As the lockdown enforced by COVID’s spread stretches ever longer and companies are starting to acclimate themselves to the new normal for however long it might last, it’s become increasingly obvious just what has been lost by leaving the office behind. While many businesses have discovered that text chats, remote desktop software, and network drives might keep the office running, they do so while sacrificing the human element which kept it truly productive. Interacting with coworkers remotely has slowly made them just that, remote and distant. Many of us have slowly been learning the importance of gestures and expressions in regular conversation, and gifs or emojis are tools which only go so far in replacing them. Thus, video conferencing has taken up even more prominence in today’s workforce. Yet, the number of options for such a service are dizzying, and beyond most businesses. Gone are the days when Skype was the only option for video conferencing, and many worthy successors to its success have been left in its wake. Below, we’ve evaluated the strengths of three such offerings, with the hope it will let your business choose the right option for it.
The first video conference system we’ll be highlighting is Cisco’s Webex. While it hasn’t benefited from the recent media stir around video conferencing as much some of its competitors – the controversies swirling around our next entry have seen to that – it stands apart thanks to its comprehensive set of features, unwavering commitment to security, and unparalleled hardware support. Webex is much more than simply a video conferencing system. Webex users have access to two different pieces of software with two very different purposes. The first, as you would expect, is a simple video conferencing system, Webex Meetings. It includes HD video, automatic speaker viewing, screen sharing, the ability to record sessions, and even integration with Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar. Webex Meetings users all get access to Webex Teams, which can be best summarized as Cisco’s response to Slack. It features group chatrooms, file sharing, and even collaborative whiteboards which users can download as PDFs at will. These features are available to all users, as Webex breaks from the traditional feature-based plans of its competitors and instead offers plans which gate the number of video participants allowed in a single video call at very reasonable rates.
It is not in Webex’s functionality where its excellence it to be found, however. Webex is by far the most secure of the platforms featured, and is the only platform with a hardware line its integrated into. As the product of a company long involved in sharpening the cutting edge of internet security, Webex has an expansive and transparent plan for ensuring its own data integrity, and the pedigree to execute it. Webex’s status as the preferred solution of hospitals and other organizations which regularly manage high-security data speaks volumes as to the trust these organizations put into Cisco’s security expertise. Cisco also has a wide range of products which are designed to be used alongside Webex. These range from their ubiquitous video-enabled IP Phones, to specific lines designed for a wide range of surfaces. Cisco’s well-regarded Desk, Board, and Room product lines all feature native integration with Webex, which protects Webex users from having to rely on unreliable or unsupported third-party hardware. For organizations who value their data integrity and want a solution which is at home in the board room as it is a laptop, Cisco’s Webex is a shoo-in.
Webex holds no monopoly on specialization, however. Zoom is likely the most well-known of these offerings due to the whirlwind of media coverage the relative newcomer to the scene has received lately. Unlike Webex, Zoom presumes to be nothing more than a video conferencing system. Its enormous array of features and ease of use have made it an instant hit for companies and educational systems across the globe. Zoom features all the features of Webex Meetings and more, including the ability for participants to “raise their hand” to speak, the ability to appoint another user to schedule meetings on your behalf, and a host of other features which are all bundled in a package which is designed to be as user-friendly as possible. Combine all of this with a rock-bottom price tag, and it’s easy to understand why Zoom’s profile has skyrocketed in recent months. While some security issues have certainly plagued the platform in recent news, these issues are also largely avoidable and not specific to the platform, either.
The final notable offering is one which stakes its claim based on its integrations: Microsoft Teams. For workplaces already utilizing Office365 it’s a no-brainer to pick up Microsoft Teams, as a Teams account is included in the subscription. Thus, many companies have access to Teams without even having to go out of their way. This isn’t to say that Teams is a slouch when it comes to features, as it features the same HD video, screen sharing, and automatic speaker viewing as the other two options, as well as a host of Office365 integrations those options can only dream of. Its integration with Sharepoint bears specific mentioning, as it makes Microsoft Teams easily the most powerful tool out of the bunch when it comes to sharing files or documents. Overall, Microsoft Teams is a perfectly reasonable video conference solution which happens to come with a rock-bottom price tag for a number of businesses already leaning upon Microsoft’s other helpful cloud services.