Last update at September 21, 2020
Zoom Video Communications, which is headquartered in San Jose, California, was founded in 2011. Their software, which is on a cloud based platform, was launched in 2013 and is based on teleconferencing, distance education, online chat and telecommuting services. Due to ease of use, and cost effectiveness, Zoom has become one of the most successful communication technology companies, worldwide. By 2017, Zoom had millions of users. Their integration with Polycom conferencing, Microsoft Outlook, Workplace by Facebook, Google Calendar and more, made Zoom even more user friendly. This significantly increased their popularity and in 2019, they became a public company via an initial public offering which resulted in the company being valued at over $16 billion.
Daily users which were in the region of 10 million per day rose to 300 million in early 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly thousands of schools were using Zoom for online education and many people were forced to work from home. By June 2020 the company was valued at over $67 billion. Zoom became a vital social media app connecting self-isolated individuals around the world. They are currently the top free downloaded app in the Apple Store and Google Play with over 17.2 million downloads. Zooms’ cloud based video conferencing platform is perfect for video and audio conferencing, meetings, webinars, online education and live chat. You can choose between Zoom Meetings and Zoom Rooms and connect via the Zoom App from your desktop or mobile device. All you need to join a meeting is the meeting ID via an email or text invitation. This cloud based communication platform is available at anytime from anywhere in the world as long as there is a decent internet connection.
In order to set up a meeting or respond to an invitation to join a meeting you will have to download the Zoom Client through the Zoom website or App store. Once the download is complete you must proceed with installing the Zoom applications onto your computer or device. Zoom can be used with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Blackberry. You will also need to be equipped with speakers, a microphone and a webcam. Once you have selected the Zoom plan, you need to sign up using your email. For businesses, the system administrator will need to sign up as the company’s host. You can attend a meeting for up to 40 minute with their basic plan, which is free. This option is used by millions of individuals worldwide. You do not need to sign in if you are joining a meeting following an invitation. For those who want to schedule their own meetings you will need to sign in through Zoom, Google, Facebook or SSO.
Their easy to use platform allows you to hold a family meeting, collaborate on projects, share screenshots and even hold large webinars and conferences. Other features include ‘Touch up My Appearance’ and ‘Add a Fun Background’ if you want to improve how other people will see you and your surroundings. For private and more intimate groups you can create or attend a Zoom Meeting which allows you to view the other participants on your screen face to face. For business use, a Zoom Room is created for multiple participants using video conferencing hardware. Attendees can follow meetings and conferences through HDMI monitors or even tablets. You will have to download the ‘Zoom Rooms for Conferences’ feature for computers or ‘Zoom Room Controller for tablets used in the Zoom Room. With Zoom, you can sync their software with individual and company calendars for easy scheduling. Calendars you can use are Google Calendar, iCal, and Microsoft Outlook. Meetings are easy to schedule, and all involved will be informed via their calendars or through an email invitation or text. You can also integrate with Slack for real time communication by text, simply by typing zoom in Slack for an instant link.
Easy to follow tabs will guide you through how to start a new meeting, instant meeting, scheduling a meeting or even join a meeting in progress. To join a meeting instantly you will have to enable video using your personal meeting ID (PMI). Other features available can be used to share screen and change background image. Third party calendar integrations are used to schedule future meetings. In the settings tab you can change your profile, availability status and switch views. The Chat tab is available for private or group conversations and can be accessed on the left side panel. Chats can easily be turned into video meetings by activating the camera. Additional options include quick access to files, images and chat history. Another useful feature is the ability to record important meetings for future reference. All information is stored on the cloud and can be accessed through the companies’ Zoom account or you can select to have the meeting recorded on a computer.
Keeping track of contacts is especially important for business meetings. The Contact tab allows you to view and manage your contacts in a directory. You can also set up auto answers and view lists of Zoom Rooms and channels. In-Meeting Controls are located at the bottom of the meeting window. Note that settings differ between the web app and the locally installed app. Some options that might differ are the ability to put attendees on hold and the control of how to share content. Some features may also be limited to payed subscribers and it is worth exploring the options available so that you can access the best features for your needs. Numerous video tutorials are available and you can register for upcoming training on how to get the most out of the features, through the Zoom site.
Zoom offers a free basic plan which is suitable for individuals. The time limit on the free meetings is 40 minutes and you can host up to 100 participants. With this option you also get screen sharing, telephonic dial in, virtual background, touch up, recording and virtual whiteboard. The Pro plan is $14.99 per month/meeting host and is suitable for small teams and the duration of each meeting is up to 24 hours with maximum 300 participants.
Zoom Business costs $19.99 per month/meeting host and is suitable for small to medium sized businesses with multiple teams and includes vanity URLs, company branding and dedicated customer support manager. Zoom Enterprise is geared for businesses with over 1,000 employees. This option costs $19.99/month/meeting host and also includes unlimited cloud storage, dedicated customer success manager, executive business reviews, and ROI tracking and product roadmap discussions. Zoom Rooms are offered at an additional $40 month/room subscription, and video webinars using Zoom cost $40/month/host. You will get a free 30 day trial when signing up.
There have been some concerns about security with Zoom and other telecommunicating sites. Zoom bombing, which occurs when someone that is not invited gains access with the intent of disrupting a meeting, can be controlled with the privacy settings. You will have to create a password for your Zoom meeting and make it a requirement for participation. There is also a waiting room feature which allows the host to control the time participants can join a meeting. Advanced sharing options can be used to control who can share screen and you can also lock the meeting to prevent anyone else from joining in. With increased use some security flaws have come to light and Zoom has been quick to respond and apply fixes were necessary.
End to end encryption is used on Zoom apps and Zoom Rooms and this only works 100% if no one is recording calls. Zoom claims that it is impossible to encrypt audio calls. Zoom owns many servers some of which are located in China and some people consider this a security risk. Users can now control which countries their video conferences are routed through if they have concerns. In all cases, Zoom has addressed problems that have arisen due to the high volume traffic created by the 2020 pandemic. All security issues have been resolved.
There are limitations with regards to the free basic plan that Zoom offers. For a one on one call there is no time limit but if there are three people or more your video call is limited to 40 minutes. Help and support also varies depending on the plan you choose. Free users do not have access to live chat with a support team member and if they have a problem they have to fill out an online form and wait for a reply. Zoom subscribers with business, education or API plans can access toll-free numbers for support in Australia, France, India, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, and the US.
Zoom’s video conferencing platform is undoubtedly one of the best cloud based telecommunicating services available worldwide. Two way communication with audio and video features allows the host or organizer to fully control meetings at all levels. How does Zoom compare to other similar companies? Below we compare features with three of the best known video conferencing services.
Skype has been around for a lot longer than Zoom and is internationally known for instant messaging, screen and file sharing as well as for informal video communications from a computer or phone. Zoom has gone many steps ahead with powerful features that allow full control of meetings by splitting up teams for webinars and online discussions, muting microphones, controlling presentations and even virtually raising hands for those who want to speak. Zoom allows full collaboration with instructors and attendees through an innovative integrated system whereas Skype has a simpler set up. Both can be accesses worldwide and have free versions for the individual user and they both support Android phones, iPhones, Macs, iPads and web platforms. When it comes to features, Zoom offers cloud and local recording which Skype does not have. Both offer screen sharing and access to files and contacts but Zoom goes further with their Zoom Meetings and Zoom Rooms which cater for larger groups, especially conferences and webinars.
Zoom offers four pricing packages, Basic, Pro, Business and Enterprise. The Basic is free with some limitations on time and the other packages start from $14.99 up to $19.99 a month per user. Charges are per user and this can be very high if we are talking about a huge conference or webinar. Optional extras on Zoom include cloud storage which costs up to $40 per month, Zoom Room participation at $49 per month and Video webinar participation at $40 per month. Skype on the other hand is free with no limitations unless you want to upgrade to the business plan which allows 250 participants with secure communication lines. The enterprise plan is $2 per user per month and the online plan 2 costs $5.50 per user per month. Both allow you to join meetings on any device and enjoy HD video. Skype also has the Office 365 Business Premium package that costs $12.50 per month per user. This is available with pre-installed office applications on PC or Mac.
Overall Zoom offers more integrations with Microsoft One Drive, Outlook, Google Chrome, Slack, Box and others. Skype integrates with most Microsoft products, WordPress, Helpdesk, Slack, GroupWise and others. For a full list of integrations it is best to check on their websites to see which ones you will find useful. Zoom and Skype both offer excellent business communication tools but Zoom has the edge with the latest technology and additional features on offer.
Zoom has become one of the most popular video communication systems online and even when compared to Microsoft backed, Microsoft Teams, they have proved that the extra features offered and their total dedication to a unified cloud platform for video and audio collaboration across all levels, is what gives them the edge. Microsoft Teams on the other hand is a fully comprehensive unified communications platform geared for meetings, chats, calls and file sharing through the Office 365 applications. This offers Microsoft Team users the full collaboration and technical integration with Microsoft Office which is widely used. Where Zoom excels is with their user interface UX, which is easy to follow and does not require any training or IT support.
Even though Microsoft Team has the full features offered by Microsoft, this makes it more difficult in respect to onboarding. Both offer touch enhancements and device management with Zoom having people counting capabilities and Teams proximity detection. Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer free version and advanced features with their paid options. With Zoom you have up to 100 participants, a 40 minute limit and limited support. Teams’ offers limited chat and security as well as limited use of administration tools and Microsoft support with their free version. Prices and features for paid plans are comparable with Zoom leading in the features department.
An advantage that Microsoft Team has is the use of UC Telephony with Microsoft Phone System. This was originally a strong point for Teams as Zoom did not originally offer this function. With the addition of Zoom Phone, Zoom has managed to add a cloud phone system which offers intelligent call routing and management with endpoints like Polycom and Yealink. Both now offer calls at an enterprise level which is important for businesses. Integrations are another important factor when choosing the right communication platform. Microsoft Teams offers over 70 integrations which include surveys, news, ticket management and much more. Zoom also offers a selection of integrations Microsoft Office 365 and full co-operation with Slack. This leads to the fact that Teams and Zoom do collaborate on some integrations and can work well together.
Both Zoom and Google Hangouts are very popular video calling applications but they are different when it comes to their target market. If you consider video quality, Zoom has the upper hand with a 1080p max video resolution. Zoom requires a 3Mbps and Hangouts needs a 3.2Mbps for demanding tasks. A big consideration when choosing between these two companies is the amount of participants you want to attend a meeting. Because Google Hangouts is primarily a casual video communication platform, they have set participation for a maximum of 10 people unless it’s a business account in which case the maximum is 25. With Zoom you can have 100 participants for casual calls and up to 1.000 for businesses. You do not need to create an account with Zoom in order to participate in a meeting and anyone with a browser can join as long as they are invited by the host. With Hangouts you will need to have a Google account in order to join any meetings.
Zoom is a professional video calling and conferencing service directed at professionals whether this is in business, education or other services. They offer an ample set of features which include white boarding, file sharing, full control of meetings, recording, cloud storage and virtual hand raising, to name a few. On the other hand, Hangouts offers very limited features. Both are compatible with all main operating systems and devices which include Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and iOS. Hangouts always comes pre-installed with Android devices and is part of the G Suite subscription as well as being built into Gmail. Regarding security, Zoom comes with end-to-end encryption and Hangouts has in-transit encryptions.
Hangouts is completely free for casual use and they have recently added a paid version to expand their services. Zoom offers 4 plans the basic one being free with a few limitations. Google Hangouts pricing starts at $5 for 30GB storage. Another addition is Hangouts on Air where Google users can stream video calls live on YouTube. It is very apparent that Zoom is more geared up for professional use with far more application integrations and higher specifications for organizing meetings and conferences. Hangouts is much more casual and suitable for smaller groups on a personal level.
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