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What is Video Conferencing Software? Analysis of Features, Benefits and Pricing

What is video conferencing software?

Video conferencing software is a tool that is capable of letting two parties communicate via video and audio, all you need is an Internet connection. How does video conferencing software work? It basically enables two or more parties to initiate and conduct live conferences by transmitting audio, video and text. As such technology has been around for some time now, it has grown in popularity not only among individuals but businesses as well.

One of the greatest products of modern technology, video conferencing has changed the way people communicate. What used to be but a concept of science fiction has become a reality in the modern world. Just about everyone uses the technology, especially those who need to talk to people in far away places. the following section will seek to provide a definition of video conferencing software.

Now that you’ve learned the definition of video conferencing software, you should also know that these tools have been known to help companies connect with their partners and employees around the world, resulting in increased productivity and lower communication costs. In addition, most video conferencing platforms enable users not only to communicate but also collaborate.

For video conferences with multiple participants, users are allowed to sit side by side in a virtual conference room and communicate. Video conferencing software has become a staple in the business world, accessible both by computers and mobile devices. Cloud-based virtual meeting places have also been established, allowing companies to use video conferencing without investing on too much hardware.

Businesses benefit from the use of video conferencing tools not only in terms of costs associated with staff training. Project times are also reduced owing to better communication among members of corporate teams. It also fosters better relationships with relevant contacts as well as customers. For individuals, such software can help them become more familiar with persons they may never even meet.

Source: searchunifiedcommunications.techtarget.com

With the benefits that video conferencing software offer organizations, it’s not surprising that many companies have been adopting the tool. It is primarily used for communication with both domestic and international suppliers and customers. Proof of the software’s increased popularity is the fact that the global market for video conferencing software is forecast to expand by a CAGR of 8% from the year 2015 through 2022 and reach a staggering $7.76 billion. Such growth is seen to be driven by the use of cloud technology, which has enabled companies to use the software at minimal cost. The development of new innovations in video conferencing will also fuel this growth.

In this guide, we will discuss pertinent information that will help you better understand what is video conferencing software. The following will be discussed and covered in detail.

  1. Types of Video Conferencing Software
  2. Benefits of Video Conferencing Software
  3. Features of Video Conferencing Software
  4. Examples of Video Conferencing Software
  5. Things to Consider When Buying Video Conferencing Software
  6. How Much Does Video Conferencing Software Cost?
  7. Potential Issues with Video Conferencing Software
  8. Trends in Video Conferencing Software

Types of Video Conferencing

When it comes to video conferencing, there are a variety of options available, depending on the purpose of using tool. Here are some of them:

  1. Telepresence Video Conferencing System. A commonly used video conferencing method, telepresence video conferencing involves technologies that allow participants to feel as if they are truly present and gives the impression of being at a remote physical location. In this type of video conferencing, phone and network connections are used, with monitors and cameras positioned over conference tables, giving the illusion of actually sitting in the room with participants. Albeit the technology is expensive it provides a high-quality and richer video conferencing experience.
  2. Room-based Video Conferencing System. Room-based video conferencing is also a common method being employed by businesses. It is essentially a software-based video conferencing type. It employs video conferencing endpoints, multiple control unit and an Internet connection. It likewise requires video conferencing equipment and provides high-quality calls.
  3. Desktop Video Conferencing. Perhaps the most popular form of video conferencing, desktop video conferencing is known for being easy to use and very affordable. You need only to download and install a video conferencing app and you’re ready to go. It allows anybody to host a video conference from the comfort of their desktops. However, you must have a reliable Internet connection, a webcam, a microphone and loud speakers to make sure you get high quality calls.
    This type of video conferencing is not confined to desktops. You can also make and receive calls from mobile devices, which come equipped with cameras, microphones and speakers. They are also capable of holding video conferences from virtually anywhere.
    This are but some of the most common types of video conferencing. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to choose which one suits your needs.

GoToMeeting: Web conferencing tool for international users

Benefits of Video Conferencing Software

So why use video conferencing software? Such tools have a lot to offer your organization, ranging from cost reduction to improved productivity. However, its up to you to explore and exploit all the potentials of video conferencing tools. A myriad of benefits await your organization from using such platforms. Here are some of the advantages of video conferencing software:

  1. Lower Travel Costs. Being able to meet and talk to people in different locations from the comfort of your desk is among the key goals of video conferencing tools. It is the closest thing to being in the company of your partners, customers and co-workers. The costs associated with travelling to business conferences have always been high. This is why video conferencing has sparked the interest of many businesses. Considering the expenditures that come with travel, one is bound to choose video conferencing over live meetings any day.
  2. Increased Productivity. Conventional methods of communication such as email, phone calls and instant messages could entail misunderstanding, especially for businesses who run on a global scale as they lack face-to-face communication. The use of video conferencing is known to help staff stay focused, resulting in faster project completion and increased productivity. Participants are also always on the same page, along with vital communication that you want them to understand.
  3. Better communication and relationships. Video conferencing can significantly improve collaboration as participants can see one another’s facial expressions and body language, essential factors that commonly get lost during phone calls. The technology can help staff in remote locations feel closer to home as corporate officials are able to hold meetings in real time. It can also facilitate meetings with suppliers, which can greatly help in boosting production.
  4. Edge over the competition. Video conferencing can be a boon for product development teams seeking to bring fresh ideas into the market. The use of video conferencing tools helps share knowledge more quickly, making informed staff out of team members. It can likewise benefit customer support as the tool can help representatives create relationships with customers, unlike phone calls which cannot foster loyalty.
  5. Telecommuting made easy. Video conferencing tools are also very useful for home-based workers. It is capable of promoting interaction among telecommuting workers and addresses the problems of adequate and understandable instruction and upward reporting.

HighFive:video conferencing tool and hardware provider

Features of Video Conferencing Software

What does video conferencing software do? It is known to have a myriad of features that if used properly can result in a rich video conference experience. More and more functionalities are in the pipeline, with software vendors coming up with new and better functionalities everyday. Here are some of the tool’s basic features:

  1. Electronic whiteboards. This feature enables conference participants to type or draw on the board and even upload an image or document. Some apps even have the capability to host more pages, which participants can easily access. One can likewise highlight or draw circles on specific areas of images, enabling him or her to drive home a point. Additional functionalities such as zoom control, pointers and shape makers may be present.
  2. Application sharing. Any platform that promotes collaboration should never be without an application sharing feature and video conferencing software is no exception. It basically enables multiple participants to interact using a program running on a single machine. With this feature, other participants are able to view files even if they do not have the software needed to open such files in their computer. Application sharing boosts collaboration among staff in the same manner as face-to-face communication does.
  3. File transfer. A tool that has been in use for collaboration for a long time, file transfer software enables users to send files to any video conference participant. All that is required is an FTP server and FTP clients. The server lets clients connect and request needed files. As most video conferencing solutions have both client and server, the need for a separate FTP server is eliminated. However, you should be careful in using such tool as file transfers involve significant risk.
  4. Chat software. A typical component of most video conferencing tools, chat software is meant to function as an alternative communication channel in case bandwidth limitations hinder video and audio calls. It is also meant to give participants a secure environment in which to communicate. As most chat sessions are restricted to only two participants, security is assured for both parties. What’s more is that you can save chat logs for future use.

Examples of Video Conferencing Software

There are a lot of solutions out in the market today, each has its own set of features that can benefit your company. Here are examples of video conferencing software:

  1. Skype. Web-based video conferencing solution Skype offers functionalities such as video chat, international calls and Instant messaging. Deemed as among the best VoIP tools in the world, Skype also offers features that foster collaboration, which include document and image sharing. It is also capable of connecting to landlines and mobile devices at very low rates.
    The application is offered for free but a paid plan offers much more functionalities like business conferencing that can accommodate up to 250 participants, MS Office compatibility and third-party app integration. It also takes security seriously, employing top of the line authentication and encryption technologies.
    While Skype remains as one of the most popular software of its kind due to its pricing flexibility, it also excels as a business communication solution and an inexpensive one at that. This is why Skype easily beats the competition in being the most preferred video conferencing software in the market.
    Skype’s basic form is available for free. If you want more functionalities, you can choose from a variety of pricing plans starting at $2/month.
  2. Zoom. Created specifically for webinar hosting, online teaching and training, video demos and video conferences, Zoom is an online video conferencing and meeting solution that is easy to use. It combines online meetings, video conferencing and meeting tools in a single cloud-based software. It is very beneficial to small to medium businesses, healthcare organizations and educational institutions.
    Zoom is capable of hosting meetings that can accommodate up to 100 participants, including 10,000 viewers. It offers quality audio, video and screen sharing features while fostering collaboration among teams and employees in far off places. Its content sharing feature further boosts access to web conferences and webinars.
    Zoom’s basic version comes for free but if you require more features and functionalities, it has a number of pricing plans starting at $14.99/month.
  3. Cisco WebEx. A robust audio and video conferencing platform, Cisco WebEx is targeted at businesses of all sizes and combines data, voice and video capabilities in a single solution. It is highly-useful in undertakings like product launches and educational sessions. With the product, you can improve group collaboration and brainstorming activities. It is a stable solution that also works perfectly with different productivity tools.
    Scheduling a video conference is a breeze with CiscoWebEx, all you need to do is prepare an invitation on Microsoft Outlook and the software does the rest for you. Attendees can be invited through email and can join conferences via phone, computer or video systems. They can also access meetings, becoming active participants in the process. The tool improves collaboration with its Training Center, which automatically assigns screen view, with the tool of choice readily accessible.
    CiscoWebEx is available in different pricing plans starting at $24/month.
  4. GoToMeeting. A simple and easy-to-use web conferencing software, GoToMeeting is loaded with international features, making it highly-suitable for businesses that have foreign operations and professionals who deal with multinational clients. Its interface is user-friendly, able to initiate meetings in seconds. GoToMeeting is very flexible and can seamlessly integrate with different third-party applications, including Podio, Slack, Microsoft Office 365, among many others.
    GoToMeeting is ideal for use by businesses who need more than the average video conferencing tool as it is built for heavy use. It can run on any device running on Windows, Mac and Android, enabling users to join meetings from any device anytime, anywhere. In the tradition of most Citrix products, the platform enjoys great customer support, which include live training, live chat and PDF guides.
    GoToMeeting has a free version and is available in different pricing plans starting at $19/month.
  5. HighFive.  Popular video conferencing platform, HighFive is known for making online meetings and video conferencing easier. The business is ideal for use by businesses that have customers in different cities or countries. Having removed common issues in video conferencing tools, the solution has revolutionized the way online meetings and conferences are made.
    The platform boasts of serving more than 2000 companies, providing not only software but managing audio and video hardware as well. The vendor markets different conference room hardware designs, which is known to appeal to a lot of users. With High Five, you need not invest in additional hardware, resulting in huge cost savings. Setup is a breeze, taking just minutes. It is likewise easy to use, taking only a few clicks to initiate a video conference or an online meeting. The software supports just about any mobile device out there.
    High Five is available in different pricing plans, starting at $99/month. If you want to give it a try first, a free trial is also available.

    Online video conferencing and meeting solution

Things to Consider in Purchasing Video Conferencing Software

As video conferencing solutions vary in their functionalities and pricing, there are a number of factors that one should consider before committing to one. Here are some of them:

  1. Vendor/Service Provider. Businesses’ needs differ and finding the suitable manufacturer could spell success or failure in investing in such solution. What exactly does your business need? Would it require high definition or conventional viewing limits? How many users will there be? And what is the goal for using the product? These questions and more should be asked before procuring a video conference tool. To ensure that the purpose of video conferencing software is fulfilled, you should go for free trials that most vendors offer, which will enable you to determine if the software suits you.
  2. Integrations. You need to have prior knowledge of whether a platform can run smoothly with your existing architecture. A solution’s integration with your existing system will surely result in smooth operation. You should know a prospective solution’s technical requirements, that will allow it to seamlessly integrate with your devices, which include UC platforms, phone equipment and directory services.
  3. Features. While most video conferencing tools share common basic features, you should still take time to research what functionalities a tool has to offer and how they can help your company. It will also give you a heads up if additional hardware and equipment are needed as some solutions require them to implement certain capabilities that are not native to their product.
  4. Return-on-Investment. One area that you should look into in a video conferencing solution is its features and functionalities. This is important because a tool’s features can significantly impact costs and subsequently sales and revenue. This is why you should only invest in one whose features suit your organization’s needs and goals. Remember that many solutions’ costs do not stop when you purchase the product, it may come with additional hardware that could have you investing more than what you planned.
  5. Employee participation. You should consider getting your staff involved in evaluating and researching potential candidate software. Your goal should be for a product to be both intuitive and easy to use. However, you also need to know if using a platform would require vendor training and what complications may arise from setup and integrations.

How Much Does Video Conferencing Cost?

The cost of video conferencing software largely depends on the type of solution. They can range from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. It is therefore imperative that you determine which solution would suit your organization best. To give you an idea of the market for such tools, here are pricing samples of the basic and premium plans being offered by leading vendors.

  1. Skype. $2/user per month; Online Plan 2 – $5.50/user per month; Office 365 Business Essentials – $5.00/user per month; Office 365 Business Premium – $12.50/user per month
  2. Zoom. Zoom Business Plan – $19.99/host per month; Zoom Enterprise Plan – $19.99/host per month
  3. Cisco WebEx. Premium 8 – $24/user per month; $19/user per month (annual subscription); Premium 25 – $39/user per month; $29/user per month (annual subscription); Premium 200 – $49/user per month; $39/user per month (annual subscription)
  4. GoToMeeting. Free; Starter – $19/month; Pro – $29/month; Plus – $49/month
  5. HighFive. Essential – $99/room per month; Standard – $149/room per month; Professional – $199/room per month

Potential Issues with Video Conferencing Software

With all the advantages that video conferencing solutions entail, there are also downsides to the technology. Knowing these disadvantages would give you a better understanding of some of the software’s limitations.

  1. There’s nothing like face-to-face conversation. Despite its amazing capabilities using such software can never achieve what physical conversation does for people. Face-to-face interaction can reveal more about people through the use of body language, which one may not notice when using video conferencing tools. Time delays in responses can also impact the flow of conversations.
  2. Technology dependent. Using video conferencing products makes your rely on technology. This may not be a good thing as the tool could stop working during a meeting. Another issue is although travel costs are reduced, you still pay a substantial amount for such tools, and high-quality systems are known to be very costly.
  3. Video conferencing is not for everyone. Although it does the job, not all people are comfortable communicating using the software. Many still prefer physical meetings, especially for job interviews.

Video conferencing tools have indeed come a long way since their creation, with new features and technologies constantly pushing the bar higher up to the delight of users. As more and more powerful solutions are developed, the future of video conferencing is truly bright. The following are trends in video conferencing software that you should watch out for.

  1. Cloud deployment would be the norm. 2017 has seen so much use of cloud technology in video conferencing solutions. One tool that stands out is exTalks. Cloud deployment significantly changed the game, with capabilities such as smooth integrations and high scalability making video conferencing tools better than ever. However, cloud technology is hounded by security risks as third parties are always required to provide them.
  2. More cost-effective than before. Costly hardware used in video conferencing has taken a backseat with the development of new solutions like TurboMeeting. These new tools provide users with high-performance servers that do not need manning by IT teams and have plug-and-play capabilities. They are also capable of adding thousands of conference participants.
  3. Mobile support. As the use of mobile devices keep growing, the number of users who prefer attending video conferencing through their phones and tablets is also on the rise. The very reason why software vendors have been coming up with iPhone and Android versions of their video conferencing products. However, it has yet to become a standard practice owing to technical issues.
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