WHAT IS THE BEST COMMUNICATION TOOL FOR REMOTE WORKERS?
Over a year since the first stay-at-home orders were enacted across the country, most have gotten fairly accustomed to working from home. Many, in fact, have found that they prefer it. Some have even gone so far as to suggest willingness to take a pay cut in order to have the flexibility to work remotely from wherever they like. Companies, in turn, have learned how to operate just as well outside of a physical office, setting up a long-coming cultural reckoning about the necessity of the traditional office structure.
With the unprecedented impact that Coronavirus has had on businesses around the world, a slew of online communications tools are currently battling to provide the best experience for remote workers. The big 5 in this space are Google Meet, Zoom, Slack, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. Below we will compare some of the pros and cons of each software to determine which tool is the right fit for your company.
In the age of remote working Google Meet has quickly become a household name as hundreds of millions have relied on the service throughout the pandemic to stay connected to friends, family, and coworkers. Many schools and universities are relying on Google Meet as well. With all these unique use cases using Google Meet it is no surprise that the tool has not been a perfect fit for every situation.
Google offers Google Meet to both personal and Google Workspace account holders. One of the great features that Google Workspace users have is the ability to record their Google Meet video calls and save them to Google Drive. You can find out how to enable recording for Google Meet so that you can leverage this helpful feature and optimize your next virtual meeting by clicking on this link https://support.google.com/a/answer/7557052?hl=en.
While Google Meet excels at making it easy to set up meetings quickly, there are a number of drawbacks that make it less than ideal for large businesses. To start with, Google has begun charging for Google Meet for business meetings longer than 1 hour (after offering it for free to everyone at the start of the pandemic). Google Meet also has no native way to share files (besides linking to an external URL in the chat feature), while most other services have native file sharing capabilities.
- Easy to use
- Multiple views for large groups
- Text-to-speech option for handicaps
- Ability to change background
- Google limits meetings to 1 hour for businesses without paying
- Known glitches making it impossible to join meetings on occasion
Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing service you can use to virtually meet with others, either by video, audio-only, or both. Zoom also allows live chats and lets you record your meetings to view later. Over half of Fortune 500 companies reportedly used Zoom in 2019 and during 2020 during the pandemic it hit even greater heights, racking up 227 percent growth over the year. Zoom has become the most popular video conferencing service as many businesses, educational institutions and professionals have been forced to work from home.
Zoom has the highest maximum participant capacity that comes with a free plan of the 5 services in this article, as well as several paid options. Paid plans have more features, such as group meetings for up to 30 hours, social media streaming, recording transcripts, company branding and can host up to 1,000 participants.
Even though Zoom is currently the most popular video conference software, does that mean it is the best for businesses? Unfortunately, one of the major drawbacks of Zoom is its security features. When businesses began to shift to remote work, there were many cases of “Zoom bombings” where hackers would disrupt meetings. Luckily, Zoom has been working on fixing this specific issue, but there have been more security issues in recent times. Two researchers recently found that Zoom’s shared screen feature was buggy–they could see the host’s entire screen, even when the host only intended on sharing part of it.
This security issue could become dangerous if any participants are recording a meeting and decide to freeze frames during playback and view potentially sensitive information. Zoom is currently working on fixing the issue, but many users have said it’s still present in the latest desktop version of the software. Another major security flaw was reported in April 2021 that allowed hackers to completely take over your PC or Mac while users watched helplessly (read more here: https://www.tomsguide.com/news/zoom-security-flaw-pwn2own).
Many users have also reported that Zoom offers poor customer support, even to users that pay for a subscription. Zoom requires you to pay an additional cost for Access, Premier, or Premier+ support plans, which offer different tiers of customer support. Currently, Zoom does not disclose the pricing for customer support on its website, so you have to call a Zoom specialist to find out more and get a quote. This unpredictability in pricing makes it difficult for most companies to budget for.
- HD video/audio
- Collaboration tools
- Chat functionality
- Highest maximum participant capacity
- Quality user friendly interface
- Expansive features and productivity tools
- Resource heavy/minor performance issues
- Limited features on the free plan
- Major security risks
- Unknown support pricing
Slack is a messaging app with several high tech features such as video conferencing. Slack is meant for teams and workplaces and can be used across multiple devices and platforms. It is equipped with robust features that allow you to not only chat one-on-one with associates, but also in groups, called “Channels” (such as different departments of your company).
Slack allows you to upload and share files, as well as integrate with other apps and services (such as time tracking apps) and you can granularly control almost every setting, including the ability to create custom emojis.
Slack is free unless you want to get extra features that the basic free version does not come with. With the free version you’ll only be able to browse and search your team’s 10,000 most recent messages, and you’ll be limited to 5GB of file storage and 10 apps or custom integrations. Currently, there are three pricing tiers available: Free, Standard ($8 a month), and Plus ($15 a month).
Slack is a tremendously useful productivity tool for conversations that are synchronous, short-lived, and fire-and-forget. A conversation is synchronous if all participants follow the conversation as it happens, without context-switching to different tasks; the conversation has their full attention. It is short-lived if it doesn’t take “that long”; on the order of minutes rather than hours, but certainly not days. It is fire-and-forget if participants (or others) rarely revisit the conversation later, for instance by searching through the Slack history or by scrolling back in the channel.
You may want to take a deeper look into some of the negative reviews of Slack before deciding if it’s the correct tool for your company. Several users have reported that they find it difficult to find conversations after leaving the channel or direct conversation where the conversation was happening. The user interface can be confusing and finding a previous conversation or shared file can sometimes be challenging. Other users have reported that customer service for paid plans can be hit or miss.
- Public and private channels
- Easily share files
- Searchable history
- Integration with other tools and services
- User interface can be confusing
- Finding files or conversations can be a challenge
- Customer service can be hit or miss
Skype is a software that allows people to communicate via video/audio and text. Skype offers both free and paid versions of their software that are available on multiple platforms. With Skype people can make video calls and send instant messages to individuals or groups and also allows you to dial phone numbers if you get a Skype Number, which makes international phone calls easy and cost effective compared to cell phones. Skype has been around for over 18 years, making it one of the most trusted and well developed softwares in the video conferencing space. Basic services are free, however, Skype offers several tiers of paid service, each with their own costs. Users can pay based on usage, or buy subscriptions, including business packages of all sizes.
Skype’s paid software, called “Skype for Business”, offers several great features for businesses including the ability to view or take control of colleagues’ screens, allowing you to get work done more quickly. This feature makes remote support easier, as it allows you to resolve issues on colleagues’ or customers’ machines without additional software.
Skype for Business makes communication much more effective by having the ability to conference call with up to 250 participants. This massively benefits helpdesks, where workers often come across tickets that have been worked on by multiple people, allowing you to have a conversation with all members about how you can reach the end goal. With this in mind Skype for Business lets you create groups that you can then assign members in your organization to, making it easier to find the people you are looking for.
It is worth noting that Skype calls are not always 100% private and secure. Skype is not considered to be a secure VoIP system as the calls made over the network are routinely monitored by Microsoft and by government agencies, including the US, Russia, and China, depending on the country where the users are located. Privacy should always be a consideration before committing to any video conference solution. We recommend reviewing positive and negative customer reviews and doing all the research necessary before making a decision on any software your business will use.
Another downside of Skype For Business commonly mentioned by customers has to do with Skype’s integration with other Microsoft services like Office 365. Some customers report that once installing Skype For Business it is impossible to uninstall the service without installing every other linked Office Suite program, which can be frustrating if a machine no longer needs the service installed.
- Free and Paid versions
- Easy to install on multiple devices
- Screen sharing
- Inexpensive paid subscriptions
- Reliable group calls
- Continually improved for 18+ years
- No emergency service calls
- Sound quality based on bandwidth
- Info can be intercepted
- Integration with other Microsoft services causes frustration
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that launched in 2016 that unifies chat, voice, video, and file sharing, and is designed to be used by anyone or any group. Teams offers one on one and group chats, the ability to collaborate through multiple private or public channels, video conferencing, and reliable connection outbound calling. Microsoft has continually added new features to Teams since its launch, especially in 2020 and 2021.
Microsoft Teams comes with an abundance of features that are extremely useful for collaborative workplaces including powerful video conferencing and group chat options. A common requirement for SharePoint team sites is the need for some form of discussion around a specific document. The chat feature allows users to easily do this. By adding a file as a tab within your channel, users can chat directly on the document. Other people with access to the Team can also view the correspondence.
The adding tabs feature can also be extremely powerful for collaboration. Through tabs, Teams can add direct connections to many external sources, including existing SharePoint sites or to a Planner for easy task tracking. The list goes on and includes tabs for PowerBI dashboards, YouTube videos, Microsoft Forms, and even PowerApps, as well as a ton of options outside of Microsoft products. One common complaint about Office 365 is how you have to access numerous “apps” to get the information you need. Effectively using tabs could make Teams a one-stop shop for an organization’s collaboration needs.
Microsoft Teams introduced guest access in September. This allows businesses to invite external users into a Team to collaborate. This is a great feature and a continuation of what we see with Office 365 groups. However, guest access is limited to users with an existing Azure AD account. This could potentially limit those who would normally use a generic Microsoft account to gain external access. This may not be an issue for some, but is good to know.
Other users report that the user interface of Microsoft Teams is “clunky”, “not fun” and that the program is slow to open and login, which can delay meetings. Some users also report that getting into breakout rooms during conferences can be a major challenge and that the software’s overreliance on other Microsoft products makes it somewhat limited in functionality compared to other video conferencing solutions that are platform agnostic.
- Secure internal/external collaboration
- Greater data visibility and better governance
- Powerful Microsoft Office integration options
- Comprehensive third party integrations
- Powerful video/audio calling options
- Support for education, healthcare and emergency services
- User interface can be confusing
- Slow launch and logins
- Difficulty creating and getting into breakout rooms
- Limited storage/channels
- Limited flexibility
- Native integration with other Microsoft tools can create hassles when trying to use other Non-Microsoft tools
We hope that this comprehensive review of the good and bad aspects of the 5 major video conferencing solutions for business has been informative and helps you to make the correct choice when choosing what service to implement for your business. We encourage you to read reviews of each software on review websites such as https://www.g2.com/ and https://www.capterra.com/.
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