Choosing a Videoconferencing Platform

To Zoom or Not to Zoom? Choosing a Videoconferencing Platform

Arley Henry and Teresa Shellenbarger

Nurse Author & Editor, 2020, 30(4), 3

The COVID-19 pandemic and need for social distancing have forced those involved with publication to change their traditional workflows. Authors now engage in scholarly activities primarily from a distance. Nurse editors can no longer hold face-to-face meetings with their editorial boards or other constituents. Publishing companies must also modify work for remote activities, as employees are operating from distant locations. To ensure timely publication of articles and journals, all those involved with publishing have adapted to these changes and developed new ways of meeting and conducting business. Many rely upon interactive video conferencing to engage in their work activities and participate in virtual meetings. However, before moving forward with these options, it is crucial to make sure you are using the best technology to meet your needs. This article will provide an overview of popular online video conferencing platforms and collaboration services and guide you through things to consider during the selection process.

Comparing Online Meeting Options

Think about the following factors when choosing the best online meeting platform for your publication needs. Important considerations include cost, security and privacy, available features, number of allowed attendees, operating system requirements, and support and training. Many of these platforms have free services that may or may not be appropriate for your meeting. If you are part of a larger business and need additional security or special features, a closer evaluation of paid plans would be essential. Security and privacy measures have heightened to prevent “Zoom bombing” incidents, where an uninvited third party enters and wreaks havoc on the meeting. Security features increase with paid packages, especially if HIPAA or FERPA compliance is needed. Security features may be less important, depending on the purpose of the meeting.

Another factor that varies based on the package plan includes available features that the platform offers to both the host and attendees. One feature that is often essential is the ability to screen share so that the other participants can see the presenter’s screen. Screen sharing can make editing and information sharing easier and provide real-time feedback. Additional features include file sharing, background effects, screen control, live-captions, and recording ability. The maximum number of users allowed is also tied to cost and features. All the platforms place various limits on the number of attendees at one time or meeting time limits. It is important to keep these limits in mind to determine which platform or plan is best for your specific needs. The platforms provided in this review are available on both Windows and iOS (Apple) devices; however, some only work with more recent software versions. Lastly, evaluate technology support and training when adopting these programs. User support may vary based on the package plan, from basic online help forums to 24/7 live support. Evaluate user needs, both host and participant, to determine if the program is user-friendly or if any additional training is available. There are many online meeting platforms available—we have reviewed five of the more popular platforms you might consider for your authorial and editorial needs: Zoom, Cisco Webex Teams, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet/Google Hangouts.

Zoom

Zoom is one platform that many use for both personal and business needs. You can download the desktop or app version from zoom.us. If you only plan to join as a participant, you don’t need a Zoom account. However, if you are setting up meetings as the host, you will need to create a user account. There are four packages available: Free, Pro, Business, and Enterprise. The Free and Pro versions allow up to 100 participants while the business plan allows up to 300, and the enterprise option allows up to 500. You can use Zoom for an unlimited number of 1:1 and group meetings, but the free version limits meetings to 40 minutes. All versions include the following features: screen sharing, recording, breakout rooms, virtual background, meeting ID, chat, host controls, whiteboard, and multi-share. Support is available for free accounts only through an online ticket request; Pro accounts can access live chat; Business and Enterprise accounts can use online tickets, live chat, and phone support. All accounts provide communication encryption for security. The paid plans include additional security measures not found in the free accounts.

Cisco Webex Teams

Cisco Webex is a platform for both meetings and team options. In a team, you can collaborate with your team members by sharing files and other communication tools such as video and chat options. With Cisco Webex, both external and internal callers can join the meeting. Additional features include whiteboarding, scheduling, meeting recording, muting capabilities, screen sharing, a guest lobby or waiting room, and joining external meetings through the app. There is a free option and additional service package plans. Package plans include Starter, Plus, Business, and Enterprise. Free meetings allow for up to 100 participants for 50-minute meetings. Longer meetings or adding additional hosts require a paid package plan. Online help support is available for free accounts. Additional chat, call-in, and a dedicated support representative are available with paid plans. All plans are secured with encryption options, meeting passwords, locking meeting rooms, and are HIPAA compliant.

Skype

Skype is one of the oldest online meeting platforms—it initially launched in 2003. To use Skype, you need to download and create a profile. Skype’s features include video calling, call recording, live subtitles, screen sharing, chat, ability to call mobile and landline phones, background effects, file sharing, and real-time translation. Skype is free for calls made between two Skype users. If calling landlines, mobiles, or international phones, you need to buy credits for this ability. Skype allows up to 50 participants for free. User support includes online help and a virtual agent. All Skype-to-Skype communication is encrypted, but any calls to mobile or landline phones are not. Skype for Business is now Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams can be accessed through a free version or monthly subscriptions through Microsoft 365. There are four packages available: Free, Microsoft 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Business 365 E3. Features include audio and video calls, screen sharing, background effects, meeting scheduler, unlimited chat, file attachments and file sharing, live captions, integrated apps, and web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Meeting recording is available through the paid plans. You no longer need a Microsoft Teams account to join a meeting, as you can now join as a guest. However, in the guest status, you may have limited access to certain features. Up to 300 participants can use the paid plans. Business 365 E3 also allows for online events of up to 10,000 people. User support for the free account includes basic online help. Paid accounts have access to phone and web support around the clock. Data encryption provides communication security. Paid plans have additional security features such as multi-factor authentication and advanced auditing and reporting.

Google

Google has two video conferencing platforms: Google Meet and Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts is aimed toward smaller groups of up to 10 participants and more informal communication. Google Hangouts has basic features including, video calls, phone calls, chat, and screen sharing capabilities. Google Meet is for larger groups and has additional paid plans. In April 2020, Google made Meet free for everyone with a Google Workspace Account. Note that Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite. Google Workspace packages include Starter, Standard, Plus, and Enterprise. There is also a free Google Meet option, although everyone joining the meeting must sign in with a Google account. The Workspace plans allow for an unlimited number of meetings, live closed captions, screen sharing, adjustable layouts, messaging, and Google drive storage. They also include other Google applications such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. External participants are also able to join meetings. The free plan allows up to 100 participants with a time limit of one hour. The Starter plan allows up to 100 participants, and Enterprise is up to 250 participants. User support for the free plan includes self-help online and community forums, while the paid plans provide additional 24/7 online support. Google Meet provides security with encryption, anti-hijacking features, secure meeting controls, and 2-step verification. Google Workspace is HIPAA and FERPA compliant.

The Online Meeting Platform Comparison Table (Table 1) provides a general overview of the platforms discussed above. For more information on any of these platforms, refer to the company website.

Conclusion

Now that we have reviewed some of the popular platforms, it is up to you to decide which one would work best for you and your collaborators. As stated above, many of the platforms have free plans or free trials, in which you can try the platform for yourself and determine whether to continue use, upgrade your plan, or not. Discuss these options with your colleagues and determine which one will help you meet your publication needs.

Table 1: Online Meeting Platform Comparison Table

This table provides a general overview of five online meeting platforms. For more information on any of the platforms, refer to the company website.

Platform Name Features Overview Price # of Participants Training/Support
Zoom Unlimited group and 1:1 meetings

Free meetings restricted to 40 minutes

Recording available

Screen sharing

Breakout rooms

HD virtual backgrounds

Meeting ID

Chat

Host controls

Remote control

Whiteboard

Multi-share

Free: No cost

Monthly subscriptions:

Pro: $149.90/yr for one license

 

 

Business: $1,999/yr for 10 licenses (may purchase more)

 

Enterprise:

$19,990/yr for 100 licenses (may purchase more)

Free: up to 100

 

 

Pro: up to 100

 

 

Business: up to 300

 

 

 

Enterprise: up to 500

Free: Zoom technical support ticket only

 

Pro: Zoom technical support ticket and live chat

 

Business & Enterprise: Zoom technical support ticket, live chat, and phone support

Cisco Webex Teams Meetings and Teams available

Free meetings restricted to 50 minutes

Allows external callers/collaborators

Whiteboard

Meeting scheduling

Recording available

Guest lobby

Ability to mute others

Screen sharing

Ability to join external meetings through the app

Free: No cost

Monthly subscriptions:

Starter: $14.95/mo

Plus: $19.95/mo

Business: $29.95/mo

Enterprise: contact sales

 

Note: 10% discount if paid annually

Free: up to 100

 

 

Starter: up to 100

Plus: up to 100

Business: up to 200

 

Enterprise: up to 100,000

Free: Online support only

 

Starter: Chat and call-in

Plus: Chat and call-in

Business: Chat and call-in

Enterprise: Chat, call-in, and dedicated representative

Skype

 

Video calling

Call recording

Live subtitles

Screen sharing

Chat

Ability to call mobile and landline phones

Background effects

File sharing

Real-time translation

Free: No cost for Skype user to Skype user

Purchased Credits: To make calls to landlines and mobiles. Credits range from $5-$25.

Subscription fees start at $8.39/mo.

International calling is also available.

Free: Up to 50 Online help and Virtual Agent
Microsoft Teams
(Previously Skype for Business)
Audio and video calls

Screen sharing

Background effects

Schedule meetings

Recordings (paid plans)

Unlimited chat

Guest access

File attachments and sharing (file size limits based on plan)

Integrated apps

Web versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Live captions

Free: No cost

Monthly subscriptions:

Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $5/user/month

Business Standard: $12.50/user/mo

Business 365 E3: $20/user/month

Free: up to 500,000

 

 

Business Basic: up to 300

Business Standard: up to 300

 

Business 365 E3: up to 500,000 + online events up to 10,000

Free: Basic online help

 

Monthly subscriptions: 24/7 phone and web support

Google Hangouts Video and phone calls

Chat

Screen sharing

Free: No cost with Gmail account

 

 

Video calls:

Gmail and G Suite Basic: up to 10

 

 

Free: Self-help online and community forums

Monthly subscriptions: 24/7 online support and community forums

Google Meet Unlimited number of meetings

Free meetings restricted to 60 minutes and participants must sign in from a Google account

Paid Accounts:

Join from a browser

External participants allowed

Live closed captions

Screen sharing

Adjustable layouts

Messaging

Google drive storage (size based on plan)

Free: No cost

 

Monthly subscriptions:

Business Starter: $6/mo/user

 

Business Standard: $12/mo/user

 

Business Plus: $18/mo/user

 

Business Enterprise: Contact sales

Free: up to 100

 

 

 

Business Starter: up to 100

 

Business Standard: up to 150

 

Business Plus: up to 250

 

Business Enterprise: up to 250

Free: Self-help online and community forums

 

Monthly subscriptions: 24/7 online support and community forums

*Note: prices are current as of October 15, 2020

website resources

Cisco. (2020). Cisco Webex Teams. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collaboration/webex-teams.html

Google. (2020). Google hangouts. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://hangouts.google.com

Google. (2020). Google meet. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://meet.google.com

Microsoft. (2020). Microsoft teams. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/microsoft-teamsMicrosoft. (2020).

Skype. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.skype.com

Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (2020). Zoom. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.zoom.us

About the Authors

Arley Henry MSN, RN, CCTN is a PhD student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is the Diabetes Programmatic Nurse Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. Contact Arley by email: hgdw@iup.edu

Teresa Shellenbarger PhD, RN, CNE, CNEcl, ANEF is a Distinguished University Professor and the Doctoral Nursing Program Coordinator in the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA. She is an experienced nurse educator and author. She currently serves as an Author-In-Residence for Nurse Author & Editor and regularly contributes articles about writing. Contact Teresa by email: tshell@iup.edu

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Copyright 2020: The Authors. May not be reproduced without permission.
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