With most of the world now in lockdown due to COVID-19, most businesses that may remain operational are having to operate from home. While most work can be done individually, it is equally important that communication is upheld with your colleagues or employees. There are a lot of online tools that make communication easy. We decided to run our own comparison of the platforms (our opinions only).
Skype: Well suited for small offices, interaction with home-based employees (with no kids around), multi-country audio meetings, one-on-one coaching or performance appraisals
Let’s begin with Skype, a software which everyone has heard of. It was among the first widely used video-communication tools and is still widely used to this day. Skype is also used by a variety of companies and company sizes.
Skype allows for instant messaging similar to that of texting, audio and video Skype-to-Skype calls, the ability to call mobile phones and landlines, paid international calling, and conference calling capabilities. This makes it perfect for smaller businesses with fewer employees.
Skype does allow for a user to share their screen with others in the call. This can be both a good and bad thing (We suggest that you check your tabs before pressing that button).
Skype is very inclusive to people in the international market, as Skype calls include text-to-speech translation and voice translation through the use of subtitles. Many businesses praise Skype on its ability to connect to overseas personnel.
Skype is accessible on a range of devices. Phones, tablets, laptops and PC’s, most internet browsers such as Chrome, technology like Alexa and even your Xbox One if you feel like it.
However, there are some cons:
• Skype on Windows takes a long time to load upon opening.
• The 25 person limit (if the meeting exceeds the 25 person limit, there will have to be people excluded).
• Creating an account may be confusing for some as there are a lot of steps.
• Skype claims to block out background noise, but in reality, this does not seem to be the case. It is not great if you have kids in your house.
Skype is less suited for video conferences where a leader allows many participants to speak, share documents, and interact using their cameras all at the same time.
Zoom: Zoom is suited for large companies as well as smaller parties. Zoom is one of the best video-chatting platforms and is very convenient for business meetings and scheduling
Zoom is another large competitor in the ‘Web-conferencing software’ market. It has taken a large lead recently with outstanding reviews and use by a lot of companies. “The answer to all other video solutions” - Matthew Gardener, co-founder of RouteThis.
Zoom is a software known for its Webinar system. This system is a video-chat system that allows for unlimited audiences to view a broadcast; as many people can take part in your meeting as you want.
With Zoom Phone, users can bundle their voice, video, voicemail, messaging, meetings, and conferencing through one application. It can carry out calls over cellular voice, cellular data, or WiFi connections.
Is supported on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. Zoom can be accessed by direct download or through an internet browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, Edge, etc.
Zoom allows the user to share their screen with the others in the call. Zoom also allows users to share documents, files and other applications at any time. It also has a feature that allows the user to jot down notes on another’s work.
Zoom also has scheduling tools such as calendar integration, meeting initiations, integration with social media. Zoom also is able to record meetings/events, dial-in attendance, and online attendance so that you can keep track of who was at what meeting and when.
You can call colleagues from overseas.
You can integrate slideshows into your meeting.
Good sound and video. Rarely does anyone have to ask “Can you hear/see me”
And it is all free!
However, much like Skype, there are some cons:
Integrating Zoom with other tools doesn’t seem to work.
The mobile version is not as smooth or as fast as the webpage version.
For reference, the New Zealand government is using Zoom to communicate about their Covid-19 plans. Zoom is reliable, safe and easy to use. Recently published issues with security seem to have been resolved.
Microsoft Teams: Microsoft teams is very much like Zoom in that it is great for all people. It shines especially brightly for larger companies since for $5 per month, you can hold conference calls, video calls, phone calls and schedule when calls are made.
Microsoft Teams combines video conferencing software with team collaboration tools. The communications platform allows Microsoft Office users to conduct conference calls and share files via SharePoint, and join or initiate a group chat.
Microsoft Teams is subscription-based, but it does not have to be. For free you get about the same features as a paid-subscription user would, however, you are not offered administration tools such as analytics and you do not get any support features like 24/7 phone support.
Microsoft teams allow for teams of anywhere from 2 to 10,000 people, so meeting size is not really an issue.
You can host audio, video, and web conferences with anyone inside or outside your organization or go big with live events, much like on Zoom.
It allows the employer to see who is online when; which makes it easy to see who is slacking off or who is available to talk.
Similarly, you can see if someone is busy and should not be disturbed which helps save time in trying to contact them or hunt them down.
Teams allows specific groups to be created where you can share ideas and brainstorm without having to interrupt other employees in the office.
Calls are smooth and audio is clear
Load times are quick
For the money you pay, you get good value
On the flip side to that:
The fees for the full product are $5 per month, which is cheap, but other products reviewed in this article are all free.
Steep learning curve initially (menus, to some, may be hard to navigate)
Settings and applying roles to group members are confusing for some to set up
It is especially good if you already use Microsoft tools such as Outlook or Word since you can link those to Microsoft Teams together nicely.
3CX: 3CX is boringly simple, BUT it allows for quick navigation and clear calling. The video function is often unreliable but for what it is, it is good.
Probably the least known system within this article is 3CX. It is an online phone system primarily but it also allows for video chats. And it can all be done out and about. 3CX has very good phone support and is available on Android and IOS devices. It is perfect if you just want a simple to use online communication system.
Menus are easy to operate.
It is easy to keep track of who is online when and who is on a call with who.
Can connect laptop version to phone. So that you can start talking to someone on your phone and continue talking to them on your phone.
Up to 50 people within a call, allows for a lot of people to talk together at once.
The video quality leaves a bit to be desired.
Doesn’t connect to any other tools (cannot link Microsoft Word or Google Docs, etc), which makes linking files more difficult as you will have to do that through an outside source (email or some other online messaging system).
Some complaints of 3CX being boring to look at
3CX is perfect for someone who is not very good with digital technology and needs a simple system but the other options are the better choice.
Google Hangouts Meet: Google Hangouts Meet is perfect if your company uses Google services (Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc). Google Hangouts Meet is the business version of their less formal video chat software, Google Hangouts.
Like 3CX, it is very easy to use and perfect for someone who is not very comfortable using digital technologies. Like the other technologies listed above, it requires you to link your email.
Hangouts Meet is a communication platform that includes messaging, voice and video call capabilities.
It allows you to easily link documents, videos and other files to others in a call or a chat very easily.
It connects to your Google Drive so that files from others can be saved with ease.
Video and Audio in calls are very smooth and clear.
You can make phone calls only using Wi-fi (no minutes or money required)
Can be run on any device from Laptops to Phones to Smart Fridges if you feel the need.
Google Chromecast doesn't support video. You can’t view who you are calling on a TV through Chromecast.
Hangouts Meet does not work if you do not have a Google account.
Google Hangouts Meet is simple for anyone that wants to connect with colleagues and often uses Google services in their employment. It is very easy to use and it is very easy to share files with other people. The video chat quality is very smooth and being able to phone call others without the need to pay money is very nice indeed.
So which one is best? Which video-chat system wins the fight? It is definitely best to go with either Microsoft Teams or Zoom. They both provide lots of tools that make organization, sharing and communicating very easy. However, 3CX might just land a cheeky jab or two to win in a points decision. Sometimes boring can be beautiful; and functional.
In any case it may be reassuring to know that during these tough times when we are all stuck at home, because of technologies like these, we have some way of communicating and keeping the status quo.