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

(Image credit: Zoom)

Video conferencing platform Zoom (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab)
Google Meet (opens in new tab)
RingCentral (opens in new tab)
Skype for Business (opens in new tab)
Cisco WebEx (opens in new tab)

Zoom - latest news and guides

03/09/2021 - Zoom and Box want to make video calls less annoying (opens in new tab)

25/08/2021 - Zoom is getting a makeover for the hybrid working future (opens in new tab)

19/08/2021 - Zoom is coming to your living room (opens in new tab)

18/08/2021 - Data protection watchdog says Zoom is incompatible with GDPR (opens in new tab)

12/08/2021 - New Zoom Focus Mode wants to cut out distractions (opens in new tab)

02/08/2021 - Zoom will fork out millions to settle data privacy suit (opens in new tab)

29/07/2021 - Zoom wants to extend its reach beyond the end of meetings (opens in new tab)

21/07/2021 - Zoom is launching an app store and standalone events (opens in new tab)

19/07/2021 - Zoom snaps up cloud call center firm Five9 (opens in new tab)

30/06/2021 - Zoom is about to tear down the language barrier (opens in new tab)

29/06/2021 - Running Zoom on Chromebooks is about to get a lot smoother (opens in new tab)

23/06/2021 - Zoom uses Pride month to introduce new pronoun options (opens in new tab)

23/06/2021 - This monitor has been specially designed for Zoom calls (opens in new tab)

10/06/2021 - Zoom wants to power your whole hybrid working world (opens in new tab)

02/06/2021 - Zoom defies critics with bumper Q1 (opens in new tab)

27/05/2021 - Zoom for iPad is getting a major expansion (opens in new tab)

20/05/2021 - Otter.ai's new tool can transcribe your Zoom meetings (opens in new tab)

19/05/2021 - Zoom is readying an all-in-one platform for virtual events (opens in new tab)

10/05/2021 - Zoom on iPad is getting a much-needed upgrade (opens in new tab)

28/04/2021 - How to use Zoom on a Chromebook (opens in new tab)

27/04/2021 - Zoom meetings are about to get a whole lot more immersive (opens in new tab)

22/04/2021 - Zoom just got a whole host of funky upgrades (opens in new tab)

19/04/2021 - Zoom is launching its own venture capital fund (opens in new tab)

15/04/2021 - That Zoom meeting invite might well be malware (opens in new tab)

07/04/2021 - Another reason you no longer need to Zoom on laptop (opens in new tab)

05/04/2021 - How to use Zoom on Mac - the ultimate guide (opens in new tab)

26/03/2021 - Zoom says remote working is here to stay (opens in new tab)

22/03/2021 - Zoom is about to make video calls even more interesting (opens in new tab)

20/03/2021 - Zoom Escaper gives you the perfect excuse to bail out of calls (opens in new tab)

02/03/2021 - Zoom rounds off bumper year with astounding results (opens in new tab)

25/02/2021 - Zoom says closed captions are on the way (opens in new tab)

05/02/2021 - Think your meeting is safe from Zoom-bombing? Think again (opens in new tab)

03/02/2021 - Zoom wants to help smooth the return to the office (opens in new tab)

13/01/2021 - Zoom clarifies cloud stance, pushes for billions in funding (opens in new tab)

23/12/2020 - Zoom is about to make a splash in the email market (opens in new tab)

22/12/2020 - Leaving awkward Zoom calls just got a lot easier (opens in new tab)

21/12/2020 - Zoom now has official support on Apple M1 Macs (opens in new tab)

18/12/2020 - Zoom calls are coming to Amazon Echo (opens in new tab)

17/12/2020 - Zoom is giving users an early Christmas present (opens in new tab)

06/12/2020 - Zoom anxiety has become an epidemic in itself (opens in new tab)

01/12/2020 - Zoom reveals shift to AWS cloud (opens in new tab)

01/12/2020 - Zoom could be set to get even bigger next year (opens in new tab)

25/11/2020 - Zoom is giving users an early Thanksgiving gift (opens in new tab)

17/11/2020 - Zoom can now tell you if your meeting is at risk of attack (opens in new tab)

10/11/2020 - Zoom promises major security overhaul (opens in new tab)

09/11/2020 - Zoom calls can be hacked by this weird flaw (opens in new tab)

02/11/2020 - Zoom is set to eliminate one of the worst parts of video calling (opens in new tab)

27/10/2020 - Zoom finally delivers end-to-end encryption for all users (opens in new tab)

14/10/2020 - Zoom wants to become the AirBnB of virtual events (opens in new tab)

09/10/2020 - BT offers managed Zoom services to businesses (opens in new tab)

28/09/2020 - You can now make Zoom calls over LinkedIn (opens in new tab)

25/09/2020 - Zoom is being sued over its cloud storage practices (opens in new tab)

11/09/2020 - Zoom update delivers huge security upgrade (opens in new tab)

20/08/2020 - Zoom arrives on Amazon, Google, Facebook smart devices (opens in new tab)

14/08/2020 - Zoom may have another major security worry (opens in new tab)

04/08/2020 - Zoom set to make major change to its most popular products (opens in new tab)

30/07/2020 - Basic Zoom flaw allowed hackers to break into private meetings (opens in new tab)

16/07/2020 - Zoom for Home is everything a remote worker needs in one (opens in new tab)

14/07/2020 - Zoom says Windows 7 PCs no longer at risk of this major flaw (opens in new tab)

11/07/2020 - This new Zoom security flaw lets hackers target Windows 7 PCs (opens in new tab)

15/06/2020 - Zoom says it will block certain users from meetings (opens in new tab)

03/06/2020 - Free Zoom meetings won't be receiving this key privacy feature (opens in new tab)

01/06/2020 - Zoom update brings a welcome security upgrade, to some users (opens in new tab)

21/05/2020 - 20 best Zoom and Teams background resources (opens in new tab)

21/05/2020 - UK buys hundreds of Zoom accounts despite security issues (opens in new tab)

20/05/2020 - Zoom will stop accepting new users in some markets (opens in new tab)

18/05/2020 - Zoom outages struck this weekend, but it was quick with a fix (opens in new tab)

07/05/2020 - Zoom makes first ever acquisition in quest to boost security (opens in new tab)

07/05/2020 - New York schools remove Zoom ban after security pledge (opens in new tab)

30/04/2020 - Zoom admits lying about user numbers (opens in new tab)

28/04/2020 - Zoom picks Oracle Cloud to help meet surge in demand (opens in new tab)

24/04/2020 - Zoom update now lets you transcribe calls in real time (opens in new tab)

24/04/2020 - NHS bans staff from using Zoom over privacy concerns (opens in new tab)

22/04/2020 - Zoom update delivers much-needed privacy boost (opens in new tab)

22/04/2020 - Zoom account details targeted in latest cyber scam (opens in new tab)

16/04/2020 - Hackers selling Zoom Windows and MacOS exploits online (opens in new tab)

15/04/2020 - More top companies ban Zoom over security fears (opens in new tab)

14/04/2020 - Zoom virtual background: how to use, create your own and more (opens in new tab)

14/04/2020 - Zoom finally gets much-needed security feature (opens in new tab)

13/04/2020 - Singapore asks teachers to stop using Zoom (opens in new tab)

09/04/2020 - Zoom releases small but smart fix to keep meetings private (opens in new tab)

09/04/2020 - Zoom banned from Google worker laptops (opens in new tab)

08/04/2020 - Germany bans Zoom for official use (opens in new tab)

07/04/2020 - Zoom ups security to try and prevent 'Zoom-bombing' (opens in new tab)

06/04/2020 - ‘Zoom-bombing’ is now a federal offence in the US (opens in new tab)

06/04/2020 - Schools ban Zoom citing security and privacy concerns (opens in new tab)

04/04/2020 - Zoom is buckling under the strain of remote working (opens in new tab)

03/04/2020 - Zoom apologies for major security vulnerabilities, promises fixes (opens in new tab)

03/04/2020 - Zoom-related domains grow significantly as malware threat rises (opens in new tab)

01/04/2020 - Concerned about Zoom security? Here’s how a VPN can help (opens in new tab)

01/04/2020 - Zoom calls are not end-to-end encrypted (opens in new tab)

31/03/2020 - Zoom app hijackers disrupting calls with pornographic imagery (opens in new tab)

30/03/2020 - SEC steps in to prevent investors from buying the from Zoom (opens in new tab)

30/03/2020 - Zoom ditches snooping Facebook code from iOS app (opens in new tab)

27/03/2020 - Zoom’s iOS version is sharing user data with Facebook (opens in new tab)

26/03/2020 - Zoom video calls get a new background tools courtesy of Canva (opens in new tab)

22/03/2022 - How to use Zoom video conferencing (opens in new tab) 

The best webcams

If you're after a new webcam for Zoom video conferencing, or indeed any other kind of video conferencing, these are our top recommendations right now.

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.