At last we are making the best use of the technology available and
passing up on unnecessary travel, unnecessary face to face meetings and
embracing the video chat as part of our daily working lives. Of course, Skyping
people around the globe had been embraced decades ago and is part of the
routine of many families separated by oceans and seas. But it is only with the recent pandemic
closures that the full appreciation of online conferencing and video meetings
came into their own. So which system/app
will work best for your needs and in the face of publicity about security and
end to end encryption, which is the safest?
Here is a quick guide to what is out there.
The warrior workhorse of the online video chatting apps. It’s been around so long that many are devout
and avid users. But over the years Skype
has become a little ‘glitchy’ and video conferencing has been fraught with
dropped participants and patchy video links.
This is not surprising really as the company had not updated its
features and Microsoft put all their attention into favourites like Microsoft
Teams. Skype offers a way to create video conferencing, but
you probably didn’t even know this feature existed, such is the decline of
Skypes marketing and usability. Skype once had 300 million daily users.
This is now down to 23 million. A
sad end to an App that saw the word ‘skype’ being added to the Oxford
Dictionary as a verb.
Zoom became the success story of the Global
pandemic. Its ease of use and free
use, make it a very popular video chatting app for online parties, quizzes as
well as work meetings and tutorials.
One of the best features for conferencing is its ability to go ‘into
rooms’ in sub groups. It allows for
sharing documents and is incredibly easy to use. Free for 40 mins calls, and on an increasing
cost scale after that, depending on the level you need. Zoom is so popular that
it may also find itself as a new entry in the modern dictionary. However, zoom
bombing may be in there too. Zoombombing or Zoom raiding is an unwanted, disruptive intrusion,
generally by Internet trolls and hackers, into a video conference call. Zooms security
issues received much media attention earlier in the year and it is in not
entirely fair, as Zoom is not end to end encrypted, but then neither is Skype,
House party or many other Apps. The
brand have been working hard to dispel the accusations and despite the security
issues, Zoom has been the App of choice as the world copes with a Pandemic. From Yoga tutorials to birthday parties to
business symposiums, Zoom has been right up there.
currently sits at the top of the US App Store list, and second position in the
UK App Store list.
Microsoft Teams is the
App of choice for Healthcare providers, Tusla and governmental agencies. Its
secure encryption is its selling point. It is the grown up version of Zoom, with
encryption. Very trustworthy, solid and
private. Microsoft Teams is according
to the blurb, a ‘chat-based
collaboration platform complete with document sharing, online meetings, and
many more extremely useful
features for business communications. Having an excellent team space is key to being able to
make creative decisions and communicate with one another.’ Some users report it as being a bit ‘clunky’
but if your workplace is already using Office 365, it the obvious choice and
available already to you. It can have
up to 250 participants so is the darling of the online conference. Microsoft
has a reasonable start-up cost of about €12.50 a month and extending after
Free Jitsi is a 100% open source and freely
available to use and develop with.
It is very secure and easy to use as only
host needs to download. Participants can join at meet.jit.si. Some users have reported that it
is a bit ‘jittery’ on group calls, but its improving all the time so it’s
a good choice when security is needed on a free App
This is the most popular App in the UK for Video Chat. If you are looking for a business video chat,
perhaps one called House Party, will not quiet present the correct company
vision. (Unless you actually are event organisers and even then…) Reports of hacking and security issues have dogged House Party, but developers, Epic
Games, claim that this is a smear campaign and without foundation. House Party is generally in use for more
social occasions than for the monthly sales meeting. It alerts you when your
friends and contacts are ‘in the house’ and you can then join them for a….
WhatsApp Group Call
Free and easy to use, WhatsApp allows you to
connect with four other participants on a Group call. It’s fairly straight forward and works well,
even when internet connections are poor.
easy to use also. Google Hangouts allows
25 people to join a conference call. It is safe and encrypted once you are
chatting to people you know and trust. You will need a Google account if you want to create Hangouts or generally use the platform. Those who don’t have
a Google account can still join a
Hangout if a participant in the meeting has a G Suite account and gives approval to the external guests. This restricts the participants a bit, but as
the App is particularly easy to use, allows sharing of documents and has no
cost attached, it may be a small inconvenience.
it doesn’t matter which system you choose if the participants are unfamiliar
with the etiquette of online video conferencing. We have all heard and seen the footage of people
picking noses, standing up to reveal their lack of pants and taking the lap top
off to the toilet to continue the meeting thinking that they cannot be
seen. Irish MEP Luke Ming Flanagan
entertained the European parliament be attending a meeting, sitting on the bed
in his back bedroom in Roscommon wearing his short shorts and a Spanish TV
anchor was caught cheating when a semi naked woman walked through the
background in his Video call. Children interrupting the call, cats trotting
across the keyboard, partners and family making cameo appearances and the
classic ‘you are muted John!’ make video chatting an entertaining and not
always productive way of conducting business. Zoom advises video chatting with
a wall behind you to decrease distractions and the likelihood of an
embarrassing ‘walk through’. Keeping
the back ground neutral is also advised, as open wardrobe doors and strange
artefacts can distract the eye of participants.
If you really want to impress, there are Zoom virtual backgrounds to be
downloaded so your colleagues can admire your participation while the Northern
Lights twinkle behind you, or as the waves crash on a tropical shore. Video conferencing and virtual meetings are
yet another of the few positive change to our working lives that came with the
negativity of the Global pandemic. There
is no doubt that we, and the video chatting apps will be improving our online
skills and embracing the virtual meeting, training course and conferencing as
the way forward.