Video Conferencing

In light of everything going on with the Coronavirus, I thought it might be helpful to do a short post covering different video conferencing applications. Many folks are working remotely, and it would help to have a quick rundown of some of the tools available. This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully will get you started with your home or business needs.

Apple FaceTime

(photo copied from Apple’s site here )

This is a given if you’re an Apple user. It is very straightforward and built into iOS. You can turn it on with your phone or other Apple device by going settings –> FaceTime.

You can call people directly or with their email. You can even use your Memoji as your avatar when talking.

I’ve had a great experience with this, and this is great for both individual and group chats.

For more info go to the official Apple support page here. If you want to do a group chat, then go to the link here for more info.

Zoom

Image result for zoom
(image originally copied from here)

I’ve used Zoom both in personal and professional settings. It has a super intuitive UI and works very well as long as you have a stable internet connection.

To get started just go to https://zoom.us/meetings and create a free account. Then you can either just use the browser or install desktop apps for your platform.

If you go over to the plans section you’ll see that you can get a lot with a free plan including:

  • Unlimited 1 to 1 meetings
  • 40 mins limit on group meetings
  • Application Sharing
  • Custom Backgrounds (super cool feature if you turn it on)
  • Recording of video and audio if you enable it
  • Many other online collaboration options

The only real challenge with Zoom is that its only free for 1 on 1 calls. If you want to do a group chat (more than 2 people) then you only get 40 mins free.

I personally prefer Zoom if I’m meeting with someone one on one or providing IT support. The features are very intuitive and its easy to get up and running in no time.

For more on Zoom go here:

Google Hangouts

Image result for Google Hangouts
(image was copied from here)

If you have a google account (gmail, etc.) then you’re already setup to use Google Hangouts.

Hangouts is a great feature because its already built in to Google products, and there are associated apps for your phone, tablet, etc.

To get started, just go to Chrome and add the Hangouts extension. You can also just pull up Gmail on your browser and you’ll see it already integrated into the lefthand navigation.

Then you can directly message any of your friends that have a Google Email.

Google Hangouts has a lot of cool options that are absolutely free:

  • You can have group chats with up to 150 people
  • You can share photos, videos, GIFs, etc.
  • Record any conversation by turning on conversation history
  • Connect it to Google voice for even more features

For more info on how to get started, I recommend checking out these pages:

BlueJeans

Image result for bluejeans video conference
(image was copied from here)

I was relatively new to BlueJeans until I used it recently. BlueJeans provides a dedicated desktop app as well as a web interface for meetings.

Bluejeans is a paid application that offers several collaboration features including screen and application sharing.

BlueJeans doesn’t have a free option (other than free trial offers). However, with the subscription you do get:

  • unlimited meeting time lengths
  • unlimited 1 to 1 meetings
  • unlimited group meetings
  • Most of the same features as the other products

BlueJeans also has integration offerings with Microsoft Teams to use in your professional workspace. You can connect conference rooms to Microsoft teams using the gateway product at https://www.bluejeans.com/products/integrations/microsoft-gateway.

To get started with Bluejeans, please check out their plans site at https://store.bluejeans.com/.

Microsoft Teams

Image result for Microsoft Teams
(image was copied from here)

If you’re a big user of Office 365, then Microsoft Teams would be a natural product for you.

Microsoft Teams offers most of the same type of services that the other products I’ve mentioned cover. You can share screens, files and do general collaboration.

Microsoft Teams has both free and paid versions. The advantage of using Microsoft Teams is if you or your team is already integrated with Microsoft products.

Microsoft Teams offers a web interface and desktop applications.

To get started with Microsoft Teams I recommend you check out the following:

Wrapping Up

I hope the information I’ve provided here gives you a starting point for knowing which Video Conferencing software to use. There are a lot of options here and beyond the list I’ve provided. The biggest thing is to determine what solution works for your project or team. It also helps to consider what software applications that you want to share or collaborate with.

Thanks for reading my article! Follow me on twitter at @AndrewEvans0102!

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