The best video conferencing software should provide businesses both large and small with a convenient and reliable way to manage remote meetings and contact clients with ease.
Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing solutions out there, and saw its user base explode with the COVID-19 crisis. While greater popularity and the resulting increased scrutiny laid bare several security concerns, Zoom responded quickly with updates. All in all, Zoom has a number of features that make it a great option for businesses.
- Also see our feature: How to use Zoom.
Plans and pricing
Zoom has a free plan that’s surprisingly feature rich and three paid plans for businesses. The free plan supports 40-minute meetings with up to 100 participants, and unlimited one-on-one meetings.
Like most other conferencing solutions, Zoom’s plans are priced per-host. You’ll need to make sure you get enough licenses for your company’s needs. If you only have one host and that person is absent, paid features will be unavailable. A single host can, however, split a meeting into up to 50 separate discussions.
Pro plans cost $13.99/month/host, and the group meeting duration limit is extended to 24 hours. Subscribers also get advanced user management, 1GB of cloud recording, API access, and Skype integration.
Business and Enterprise plans start at $199/month and $1,999/month and come with 10 and 100 hosts respectively, with additional hosts at $19.99/month. Business plan users will benefit from single-sign on access, company branding, custom invitation emails, automated transcripts, and meetings for up to 300 participants. Those who opt for the Enterprise plan get unlimited cloud storage and can host up to 500 participants.
Features and utilities
Zoom’s free plan includes all the basics for video conferencing. There’s no limit to the number of meetings, and users can join with the Zoom app or by calling from a phone line. Video quality is great, up to 720p, and audio comes through clearly on fast internet connections, while virtual backgrounds ensure privacy and a professional setting.
Multiple users can share screens and annotate with whiteboard functions, and Zoom works on iOS/iPadOS (with screen-sharing), macOS, Android and Windows, so all your business’s devices are covered. It also integrates with Chrome & Outlook. While only paid plans support cloud recording, all plans include local recording, reducing the need for detailed minutes.
Paid plans add business-oriented features like user grouping and management and an admin dashboard to keep track of meetings and participation.
Setting up Zoom is a breeze. Clicking on a Zoom invitation link will either launch the app or prompt users to install the lightweight interface. Installation takes less than a minute on most devices. This ease precludes the need for any real mass-deployment solutions, which Zoom doesn’t offer. Business plans require a little more setup for single sign-on and user management, but the process is straightforward.
Interface and performance
Zoom’s interface is lightweight and easy to use, both on desktops and mobile apps. The app has four buttons: New Meeting, Join, Schedule and Screen Share, with a calendar for upcoming meetings. The web app offers more advanced features, such as managing your profile, managing local and cloud recordings, and scheduling webinars (paid plans only). The interface is clean and easy to navigate—no problems here.
In terms of performance, Zoom relays audio and video impressively fast, almost in real-time. Screen sharing was slightly slower, but not cumbersome. This speed comes with a price though: Zoom is heavy on system resources. It used about 50% CPU on our 2.6 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i7, and had a high energy impact, although memory use was minimal.
Zoom’s security has been a point of contention for the company. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to work from home, Zoom had to rapidly scale its offering. While it kept up admirably with the sudden increased demand, a number of security concerns came to light as a result.
For example, Zoom’s website originally included language that led users to believe meetings were encrypted end-to-end, which is not the case. Furthermore, a large number of recorded video calls were found unencrypted and unprotected online.
Zoom has since responded by making important changes to its security language and implementing new features. For example, all meetings require a password and host permission to join. Zoom does in fact encrypt meetings with SSL, but can only provide AES 256-bit end-to-end encryption for presentation—but not video conferencing—content.
Zoom’s CEO has demonstrated contrition and a strong will to improve security. This has included the appointment of a new security advisory board to continue improvements, although these changes weren’t enough to keep major companies like Google and SpaceX from banning Zoom’s use.
The long and short of it is this: no video-conferencing software is 100% secure. Our recommendation is to provide sensitive data to participants through encrypted channels before meetings and use conferences to discuss, plan, and keep things running smoothly.
Zoom boasts convenient user support. With offices all over the world, there’s phone support available across all timezones, while the online chat support is open 24/7, which is what we like to see from a global company.
When we contacted Zoom, responses were timely, but lacked nuance. We got a few copy-and-paste responses that didn’t exactly answer our questions, although with some prompting, we got where we needed to be. We’d recommend consulting Zoom’s large documentation, FAQ, and set of comprehensive guides first. If you still can’t find what you need, give them a call or contact them online for live help anytime.
There’s no shortage of video conferencing software out there. It’s all a question of comparing features and finding the one that fits your company.
For example, Google Hangouts Meet is included in G Suite plans, making it a great option for businesses that already use this office suite, although it lacks some of Zoom’s business features, like user grouping and cloud recording. For crystal-clear meeting quality, which design professionals will love, Lifesize is one of the only conferencing apps to offer 4K video, and starts at just $12.95/host/month.
Zoom is feature rich, simple to install and use, and has bolstered its security in response to criticism, which is encouraging. Business will love the paid plans’ professional features, such as user management and cloud recording. With 24/7 live support, a clean interface and, most importantly, a smooth conferencing experience, Zoom is a good option for online video conferencing.
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