Useful tools for video calls and online meetings
Your customers or colleagues are not together in the same location, but you still want to see each other in an online environment. The solution is to get your team together via video conferencing. There are now many tools to facilitate virtual meetings. Below is a list of nine useful tools.
Skype is perhaps the best-known free video calling tool. It works on almost all types of computers, mobile devices and tablets.
Skype is a VoIP (voice of internet protocol) program from Microsoft, with which you can make calls over the internet. The program is available for free for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Skype claims to be free from spyware.
Two great advantages of Skype are that it is very user-friendly to ‘video chat’ on your mobile phone, and you can also ‘type chat’ in addition to your video chat. This allows you, for example, to share links or make notes during video calling. The chat function not only allows you to send text messages, but also to edit and delete them afterwards. It is also possible to exchange files (images, documents, etc.) and contacts via the Instant Messenger. You can also show other users what is happening on your screen with the ‘share screen’ function. You can see when the other is available and adjust your own status.
Before use, you need to download and install Skype on your computer. When you start Skype, you first create an account. It is possible to login with either your Facebook profile or Microsoft account. This way all your information is entered immediately. Once you’ve created an account, it’s time to set up a profile picture. You can make this using your webcam or you can choose a snapshot that you already have on your computer.
Now that you’re in Skype, it’s time to use it for what it’s made for: chatting and calling. Click on a contact to open the chat screen. Start typing or click ‘Call’ or ‘Video Call’ to speak directly to your buddy. Just like in Windows Live Messenger, you can easily insert emoticons.
With Skype for Business, you can connect with colleagues and colleagues in your company or business partners around the world.
With Skype for Business, you can:
- Start conversations with chat, voice or video messages.
- See when your contacts are online, in a meeting or presenting.
- Set company level security for meetings.
- Broadcast online to a large audience
- Share your screen during meetings or transfer control to others.
- Use Skype for Business in other Windows Office programs to chat, call or join a meeting with a click.
Things to consider:
- The other person must also have a Skype account.
- You can make video calls with up to 50 people at the same time.
- A large bandwidth is required to ensure good call quality.
Zoom is a business tool that is very suitable for video calling with many employees at the same time. With excellent audio and video functionalities, up to 1,000 people can simultaneously video call and 10,000 can watch.
The basic account is free. The free version allows you to make video calls with up to 100 people at the same time. The disadvantage: you can only make video calls for 40 minutes at a time. The tool is therefore suitable for those who wish to hold short and effective meetings. If you want to add more people and have longer meetings you will have to pay a small fee per host.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the tool is made available free of charge for educational purposes. This tool is useful for education because you can share your computer screen with other participants. This is useful for a presentation, a workshop or for e-learning. The company has seen a 535% rise in daily traffic in the past month, but security researchers say the app is a ‘privacy disaster’ and ‘fundamentally corrupt’ as allegations of the company mishandling user data snowball.
Slack is mainly set up for text chat, but it does give you the ability to make voice and video calls as well. If you’re on the free version of Slack, you can make a video call to an individual. If you want to host a meeting between several people, as opposed to a one-on-one conversation, and want to do it for free, you’ll need to look for an alternative.
4. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is a bit similar to Slack. You can:
- Easily chat, meet and share files, as well as GIFs, stickers and emojis in a group chat or in one-to-one messages.
- Instantly switch from group chat to video calling with a click of a button. Teams of 10 or 10,000 people can meet in one place, no matter how many different locations they are located.
- Make calls from anywhere.
- Collaborate from anywhere. In Microsoft Teams, you can view, share and edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel files in real time.
The big difference to Slack: with Teams you can also make video calls. You can convert a group chat into a video call with one click. The basic Microsoft Teams package is free.
5. Google Hangouts
All you need to meet via Google Hangouts is a Google account, and of course a computer with camera, microphone and internet. The special thing about this tool is that the calls are automatically synchronised between different devices. If you started a meeting on your computer, you can also continue chatting on your phone.
If you work a lot with Google products (Gmail, Drive, Documents, Agenda, etc.) you can use these programs side by side. For example, working together in a document during video calling.
The trial version is free for two weeks, after which the costs are €4.68 per user per month.
6. Google Meet
Google Meet, formerly Google Hangouts Meet, is part of the G Suite office productivity platform, and having enjoyed a recent rebrand, aims to provide a first-class conferencing service. Developed specifically for business needs, it can cater for a large number of users at once, and also uses smart participation and a fast interface to reduce the need to wait.
As an improved version of the standard Google Hangouts, Google Meet aims to make it easier to work with external clients. It does this first by providing a web app experience, which means there is no software to download. Secondly, it also provides a dedicated dial-in number, which not only means that employees on the go can join in, but this also ensures that line quality is maintained and that there are no drop-outs.
Google Meet, is a premium video conferencing tool that was previously only available to paying businesses, will be free for everyone from 4 May 2020. You’ll be able to invite up to 100 people to join a meeting, and there’ll be a call time limit of one hour, though this won’t actually be enforced until 30 September, when hopefully the coronavirus pandemic is thoroughly under control and normal face-to-face contact can resume. Until then, calls can last up to 24 hours.
You can create, schedule and join meetings using the Google Meet website, or the mobile apps for iOS and Android. If you use Google Calendar, you can also create a meeting by clicking any time slot and entering the details.
Google Meet is a very different proposition to the likes of Zoom and WhatsApp, and Google has taken pains to spell out the reasons for picking its service over rival video conferencing platforms.
The company notes that only people with a Google account can join calls in Google Meet, and meeting codes are a complex mix of numbers and letters that makes them tricky to guess (Zoom IDs and passwords are both strings of numbers). Meetings are encrypted in transit, and if recorded, are stored securely in Google Drive. Google Cloud doesn’t process data from Meet calls for advertising, or share it with any third parties.
7. Jitsi Meet
Jitsi Meet is an open-source platform that lets you quickly and easily create an online meeting by simply navigating to the site and clicking on Go. The web version offers many features found in more well-known apps, such as chat, screen sharing and the ability to ‘kick’ out troublemakers.
Additional features of Jitsi Meet include apps for both iOS and Android, the ability to stream your meeting via YouTube Live, the option to lock your room with a password, and even the ability to embed your Jitsi Meet call on a website. Plus, since Jitsi Meet is open source, it’s completely free to use.
If you are more technical and want to build your own dedicated solution, you can check out Jitsi Videobridge.
WhatsApp is a free messaging app for Android and other smartphones.
WhatsApp uses your phone’s internet connection (4G/3G/2G/EDGE or WiFi, if available) to exchange messages and make calls. WhatsApp is suitable for sending and receiving messages, conversations, photos, videos, documents and voice messages.
WhatsApp has these advantages:
- No cost: WhatsApp uses your phone’s internet connection, so you don’t have to pay extra for every message or call, even internationally. There are no subscription costs associated with the use of WhatsApp. Data costs can be charged. Contact your mobile operator for more information. You cannot access 112 and other emergency numbers via WhatsApp.
- Multimedia: Send and receive photos, videos, documents and voice messages.
- Group chat: in WhatsApp you can make video calls with four people at the same time
- WhatsApp web: In addition to chatting via mobile devices, you can also send and receive WhatsApp messages directly from the browser on your computer.
The disadvantage is that the connection is not always optimal and the possibilities during the video call are limited. The tool is therefore especially suitable for short durations.
With Whereby, you can very easily make video calls in your browser, without downloading any software. The big advantage is that you don’t have to login anywhere or create an account, just enter your name. You create a ‘room’ which gets its own URL that you can then share. If your contacts click on the link, they will be directly in the video call.
With the free version you can set up one meeting room and invite four colleagues to meet. With a paid version you have more features and you can also make your video call completely customer branded.
‘Whereby is a flexible tool providing you with video meetings in the browser – no downloads & no logins for guests.’
‘Ranked #1 easiest to use on G2 Crowd.’
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