What is Zoom? How it works, tips and tricks and best alternatives

(Image credit: Zoom)

Video conferencing platform Zoom has become a household name after enjoying a breakout year, in large part due to the pandemic and rise of remote working.

It's used primarily by businesses to host meetings with remote colleagues and clients, but Zoom is an equally useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family.

Zoom video conferencing is celebrated for its ease of use, high quality video and audio, and collaboration facilities - and the basic version is also completely free of charge.

Attendees can join a Zoom meeting without even signing into the app, but must register for an account to host a video meeting. Premium versions support Zoom meetings with up to 1,000 participants, call recording, unlimited phone calls and much more.

The Zoom app is available on all major desktop and mobile operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.

For more information, visit our how to use Zoom guide.

Free Zoom or paid?

Zoom is available free of charge to anyone and the basic free version offers all the facilities most people will need. However, as with anything, you get what you pay for.

Free Zoom offers video conferencing for up to 100 participants, provided the meeting runs for no longer than 40 minutes, at which point attendees are ejected from the conference. If you don’t mind the hassle of dialling back in, the host can simply start another call.

It also supports unlimited one-on-one meetings, screen sharing, chat, virtual backgrounds, whiteboard and more.

The paid version, meanwhile, effectively removes time limits for group video conferences (pushing the cap to 24 hours), and also allows the host to record meetings to cloud or on-device storage and schedule repeat meetings.  

The most basic paid version costs $149.90/£119.90/AU$209.90 per year when billed annually or $14.99/£11.99/AU$20.99 per month, which is a little more expensive in the long-run.

Quoted prices do not cover additional add-ons - such as webinar facilities, large meetings (up to 1000 participants) and additional cloud recording storage - which will bump up the price.

Zoom alternatives

While the word Zoom is used by some as a byword for video conference, there are many Zoom alternatives on the market capable of rivalling the big name brand.

Here are a few alternatives to Zoom that make an equally good choice for businesses looking for the best video conferencing services around:

- Microsoft Teams
Google Meet
Skype for Business
Cisco WebEx

Zoom - latest news and guides

03/09/2021 - Zoom and Box want to make video calls less annoying

25/08/2021 - Zoom is getting a makeover for the hybrid working future

19/08/2021 - Zoom is coming to your living room

18/08/2021 - Data protection watchdog says Zoom is incompatible with GDPR

12/08/2021 - New Zoom Focus Mode wants to cut out distractions

02/08/2021 - Zoom will fork out millions to settle data privacy suit

29/07/2021 - Zoom wants to extend its reach beyond the end of meetings

21/07/2021 - Zoom is launching an app store and standalone events

19/07/2021 - Zoom snaps up cloud call center firm Five9

30/06/2021 - Zoom is about to tear down the language barrier

29/06/2021 - Running Zoom on Chromebooks is about to get a lot smoother

23/06/2021 - Zoom uses Pride month to introduce new pronoun options

23/06/2021 - This monitor has been specially designed for Zoom calls

10/06/2021 - Zoom wants to power your whole hybrid working world

02/06/2021 - Zoom defies critics with bumper Q1

27/05/2021 - Zoom for iPad is getting a major expansion

20/05/2021 - Otter.ai's new tool can transcribe your Zoom meetings

19/05/2021 - Zoom is readying an all-in-one platform for virtual events

10/05/2021 - Zoom on iPad is getting a much-needed upgrade

28/04/2021 - How to use Zoom on a Chromebook

27/04/2021 - Zoom meetings are about to get a whole lot more immersive

22/04/2021 - Zoom just got a whole host of funky upgrades

19/04/2021 - Zoom is launching its own venture capital fund

15/04/2021 - That Zoom meeting invite might well be malware

07/04/2021 - Another reason you no longer need to Zoom on laptop

05/04/2021 - How to use Zoom on Mac - the ultimate guide

26/03/2021 - Zoom says remote working is here to stay

22/03/2021 - Zoom is about to make video calls even more interesting

20/03/2021 - Zoom Escaper gives you the perfect excuse to bail out of calls

02/03/2021 - Zoom rounds off bumper year with astounding results

25/02/2021 - Zoom says closed captions are on the way

05/02/2021 - Think your meeting is safe from Zoom-bombing? Think again

03/02/2021 - Zoom wants to help smooth the return to the office

13/01/2021 - Zoom clarifies cloud stance, pushes for billions in funding

23/12/2020 - Zoom is about to make a splash in the email market

22/12/2020 - Leaving awkward Zoom calls just got a lot easier

21/12/2020 - Zoom now has official support on Apple M1 Macs

18/12/2020 - Zoom calls are coming to Amazon Echo

17/12/2020 - Zoom is giving users an early Christmas present

06/12/2020 - Zoom anxiety has become an epidemic in itself

01/12/2020 - Zoom reveals shift to AWS cloud

01/12/2020 - Zoom could be set to get even bigger next year

25/11/2020 - Zoom is giving users an early Thanksgiving gift

17/11/2020 - Zoom can now tell you if your meeting is at risk of attack

10/11/2020 - Zoom promises major security overhaul

09/11/2020 - Zoom calls can be hacked by this weird flaw

02/11/2020 - Zoom is set to eliminate one of the worst parts of video calling

27/10/2020 - Zoom finally delivers end-to-end encryption for all users

14/10/2020 - Zoom wants to become the AirBnB of virtual events

09/10/2020 - BT offers managed Zoom services to businesses

28/09/2020 - You can now make Zoom calls over LinkedIn

25/09/2020 - Zoom is being sued over its cloud storage practices

11/09/2020 - Zoom update delivers huge security upgrade

20/08/2020 - Zoom arrives on Amazon, Google, Facebook smart devices

14/08/2020 - Zoom may have another major security worry

04/08/2020 - Zoom set to make major change to its most popular products

30/07/2020 - Basic Zoom flaw allowed hackers to break into private meetings

16/07/2020 - Zoom for Home is everything a remote worker needs in one

14/07/2020 - Zoom says Windows 7 PCs no longer at risk of this major flaw

11/07/2020 - This new Zoom security flaw lets hackers target Windows 7 PCs

15/06/2020 - Zoom says it will block certain users from meetings

03/06/2020 - Free Zoom meetings won't be receiving this key privacy feature

01/06/2020 - Zoom update brings a welcome security upgrade, to some users

21/05/2020 - 20 best Zoom and Teams background resources

21/05/2020 - UK buys hundreds of Zoom accounts despite security issues

20/05/2020 - Zoom will stop accepting new users in some markets

18/05/2020 - Zoom outages struck this weekend, but it was quick with a fix

07/05/2020 - Zoom makes first ever acquisition in quest to boost security

07/05/2020 - New York schools remove Zoom ban after security pledge

30/04/2020 - Zoom admits lying about user numbers

28/04/2020 - Zoom picks Oracle Cloud to help meet surge in demand

24/04/2020 - Zoom update now lets you transcribe calls in real time

24/04/2020 - NHS bans staff from using Zoom over privacy concerns

22/04/2020 - Zoom update delivers much-needed privacy boost

22/04/2020 - Zoom account details targeted in latest cyber scam

16/04/2020 - Hackers selling Zoom Windows and MacOS exploits online

15/04/2020 - More top companies ban Zoom over security fears

14/04/2020 - Zoom virtual background: how to use, create your own and more

14/04/2020 - Zoom finally gets much-needed security feature

13/04/2020 - Singapore asks teachers to stop using Zoom

09/04/2020 - Zoom releases small but smart fix to keep meetings private

09/04/2020 - Zoom banned from Google worker laptops

08/04/2020 - Germany bans Zoom for official use

07/04/2020 - Zoom ups security to try and prevent 'Zoom-bombing'

06/04/2020 - ‘Zoom-bombing’ is now a federal offence in the US

06/04/2020 - Schools ban Zoom citing security and privacy concerns

04/04/2020 - Zoom is buckling under the strain of remote working

03/04/2020 - Zoom apologies for major security vulnerabilities, promises fixes

03/04/2020 - Zoom-related domains grow significantly as malware threat rises

01/04/2020 - Concerned about Zoom security? Here’s how a VPN can help

01/04/2020 - Zoom calls are not end-to-end encrypted

31/03/2020 - Zoom app hijackers disrupting calls with pornographic imagery

30/03/2020 - SEC steps in to prevent investors from buying the from Zoom

30/03/2020 - Zoom ditches snooping Facebook code from iOS app

27/03/2020 - Zoom’s iOS version is sharing user data with Facebook

26/03/2020 - Zoom video calls get a new background tools courtesy of Canva

22/03/2022 - How to use Zoom video conferencing 

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Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.