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What is video conferencing software?
Video conferencing software is a tool used by two parties to communicate via video and audio using an Internet connection. It enables the parties to initiate and conduct live conferences and remote meetings by transmitting audio, video, and text. This type of software has grown in popularity not only among individuals but businesses as well, and also includes auxiliary features like file sharing, electronic whiteboards and file transfer.
Are you planning to use a video conferencing app for an upcoming remote meeting but you don’t know which to choose? Or are you using one because there is nothing else installed on your computer or because it’s the popular brand? As ubiquitous as they are, video conferencing apps vary greatly in feature set, pricing and overall capability. So, before you settle down for a solution, you might want to learn more about this type of software so you can choose the best-fitting one and maximize its functions.
Some video conferencing apps are integrated into a complex business communication system, while others offer just the bare-bone features. It is important to understand first how these tools work, how much they cost, the benefits and key features of video conferencing apps and the issues involved. In this guide, we will go through the essential information on video conferencing software. We will also present examples of the best apps in this field, which may be a good starting point for your product research.
Video conferencing tools are 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 to collaborate effectively.
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 on computers and mobile devices. Cloud-based virtual meeting places have also been established, allowing companies to use video conferencing without investing in numerous hardware systems.
With the benefits offered by video conferencing software, 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 14% and reach a market size of $20 billion by 2024. 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.
Types of Video Conferencing
When it comes to video conferencing, there are a variety of options available, depending on the purpose of using the tool. Here are some of them:
- Desktop Video Conferencing. Perhaps the most popular form of video conferencing, desktop video conferencing is known for being easy to use and affordable. You only need 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.
- Room-based Video Conferencing System. Room-based video conferencing is also a common method being used by businesses. It is essentially a software-based video conferencing type. It employs video conferencing endpoints, multiple control units, and an Internet connection. It requires video conferencing equipment and delivers high-quality calls.
- 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 even from 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. Even though the technology is expensive, it provides a high-quality and richer video conferencing experience.
These are only 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.
Perhaps the most popular video conferencing app, Skype is easy to use and free.
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, it’s up to you to explore and exploit all the potentials of video conferencing tools. A myriad of benefits awaits your organization from using such platforms. Here are some of the advantages of video conferencing software:
- 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 to share knowledge more quickly, making team members more informed. It can benefit customer support as the tool can help representatives build relationships with customers through face-to-face conversations.
- Minimize 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 traveling 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.
- Telecommuting made easy. Video conferencing tools are also very useful for home-based workers. It is capable of promoting interaction among telecommuting workers. It helps in delivering reports and instructions clearer.
- Increase productivity. Conventional methods of communication such as email, phone calls, and instant messages could entail misunderstanding, especially for businesses that 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.
- Better communication and relationships. Video conferencing can significantly improve collaboration as participants can see each other’s facial expressions and body language – essential factors that commonly get lost during phone calls. It can also facilitate meetings with suppliers, which can greatly help in boosting production.
The GoToMeeting dashboard enables efficient communication via video conference.
Features of Video Conferencing Software
What does video conferencing software do? It is known to have a myriad of features that, when 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 every day. Here are some of the tool’s basic features:
- 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 to communicate. As most chat sessions are restricted to only two participants, security is assured for both parties. Furthermore, you can save chat logs for future use.
- Application sharing. Any platform that promotes collaboration should never be without an application sharing feature. It 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 on their computer. Application sharing boosts collaboration among staff in the same manner as face-to-face communication does.
- 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 that participants can easily access. One can highlight or draw circles on specific areas of images. Additional functionalities such as zoom control, pointers and shape makers may be available.
- File transfer. A tool that has been in use for collaboration for a long time, file transfer functionality enables users to send files to any video conference participant. All that’s 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 a tool as file transfers may involve significant risk.
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:
- Skype. A web-based video conferencing solution that offers functionalities such as video chat, international calls and Instant messaging. It also offers features that foster collaboration like document and image sharing. It is capable of connecting to landlines and mobile devices at very low rates.
The application is offered for free but a paid plan offers more functionalities like business conferencing, MS Office compatibility and third-party app integration. It also takes security seriously, employing top of the line authentication and encryption technologies.
- Zoom. Created specifically for webinar hosting, online teaching and training, video demos and video conferences, Zoom shines as an easy-to-use online video conferencing and meeting solution. It combines online meetings, video conferencing and meeting tools in a single cloud-based software. It is 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.
- Cisco WebEx. 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 product launches and educational sessions. You can use it to 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 to 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.
- Workplace by Facebook. A popular online work collaboration platform, Workplace by Facebook is used by organizations of any industry and size to streamline communication and improve collaboration. The software’s Live Video lets you communicate with your team directly and immediately so you can hold a two-way conversation anytime. Audiences can leave feedback through comments and reactions in real time.
The video conference feature of Workplace by Facebook allows 50 users to converse on HD live chat using desktops or mobile devices. Team members from any part of the world can stay connected and engaged in an instant through face-to-face sessions. Additionally, the software has features for groups, org charts, news feeds, and auto-translation.
- 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 and 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 that 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 using any device anytime, anywhere.
- WebVideo. Created for freelancers as well as SMBs, WebVideo is a software that combines video conferencing and video streaming in one convenient interface. It comes with an easily navigable interface that can be accessed by both desktop and mobile devices, making it great for companies with remote employees. Moreover, this platform is equipped with tight protection protocols and layers to keep you protected from any online threats. What’s more is that WebVideo supports multiple domains and provides its users with built-in credit card processing and affiliate marketing systems to streamline your business operations.
- Proficonf. Proficonf is a lightweight video conferencing solution that lets you create virtual meeting rooms and add participants with ease and speed. With this web-based solution, participants don’t need to burden themselves with any application downloads or sign-in process to get inside a web conference. They simply need to click a meeting link to join your virtual meeting. Furthermore, you can expect high quality audio and video, even with low internet speeds. Proficonf features screen sharing, file sharing, slide presentation sharing, HD recording, participant management, and more.
The Zoom dashboard gives you a detailed view of your meeting’s metrics at a glance.
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 you should consider before committing to one. Here are some of them:
- 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.
- 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 a smooth operation. You should know a prospective solution’s technical requirements, so you can seamlessly integrate with your devices, which include UC platforms, phone equipment, and directory services.
- 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 with has features that suit your organization’s needs and goals. Remember that the costs of many solutions do not end when you purchase the product, it may come with additional hardware that could have you investing more than what you planned.
- 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.
- Vendor/Service Provider. Business needs differ, hence, finding a suitable vendor could spell success or failure in investing in such a 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 of using the product? These are only some of the questions you should answer before procuring a video conference tool. To ensure that the purpose of video conferencing software is fulfilled, you should sign up for free trials that most vendors offer so you can determine if the software suits you firsthand.
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 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 offered by leading vendors.
- Workplace by Facebook. The Standard plan is free. For enterprise features, the Premium plan costs $3/active user/month.
- Skype. Using Skype to Skype is free. Monthly calling plans are available if you need to call a landline or mobile using Skype. Subscription starts from $2.99/month depending on the location.
- Zoom. Starts with a free plan. Premium plans cost from $14.99/month/host up to $19.99/month/host based on your number of hosts.
- Cisco WebEx. The starting plan is at $24/month for up to 8 people in a meeting. Larger teams can opt for plans priced at $49/month for 25 people and $69/month for 100 people in a meeting.
- GoToMeeting. Depending on the number of participants, you can choose from scalable plans called Starter at $14/month (10 participants), Pro at $29/month (150 participants), and Plus at $39/month (250 participants) billed annually.
- WebVideo. A one-time license with hosting option is available for $3,995 and comes equipped with all of its core functionalities as well free technical support, templates, and a year of free updates. A $395 monthly license is also available and comes equipped with all available functionalities.
- Proficonf. A free option is available with limited functionalities and a 45 minutes cap per meeting. The Pro plan costs $25/month and supports up to 100 participants. If you’re looking to hold a conference with up to 250 participants, you can opt for their $50/month Premium plan.
Potential Issues with Video Conferencing Software
With all the advantages that video conferencing solutions entail, there are also potential challenges to this technology. Knowing these disadvantages would give you a better understanding of some of the software’s limitations.
- There’s nothing like a 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.
- 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.
- Technology-dependent. Using video conferencing products makes you 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.
Trends in Video Conferencing Software
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.
- Mobile support. As the use of mobile devices keeps growing, the number of users who prefer attending video conferencing through their phones and tablets is also on the rise. This is also 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.
- More cost-effective than before. Costly hardware used in video conferencing has taken a backseat with the development of new solutions. 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.
- Cloud deployment would be the norm. 2019 is seeing so much use of cloud technology in video conferencing solutions. 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.
Sign up for a free trial or freemium
Often, it only takes to sign up for an account and you can start using the basic features for free. These include the core video/audio options and chat. But don’t settle for the free version. Use it while it meets your needs, but as you grow you’ll probably require more advanced tools like analytics, a higher number of users and bigger file storage.
Likewise, use the free version as a trial phase. Using the app will let you evaluate it better and identify its strengths and weaknesses firsthand. Here are some things you should consider when evaluating the free version:
- How many participants does it allow?
- What types of meetings does it handle?
- Do all participants get to set it up quickly?
- Does it allow screen sharing?
- Can it integrate with the other apps you are using?
Lastly, signing up for a free account lets you compare products down to the details. There you have it, the key essentials on video conferencing software solutions in your hands. What used to be an expensive and complex infrastructure is now readily available, and, often, for free at that.