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The 6 Best Video Conferencing Software and How to Decide

The best video conferencing software molds to your needs—not the other way around.

Whether you’re finding yourself bending circumstances to accommodate your current conferencing services (it’s definitely time for a change), or you are buying these services for the first time, get ready for the highest-quality picture, cleanest sound, and most complete control possible.

There’s no shortage of excellent options that enable people to join the conversation from wherever they are, but these are the best six video conferencing tools out there today.

The 6 best video conferencing software tools: reviews

Before we dive in, two quick things:

  • I’ve included the base price for every tier. Month-to-month subscriptions are typically higher than an annual contract, and some features they showcase only come as add-ons. Always (always) call to get a quote for accurate pricing.
  • Check the product website for new promotions. With good reason, 2020 is the year of extended free trials and reduced pricing on SaaS business solutions.

Let’s compare platforms.

1. GoToMeeting

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GoToMeeting has a trim feature set that covers all your video conferencing needs at a competitive price. Integrations with Google Calendar, Outlook, Salesforce, and Slack mean your teams can incorporate this tool without disrupting their normal routine.

You can start meetings wherever you with a mobile app that more than keeps pace with the browser-based version. Enable Commuter Mode when you are out of the office for distraction-free conferencing, data savings, and automatic bandwidth adjustment.

This is a fantastic product for external presentations. Customers tend to have zero problems using GoToMeeting.

On the host side, it’s easy to manage and track your meetings. You can give control over the group to other attendees by making them co-organizers. And you can set the audio for VoIP, PSTN, or both—attendees can choose the option they want—and seamlessly alternate between phone or computer audio to maintain clear calls regardless of changes in connection.

GoToMeeting has data privacy tools that support HIPAA compliance. All subscriptions come with risk based authentication, and use SSL and AES-256 bit encryption. You can also set passwords when you schedule a meeting as an extra layer of protection.

Pricing

  • Free version: 14-day trial of GoToMeeting Business
  • Professional: $12 organizer/month, meetings up to 150 participants
  • Business: $16 organizer/month, meetings up to 250 participants
  • Enterprise: contact sales, meetings up to 3,000 participants

Pros

  • Fabulous host/attendee ease-of-use
  • Flexible audio settings
  • Versatile mobile app (Windows, Android, iOS)

Cons

  • Intermittent connection will cause problems

2. join.me

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Join.me is dedicated to providing the best video conferencing software. That’s it. Few bells and whistles, but in exchange you get a completely hassle-free experience.

Though the feature set is lighter than RingCentral or Teams, you’re not going to feel the limits in session. During a join.me call, you have virtually the same level of control over video and audio as you do with more robust collaborative platforms.

Join.me Lite includes screen and window sharing, pass presenter, shared mouse (remote control), and of course, video bubbles. Share links to meetings with one click in Outlook or Google Calendar. Only hosts need paid subscriptions, and Chrome users can join instantly without downloads.

At the Pro and Business tiers, you can host meetings of up to 250 participants. You also have the option to create a personal link that becomes a permanent join.me meeting room. This is great for small businesses that want to deliver a professional, branded experience every time without extra work or costs.

Mobile Whiteboard is another neat feature from join.me. With natural drawing, infinite canvas, and a library of icons and shapes, people can even share what they’re thinking with more than words.

Pricing

  • Free version: 14-day trial
  • Lite: $10 user/month
  • Pro: $20 user/month
  • Business: $30 user/month

Pros

  • Unlimited meeting length
  • Mobile app functionality
  • Successful rollout with near-zero training

Cons

  • 5 participant limit with Lite plan

3. Zoom

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Zoom has taken over because it is an extremely reliable video conference platform that strikes a great balance between connection quality and bandwidth usage.

Whether joining or hosting, first-time users rave about Zoom video conferencing. It’s full of surprises like being able to preview your mic and camera to ensure everything is in order before the call.

Use links to invite up to 100 participants with the Basic version. Participants don’t have to download Zoom in order to join by phone or computer. Your meeting link and password will work for anyone who has it, though you decide whether or not to admit them.

You’ll quickly gain confidence with the intuitive UI, which puts you a click away from all your essential in-session tools without crowding the screen. You can share screens, record the conversation locally, and engage in public/private chat with other participants.

Paid versions of Zoom video conferencing come with a more robust set of features geared toward business and enterprise users. This includes larger numbers of participants, conferences up to 24 hours, and advanced admin and reporting features.

The Large Meeting add-on lets any companies on any Zoom plan host 500- or 1,000-person meetings.

With its free forever version, Zoom is a no-risk option to try with a virtually flat learning curve. Their flexible, transparent pricing structure means that you can scale the system that works for you instead of being forced into higher and higher tiers.

Pricing

  • Basic: Free forever
  • Pro: 14.99 host/month
  • Business: $19.99 host/month, 10 host minimum
  • Enterprise: $19.99 host/month, 100 host minimum

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Quality integrations for collaboration
  • Competitively priced subscriptions and add-ons

Cons

  • Still ironing out security and privacy issues

4. Google Meet

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I’d put this on the shortlist of all G Suite users. Google Meet (formerly Google Hangouts, also known as Google Hangouts Meet, or just Meet—don’t worry, it’s all the same thing) is basically Zoom with native integration for the business programs you already use.

Plus, all premium features are available to all G Suite and G Suite Education customers until the end of September 2020.

Even at the Basic subscription tier, Meet is a solid video conferencing option that’s built on Google’s secure global infrastructure.

You’ll need a G Suite account to host meetings. External users are fine to join without.

But the UX takes no time to master. Switch between auto, tiled, spotlight, and sidebar views. You can change the layout and pin participants to the screen as needed. You can also turn on captions to show the text of a conversation during a meeting.

Pro tip: Extend Meet’s capabilities with integrations to the G Suite lineup and use Apps Script to build custom solutions. Or try augmenting your CRM software with Meet for video onboarding, interactive sales webinars, or face-to-face customer service.

Pricing

  • Free version: 14-day trial of G Suite
  • Basic: $6 user/month
  • Business: $12 user/month
  • Enterprise: $25 user/month

Pros

  • Secure and reliable
  • Extensible
  • Feature-rich at low cost

Cons

  • No free forever version

5. RingCentral Office

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RingCentral is a longtime provider of business VoIP solutions, but in recent years they’ve expanded to a Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) cloud delivery model with RingCentral Office, which integrates phone, video, meetings, and messaging in one solution.

It’s powerful, but easy to install. Even large-scale, complex setups of RingCentral can usually be done in a day. Then, you can synchronize your Outlook or Google Calendar to get started right away.

Capabilities like video conferencing, telephony, SMS, and online faxing are easy to monitor from a centralized dashboard. Configure audio and video preferences to fine tune your meetings. Control the maximum number of visible participants, entry/exit tones, and other advanced preference settings.

You also get the ability to monitor adoption, usage, and performance, which is useful for getting a sense of how your employees are making use of RingCentral. And under the Quality of Service tab, you can monitor connectivity specifics in video conference sessions across your organization.

Note that video conferencing is not included at the Essentials level, so you’ll have to start with Standard, which is marginally more expensive.

And it may be worth the investment for an all-in-one solution. There are definitely more affordable standalone video options out there, but nothing that will centralize communication for your company like RingCentral.

Pricing

  • Free version: 15-day trial of most plans, 5 user limit
  • Essentials: $19.99 user/month, 20 users max
  • Standard: $24.99 user/month
  • Premium: $34.99 user/month
  • Ultimate: $49.99 user/month

Pros

  • Easy setup, even for large systems
  • Robust admin capabilities
  • Great support

Cons

  • Essentials version does not support video

6. Microsoft Teams

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Microsoft Teams is available as a standalone, free-forever service, or as part of a subscription with certain Microsoft 365 Business and Enterprise plans. This means paid versions come with an entire productivity suite of integrated Office apps, not just Teams.

And Teams is more than just video conferencing software—it’s a best-of-breed collaborative platform. You get chat, file-sharing, wiki pages, and a dashboard with threaded conversations to keep track of different teams and channels.

Teams was already a phenomenal tool for communication when it became the primary video-conferencing platform for Microsoft 365 (replacing Skype for Business). Now you can use Teams to organize your video conferencing, too—for example, by calling every member of a specific channel in one click.

The free version of Teams maxes out at a mere 500,000 users—hard to complain.

It also has all of the chat and collaboration features that come with the paid versions. Native integrations with the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and shared cloud storage mean that everyone can reference what they need during conferences without disruption.

At the paid levels, you get a ton more storage and administrative control, as well as advanced security, auditing, and reporting features. With premium versions of Teams, your Microsoft 365 subscription lets you leverage info from SharePoint and Yammer, and you can record the entire session (audio, video, and screen sharing) directly to Stream.

If you’re already working in a Microsoft environment, Teams is a sensible, low-stress solution for video conferencing.

Pricing

  • Microsoft Teams Free: Free for ever
  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly Office 365 Business Essentials): $5 user/month
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard (formerly Office 365 Business Premium): $12.50 user/month
  • Office 365 E3: $20.00 user/month

Pros

  • Ease of collaboration
  • Native integration with Office apps
  • Guests don’t need a Teams subscription

Cons

  • May cause memory spikes

How to pick the right video conferencing software

The best video conferencing software both ensures reliability and puts users in control.

Also important: you want to find something that meets your internal needs without overwhelming anyone who joins meetings for the first time—after all, these are partners, leads, prospective hires, and paying customers who need your face-to-face help, hassle-free.

Here’s a simple three-step method for landing on a video conferencing service that works for you.

1. Define your target online meeting experience

You’ll find a lot of similarities between video conferencing tools. Go into the search with a clear vision of the experience you want and the function you need.

It’s ideal to have a single solution that works across the company, so choose a plan that’s flexible enough to work in departments with different web conferencing needs. Make sure the platform meets system requirements, and ask stakeholders which features will best empower them.

I can’t stress enough that it’s important to be in control of your video conferencing when you’re essentially making tens if not thousands of first impressions each week.

2. Price out the entire service

Check the limits of the product against the numbers you expect to see. Contact sales and figure out what it’s going to cost to get everyone set up⁠—and to scale in the future.

Then, over-budget.

You want to be excited to see your sales team double the number of trainings and demos each month, not worried about the extra charges. And it can be costly to pay for add-ons and upgrades that might have come standard with video conferencing software you’ve used in the past. Be sure to check how many participants and how much cloud storage you really need.

And did you factor in the cost of video conferencing equipment?

Pro tip: To stay on budget, you can usually mix and match licenses to take advantage of higher-end features without buying expensive licenses across the board. For example, set up a sales manager with a “Pro” license so she gets more nuanced reports on her team, who all have “Basic” licenses.

3. Balance total vision with total cost

Once you’ve identified a product that meets your needs and budget, definitely demo it.

Luckily, every product on our list of best video conference software provides some sort of trial or freemium version.

As you test out the platform, check in with various stakeholders. Are they getting good quality video with as many people as they need?

Beyond the basics, try to get a sense of how the software’s being adopted. Are people excited to use it? Is it helping them do more than they could before?

Try to get feedback from your customers as well. (Meet and Teams have integrated forms that make this a breeze.)

The more feedback, the better you can validate your software buying decision.

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