Zooming is becoming much more useful these days now that people need to hold meetings remotely as well carry on other events which require face-to-face interaction without the current risks posed by physical proximity. Zoom allows you to create and host meetings, but it’s not the only online video conferencing solution. With anecdotal reports of slow connections and missed calls, some may be looking for a secondary option. Fortunately, there are many paid and free options to choose from, depending on your needs.
Google Hangouts (Enterprise)
This is probably the most obvious choice, especially since you can use Hangouts on a wide range of devices and web browsers. However, Google company-level G-Suite service includes a Hangouts version perfect for companies that need to find a new video conferencing app. It can be used for text, voice and video chats, allows you to connect with up to 250 other users per call and has solid moderation and presentation features. You can even record meetings.
The free version of Hangouts is also a viable choice, which supports up to 150 users, but requires users to connect using their personal Google accounts, which can rule out those who don’t have one. The free version also lacks presentation options, nor is it possible to record calls, but that limit of 150 users is difficult to beat compared to other freebies out there. (android, iOS, Spider web)
If you don’t want to use Google’s G-Suite service, Zoho One’s open source alternative includes online conferencing software that should appeal to anyone familiar with Zoom or Hangouts.
Zoho Meetings allows you to host end-to-end encrypted video conferences, conference calls and webinars, which can be accessed via dial-in and email links: no need to force anyone to register or download an app to participate . There are also desktop, web and mobile versions of the app.
Meetings can be recorded and hosting options include moderation and organization tools. The software also integrates with Zoho’s Office app suite, so you can easily insert spreadsheets, text documents and other files during the presentation. Zoho also has a practical comparison sheet that shows how you compare with the zoom.
Zencastr is technically a web-based podcast service and does not make video calls, but it is excellent for conference calls. Among the COVID-19 epidemic, Zencastr is removing its restrictions on group size and registration limits. Free users can now host calls with unlimited users and unlimited recording time (normally only three users per call and 8 hours of recording time per month, even if unregistered calls don’t count).
Paid users ($ 20 / month) receive a special live editing panel and post-production tools. Only the host must have a Zencastr account, as it can invite users through simple shareable links (as you can do with Zoom). There is also a “raise your hand” button which can help keep things running smoothly when hosting a large conference call and want to make sure everyone can join.
Discord is a game-centric app, but it has a wider appeal than just gaming thanks to its encrypted chats and flexible organization features. Discord chats take place on dedicated “servers” that users can set up and organize for themselves, each chat room – think slack, but with videos and voice calls in addition to text chat.
Video calls support only nine users in total, but the app includes simple screen sharing tools and other useful features if you use it for holding meetings. Considering that it’s a free app, there’s a lot of flexibility here and it’s a great option if you want a permanent conference solution, but the other free options on this list will be easier to put into operation. Discord is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and most web browsers.
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger
While Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are separate apps (for now), Facebook owns both and each works with the same back-end technology – and will eventually merge into the same cross-platform service together with Instagram DM – in case you were wondering why we grouped here.
Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger support group voice / video calls, but as they are more personalized for basic calls on mobile or the web, you will not find corporate-level conferencing features here. If all you have to do is have a quick check-in with some colleagues, both apps will work well.
Facetime is only for iOS, which limits its use as a universal solution, but since it is included in almost all Apple devices, many people will likely have access to it. The app supports up to 32 people in one call, so on condition that everyone has one iPhone, iPad or Mac at your fingertips, can be a solid way of holding remote meetings.
Skype is another video chat service that probably most people know about. It supports up to 50 users on a single video call and is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and as a web app, but like most of the other free apps here, all attendees will need to have an account – in which case, you will need a Microsoft account. That said, if everyone in your group is already registered and using the service, it will do the job well.