The Best Video Conferencing Services For 2018
In the modern business environment, teams are going global. Remote workers and digital collaboration are more common than ever, many times across borders. That means teams need a way to meaningfully come together despite their geographic distances. Audio conference calls might work, but meaningful, non-verbal communication can be lost in translation, whether it's gestures or facial expressions. For teams to be working at their best, they need to engage in the most meaningful type of communication possible.
Video conferencing software was developed to achieve exactly that kind of meaningful communication. With this software, teams can interact as if they were in the same room, even when they are thousands of miles apart. Even scattered teams can come together as if they were sitting around a conference table to see, hear, and interact with one another.
Beyond enhancing meetings to include non-verbal communication, the best video conferencing solutions also offer helpful tools that increase teams' ability to collaborate with one another across great distances.
Video conferencing solutions are largely cloud-based, but there are also conference room solutions that are more focused on hardware and local implementation. Which you choose depends on the needs of your business and your budget, but each has its advantages. Pricing can also vary depending on the number of users you need to support and how comprehensive you want your slate of features to be, but most video conferencing solutions adhere to a subscription model that charges based on a per user, per month basis.
Business.com reviewed some of the top video conferencing solutions to give you a better idea of what you can and should expect out of your software. In the rapidly growing industry of video conferencing solutions, it's important to know exactly what you'll be getting for your money.
Cloud-based video conference platforms tend to offer a subscription-based pricing model that is often charged on a "per user, per month" basis. In our reviews, subscription prices tended to range from about $5 per user per month for more basic services to roughly $40 per user per month for more comprehensive packages.
What determines the costs of subscriptions?
Video conferencing solutions vary in price, but which components drive costs tend to be fairly uniform. The first major consideration in terms of price are to how many participants (or sometimes hosts) you anticipate offering access. Generally, the more participants needed on a video conference, the higher your subscription price is going to be. It's important to partner with a vendor that offers subscription tiers appropriate for your number of users, so you don't waste money on perpetually empty seats just because you narrowly missed the cut off for a lower level plan.
The next consideration is which features each subscription tier offers. How features impact price really depends on the company. Some companies we reviewed offer all their features with every level of plan, while others restricted the best features to their highest cost subscriptions. When it comes to selecting a plan that meets your needs, it's important to have a list of must-have features put together before browsing. That way, you will only focus on subscription plans that meet your needs, and then you can adequately compare price points apples-to-apples across companies.
Some video conference platforms also offer add-ons for an additional fee. These add-ons augment the capabilities of a subscription plan by building on the amount of participants permitted, the recording storage space included, and other similar features. Add-ons serve as a way to expand your subscription package without bumping up to the next pricing tier.
Enterprise systems and hardware
Other platforms, particularly those focused on enterprise companies or conference room hardware, require a quotation from a company sales representative. These systems can generally be built out to custom specifications and require a more complex installation and implementation process, so it's important to have a detailed discussion about your needs before establishing an estimated cost.
What is Video Conferencing?
Video conferencing software allows team members to meet "face-to-face" with high definition audio and video feeds. As a result, the best video conferencing solutions make communicating with team members across the world an easy process. Team members will be able to better understand one another with access to the full spectrum of human communication, which includes non-verbal gestures and expressions. Clarity of purpose is key, and video conferencing software helps users express themselves more clearly to other participants.
And it's not just face-to-face communication that is enabled by video conferencing software, but actual collaboration in real-time, with a variety of tools that can help team members brainstorm and hash out ideas together. Features like screen-sharing, whiteboarding and presenter swap all help contribute to an environment that breeds new ideas and solutions, rather than just discussion. For sessions that teams might need to refer back to, either to stay on track or to refine an idea, the best video conferencing solutions offer the ability to record and store both video and audio in high definition.
The best video conferencing solutions boast strong analytics and reporting tools that can grant businesses insights into how effective the platforms are for their organization. Things like how many meetings were held, how long each one lasted, how many participants were on the call, and so on are easily displayed in many video conferencing software reporting sections. This helps teams dissect both their own collaboration strategy, as well as understand the value they're getting out of their video conferencing solutions.
Finally, video conferencing software often integrates with a variety of popular third-party applications that businesses have come to rely on. Among the most common integrations are apps like Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook and Google's G Suite. Some solutions will grant developers access to APIs in order to build out integrations with other third-party applications not automatically supported or proprietary software developed in house. As a result, video conferencing software can be used with the full ecosystem of software solutions implemented by your business.
Contract Negotiation and Service Review
Because many video conference platforms are cloud-based, most companies offer a limited free trial so you can generally take the software for a test spin. That way, you'll know what you're getting before you start discussing which plan is best for you. However, some companies restrict features or set limits in their trial and free versions. Understand if you've played around with a limited version or if you've explored all the features that you'll get with a paid plan.
It's also important to know exactly how your service's pricing works. Some platforms charge a flat monthly rate, but most are on a per user, per month basis. Some video conference companies charge a per host, per month rate, which could be slightly different if some of your employees are just going to serve as participants in meetings rather than hosts.
Finally, make sure you understand exactly what you'll be getting for your money. For example, if you were given a demo of the highest pricing tier available, but then you purchase the mid-range subscription, you might be surprised to learn you're missing some of the features the demo sold you on. Luckily, most video conference companies clearly spell out which features are available in which plan on their website.
Compared to many other products and services we've reviewed, video conference platforms tend to be upfront about what they offer and their pricing, and most allow you to try out the product before buying. As long as you read carefully and take advantage of free trials, making the right decision for your business should be a relatively straightforward process.
Read all our reviews of video conferencing software and systems below.
Google Meet Review
Skype for Business Review
Amazon Chime + Vonage Review
Zoho Meeting Review
To select the best video conference services for businesses, we created a list of more than 30 reputable companies based on other reviews, as well as user feedback on each service. From there, we eliminated vendors that emphasize video conferencing hardware rather than a solid mobile experience, since hardware is typically more expensive and becomes outdated quickly. We also eliminated vendors that don't provide pricing online, don't offer free trials or have higher prices than average.
We analyzed each service based on the following factors to determine our final choices:
- Ease of use: How difficult is it to learn the system? Will this lead to headaches for staff and clients, or will they be able to easily adapt to an intuitive, user-friendly format?
- Features: This research looked at the many different features a video conference service could include. Does it allow multiple participants, or is it exclusively one-on-one? Can different applications and services be integrated into the system? Is it scalable? Can you share images and files with other participants? Is screen sharing available? Can it interoperate with other services? Those services with more options for the end user scored more highly in our review.
- Cost: This factor was based not only on whether the packages were reasonable compared to other services, but also if the companies were upfront about their pricing information on their websites. This includes the prices for hardware and annual maintenance.
- Transparency: This included how much information we could gather about the company from its website, how upfront the business is about its initial and maintenance costs, and the quality of user experience (including our own experience with free trials where applicable).
- Customer service: We posed as prospective customers to get a sense of how the company handles customer service, both over the phone and online. Reviews and complaints from websites like Ripoff Report and the Better Business Bureau also informed our ratings here.
State of the Industry
The video conference marketing is a growing one, as businesses of all sizes around the world continue to adopt digital technology and more people gain reliable internet access. According to Transparency Market Research, the global video conferencing market was worth more than $5 billion in 2016 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 7.9 percent from 2018 through 2026 to eclipse $10 billion in total market value. For another perspective on the industry, Berkshire Hathaway's Business Wire valued the market size as slightly lower in 2017 at $4.98 billion, but anticipated a faster CAGR of 8.6 percent from 2017 through 2025.
Video conference software is used by businesses large and small in a variety of industries. Some the main industry's adopting video conference software are healthcare enterprises, government agencies, and manufacturing companies.
Major vendors in the video conference industry include Adobe, Arkadin, Cisco, Logitech, Microsoft and others. The industry is largely shifting toward cloud-based solutions for video conference services, especially as globalization creates larger, more geographically dispersed companies. Video conferencing is a largely consolidated industry, according to Business Wire, with a handful of companies controlling more than 60 percent of the industry's total market revenue.
Important Video Conferencing Features
Video conferencing platforms are much more than just a tool to talk face-to-face over the internet, although they excel at connecting teams with high definition audio and video. They are also full-scale collaboration tools that come along with an arsenal of features to help you better engage with one another and develop ideas, right on the computer screen.
When shopping around for a video conferencing solution, it's important to understand which features are included in which subscription plans. Sometimes, companies restrict the best features for higher level pricing tiers. Other companies offer full access to features at all pricing levels and restrict other things, like recording space and storage. Subscription models vary on a company-to-company basis, so be sure you know what features you absolutely need before you buy, and make sure the subscription you choose includes those features.
Here are some of the most useful collaboration features we saw in video conferencing software we reviewed, and a brief description of what they do:
- App integration and open APIs: The best video conferencing solutions integrate with popular third-party applications, allowing you to share data and functionality between your video conference software and services like Microsoft Outlook or Salesforce. Some even have open APIs that allow developers to create new integrations to additional or proprietary applications.
- Polls and surveys: With this feature, users can create polls or surveys for the audience so presenters can gain feedback or insights about the topic at hand. The information could be used to determine a specific course of action, delegate responsibilities, or simply solicit feedback to improve future workflows. Users can generally create polls with single choice, multiple choice or open-ended formats.
- Private chat: Private group chat rooms allow users to converse while a presenter is speaking, without interrupting. In addition to a private group chat room, many video conferencing solutions also enable one-to-one private messaging.
- Recording and storage: The best video conferencing solutions allow users to record and store both video and audio. This is useful for crucial meetings where big topics are up for discussion, webinars that include useful training material, or interactions that clients might want to review later. Storage space varies from company to company, and can be priced differently depending on subscription models.
- Screen sharing: One of the most important collaboration features that video conferencing software has to offer is the ability for presenters to share their screens. Whether you need to walk colleagues through presentations and files, or you're training new employees or clients on how to use the system, the ability to share your screen – or even remotely command another user's screen – often comes in handy.
- Subaccounts: Subaccounts is a feature that enables you to grant other users access to a specific account, without divulging your login credentials. All subaccount users receive their own, private login credentials, as well as their own allocation of storage space for recording and storing video and audio.
- Waiting room with agenda: Many times, participants join a conference call before the host or presenter is ready. When that happens, having a waiting room with an agenda available for participants to review is a great feature to have. Some video conference solutions offer this feature as a way to help participants prepare ahead of a meeting, and to give them something to do while they wait for a conference call to begin.
- Whiteboard: Another immensely useful collaboration tool is the whiteboard feature, available on many video conference platforms we reviewed. This tool allows users to markup documents or sketch out ideas in a cooperative brainstorming process. Whiteboarding tools are great for sessions where multiple participants are spit-balling in depth ideas that others could benefit from seeing jotted down in a visual way.
List of 10Best Video Conferencing Services
8x8 Virtual Office
8x8 Virtual Office is a complete business phone and team collaboration suite that includes web conferencing and one-to-one video chat features. While the company's suite of solutions is relatively vast, it is easy to find and navigate the video conference features. 8x8 also maintains integrations with several popular third-party applications, including Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office 365, and Gmail.
Amazon Chime + Vonage
Amazon Chime + Vonage is a bundled package of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone services and video conference software. The partnership creates an affordable communications suite for startups or companies that are looking to revamp their communications. Amazon Chime maintains all the essential features we looked for in a video conference platform, making it a useful collaboration tool for any team.
Arkadin is a cloud communications company that implements and manages a variety of video conferencing solutions, among other cloud-based software. From implementation and integration to training and support, Arkadin relieves your company of the heavy lifting associated with getting a video conference solution up and running.
ClickMeeting is a top-notch option for any size of business in need of video conference services. It offers every essential feature and some additional ones that are nice to have. It is easy to learn and use, and its service is reliable.
Meet by Google Hangouts is a straightforward, affordable web conferencing option that supports 25-30 devices for participation in a meeting.
Join.me is a comprehensive video conference platform that has more than enough features to keep even advanced users satisfied. With three pricing tiers and up to 250 conference participants, Join.me can support meetings small and large. The platform's simplicity and ease of use mean minimal training is required to get your staff up and running.
RingCentral Meetings is a quality video conference platform that is inexpensive without skimping on features. It is a good choice for any small or midsize business, or even large businesses that don't expect over 100 participants on any given call.
Skype for Business
Skype for Business is a simple and inexpensive but good-quality video conference solution. It lacks some of the bells and whistles of other platforms, but for the entrepreneur who just wants straightforward video conference software, Skype for Business is the way to go.
Zoho Meeting is a unique and versatile solution for video conferencing and webinar needs. It is hosted entirely on a web browser, meaning hosts and participants don't have to download and install the software. Every one of its features is available on all pricing tiers, so every paid subscriber will have access to the full Zoho Meeting experience.