By Anastasia Button – Grand Gazette
While Colorado is easing into less restrictive practices, business may well continue to use alternative tools in order to work virtually with colleagues and customers. As many businesses have adapted to phone and video conferencing options, trends state that a large part of urban and rural workforces will continue to work at home, which can reduce business costs and time. Remote work opportunities also increase rural worker opportunities, providing access to jobs outside of the local range.
Whether businesses or organizations are going virtual temporarily or permanently, tools for virtual conferencing and team collaboration are key to business success. The following offers a researched list of free and paid virtual workplace and conferencing software options that may benefit local businesses to continue revenue generation.
Microsoft Teams– www.Products.Office.com
Microsoft rolled out its Teams product to help virtual and cloud-based workplaces, granting access to company projects and communications without having to send massive amounts of stream emails. These tools are referred to as “workplace management software.”
Initially, Skype was an app that Microsoft developed for video communications. Now Microsoft has placed Skype as part of Teams. But, Microsoft Teams is more than a video conferencing tool. Businesses that use Microsoft Office 365 heavily may want to consider using Teams as a virtual workplace and communications center.
Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions that include Teams allow the use of collaboration tools with staff or team members. Members may be assigned appropriate access to files, editing, and working alongside other team members to collaborate simultaneously. This includes group video and audio calls, 1:1 customer video or audio conferencing options, screen sharing, whiteboard, chat rooms for major topics, direct messaging with colleagues, video and audio recordings to the OneDrive or cloud space, and file sharing.
A subscription to the Office 365 Business Premium package is required. The package cost $12.50 per month for each user, which allows members to have all the company’s tools, files, and access to team members in one online space.
This option is best for companies or teams that are organizing workflow and operations that are operating completely remotely and for those familiar with the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem.
Google Hangouts vs Google Meet – Meet.Google.Com
Businesses that rely on using GoogleDrive and Google Apps may want to consider using Google Hangouts or Google Meet.
Google Hangouts is free video-conferencing software and has reasonable prices for Google Business upgraded subscriptions. Even though Hangouts leans more towards an online phone line that has conference software, it may accommodate a group video conference. But be warned, this format usually has lower video quality.
Google Meet has many similar features as a video and audio conferencing platform, yet Meet is only accessed through a G Suite Education or G Suite Business account (this includes many other Google Apps for most organization’s needs).
Meet creates more security for meetings and provides links allowing teams and organizations to speak on sensitive topics, like client information, with less risk of hacking or outside viewership. Due to more security coding, Google Meet is priced at $6 per month for the first tier with many extra features, like file sharing, recording, whiteboards, and many other features that may be used with other Google apps for team and customer collaboration.
Much like Microsoft Teams, Google Drive is a collaborative space to share files and editing in real time between team members by using Google apps like Doc, Sheets, Slides and an app called Currents – a Google workplace and project management app.
All Google products work well together in their own ecosystem. If you need more details to decide if Google Meet or Hangouts is best for your needs… just “Google it.”
Zoom – Zoom.us
Zoom is currently one of the most popular conferencing software tools on the market. It has many video and audio conferencing options including screen sharing, whiteboard, recording audio and visual files separately, recording audio, video, and group chat options.
There is a free option permitting unlimited one-on-one meetings and a 40-minute limit on group conferences. If you wish to record meetings for project management purposes, each account starts with 1GB of cloud recording storage. A second-tier option is available for $14.99/month with unlimited one-to-one and group conferences. If you have frequent team or customer meetings, Zoom is more consistent for quality video and audio.
However, unlike Microsoft Teams and Google Apps, if you require a collaborative space to share file storage and projects between team members, then you will need to find a separate workplace management software like Trello or #Slack.
If your business is currently doing or looking to incorporate sales webinars or one-to-one sales calls, Zoom has well-priced upgrade options that may be utilized.
Cisco Webex – www.Webex.com
The most known and used video conferencing software is Webex by IT migration company, Cisco. Small to large corporations use Webex regularly for team collaboration and meetings with features like screen sharing, whiteboard, and file sharing. Video quality is known to be better with Webex compared to other video conferencing choices and there is a free package available.
The free package includes recently upgraded meeting time limitations from 40-minutes to an unlimited length. Security is catered for 2-way encryption and backed by Cisco’s networking know-how. This means performance is very impressive and high security leads to limited concern about leaks or hacks on sensitive information shared during virtual meetings.
If your organization needs extra features, you can upgrade to the Starter package which offers more adaptability for team or customer use, including, but not limited to, customized and personal room link, meeting/recording transcripts and video MP4 file recordings for quality assurance.
Webex is best for most uses and is widely used in large corporate industries with workforces that reach hundreds of thousands. Still, it is simple enough for small businesses to use. There is no workplace management software included, but Webex does have softwares within their portfolio for these needs. Based on all specs, it is more powerful and accommodating than Zoom with potential option for a online workplace management.