We're in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Remote work is on the rise and the only choice businesses have is to find ways to continue working as efficiently as possible.
You're not alone: several video conferencing software providers have stated that since the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, their number of signups has increased by as much as 700%.
Whether you have come here as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak or you were already looking for the best video conferencing tool in 2020, you have come to the right place.
I’ll be going through my top 5 picks of video call software and tell you why they’ve made the cut.
I guarantee you're going to enjoy seeing the new ways of collaboration these tools can bring to your group calls.
I have personally used most of the tools on this list for our internal team meetings and for client meetings. This post should help you get a first-hand look into what it’s actually like to use the software so you can pick the one that’s right for you.
The most important features to look for in your video conferencing tool
Let me start by saying that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Everyone has a different workflow, different budgets, a different team size and features that are more or less important for them.
However, there are a few things that I consider important for effective video calls that any software should offer. Among these are:
- HD video and audio quality
- Built-in chat functionality to share links during the call
- Screen-sharing for any party on the call
- Active speaker view that shows you the person that is currently talking
Every tool listed here comes with this out of the box. The main points of difference are the layout and ease-of-use of the software, the number of participants you can have on a call and the duration of your calls.
Some tools also offer smart features or impose certain limitations on their free or basic plans. Depending on the tool you pick, you might have to upgrade if you need additional participants or features.
Now that we have a baseline to compare the solutions on, let’s take a closer look at these top choices.
- Simultaneous screen share: Participants can share screens at the same time
- Remote control features: Give someone remote access to your mouse and keyboard
- Screen annotation and highlights: Annotate your shared screen during the call
- Video call reports and user management on the Pro plan
- Those who are looking for a free solution with many features and don’t mind the limitations
- Group conference calls with a duration of less than 40 minutes
- Managers or team leads who need reporting and usage reports
Zoom.us has become one of the most popular video conferencing tool available on the market today. A major driver for their fast growth is their freemium pricing model.
Zoom’s free plan covers most of the features you need to run efficient video and web conferences. You can hold group calls and share your screen. You can also request remote access to another participants’ computer to control their mouse and keyboard.
The free plan lets you host an unlimited number of meetings for up to 100 participants. Your 1:1 meetings can go on for an unlimited duration, while group meetings come with a 40 minute time limit. The call automatically ends once you reach the 40 minute limit, but all participants can join the same call again right away.
If you often find yourself on the go, you can use their mobile apps for iOS and Android.
The free plan also allows you to record meetings, though you can only save the recordings to your local device. If you want to store your recordings in the cloud and let others access them, you need to upgrade to the Pro plan. This gives you up to 1GB of cloud recording storage.
The Pro plan also provides access to video call reports, user management and extends the maximum duration for group meetings up to 24 hours.
If you have several people on your team, and you need usage reports and team permissions, I recommend upgrading to the Pro plan. This lets you manage your team members and learn about how many meetings are taking place in your organization, on which days, the number of participants, and number of meeting minutes.
I personally use Zoom a lot and it meets most of my needs for video calls. However, I have noticed that when you are on a call and sharing your screen, some controls are hard to find.
That’s because when you share your screen, the Zoom controls are minimize into a little bar. If you need to do something like post a link inside the group chat or annotate your screen, you might find yourself looking for ways to do so – that is, until you find the bar with all of the controls and figure out how to use it.
I have also noticed that users often have trouble finding the chat window or remote control access while on the call. This is probably because Zoom comes with a lot of features, so they needed to hide them behind an extra click to avoid information overload.
That being said, you might not have any issues at all and find your way around pretty quickly or get used to it the more you use it.
- Unlimited 1:1 and group call meetings with no maximums on duration
- Smart workflow integration features: create call highlights and tasks during your call
- Advanced user management and admin features
- Those who are looking for a feature-rich video conferencing solution on a small budget
- Businesses who value having phone, chat and email support
- Teams that frequently do video calls and want to take advantage of smart task management integrations into their existing workflows
BlueJeans is a strong competitor to Zoom. It is the video conferencing solution used by the likes of Facebook and Linkedin.
BlueJeans Meetings does not offer a free plan, but its standard plan is budget-friendly at $9.99/host/month. In return, you get unlimited 1:1 meetings and unlimited group meetings. All meetings have an unlimited duration, so you can meet for as long you want.
You can already host calls for up to 50 participants on their standard plan and record your meetings for up to 5 hours.
They also offer 24/7 support via phone and chat, admin settings for user management, and iOS and Android apps to manage video calls on the go.
BlueJeans offers a special set of features called 'smart meeting features'. These are Meeting Highlights, Action Item Tagging, and Intelligent Meeting Recaps.
My favorite of these are the Meeting Highlights, because they allow you to mark a particular section of the meeting as a highlight while you are still on the call. Instead of having to take meeting notes on a separate notepad, this helps you save little clips for future reference and add notes to them
The other smart meeting features let you create meeting recaps and action items (tasks) from these highlights. This is probably only going to be useful to you if you use the rest of BlueJeans’ IT management solutions, or you upgrade to their pro plan so that you can integrate the action items from your call with Slack and Microsoft Teams.
What I like about BlueJeans is their very easy-to-use interface and clean layout. You'll notice that the most important buttons are only one click away. You can also easily adjust certain settings while you are on a call.
BlueJeans also has a very useful feature that lets you know when you’re talking into a muted microphone and nobody else can hear you (hey, it happens!).
One thing I have noticed is that the active speaker view takes a few seconds to switch to the person speaking. If you are on a call with several people and you’re not all too familiar with their voices, it can take a short while until you figure out who is speaking.
BlueJeans packs a bunch of great features into their standard plan. If you are looking for a solution that will not impose any limits on your calls and the idea of paying a small fee doesn’t scare you, I definitely recommend checking it out.
- Create private meetings to lock out unwanted guests
- No download needed: meetings can be fully browser-based.
- Add team members and let team members organize meetings.
- Can also be used for webinars
- Existing users of Zoho apps
- Those who are looking for a combined Meeting and Webinar solution on a budget
- People who need to assign different user roles and permissions to team members
- Those who don’t necessarily need call recording, or don’t mind paying extra for it
Third on the list is Zoho Meeting. While Zoho Meeting does not have a free plan, it does offer a free 14-Day trial for you to see if it fits into your meeting workflow.
The tool is part of Zoho’s larger set of Zoho tools for businesses. If you’re already a user of Zoho apps, this might be a good option for you as it integrates seamlessly with the company’s other apps.
A key point of difference from the first two tools is that Zoho Meeting is a completely browser-based solution. While Zoom and BlueJeans require all participants to download a meeting client to their devices, Zoho Meetings can be started and joined from inside any browser window.
It still lets you share your screen and share remote control access with participants. You can also send meeting reminders and collect RSVPs from right inside the tool.
Recording and storing your meetings in the cloud is possible but comes with a price tag of $192 per year in addition to the monthly subscription fee.
It’s important to mention that while other video conferencing tools also offer web conferencing features, Zoho Meeting gives you an optional upgrade to a full webinar solution. This includes several features that are typically included in webinar software.
For example, you can create custom webinar registration forms and send reminders to all attendees. Plus, you have the ability to create interactive Q&As and polls.
Also noteworthy: Zoho lets you create private meetings. This lets you lock confidential meetings to keep them secure from unexpected attendees. If someone does try to enter the meeting, you get notified and can decide whether you want to let them in.
If you already work with Zoho apps or you want to host webinars as well, check out Zoho Meeting.
- Teams is part of Microsoft 365, so it is very will integrated for Microsoft 365 users
- Host online meetings and video calls for up to 250 people
- Only available on the Office 365 Business Essentials and Premium plans which start at $12.50 per user per month and require an annual subscription
- Users of Microsoft 365 who want to stay within the same ecosystem
- Those who want to use Microsoft Teams as a central hub for their business
Microsoft Teams has also seen strong growth since the COVID-9 crisis.
According to Microsoft, the number of users on Teams had grown 37 percent in a week to more than 44 million daily users. There have been at least 900 million meetings and call minutes on Microsoft Teams every day.
The Microsoft Teams conferencing tool is part of their office suite and work chat solutions. If you are looking for an all-in-one solution to manage your remote chats and video calls, this can be an advantage for you.
However, if you already use other tools for chat and file management, signing up for Microsoft Teams only to use their video call solution may be a bit of a leap.
Google Hangouts Meet
- Fully browser-based: Start a video call directly within your browser window and invite others by sharing your meeting link
- Automatically create a new hangout link when you schedule a call with someone in Google calendar
- Every G-Suite user can create and host meetings as part of the subscription
- Those who already use G-Suite and are not looking for advanced conferencing features
- People who are looking for a solution that doesn’t require any downloads
Google Meet is the video conferencing solution that is integrated into the G-Suite offering. It is the business version of their free video call service, Google Hangouts.
Google Meet covers all the basic features a video conferencing solution should have. It lets you host audio and video calls from right inside your browser and share screens with participants.
It’s a great way to quickly create a call and share the link for someone to join without having to install a desktop client.
As a G-Suite user, you can create and host calls for up to 25 people on the Basic plan, and for up to 50 and 100 participants on the higher tier plans.
Note that you need a paid G Suite account in order to set up and start Google Meet video conferences, but anyone with a standard Google account can join and participate in a Google Meet session.
On a personal note, I sometimes find that audio and video quality are lower than on other tools, depending on how fast the participants’ Internet connections are.
Also, since Google Meets is an in-browser solution, you need to give your browser permission to use your camera and microphone. Sometimes meeting participants don't know how to do this, so we have to switch to another video call solution. This can be a bit of a time-waster at the beginning of your call.
Overall, I do like using Google Meet when I have to quickly hop on a call with someone by just sending them a link.
In addition, Google Calendar automatically creates a Google Meet link when you create an event which is quite practical.
There you have it: my top 5 of the best video conferencing tools in 2020. Which one did you end up choosing? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments.