The best video conferencing software makes it simple and easy to connect online with other people for online video calls and meetings.
Advances in technology means that reliable video conferencing has become accessible and affordable, and can easily serve the modern workplace. This has become especially important during the current pandemic.
Video conferencing has also enabled many businesses to continue to operate by allowing employees to work from home, using conferencing solutions for meetings and updates, as well as general communications.
Additionally, with increasing concerns about the carbon cost of travel to the environment, it makes sense for companies to seek to continue to communicate face-to-face online rather than indulge in the wasteful cost to the business and environment in having face-to-face meetings in a single location.
However, we've also covered general consumer video conferencing platforms as well as business ones, and also linked through to reviews we've recently carried out across a wide range of video conferencing solutions.
We've therefore listed the best video conferencing solutions - free and paid versions - according to our testing.
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Normal consumer offerings such as Apple's Facetime, WhatsApp Video and Zoom have made video communications a normalized part of the conversation process, especially as alternatives to Skype. The expectation is that businesses will increasingly embrace conferencing and webinar software simply because it offers so many all-round benefits, especially when using the best conference phones to ensure good quality communications.
Getting an accessible and affordable tool is vital, so here is our round up of the best video conferencing services around today. We've also featured the best bluetooth headsets.
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GoToMeeting is the standalone webconferencing service provided by LogMeIn. As expected it provides audio and video conferencing, as well as screensharing.
One of the features that sets GoToMeetings apart is its mobile friendliness - you can set up and start a conference from your smartphone, something some big brand software would struggle to do. There are also settings to maximise call and image quality, as well as one-tap invites to join meetings as well as chats.
Mobile apps are provided separately for Android and iOS, and both have high positive review volumes, which again makes a change from some other providers who struggle to balance quality and usability with mobile use.
In terms of pricing, almost all standard features are available with the most basic payment tier. Even the limit of 150 participants is generous, and for most businesses this is all that will be required.
A Business plan tier is available which increases the number of participants to 250 and includes a few admin features plus drawing tools and mouse sharing. An Enterprise plan is available to accommodate up to 3,000 participants.
However, while there are many good things to be said for GoToMeetings, if you're looking for a business VoIP solution then GoToConnect offers a cloud-based phone system which integrates GoToMeetings as part of the package, and it may be more cost-effective to sign up for that instead.
Each of RingCentral’s plans includes the full range of industry-standard features. These include, among many others, video call scheduling and recording, screen sharing and annotation, and in-built chat functionalities.
Undoubtedly, however, RingCentral’s greatest feature is its integration of Slack, G Suite, and Microsoft 365. This means users can schedule and begin calls directly from these 3rd party platforms. Users are also able to integrate their calendar with the RingCentral platform, and easily visualize their schedule for the day. This cross-platform integration also makes RingCentral ideal for businesses that already use Slack, G Suite, or Microsoft 365 for digital collaboration.
RingCentral’s analytics dashboard is another powerful feature enabling administrators to monitor the usage of the service, and pinpoint performance issues down to the exact location, ISP, network, and endpoint. Such in-depth analytical analysis is uncommon and makes RingCentral particularly appealing for organizations where video quality and performance is a priority.
Overall, RingCentral Video is a solid performer that offers high-quality video conferencing software for businesses. It is loaded with features, offers a high degree of administrator control, and is optimized to work on web browsers, minimizing the need for additional applications and software.
Within one application, Microsoft Teams enables users to schedule video or audio meetings with a single person or a team. Administrators can also organize webinars and large meetings with up to 10,000 participants.
Full integration with Microsoft 365 means that calls can be easily scheduled and invites shared among the organization, while external guests can join from their web browser without downloading the application.
Microsoft Teams also provides the full range of features expected from a leading video conferencing software provider, including screen sharing and call recording, live captions, background blur technology, and chat functionalities. Integration with Microsoft 365 makes the platform the market leader in video conferencing and digital workspace integration.
The platform’s powerful video conferencing software is complemented by hardware options that enable users to join calls from almost anywhere. When you’re working alone or on the go, mobile devices, desktop computers, and Bluetooth conferencing headsets can power communication.
Overall, Microsoft Teams is ideal for businesses who already use Microsoft 365, or who are looking to reinvent their organization’s digital communication and collaboration workspaces.
Google Meet, formerly Google Hangouts Meet, is part of the G Suite office productivity platform, and having enjoyed a recent rebrand, aims to provide a first-class conferencing service.
Developed specifically for business needs, it can cater for a large number of users at once, and also uses smart participation and a fast interface to reduce the need to wait.
As an improved version of the standard Google Hangouts, Google Meet aims to make it easier to work with external clients. It does this first by providing a web app experience, which means there is no software to download. Secondly, it also provides a dedicated dial-in number, which not only means that employees on the go can join in, but this also ensure that line quality is maintained and that there are no drop-outs.
As well as having dedicated apps available for mobile users in the Apple AppStore and Google Play store for Android, Google Meet can also work with existing conferencing hardware. All that's required is that it follows SIP and H.323 standards for Skype for Business users. This also applies to Cisco, Lifesize, and Polycomm in particular, and by using Pexip Infinity can join in Hangouts meets.
Another key advantage is that by being within the G Suite platform it's easy to use data from other applications, not least Google Calendar, to not just plan meetings but also set up event information as required when users do sign in.
The other big plus is that Hangouts itself doesn't come with the big monthly costs that other providers might charge.
Ultimately, Google Meet is a serious business-grade conferencing platform that doesn't require big up-front costs for hardware, making it especially accessible for businesses of any size.
The one negative that spoils it is that Google Meet will only work with the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge browsers - so if you're still using the same browser that originally came preinstalled on Windows 10, or another non-chromium browser, expect an error message prompting you to download and install a different browser in order to use the service. However, the free service Google Hangouts works fine.
Zoom Meetings offers a video conferencing and messaging solution for desktop and mobile devices, that aims to be very quick and easy to set up, and offer a wide range of scaleable features.
Not only does it provide HD video and audio, but it can support up to 1,000 participants at the same time, and up to 49 videos on a single screen, though such large gatherings are probably best suited to big-screen monitors.
Meetings can be saved locally or to the cloud, along with transcripts that have searchable text to work with. Additionally, collaboration is built in with the ability for participants to share their screens and work together to provide their own notes as required.
On top of this a team chat feature allows for file sharing, a searchable history, and a ten year archive. Meetings can also be escalated into one-on-one calls.
Security is built-in, using 256-bit TLS encryption for both meetings and shared files, and automated scheduling can be done from Gmail, Outlook, and iCal.
Even better is that a feature-rich free tier is available, and able to accommodate up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes, but to include additional tools for team administration and management and for more dedicated business and enterprise use.
ClickMeeting is absolutely loaded with features for webinar hosts. To start with, the software includes just about all the tools you could want during a presentation. You can share your screen, play slideshows and videos, and even let attendees take over your mouse to explore an interactive display. Better yet, ClickMeeting supports question-and-answer sessions and live polls, so you can get your audience participating and collect valuable data about attendees.
What’s really exciting about ClickMeeting for data-driven businesses is how the software integrates with analytics and marketing tools. You can embed a Facebook pixel on your webinar’s landing page or connect that page to Google Analytics. Your webinar page is also fully customizable, enabling you to show off your brand.
ClickMeeting even offers integrations with a number of popular business apps. You can link your Dropbox to have your webinar recordings automatically stored in the cloud, or use Zapier to integrate with an email marketing platform or CRM software.
There’s a lot to like about ClickMeeting if your company relies on webinars to garner leads or stay in touch with employees. This video conferencing software has a number of tools for keeping audiences engaged during meetings, plus automated follow-ups so you can capitalize on a successful webinar. The integrations are also a huge plus for productivity. For everything this software offers, the price is fairly reasonable, too.
CyberLink is a Taiwanese multimedia software company. It was founded in 1996. U Meeting is the company’s video conferencing solution.
CyberLink U Meeting has four pricing plans. The ‘Basic’ plan is free. It includes up to 25 participants and 30 minutes per meeting. ‘Pro 50’ is $9.99 per host per month. It includes up to 50 participants, 24 hours per meeting, admin tools and PerfectCam.
‘Pro 100’ starts at $14.99 per user per month. This includes all ‘Pro 50’ has to offer plus up to 100 participants. The ‘Enterprise Features’ plan includes all the other tiers offerings plus meeting analysis, premium customer support and end-to-end encryption. Users need to contact sales for a quote.
‘PerfectCam’ is a most random feature. Users can add computer generated makeup to their faces with the company promising to ‘create a truly professional look’.
U Meeting is entirely web-based. This might put some users off but it can be an advantage as you will not need to download any additional software to use U Meeting. It also does not offer video recording or the ability to dial into meetings using VoIP systems.
BigBlueButton is packed with features perfect for online learning webinars. During sessions, you can share audio, video, presentations, and your desktop while also collaborating with students using a whiteboard, shared notes, polls, and chat.
Where BigBlueButton goes further than traditional video conferencing software is in its features useful to a virtual classroom. For example, you have a multi-user whiteboard and can place students into group breakout rooms to work on problems together.
BigBlueButton is arguably the best open-source video conferencing software solution for online learning. Compared to most video conferencing solutions it’s difficult to set up, but it’s free and has all the features of expensive commercial online learning video conferencing software, and performance is great.
BlueJeans was founded in 2009 and has its headquarters in California. The company provides inter-operable cloud-based video conferencing platform.
BlueJeans does not have a free tier but it does offer a 30-day free trial. There are three pricing tiers.
The ‘Standard’ tier costs $9.99 per month per user when paid annually. Users can have up to 50 attendees, connect from any computer, iOS or Android device and all meetings include dial-in numbers.
The ‘Bluejeans Pro’ plan is $13.99 per month per host (when paid annually) and includes all the lower tier had to offer plus 10 hours of cloud meeting recordings, command center dashboard and up to 75 participants.
The ‘Bluejeans Enterprise’ package includes all the features of the other plans along with connection H.323//SIP room systems, room system calendar support and up to 150 participants. Users need to contact BlueJeans directly in order to get a quote.
Users do not have to sign up to an annual subscription with BlueJeans. The basic tier supports free phone audio in over 40 countries. BlueJeans also supports Dolby voice. This might suit users who are more concerned about video quality rather than the number of features included with the platform.
BlueJeans seems to have less features than some of its nearest competitors however this is overlooked due to the quality of their system along with the fact users can utilize the 30-day free trial to see if it suits their needs.
Lifesize was founded in 2003. The company’s main branches are located in Austin, Texas and Munich, Germany. Lifesize provides high definition video conferencing endpoints, touchscreen conference room phones and a cloud-based video collaboration platform.
Lifesize has three pricing tiers. There was no free tier, however that has changed with Lifesize Go, a completely free browser-based version of Lifesize’s service that allows users to host an unlimited number of video calls (plus screen sharing on desktop) with up to 8 participants, no caps on meeting length and no app downloads.
Lifesize Standard is designed for small teams and costs $16.95 per host per month, and offers unlimited meetings for up to 100 participants, along with Single Sign On (SSO) support, personal meeting support, as well as lone chat and support.
Lifesize Plus is aimed at small and midsize companies, offering more features but a minimum of 15 hosts and costs $14.95 per host per month. This allows for up to 300 participants, includes Microsoft integrations, offers real-time meeting insights, phone and email support, as well as 1 hour cloud recording per host.
Lifesize Enterprise costs $12.95 per month with a minimum of 50 hosts. This plan allows for live streaming of up to 1,000 viewer events, unlimited US audio calling, branding and customization, premium support, as well as unlimited video recording.
Outside of the free version, Lifesize’s prices may seem a bit steep compared to other video conferencing solutions. This is more than made up for with the inclusion of its own hardware into the mix. Users receive numerous devices in each plan, freeing them from not having to rely on their own integrated camera systems. Lifesize also supports 4k video conferencing.
Best free video conference software at a glance
Skype is very much a household name, which will serve as a strong draw from many people. While Microsoft's video chat tool is often thought of as being little more than a way of keeping in touch with friends and family, the cross-platform app also supports group video calling for up to 50 people.
Skype can also be used in a browser, which is great for chatting with people without the app installed – you can simply invite them to join in using their email address.
As you would hope, there is a screen sharing option, and to make it easier to focus on who you are speaking to, there is the ability to automatically blur backgrounds. Other handy features include live subtitling of conversations, and the ability to record chats.
If you need to have video meetings that involve more people, Skype for Business is a paid-for upgrade. For a low monthly per-user fee, you gain support for chats with up to 250 participants, Office integration, and stronger security options.
For a free software, 8x8 Video Meetings has an impressive array of features. The one that most users will turn to immediately is calendar app integration. 8x8 has custom browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox and plugins for Google Calendar and Office 365, any of which you can use to quickly schedule meetings and invite participants.
Within meetings, you can easily share your screen, chat with other participants, or raise your hand to signal that you have a question or want a chance to speak up. You can also record any meeting or create a live stream, even without a paid subscription. The only advanced feature that 8x8 Video Meetings was missing was an in-meeting survey function, although we haven’t seen this functionality for free in any video conferencing software.
What's especially good about 8x8 Video Meetings is that you’re not missing out on key features with a free plan, since upgrading mostly serves to unlock speech-to-text for transcription. The only minor complaint is the lack of detail about the platform’s security.
With a name like Cisco behind it, expectations for WebEx Meetings are understandably high – and it doesn't disappoint. While there are various plans available for Webex Meetings, for most circumstances the free version should be just fine. This enables you to hold HD video meetings with up to 100 participants, and to take advantage of options such as screen sharing and private chat rooms.
When you sign up for an account, you are assigned a personal URL that can be used to manage all of your meetings, schedule video conferences, and access the recording you have made.
When it comes to holding a video meeting, you have the choice between using the Webex Meetings app or just sticking with the website, though it could be argued that the desktop apps give a smoother experience. There are also mobile apps available.
The free package includes 1GB of cloud storage, unlimited meetings of unlimited length and the ability to make MP4 recordings of them. Security is catered for by TLS 1.2 and AES 256-bit encryption, and backed by Cisco's networking know-how means performance is impressive.
Google's range of messaging services never fails to confuse, and even Hangouts is divided into Meet and Chat variants. As Google Hangouts Meet is only available to G Suite customers, it is effectively not free, unlike the basic Google Hangouts service – although its worth noting that Google plans to start migrating users to Google Hangouts Chat. Confused?
Hangouts is a very simple tool that support chatting with up to 150 people, but video calls with only up to 10 participants. There are little in the way of options, but this is about speed and convenience. Hangouts can be used in your browser, and there are apps available for Chrome OS, iOS and Android.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, which led to large numbers of people either choosing or being forced to stay at home. Google responded by making it easier for people around the world to world and learn remotely, offering extended Hangouts Meet capability to G Suite and G Suite for Education users for free. Until July 1 2020, Enterprise-level features such as meetings of up to 250 people, recording to Google Drive and more are available for free.
FreeConference keeps things beautifully simple for users by not requiring any software to be installed. There are mobile apps available, but it is possible to take part in a video conferencing session from just about any device with a web browser installed. You can participant in text or video chats, and use features such as screen and file sharing – but FreeConference is not without its limitations.
The maximum number of conference participants is five, which rules this out as a tool for many small businesses who may regularly want to host meetings for more people.
A number of international dial-in numbers are available for conference calls, and you have the option of recording calls if you like. Configuring, managing and scheduling meetings is very simple with FreeConference – including from Outlook – and there are some nice touches such as being able to set up recurring meetings. It's a shame that features such as advanced security, video recording and transcriptions are only part of premium packages, but the free version is still pretty powerful.
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How to choose the right video conferencing camera
Rene Buhay, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at leading education technology manufacturer AVer Europe, gives tips on choosing the right video conferencing camera or webcam
With a wealth of camera options on the market for video conferencing, identifying what suits your needs best and is not simply the latest or recently launched model can be challenging. Most of us are working from home currently and working practices will evolve moving forward. While fundamentally all conferencing solutions will need to be adaptable, the quality, collaboration opportunities, and operational requirements of the conferencing solution must be considered to ensure the purchase is a cost-effective and sound investment.
1. Consider the right solution for your space
We’ve all been in meetings where the technology has let us down, and often it is because the technology is not appropriate for the meeting space or the task at hand. Perhaps the microphone is not strong enough to pick up the voices of people in the room or the camera does not fit all attendees in the field of view, or perhaps the technology is simply taking up too much space.
Whether your meeting space is a home office, a huddle room, a large meeting space or a conference room, you should weigh up the features of different conferencing systems. An all-in-one USB solution is great for a small meeting space, for example, and would not necessarily require features such as pan-tilt-zoom or a powerful zoom.
2. Optimize collaboration with certified solutions
Following a dramatic increase in people working from home and signs of remote working being more prevalent in working practices moving forward, it’s crucial that your conferencing camera is optimized to work with platforms you are using to communicate with your team.
Explore cameras that are certified by the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Skype for Business. Not only is this endorsement from Zoom, Google or Microsoft enough to provide confidence in the manufacturer, it also ensures that you and your team’s video conferencing experience is seamless and efficient when using these platforms.
3. Think ahead
Whatever the size of your space or budget for technology to equip it, ideally you should be looking to find a solution that is ready for a range of scenarios that you may encounter. Plug and play solutions are ideal for this, providing minimal set up and ultimate flexibility, so you can work wherever you need to and still have the same video conferencing experience.
In this unprecedented year of business, forecasting may be challenging; investing in the right video conferencing solution for your needs will reap operational and communication benefits for years to come.