The Best Web Video Conferencing and Screenshare Apps
Online meetings and events have been booming these past few years, and even more so recently, with the covid-19 outbreak. Now that we are all working remotely, sometimes from our beds, we are looking at the best way to stay connected. So we thought we would review the best web video conferencing and screenshare apps in the marketplace.
There are many software out there for online meetings and events, and it can be really difficult to work out which one will work best for your needs.
This review will suggest the best options for two main use-cases:
- Organise small online meetings or calls (Client or small team meetings etc.)
- Organise larger online meetings & events
For the first use case, there are free tools that are perfectly suitable.
The second use case requires stability and strong marketing features, so you might have to pay for a monthly plan.
At Othership, we use Zoom to hold our online events, you will see why below.
I. Organise small online meetings or calls
Most of you have heard of Skype. Skype has a free web conferencing solution that is worth using if you are trying to organise small calls or meetings. The free version of Skype does allow screen sharing as well.
However, Skype is not as flexible as other apps such as Google Hangouts that do not force participants to download any software. Anyone who wants to use Skype has to sign up, create a Skype name and download the program. In order to use the conferencing features, conference participants must be added to the contact list.
Skype for business is possible, but it will require an Office 365 subscription, which is very expensive. So, Skype for business might not be an option for small businesses trying to organise larger online events.
So, why is Skype a good free option?
- Video calls duration are limited to 100h a month and 10h a day, and 4h per individual call, which is plenty compared to other platforms such as Zoom. After that, the video will simply turn off and you will be switched to an audio call.
- Video option
- Screen-share available
- Video calls can include up to 50 people (49 plus yourself)
Google Hangouts is able to do more than place phone calls. Like many other Google apps, Hangout can be free to use. This platform allows users to receive and send instant messages, receive and send SMS messages, and video chats. Very similar to WhatsApp in a way.
What’s great about Google Hangout, is that it has a very stable browser feature. You don’t have to download an app to use it.
Many people overlook the fact that Google Hangout also gives users the ability to use screen sharing feature, for free.
On the other hand, it is similar to Skype in that users will need to have a Gmail account to use it. Also, users must add each other in order to chat or meet online.
Important to note that you can’t have more than 10 people in a call, which make Hangout a great tool for small meetings and calls, but not suitable for large events.
So, why is Hangouts a good free option?
- No time limit set on the calls
- Video option
- Screen-share available
- Video calls can include up to 25 people (24 plus yourself)
Let’s be honest, OpenMeetings has minimal (Not to say bad) design and UI. It’s also not one of the best-looking solutions, but it’s a completely free web conferencing solution.
OpenMeetings solution has video conferencing, screen sharing, meeting recording, whiteboard capabilities, instant messaging, and collaborative document editing. This solution has features most of the big players have, and, because it’s open-source, it’s possible for a developer to customize the platform.
OpenMeetings is amazing for online collaboration. People can create more than one whiteboard, discuss and edit files. Also, there is a chat feature built into the whiteboard. Again, the UI is not great, but the UX is solid and has drag and drop features.
The website is not straight-forward, and it will take you more time to get set up than any other platform. But it is probably the price of free tools.
So, why is OpenMeetings a good free option?
- No feature limitations
- No time restriction
- No restriction in the number of attendees
II. Organise larger online meetings & events
Two reasons why I wouldn’t recommend GoToMeeting as a free tool:
- You are restricted to 3 participants. You get quite quickly to the limit, even as a small organisation.
- Video calls are not permitted, only audio.
These two restrictions make GoToMeeting irrelevant for small calls compared to Google Hangout or Skype.
Once you’re on a paid plan and have unlocked a decent number of features and participants though, what stands out is GoToMeetings apart mobile-friendliness. You can set up and start a conference from your smartphone, something some big players still struggle to do. You will also find settings to maximise call and image quality, as well as one-tap invites to join meetings.
The app is available on both Android and iOS, and both have high positive review volumes, which again stands out compared to other providers who struggle to balance quality and usability with mobile use.
In terms of pricing, almost all standard features are available with the most basic payment tier, which costs £11 per month, or £9.5 per month with an annual payment. This plan unlocks up to 150 participants, and features such as on-demand polls and marketing integration.
A Business plan tier is available for £15 per month (or £12.67 when paid annually) which increases the number of participants to 250 and includes a few features such as cloud recording, drawing tools and keyboard/mouse sharing.
E. Cisco Webex
Hosted, owned, and developed by networking giant Cisco, Webex is probably one the most popular corporate conference software.
Like most other web conferencing systems, there is a free version of Webex, but again, not worth using, for it limits the number of conference participants to three, and 40min meetings.
HOWEVER, Cisco has set up a plan through the corona virus crisis, to help people stay connected and work from home.
Now, on the free tier, you can have up to 100 participants, meet as long as you want, hold an unlimited number of meetings, call-in from phones and have access to a range of feature usually restricted to paid plans.
You also get a free month when signing up for a monthly plan, and 4 months free if you sign up for an annual plan.
Regarding prices, the “Starter” plan costs £12.5 per month (or £11.25 a month billed annually), and unlocks up to 50 participants and features such as meeting recording, cloud storage etc. The “Plus” plan costs £16.50 per month (or £14.85 per month billed annually) unlocks up to 100 participants, and features such as customisable webex URL and analytics. The “Business” plan, costs £25 per month (or £22.50 per month billed annually), and unlocks up to 200 participants, branding and customisation and other advanced features.
Webex is more expensive than comparable solutions (Such as Zoom) but is an ideal choice for large enterprises and small businesses that are concerned with security. If there is anything great about Cisco, it’s security. Spark has an unbelievable level of encryption.
Zoom’s paid plans are more affordable than Cisco & GoToMeetings. If you are a small business or trying to organise online events, this is probably the best solution.
But like its competitors, Zoom’s free plan only offers 40 minutes of conferencing.
With an upgraded plan, even the cheapest, you can have as many users as you want, unlimited meetings and video conferencing, and many features. Some of the advanced features include active speaker view, dual-stream for dual screens, and full-screen views.
The available features include an MP4 recording of meetings, a personal meeting ID, application or desktop specific sharing, private and group chat, a virtual whiteboard, private rooms within a meeting, on-demand polls, and mouse/keyboard sharing. It is also possible to share the screen of an iPhone or iPad app.
Now let’s talk money. The first paid tier, the “Pro” plan, costs £11.99 per month and gives access to 24h conferencing, meeting recording, on-demand polls, and custom personal meeting ID. The number of participants is limited to 100. The second tier, the “Business” plan, costs £15.99 a month per host for a minimum of 10 hosts, and unlocks up to 300 participants, cloud recording, company branding and other advanced features. The “Enterprise” plan costs £15.99 as well, but for a minimum of 50 hosts, and includes up to 500 participants and other advanced features such as toll-free dialing or “call-me” option.
For those of you who are too lazy to read everything, here is a quick summary:
If you are looking for a free conferencing tool for small meetings, such as say… an online raclette party with your pals, then you would be served with either Skype or Google Hangouts. If you need something stronger, for larger meetings, but still free, then try Apache OpenMeetings.
If you are looking for a robust, affordable, online conference tool, for larger events and meetings, I would recommend Zoom. GoToMeetings is probably just as good, but slightly more expensive. I would recommend Cisco Webex if you are looking for a high-security solution.
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