With the global pandemic still casting its long shadows over our lives, it seems as though our working world has been forever changed. This is not all together a bad thing as working outside of the office definitely has its perks. For starters, it saves on having to pay out exorbitant amounts of rent each month, and then there is the huge benefit of having employees who are more focused and engaged in their work.

But in order to get the most out of this crazy new working environment, you need to get to grips with the technology that makes it all possible.

Without access to the internet and its various capabilities, such as software that enables you to have live video conferencing, the whole working from home setup just would not be possible. And what’s more is that the other big factor that makes working away from the office such a success is having the means to communicate.

While some think that the best communication can be done via email or an instant messaging platform such as WhatsApp, the truth is that the best communication is actually done via video conferencing.

And it is not just those working from home who can benefit from this kind of technology. Many South African based companies have overseas clients or branches in different parts of the country that need to remain in contact. You could be tempted to travel to see these people, face to face, but the reality is that it is simply not always possible to do this.

This is where video conferencing technology comes in, and where you will find that there are at least 5 great (and most times free) software options to choose from.

1.    Zoom

If the words “COVID”, “lockdown”, and “pandemic” were the most popular in 2020, then the word “Zoom” is not too far behind them.

From memes that popped up on the net of people making accidental fools of themselves via conference calls, to the almost séance like start to meetings (Are you there? Can you hear me?), Zoom was without a doubt the most commonly used video platform that you probably had not heard of until the pandemic hit.

And it works as well in the boardroom as it does in the classroom.

Zoom Features

  • It can be used on just about any device, so long as it has internet access, a camera and a microphone.
  • Built-in features make screen sharing possible.
  • Up to 1000 participants can join a video conferencing session.
  • Video meetings are secure and the hosts have the ability to give those in the conference certain permissions.
  • Audio and video is supplied in HD quality.

As for payment, Zoom has various plans, including a free option. The free version allows up to 100 people to join the conference, which makes it suitable for most companies.

The paid for plans are offered on a yearly payment basis and include the Pro, Business, and Zoom Unlimited Options. Most South African companies though, can get away with using the free option.

2.    Skype

In many ways, Skype is the video conferencing software that has been around from the beginning but which has been somewhat forgotten. And that is a shame, because Skype is truly a great piece of free software that can get you connected with your team. Not only does Skype offer video and audio connectivity but it is also a helpful messaging tool that can be used in the place of emailing. Messages are instantly sent, and users can also easily and quickly send all sorts of files as well.

Skype Features

  • Instant messaging and the option of checking the chat history.
  • Calls can be made to both mobile and landline phones.
  • Screens can be shared.
  • Users can send voice messages.
  • Skype can be used on various devices.

Skype is free to use for work and personal uses, although you will need to add money to your account in order to make calls as the option of landline or mobile phone calls are part of the premium feature package.

3.    Google Hangouts (Google Meet)

With little more than a Google account and the usual video conferencing hardware, you can hold a conference from your browser. The Google Hangouts feature is free to use and comes with a few helpful features that will allow you to make the most of the app. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be downloaded, so you can save space.

Google Hangouts Features

  • Calls and video are provided in HD quality.
  • There is the option of screen sharing using a built-in feature.
  • It has intelligent muting.
  • Hangouts is accessible across a number of platforms.
  • Screens can be shared.

Google Hangouts costs around R120 a month if you want the premium features and then there is another premium option but you’ll have to request pricing from Google. If you are just looking for an easy conference tool for day to day meetings, using the free plan should be enough.

4.    Jabber

Jabber is not a mainstream video conferencing tool, but it is great for collaborating and sharing screens, making work meet ups in the virtual world more productive. Jabber can be downloaded to your PC, laptop or smartphone device, and used in much the same way as you would any other video conferencing software.

Jabber Features

  • Helpful screen sharing.
  • Secure video and audio calling.
  • Instant message capabilities.
  • You can see when people are available.
  • It can be used across devices.

Jabber is free to use and can be downloaded from the official website.

5.    Team Viewer

Unlike the other video conferencing software mentioned here, TeamViewer is quite different. TeamViewer is known as remote desktop software and it allows connected devices to access one another. This means if you have TeamViewer and your employee has TeamViewer, once you are connected to one another, you can not only view each other’s desktops but you can also access files and make changes. This is the ultimate collaboration tool.

TeamViewer Features

  • You can control devices as though they are your own.
  • It can work as a VPN.
  • Cross platform connectivity and accessibility.
  • Remote printing.
  • Sharing of files of any size.

TeamViewer is incredibly versatile and a must for IT professionals who need to assist clients from afar. This software is not free to use and pricing starts at roughly R362 for a single user. Company options are a little pricier.

Not sure which video conferencing software you need for your day to day meetings? You can ask Imaginet for the best advice. We can help you find the best solution for you.