Video Conferencing - Betchya Can't Pick Just One
As a completely virtual company (we've never had an office) we are often asked, "Which provider do you use for video conferencing?"
And our answer is, "Several of them."
Because we like having options. And that's true now more than ever as some conferencing providers are getting overwhelmed. Redundancy is comforting. We're scheduling our calls with a backup plan now.
We tested our video conferencing software with one of our remote workers in a rural area with slow internet speed. In our tests, Teams was the clear winner. Here is a summary of our findings:
- Regular phone (we use Vonage & Uberconference). This might be controversial, but the truth is that most of our internal conversations are not done over video, but just a simple regular phone line - or for group calls, an audio-only conference line.
- There is less lag, the screen doesn't freeze, and you don't have to worry about having enough bandwidth.
- (Plus it's distracting to see a view of yourself so you might focus too much attention on fixing your hair instead of on the other person).
- You can set up an Uberconference line to not require a pin; dial a 10-digit number and you're in.
- Sometimes you need to visually see the other person (such as a job interview, or onboarding a new employee, or showing a physical presentation, or just simply for a more personal touch).
- While we love the ease of Uberconference for audio calls, we do not recommend it for video; we found long lags, screen freezing, calls dropping, and other challenges.
- Pro Tip: Schedule your calls at odd times (instead of 12:00 and 12:30, try beginning 12:10 or 12:20) to lighten the load of people dialing in all at once.
- Microsoft Teams. In our testing, Teams had the most stable connection throughout the video call, even on a low-bandwidth connection. The video image was a bit fuzzy, but was steady throughout the call.
- Teams is already included in the Office 365 package so you can easily coordinate with members across your organizations (with or without video). Microsoft is urging users to switch from Skype to Teams. I've seen a few offers where you can can get six months of Teams for free now.
- Scheduling a Teams meeting through your Outlook calendar is a breeze, and then you can quickly join the call by clicking one link in Teams or Outlook.
- External guests can join any Teams meeting quickly, without a login or a download or a plug-in.
- You can blur out an unsightly background.
- There are additional features such as a place to take meeting notes, draw on a Whiteboard, easy screen sharing (including the ability to give someone else control of your machine), and add files using OneNote.
- You may need to test/alter your "Device settings" (default speaker and microphone) before your audio will work properly - especially if you have multiple monitors connected.
- It is challenging to schedule a meeting with external participants through the Teams app (but really easy through Outlook).
- The screen only shows views of four participants at a time (rotating through as different attendees speak).
- Zoom. While Zoom works consistently well for calls with international participants, our testing found it to be a bit choppy in terms of video quality - the video image was a bit clearer in quality than Teams but had a tendency to freeze periodically.
- Zoom is a well-established company with a long history of success. Many organizations have used Zoom, so it is familiar to many folks.
- Users can access the call without creating an account.
- Ability to control when users are "admitted" to the room, can mute participants, or put someone back in the "waiting room" to avoid overlap between private conversations.
- Scheduling a call through the Zoom app is easy and syncs well with your default calendar (Outlook or Google).
- There are additional features such as a blemish touch-up and ability to take control of someone else's machine.
- In the gallery view, you can see the videos of up to 49 participants at one time.
- Zoom requires users to download a quick browser extension.
- When dialing in, the passcode is lengthy and therefore could be misdialed.
- There are security risks when using public Zoom links, and Zoom has access to much of your private data.*
- Whatsapp. We have had great success with Whatsapp for international calls. Please note that we have not tried the Desktop-version of Whatsapp; our testing was primarily from mobile devices.
- Works well globally for one-to-one or group calls; it is easy to add a new participant to an existing call.
- You can send a text message that goes directly to their mobile phone (for example, "I will begin the call in 5 minutes.").
- You must download the Whatsapp application onto your mobile device (portable when you are out-of-the-office).
- If you do not have a dock for your mobile device, it may be hard to keep the video position stabilized (your movement may be dizzying for participants).
- Google Hangouts. Our testing found the quality on Hangouts to be the worst of the three. There were long lags where one user could not hear the other and the screen would freeze. The video quality was blurry.
- Free if you already have a Google account.
- Works well on a mobile device.
- It is challenging to figure out how to advance schedule meetings if you are not an active Google Calendar user.
- Many people say the interface is clunky.
Topics: Remote Work