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Web conferencing best in class breakdown
|Product||Our Rating||File Sharing||Scheduled Meetings||Mobile App|
|Join.me||3.3||no||yes||iOS 9+ only|
|Google Hangouts Meet||3.3||through Google Drive||yes||yes|
Table of Contents
- What is web conferencing software?
- The web conferencing software market
- Major features of web conferencing software
- The top web conferencing software vendor reviews
- Buying considerations for enterprise web conferencing software
- Buying considerations for small business web conferencing software
- Current trends and innovations
- Choosing the best web conferencing software for your business
What is web conferencing software?
Web conferencing software is a broad category that includes video conferencing, audio conferencing, virtual meeting platforms, collaboration tools, and remote meeting software. In its broadest sense, web conferencing software enables companies to conduct virtual business meetings from dispersed locations via a web browser or app.
Video conferencing software gives attendees the opportunity to meet face-to-face despite distance, while audio conferencing software brings conference calling capabilities to companies at less expense than similar provided by landline telephone services.
For companies looking for more features than just audio and video calling, virtual meeting platforms provide features like webinar capabilities, virtual white boards, file sharing, internal messaging, and in-meeting chat rooms. These tools often go beyond the category of web conferencing into collaboration tools.
The web conferencing software market
The web conferencing software market reached a valuation of $3.2 billion in 2018. This was, of course, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that increased demand for these products across businesses and the consumer market. In the early months of 2020, many companies required employees to work from home to reduce the spread of the disease.
These new remote working conditions dramatically increased the number of meetings held via web conferencing platforms as companies struggled to maintain workloads while employees worked from home. The exact impact of these business operations changes remains to be seen.
Many web conferencing software vendors also provide their customers with specialized hardware to support video and audio conferences in offices. The end of the 2010s showed a turn toward businesses incorporating remote employees into workplaces, which on the one hand may signal an increased use of laptop computers or monitors with built-in webcams. But the use of video conferencing software to connect individuals at dispersed offices has also led to an increase in the virtual meeting hardware market.
Companies have invested in webcams, microphones, headsets, digital video displays, and audio speakers to augment corporate meeting rooms and conference centers.
Major features of web conferencing software
Web conferencing software gives companies and individuals an inexpensive and easy way to make phone calls and conference calls from the office or anywhere. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) software’s rise in popularity in the early 2000s quickly led to companies using the software as an inexpensive way to schedule and hold conference calls.
Audio conferencing software runs on a digital platform, and often includes key organizational or oversight features like call recordings, scheduled meetings that sync with an individual’s calendar, and autodialing to automatically connect individuals to meetings.
Audio conferencing is often included standard with any video conferencing software, as individuals can call into the meeting from a mobile phone or computer and not turn on the camera function.
A software category all its own, video conferencing software uses a webcam and a microphone to give individuals a face-to-face experience during meetings. Whether the user connects to the software via their computer’s internal audio-visual hardware or uses a headset, separate webcam, or a mobile phone, video conferencing software sets up a virtual meeting room where two individuals or thousands of participants can gather.
Video conferencing software received a boost in market share and with the general public due to varying degrees of quarantine and stay at home movements during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to using video conferencing to set up business meeting rooms, many consumers use the software to keep in touch with relatives and friends.
Nearly every smartphone includes a front-facing camera, which provides the user with an interface to hold a video conference. Most major video and web conferencing software providers also offer a mobile app for Android and iOS devices where individuals can join and schedule meetings with similar capabilities as the ones they access on a desktop app.
Many features of web conferencing software overlap significantly with collaboration tools. Today’s organizations are obsessed with increasing communication among employees, transparency, and collaboration, of which video and audio conferencing are only a small part.
Internal messaging gives meeting attendees a platform to ask questions, add comments, applaud the speaker, and provide clarifications without interrupting a speaker during a video call. Good video and audio conference etiquette states that individuals should mute their microphones when not speaking to reduce interference from background noise. Chat boards and private messages to group members allow silent communication that the speaker or meeting lead can follow up on when appropriate.
A major feature of collaboration tools, file sharing lets teams send, store, and receive files all in a single centralized location. These tools help teams stay connected on the right documents and files without a lot of extra emails. The most robust file sharing tools provide user access controls, link sharing, and lots of disk or server space.
Scheduled meetings and calendar integration
Web conference apps often include a scheduled meeting or integration with your existing calendar feature to help individuals plan meetings and distribute meeting links to attendees. These tools add a plugin to your calendar app to turn any appointment into a scheduled meeting and often let you launch the meeting software directly from the calendar invite. You can also choose to send the meeting invite through an email or share an open meeting link for webinars on social media.
Whether or not your company wants to follow good security practices or is concerned about web intruders stealing trade secrets, finding a secure web conferencing software. Look for products that provide
- End to end encryption
- Encrypted files in transit and at rest
- Adherence to TLS 1.2 encryption standards
- Single sign on or two-factor authentication
- A way to screen new meeting attendees via virtual waiting room or permission settings
“Instead of trying to explain all this, let me just show you.” Screen share features in video conferencing software help the speaker illustrate points without having to share multiple links to documents. Think of the screen share feature like a projector during an in-person presentation where an individual can scroll through a document or show slides to give extra context to their presentation. Some tools even include virtual pointers, annotations, and virtual white boards that speakers can use while speaking.
Companies can find webinar features in many web conferencing software tools that are built for medium to enterprise businesses, although some small business tools can be adapted for webinars of up to 50 people. In addition to screen sharing and presenter mode for a video call, webinar features often include marketing automation tools where marketers can build promotional emails, landing pages, and invites for the online event.
Whether it’s for quality assurance, a big meeting that a stakeholder is unable to attend, or a webinar you want to use over and over, companies find recorded meetings to be a helpful feature. Call recording features might record audio, bundle a complete video or audio call into an mp3 or mp4 file, or compile meeting notes with the video call.
The top web conferencing software vendor reviews
- Webex vs. GoToMeeting: A Virtual Conferencing Software Comparison
- The Best Zoom Alternatives for Your Business
- The Best HIPAA Compliant Video Conferencing Tools
- 6 Skype Alternatives for Modern Business Conferencing
Buying considerations for enterprise web conferencing software
Enterprise corporations who implement web conferencing software save money on international calling, but the benefits don’t stop there. When you choose the right video, audio, and collaboration tools, your meetings look and sound more professional, and your team can stay connected in many ways.
As you research enterprise web conferencing software, consider these features and requirements.
The more meetings you have, the more chances you have for bad actors to attempt to hack into your meetings. While these hackers may do little more than cause a disruption to your meeting, insecure meeting invites or patchy encryption could cause major security problems for your company. These breaches could expose email passwords, allow a hacker an entry into your otherwise well-fortified firewall, or even expose company secrets that you discuss on your call.
Look for a remote conferencing tool with end-to-end encryption in transit and at rest that follows the latest in encryption and server security protocols.
Whether it’s for HR purposes, keeping accurate records, or to provide access to those who may have missed an important meeting, call recordings are vital to enterprise companies. Many web conferencing apps provide call recordings that you can download directly to your local computer, while others even offer server space to store calls.
Bulk, guest, and contributor user seats
Enterprise corporations should carefully research the per-user pricing of their next software solution to ensure that users have the features they need. Consider whether every individual across the company will need the ability to schedule meetings, or whether you can add employees to meetings on a guest basis. Guest licenses are often free and can prevent paying a monthly charge for those who rarely schedule meetings. You may need to speak with individual vendors about bulk user pricing and discounts, should you need seats for the majority of your employees.
Enterprise companies often use large corporate headquarters or regional outpost buildings, which require separate meeting or conference rooms. When companies integrate meeting software with in-person meetings, they will often need webcams, microphones, and special conference speakers to facilitate those calls.
When researching enterprise web conferencing tools, your team must decide if you will purchase video conference hardware separately or lease it from the software provider. While a lease requires the company to pay a monthly subscription fee, the vendor should cover installation support and repairs. If you decide to purchase hardware, you will need to ensure that your hardware is compatible with the software and that you have the in-house skills to support installation and hookups.
Buying considerations for small business web conferencing software
Many small businesses operate under the assumption that they’re too small to target, opting instead to purchase software without full encryption and security. But hackers often target these businesses as they present an easy and unsecured opportunity. Look for end-to-end encryption at transit and at rest and specific documentation from the company as to their security practices before signing the contract.
Many small businesses are tempted by free plans for web conferencing software, which is a great way to test the product and get to know whether the vendor provides the capabilities you need. However, many of these free plans restrict the number of attendees you can invite to meetings or how long your meetings can run. Carefully research the plan restrictions for meeting size, length, and bandwidth when shopping for small business web conferencing software.
Small businesses must be agile and responsive to compete against their larger competitors. Mobile audio conferencing and video conferencing software can provide your team with the connectivity they need while on the go. Consider whether the mobile app for your web conferencing tool can work over cellular service or whether it requires a wifi connection.
Call quality and connectivity
Every video conferencing software vendor’s marketing website will feature crystal-clear images of users on calls, but ask for a demo before purchasing. Test the call’s video and audio quality on your company’s existing internet at peak usage times. You may consider asking that multiple individuals join the demo to test the software’s drain on your bandwidth.
A good web conferencing app will provide clear video and audio with minimal lag time or slowdowns on your network. A bad app will bring work to a halt, and possibly require you to negotiate with your internet service provider.
Current trends and innovations
Security and encryption
Much more than a trend, security and encryption for online meetings is a necessity. Security features for web conferencing should include encrypted messages and videos, the latest security protocols on servers and stored assets, and administrative user controls. These tools give your IT department, finance departments, and HR departments peace of mind while ensuring that work continues unimpeded.
White boards and annotations
As more and more teams work remotely and collaborate virtually, the need for tools that mimic those of a physical meeting space has grown. White board features in video conferences let presenters draw, type, and visually explain their points in real-time. Annotations give meeting attendees a platform to give feedback directly on presentation slides, even if they’re not presenting. These tools can be used to ask questions and clarify points without interrupting the presenter’s flow.
A major trend in SaaS is for best of breed tools to expand their offerings into niche needs, thereby increasing their usefulness for existing customers and attracting new audiences. Many online collaboration tools have branched out into internal messaging, file sharing, file storage, video calls, and audio support, while web conferencing software tools have added similar features. This has caused markets to overlap and combine, making it difficult to choose the right tool.
Webinar and online event capabilities
Enterprise companies and small businesses are rapidly moving events online. Online events require several needs, and web conferencing software tools now include many of these features in their products:
- Marketing automation and email reminders
- Connections to ad platforms and web forms for lead generation
- Administrative controls for user access to white boards, video streams, annotations, and screen sharing
- Higher bandwidth for large crowds
- Recorded sessions for attendees and publication
Choosing the best web conferencing software for your business
Rather than chasing brand names or the latest tool that everyone is using, write down your team’s current needs and the types of features you’ll want if you scale. Ensure that your next web conferencing app has all the features you need now with the opportunity to grow into a more complex tool.
To speed up your research process, TechnologyAdvice can provide you with a short list of 5 web conferencing vendors who meet your needs. Use the form at the top of the page to enter your requirements, and we’ll send you our top recommendations.