Virtual Meeting Platforms – Some advice

As we are suddenly confronted with remote working and learning, attention has turned to how best to keep in touch with teams and individuals.

Phone calls are fine and WhatsApp offers video options, but there is frequently a need to collaborate, share information and have face-to-face conversations with more than one person.

So which is the best platform to help you achieve that?  And what traps should you be aware of now that some providers have extended their free trial options to cover the next few months?

We at theGrogroup have spent some time evaluating the major players so you don’t have to.

Here are our thoughts:

 

Zoom

Zoom has taken the locked-down world by storm, even though its been around for quite a while. It’s a simple-to-use independent video conferencing tool with a free-to-use option with limited functionality.

It has several “views” so that everyone can see and be seen at the same time.

You can share screens so teams can collaborate by looking at the same version of the same document, as well as using a whiteboard to develop ideas. There’s a chat function too.

The paid version (starting at £12 per month) includes a basic polling tool and the option to create breakout rooms to allow people to work in smaller groups before reconvening as a larger team.

A lot has been made about the security issues in Zoom. It’s fair to say that they are being addressed, but it might be worth finding out what your IT team thinks.

 

Microsoft Teams

If your company already pays for Office 365, then you should be using Teams – because it’s free and ready to use.

It’s a shared workspace which allows co-workers to chat and collaborate, with immediate access to a repurposed (and much improved) Skype for Business for video conferencing, when it helps clarify situations.

Teams synchronises with OneDrive (SharePoint), Outlook and Calendar and allows you to create virtual…Teams – smaller working groups for projects who can work together without being together and without having to be on camera the whole time.

 

GoTo Meeting

Currently offering only a 14-day free trial, GoTo does everything Zoom does in terms of video conferencing (max of 6 people on camera) and screen sharing.  And like Zoom, it’s easy to set up and use.

The developers have worked hard on compatibility – and GoTo is one of the few platforms that allows Chrome users to attend meetings which run in the Google browser rather than in a separate piece of software that downloads at the start of the meeting.

At the end of the trial, plans start at around £10 per month, but you don’t really get much extra.  No polls. No breakouts. Just a simple secure video conferencing service.

 

Cisco WebEx

If Zoom’s security issues worry you, then have no fear with WebEx.

Cisco’s years as the dominant force in network security means that WebEx and it’s users are well protected.  You can even lock the meeting room once everyone is inside – and even expel naughty participants!

Participants in WebEx meetings can share screens, chat, and interact with a whiteboard. But they’re also able to take on-screen notes while talking or watching presentations

The only failing is that there are no breakout rooms for working in smaller groups.

The free trial period has been extended indefinitely and, apart from mp4 recordings of meetings, offers pretty good functionality. If the small extras matter to you, then plans start at around £12 per user per month.

Like Zoom, the platform is easy to use, has screen sharing, polling and note taking options.

Breakout rooms are only available in the separate (and chargeable) WebEx Training tool.

 

Adobe Connect

Again, this is a secure platform built with Adobe’s extensive experience of software development.

The 90-day free trial gives you access to everything Connect can offer, including meetings, training, online learning development and structured and scheduled courses and classes.  But beware! At the end of the trial the package is chargeable at over £200 per user per month.

The look and feel of Connect is very different from the modern “Agile” tools like Zoom. Screens are tightly packed with “pods” that allow WebCams (everyone appears in a small “pod” and thumbnails get smaller the more people who join), participant management, notes, chat and screen sharing.  The “pods” are moveable and can be resized – but the onus is on the host to sort it out and save their preferred layout.

Beyond the trial, Connect Meeting would probably be enough for most organisations, but even that comes with a £40 price tag, making it by far the most expensive solution.

 

Summary

So, there are plenty of options to choose from – and lots of small, independent providers who we haven’t mentioned.

All of the platforms we’ve talked about have mobile apps available in both Android and iOS format.

We can’t make your mind up for you, but we’d be more than happy to provide demonstrations and offer advice – especially if this is a selection that will impact on your business for the foreseeable future.

If you want to chat any options through or learn how to use these tools effectively call us on 01892 610060 or email our resident expert Mike Barron: mikebarron@thegrogroup.com