Top 5 best videoconferencing services of 2016

Make your meetings run more smoothly with these top apps

Video is a great way to enhance communications across a business with colleagues and clients. And adopting more videoconferencing can save your business money. According to research from LyteSpark, businesses across the UK could save (on average) £27,000 per year (around $33,000, AU$43,000) on business trips.

Says Alex Hunte, co-founder, online meeting platform, LyteSpark: “Videoconferencing is a key tool that can ensure businesses remain profitable, maximise their resources, maintain productivity and contribute towards health and wellbeing of employees.

“State-of-the-art online meeting platforms are no longer clumsy and complex. They are now designed to be intuitive, ensuring they are merely an extension of day-to-day communications. Nobody has to wait days or weeks to discuss pressing matters which can now be resolved or actioned within minutes.”

Today there are a raft of videoconferencing applications to choose from. Gone are the days when conference calls needed complex dial-up procedures and login numbers. Some of the most advanced contemporary videoconferencing systems need nothing more than a smartphone to hold professional, multiple participant, high definition videoconferences.

In this guide we’ve chosen six of the best videoconferencing services that offer a range of features, from fast start to enterprise applications that enable you to hold large meetings from dedicated conferencing rooms. No matter what your needs or your budget, you can start using videoconferencing today.

1. Skype for Business

All the features of Skype, upgraded for small business users

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android | MS Office Support: Business Essentials/Premium | Meeting Scheduling: Integrated into Outlook | Record Meetings: Capture audio, video, IM, screen sharing | Audio Support: Use any existing Lync-compatible phones or other audio devices

Close integration with MS Office
Low user per month cost
Not a fully-fledged VoIP system
Office 365 Business Essentials and Premium only

Anyone who has used the consumer version of Skype will feel right at home with Skype for Business. As a replacement for Microsoft’s Lync, the videoconferencing application is pitched at Office 365 users. Being able to jump onto a video call with clients or colleagues from within Outlook makes the whole experience seamless.

As a meeting tool it offers the ability to use a digital whiteboard and also access standard Microsoft Office documents. And if you need enterprise-level SharePoint and Exchange support, this is readily available.

2. LyteSpark

Effortless browser-based videoconferencing

Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android | MS Office Support: Create Office documents on-the-fly | Meeting Scheduling: Outlook and Google Calendar support | Record Meetings: N/A | Audio Support: Built-in or external microphone

Create rooms with company branding
Lock a room for added security
Can’t record conferences
Not compatible with Microsoft Edge

The core aim of LyteSpark is to remove the complexity of hosting a videoconference. Completely hosted, there is no need to download and install any specialist apps, or circulate dial-in numbers. Simply give your ‘room’ a name and you are instantly ready to invite colleagues or clients into your conference.

The ability to open and create new Microsoft Office documents on the fly makes this system effortless to use. And if your business has adopted Slack as its comms tool, the integration with LyteSpark will add video as a rich communications channel.

3. WebEx

A flexible offering which scales well with a clear upgrade path

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android | MS Office Support: Screen-share with meeting attendees | Meeting Scheduling: Integrated into Outlook | Record Meetings: Record whole meeting including content shared | Audio Support: VoIP and HD Voice (wideband audio) supported in Meeting Centre

Easily scales as your needs expand
Secure login
Pricey when you need to add multiple users
Free version has a two-person limit

As one of the leaders in videoconferencing, WebEx is aimed at larger businesses even though it has a free plan that enables just two people to connect for free. The WebEx Meeting Centre is infinitely more useful, as you can set up personalised videoconferencing rooms.

The application offers VoIP audio and integration with MS Outlook on Windows or Mac platforms. If you are new to videoconferencing and VoIP for that matter, beginning with WebEx and then graduating to WebEx Meetings, and subsequently onto WebEx Meeting Centre is a logical progression.

4. GoToMeeting

Middleweight videoconferencing targeted at SMBs

Platforms: Windows, macOS | MS Office Support: Start meetings from within Office | Meeting Scheduling: Integrates with Outlook | Record Meetings: Organisers can start and stop recording at will | Audio Support: VoIP or dial-in options

One-click recording
Hand over mouse and keyboard control to any attendee
Only Plus version has virtual whiteboard features
Free version only offers web audio conferencing for up to three

As part of the GoTo suite of applications that includes GoToWebinar and GoToTraining, the meeting component offers easy switching between the types of meeting you want to hold. If you have experience of any of the other products in the suite, adding video is a breeze and requires a very shallow learning curve.

With desktop and mobile equally supported and integration with standard office applications, GoToMeeting is a middleweight videoconferencing service that small businesses in particular will find a great boon to their communications across teams and with clients and customers.

5. Join.me

Has all the core features you need

Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android | MS Office Support: Office documents | Meeting Scheduling: Use Google Calendar, Outlook or Office 365 | Record Meetings: Only with Pro/Business versions | Audio Support: Integration with conference calling when camera not available

Works with Slack, HipChat and Trello
No plugins to download for conference attendees
Better scheduling and calendar features are needed
No keyboard mapping for non-English keyboards

All of the latest videoconferencing applications strive to remove any technical hurdles that might trip up the user. Not having to install apps or plugins, or remember dial-in codes and phone numbers is what makes Join.me a powerful and attractive way to get into videoconferencing for the first time.

You can try the system out with ten other people for free before opting for a premium service. It’s also the ability to share documents (including Evernote) that makes this offering a very practical way into videoconferencing for smaller businesses in particular.