Which video conference software offers the best free version nowadays? Which are their free plans limitations? Do they offer what you need to work during the lockdown?
Many of us who had been working remotely for a while were able to test a few of the existing video conference software, but for those just starting to work from home due to the Coronavirus lockdown, there hasn’t been really much time to prepare or verify which of the top alternatives is the best suited for their needs.
There’s no need to worry though, a few of the top video conference systems offer a free version, that in many cases have been now expanded to allow new work from home professionals to use the software without restrictions for free during lockdown.
What do these free versions offer though? Here’s a review of the best known video-conference software free versions features, advantages, limitations, pros and cons:
The free version of one of the most popular videoconferencing services, Zoom, can host up to 100 participants. Zoom’s basic plan offers unlimited one-to-one meetings and online support. Its video conferencing features HD video, HD voice, active speaker view, full-screen and gallery view, and simultaneous screen share. The platform also offers several robust group collaboration and security features.
So what’s not to love about Zoom even without all the bells and whistles? The main issues are the 40-minute time limit and no built-in recording feature. If you can live within those parameters, though, basic Zoom should be satisfactory for your purposes.
In response to all the coronavirus-prompted school closings, Zoom has temporarily lifted the 40-minute restriction for K-12 schools in many countries. As more work gets done remotely in response to COVID-19, Zoom may also loosen restrictions in non-educational sectors.
Like Zoom, GoToMeeting’s free version, appropriately named GoToMeeting Free, allows you to host 40-minute meetings. It offers screen sharing and webcam support. You can broadcast a view of your desktop or of an app on a Mac, iPhone, or Android device, or meet face-to-face with full webcam support.
GoToMeeting Free features chat to allow you to add context, share links, or otherwise interact. What it doesn’t let you do is host a lot of people. In fact, the free version only allows you to meet up with three of your besties, clients, or colleagues.
Only allowing three people at a time to videoconference doesn’t leave much room for flexibility. Still, GoToMeeting is a well-regarded service. If you’re interested in checking out the business version, you can sign up for a 14-day free trial.
This videoconferencing service looks a bit different than the others. Instead of displaying participants’ pictures in square boxes, join.me shows them in circles, otherwise known as video bubbles. Participants can move the video bubbles around or even bounce them off of each other to put some fun into videoconferencing. For those who want the conferencing without the video, join.me lets a total of three people connect through dedicated dial-in numbers or through the computer (VoIP).
The platform proclaims that it’s “all about breaking down the barriers to communication.” So nobody has to sign up for the meeting, and videoconferencing is available on iOS-9 mobile devices. There’s also no need for Google Chrome users to download anything. You can quickly start or join meetings from your desktop or iOS 9 device.
Join.me is a fun, quirky solution for small groups of users. But since it only allows three users per conference, it quickly reaches scalability limits.
Although this conference provider is not nearly as well-known as the others—especially Zoom and GoToMeeting—it’s quickly gaining traction. And this might be an especially good time to try out the service because CEO Craig Walker has eased restrictions on time and number of participants.
UberConference’s free version usually allows up to 10 participants for meetings up to 45 minutes. Thanks to coronavirus, though, the company increased those limits. It now allows 50 participants to meet for up to five hours. Participants on the free plan will still have to use a PIN, though.
According to the website, new users will be credited for two months if they want to try UberConference’s Business service. One unique component of the Business bundle is that it offers real-time transcription and Smart Notes, which are snippets of the meeting and action items.
But let’s get back to the version that will always stay free. Even under pre-COVID-19 conditions, UberConference Free was a decently robust audio- and/or videoconferencing solution. At the free level, the company offers unlimited conferences, screen sharing, HD quality audio, and mobile apps. It also provides the valuable perk of a recording.
You may wonder whether UberConference has anything to do with Uber. The short answer is yes, although they didn’t start off that way. UberConference CEO Craig Walker explains, “We started working with Uber as they were heavy users of UberConference for a while before we even launched Dialpad (a pure-cloud business communication platform). Both products fit their culture of innovation and disruption, so Dialpad was a natural fit once they started looking for a modern business communications service.”
If UberConference works for Uber, it may well work for you.
A conference call provider you may not have heard about is Whereby. There’s a good reason for that: Whereby’s free version is relatively spartan. One user can access one meeting room and host up to four participants. The company says that it offers easy-to-read meeting room links and custom and unique links for your meeting rooms (whereby.com/yourname).
You can access the platform through a desktop or mobile device and share screens. Once you’re in Whereby’s single meeting room, you can open YouTube videos to play for everyone in the room.
So there you have it: pro and con snapshots of five videoconferencing services. Unless you’re already married to a particular service, check these out and see if they’ll ease your new or existing social-distancing dilemmas.
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