Whether as a professional, student, friend, or family member, you have almost certainly become more familiar with video collaboration tools since the coronavirus changed the way we interact and communicate. You wouldn’t be alone if you found yourself participating in three, four, or five videoconferences in a single day and using a different tool each time. These may have included Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco Webex, or GoToMeeting, just to name a few.
It’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the attributes and differentiators of a handful of video collaboration tools so you can determine which is most suitable for you in a variety of settings. A well-informed decision to use a single collaboration tool across an organization will likely improve internal communication and ease of use with the selected tool. An effective deployment of a collaboration tool can improve productivity while reducing the need for corporate travel and some degree of face-to-face interaction. Some key attributes that may help you discern which tool is best may include:
- Video: Capability to show multiple participants, viewable across a variety of local and mobile devices.
- Number of participants: What is the cap on the number of participants that can join a conference?
- Content sharing: Ability of a presenter to share or display content with each participant.
- Security: Ability to share and discuss content in a secure manner.
- Chat feature: Ability to text a question without interrupting a presentation.
In terms of tools available in the market today, you have likely heard of or used some of these better-known options:
Cisco Webex: www.webex.com
When thinking about the best solution for your organization, review these basic summaries of each program, along with the pros and cons to help potential users understand the tools they’re likely coming in contact with on a regular basis.
Cisco Webex is a leading enterprise solution for web and videoconferencing, online meetings, screen/file sharing, webinars, and chat. Some key attributes of Webex involve the host’s ability to easily orchestrate a meeting, ranging from inviting members to a meeting, reminding them a meeting is about to begin, running the meeting, and even recording it. The ability to screen-share files and video during a meeting is also useful.
Webex also offers functionality to host live events such as webinars or global team meetings. Most of us are probably familiar with webinar functionality to easily access an event, share information, or collect information via chat or polling questions. From a security perspective, Webex offers complete end-to-end encryption using 256-bit encryption for its video calls, but this is a feature that must be turned on by a call administrator. So check your settings. Note: This setting will also disable some features of Webex.
Microsoft Teams is an integrated collaboration tool, part of the Office 365 suite, used to strengthen internal communication among teams and groups within an organization. It will eventually replace Skype for Business Online (Microsoft support is scheduled to end on July 31, 2021). Teams is integrated with Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, and the Microsoft Office applications.
As a hub for teamwork (internal and external), Teams can collaborate in real time to get things done. For a variety of uses, this tool offers a place where you can have informal chats, iterate on a project, work with team files, and collaborate on shared deliverables.
Teams is secure. It shares the same enterprise-level security, compliance, and manageability as the rest of Office 365, but team messages aren’t encrypted. Teams leverages identities stored in Azure Active Directory. It keeps working even when you’re offline or having network difficulties.
Zoom is a web-based software for high-performance video/audioconferencing with both internal and external users. Its variety of collaboration uses include but aren’t limited to webinars, online teaching/education, and videoconferences. Zoom’s technology integrates videoconferencing, online meetings, and group messaging into a single cloud-based platform that also connects people and content in wireless mode, enhancing productivity across an increasingly mobile workforce.
Zoom demand has skyrocketed since the coronavirus forced many to work from home. This growth has been propelled by its functionality and its integration with services such as Slack. With growth has come greater scrutiny, and Zoom’s security deficiencies have been highlighted in the news. Although some of these were user-induced (e.g., sharing meeting IDs on social media), Zoom has moved quickly to make it more difficult for users to unintentionally harm themselves as well as tightening up its technical infrastructure security (e.g., moving from 128-bit to 256-bit encryption, ahead of some of its competitors). Zoom hasn’t yet achieved the full end-to-end encryption advertised by others.
GoToMeeting is another leading enterprise solution similar to Webex. It offers most of the same features but is generally advertised as a less expensive alternative to Webex. GoToMeeting utilizes end-to-end encryption but with 128-bit encryption keys (less secure than using 256-bit encryption keys). Nevertheless, it meets current Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) privacy standards and can be used for telemedicine meetings.
If your organization is a Microsoft shop and you’re already confident trusting them with your Office 365 data, Teams is likely to be your videoconferencing tool of choice. And Zoom is a very attractive option based on its security upgrades for many small- to medium-sized businesses, its general ease of use, and price. While it’s best to shy away from discussing trade secrets and confidential business strategies over Zoom, it has definitely stepped up its security game.
For larger businesses and use-case scenarios where security and privacy are always business-critical, GoToMeeting and Webex are the top choices. While GoToMeeting is generally seen as the most cost-effective and Webex is viewed as the “Cadillac” of this entire product set, this market space is very competitive, and negotiations are worth pursuing. Even after the end of the current coronavirus pandemic, team meeting capabilities will continue to be critical for anyone working remotely with colleagues, business partners, and customers. Consequently, it’s important to consider ease of use, functionality delivered for price, and security needs when making this choice.