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4 handy video-conferencing apps to help you work remotely from home

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The Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed a new reality for most of us — with remote working becoming a staple in our daily routines. How can you stay on top of your game while working from home? The question of how we can be productive away from the office has become a real one. And though there are plenty of telecommuting apps out there for us to choose from, we don’t know where to start. So, here’s a handy guide of video-conferencing tools — with its pros and cons — for you to decide which video app is best for you.

1. Zoom 

Working from home for a while now? You would have already heard of Zoom. Be it through phone-calling, video-conferencing, or instant messaging, Zoom is your ideal tool, with all of the functions you need rolled into one.

Pros

The ultimate app for large and reliable video calls.

You may have been used to conducting presentations in face-to-face meetings, and although no app can replicate that experience, we believe that Zoom offers the best two-way experience due to the crisper HD video options and voice options. In your meetings, feel free to use a handy filter to touch up your appearance, share your screen with your team members, and personalize your virtual background.

A versatile platform!

So let’s say you’re having a virtual team discussion for a new project. With all the great ideas bouncing around, it gets a little hard for you to keep track. Well, use the screen recording function to capture your session for easy reference for you and your team later on. You can even have the audio automatically transcribed. Complementing its video functions, Zoom Chat also enables you to send and receive files, making working together with your colleagues that much easier.

Simple to use.

To join a meeting, just click the link! It can be a publicly shared link from anywhere. Moreover, you don’t need to download any software to join a meeting.

Regardless of the number of people you want to e-meet, Zoom is a worthy contender in your search for the best video-conferencing app.

If you wish to have a quick call to catch up with a small group of friends, the free version of Zoom has got your back! If you work best in smaller teams, this is an ideal set-up too. Want longer meetings? The paid version of Zoom allows you to have unlimited meeting time, in bigger groups.

Cons

Potential security issues

Note that Zoom has had a history of facing certain privacy and security issues. Inadvertently, these have led to “Zoom bombings”, in which hackers have intruded chat rooms, disrupted meetings, and eavesdropped on the ongoing conversations. So, you might probably want to double-check on who’s in the meeting room before starting your session proper.

2.Cisco Webex

There is no wonder why Webex is also one of the most-used video-conference apps out there. Signing up to Webex grants you access to two platforms — Webex Teams, a holistic app which merges video-meeting, group-messaging, whiteboard and file-sharing functions, and Webex Meetings, which facilitates the hosting of webinars with up to 200 participants, depending on the service plan you choose. This means that your online meetings with Webex will make you feel like you’re in the company boardroom. On the whole, it is an awesome choice for you if you need to attend meetings on-the-go from your smart devices.

Pros

Webex gives you the best of both worlds.

While Webex Meetings lets you host your online meetings with HD video, audio and screen sharing, Webex Teams keeps people connected, anytime and anywhere. As Webex is integrated with Outlook and Office 365, it is the perfect space for you and your team to work remotely together online. Other than being connected over virtual meetings, look forward to communicating with your teammates and working on the same documents together in real-time, making your workflow seamless. Also, Webex has a simple user interface. This means that your virtual meetings are now fuss-free! You can share your desktop or any documents with ease, and change your presenters and create whiteboards quickly, whenever you want to. 

Look forward to a generous free service plan.

Including all of Webex’s standard features, such as HD video options, screen-sharing, recording, and seamless integrations with Microsoft Office, Office 365, Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar. Feel free to set up video calls with up to 100 participants. Also, your call time won’t be limited.

Convenience is a given with Webex.

Sign up for Webex completely online, and access the software in a myriad of ways. Kudos to Webex for setting up a desktop app for PC and Mac systems, and a mobile app for Android and iOS devices! To save you time from downloading software, there is also a web app that gives you easy access to the full Webex software from your device, from any browser.

Cons

A short trial period.

Note that the free trial period for access to any of Webex’s service packages is 14 days.

A variety of plans — with a variety of prices.

Other than the free service plan, Webex gives you a few other paid plans to choose from — the Starter, the Plus, the Business and the Enterprise. Each plan is priced differently, being relatively more expensive — as they have additional beneficial features and add-ons, such as more cloud storage and management features and single sign-on options. More importantly, they also vary in terms of the number of participants permitted in a meeting. If you’re looking for a more affordable video-conferencing app that would accommodate a bigger number of participants for your meetings (like say, 200) — Webex might not be your number one choice.

3. Microsoft Teams

This app has been gaining traction as a work-from-home productivity tool. It is superb for you if you’re seeking an all-in-one video-conferencing and multitasking app, especially if you are a staunch Office 365 fan.

Pros

Endless ways to work together.

Once you subscribe to Microsoft Teams, you get access to a platform that is seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Office’s prominent programmes, such as Word, SharePoint, PowerPoint and Excel — at no additional cost. Microsoft Teams enhances your productivity by making all your collaboration, be it through online meetings, conversations, chats, shared tasks or shared files – available on one single interface. You can also spruce up your video conferences with polls and surveys for your audience, share your screen and present your ideas on a digital whiteboard. You can now get creative with communicating your ideas, and your team meetings get even more interactive.

An app that helps you with time management.

Microsoft Teams keeps you on top of your game by helping you prioritize. How? Instead of pouring through an inbox of emails from everyone about everything, this app compartmentalizes information into channels and sorts it out by context. Each channel would be labelled by topic, and hence would display conversations, meetings and documents specifically relating to its topic. This keeps you from being sidetracked by random messages and video calls. Now, you can focus your valuable attention on your official work channels.

Microsoft Bots, at your service.

When you’re on the app, a bot appears just like any other team member you interact with, except as a hexagonal avatar icon, and is always online. As your trusty virtual assistant, it helps you out just when your everyday tasks may seem repetitive. Whenever you’re feeling lost on the interface, pop over to ask a question.

Cons

Unnecessary storage consumption.

When more teams are created on the app, it can lead to more of your storage space being taken up. One way out of this could be to restrict team-creating permissions to a set of users — just that it takes quite a bit of effort to do so. So if adequate storage space is the main consideration for you, be mindful of the teams being created and linked to your account!

Mainly designed for teams

Essentially, the app is designed for work teams or businesses. Individual access can be granted, but only via personal Skype accounts. This would require you to download Skype software to attend Team meetings, which adds a step to the process of joining in.

4. Google Hangout

Is Gmail a go-to for you and your team? Google Hangouts would be your top choice for fast and easy video chats. Conferences can be made casual with this app. Only 25 people can participate in a video call at once, but up to 150 people can join in a chat.

Pros

User-friendly!

As with Gmail, it’s free-to-use and accessible. Go from email chain to video chat in a matter of seconds, with a click of a button. Video chats work fine both on your device and on the web. Now, you can communicate with your teammates across various ventures.

An added benefit Hangouts Meet.

This feature enables group video-calls and utilises machine learning technology. By analyzing your team’s calendars and schedules, it suggests (and instantly books) suitable dates and times for your team meetings. The bookings are made directly to everyone’s individual Google Calendar, so it saves you the extra step.

Cons

You should be ready to live in the G Suite

A hangout is easily joined via Gmail, the Hangouts app, or via a Google Chrome extension. This means that accessibility is enhanced with a personal Gmail account.

Which app is best for you? Are there other apps on your list? We’ll leave it to you to decide. Think of our list as a starting point to help you organize your search. When you’ve narrowed it all down, let us know your choice in the comments below! 

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