basic plan is free for up to 25 participants per meeting, with a 30-minute time limit. The paid plan is $29.99 per month, per host, with a 50-person meeting limit. To host 100 people, you’ll have to upgrade to the $49.99 per month, per host, plan. Enterprise plans with advanced meeting analysis are available as well, but pricing is not disclosed and plans still accommodate only 100 people.
- Take live notes or message a question during meetings.
- You can share a specific application, instead of your whole desktop, and have a range of annotation tools and a white board mode.
- It doesn’t required any downloads, registrations, or complicated dial-in numbers.
- Notwithstanding the service’s free offering, its paid plans are pricier than other videoconferencing solutions.
There are a lot of cool features within Cyberlink U’s interface. If you have brief meetings with a few participants, definitely give the free plan a shot. If you outgrow that, you might want to shop around for more affordable videoconferencing software.
The free plan from Lifesize accommodates 25 people with no time limits for meetings. If you plan on having just one host, the standard plan is $16.95 per month and can include up to 100 people per meeting. For small to midsize businesses, you can go with the $14.95 per month, per host, plan, which allows you to host 300 meeting participants (but you have to sign up for a minimum of 15 hosts, which can get expensive).
- Video calls have end-to-end encryption, if security is an important feature for you.
- Lifesize offers professional meeting room technology (if you’re seeking a high-tech 4K hosting experience).
- Only 25 people can connect on the free plan.
- No electronic hand-raising.
Lifesize is a cloud-based videoconferencing and collaboration platform. It works on all devices and platforms, plus it offers a free trial if you are interested in checking it out.
Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer who covers work, personal finance, and higher education. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, and on monster.com. Follow her on Twitter.
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