Video Chat: The Best Free And Paid Ways To Conference At Home

By Rick Gonzales | 4 months ago

When the Coronavirus hit the pause button on the world, many people and businesses were left scrambling, trying to find a way to keep going in this time of uncertainty. Most companies have come to the same conclusion: Work from home. To work from home, you’ll need video chat.

Video conferencing and video chat is now on the rise, helping businesses small and large continue their day-to-day. To help, we’ve put together a look at some of the more popular options, some of the more cost-effective options, and anything in between that could help a business continue on during this tough time.

We’ll start with video chat that you pay for. You will also see some of these in the “free” section as they offer both, of course more features in the pay section.



FREE VIDEO CHAT



video chat

Depending on your needs, these free video chat solutions just may do the trick. Some are the basic version of a paid service, but a few offer some great services for a free product.

Lifesize Go Video Chat

This is a free browser-based version of the Lifesize solution described above. It allows users to host an unlimited amount of video calls as well as screen-sharing on your desktop. Up to 8 participants can join with no cap limit on meeting length and there is no app to download.


Zoom Meeting

This free version allows for one-on-one video chat meetings as well as group meetings of up to 100 people. The only drawback to this in the free version is that any meeting with three or more participants gives you only 40 minutes of meeting time. There are some nice features in this version such as application and desktop sharing, and annotations and whiteboarding.


Cisco Webex Meetings

While there are paid plans for Webex Meetings, this free version just may work for you. It allows you to hold HD video chat with up to 100 participants along with the options of screen sharing and private chat rooms. You get a 1 GB of cloud storage, an unlimited number of meetings of unlimited length and you also have the ability to record MP4’s of these meetings.


Microsoft Teams (aka Skype Video Chat for Business)

What was once known as Skype For Business is now becoming Microsoft Teams. It is now part of the Office 365 platform and has the ability to be used on various operating systems such as iOS, Android and obviously Windows 10. Its features include meetings, video chat, calling, note-taking, and file sharing. If you have Skype For Business, you will still be able to use that service, but Microsoft will be phasing it out.


Google Hangouts/Meet For Video Chat


Google Hangouts came first as Google’s introduction to the video chat arena. While Hangouts still remains, Google has now separated it into Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. Part of Google’s new G Suite, Meet is designed for HD video meetings. Meet allows for up to 30 participants with the goal of making meetings on the go easier by including dial-in numbers, links you can join with a single click and better integration with Gmail and Calendar.


FreeConference

The one beauty here is that you will not need to install any software to video chat. Yes, there are apps available but in FreeConference, you can be part of a video conference on just about any device that has a web browser installed. Text or video chats, screen, and file sharing are all part of FreeConference. Of course, there are limitations that are only up to five participants.


Apple FaceTime Video Chat

True, Apple’s FaceTime is Apple’s proprietary video calling app. It’s quite easy to use, allowing Apple users (and ONLY Apple users) to easily make one-on-one video chat calls. But Apple’s FaceTime also has a Group FaceTime option which allows for video calls up to 32 participants. This is also an easy set-up in the FaceTime app. Mac users will be happy to know that this feature not only can be use on your iPhone or iPad, but your Mac as well. Just remember, FaceTime can only be used by those with Apple products.



VIDEO CHAT PAY SERVICES



Web conferencing

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is a web conferencing service provided by software service provider LogMeIn. GoToMeeting provides both audio and video conferencing as well as screen-sharing. Mobile-friendliness is one thing that sets apart GoToMeeting from other services. You are able to set up and even start a video chat from your smartphone. The service has a setting which allows you to maximize your call and image quality and also has a one-tap feature to invite others to join your meeting as well as chats.

GoToMeeting has a few different pricing tiers. They offer almost all standard features with their basic tier, which starts at $12 a month with an annual payment or a monthly fee of $14. This basic tier also allows for a 150-participant limit.

They have a Business Plan that starts at $16 a month for the annual payment or $19 if paid monthly. The participant number jumps to 250 for this plan and also includes some nice admin features such as drawing tools and mouse sharing. There is also an Enterprise plan that allows for very large groups of up to 3,000 video chat participants.

GoToMeeting offers mobile apps for both Android and iOS.


Cyberlink’s U Meeting

Cyberlink is a multimedia software company that offers audio and video solutions. They have user-friendly audio and video editing suites and offer U Meeting as their video chat solution.

Their Basic plan is free to up to 25 participants. There is also a 30-minute meeting time limit. They have a Pro50 and Pro100 plans, the former carries a $29.99 per month per host while the latter can be purchased at $49.99 a month. The only difference between these two is the number of video chat participants. They also offer an Enterprise plan for up to 100 participants.

The neat thing about U Meeting is with any of their paid plans Cyberlink includes a feature called PerfectCam. This feature provides the host with background blur technology so nothing will distract the person on the other end. It also can optimize lighting and has AR-powered touch-up tools to help you look your best for those impromptu meetings.


Zoom Meetings

This video and messaging solution are for both desktop and mobile devices. Zoom Meetings offers a set up that is very quick and easy, while offering a wide range of video chat features.

Zoom meetings provide HD video and audio with the capability of supporting up to 1,000 participants at the same time. It can also support up to 49 videos on a single screen.

Hosts will have the ability to save their meetings locally or to the cloud. They will have transcripts that has searchable text. A key feature is a collaboration giving the video chat participants the ability to share their screens. They can also work together, providing their own notes.

Zoom Meetings has a team video chat feature which allows for file sharing. It also provides a ten-year archive with its searchable history. If need be, Meetings can move to one-on-one calls.

Zoom Meetings has a free tier that is rich in features and is able to handle up to 100 people for as long as 40 minutes. If you wish to add any additional Zoom tools for team admin and management, their price begins at $14.99 per month and goes up to $19.99 a month per host. This price gives hosts a more dedicated business and enterprise package.

Privacy Concerns With Zoom Video Chat

As Zoom has become the de facto way for people to keep in touch, more and more sources are raising privacy concerns with the platform. It’s gone far enough that now the government is getting involved.

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James sent Zoom a letter on March 30, 2020 in which she questioned whether they are doing enough to protect user privacy. According to the New York Times the AG wrote she was, “concerned that Zoom’s existing security practices might not be sufficient to adapt to the recent and sudden surge in both the volume and sensitivity of data being passed through its network… While Zoom has remediated specific reported security vulnerabilities, we would like to understand whether Zoom has undertaken a broader review of its security practices.”


BlueJeans

This is a cloud-based video conference platform. BlueJeans offers three pricing tiers for their video chat customers.

The first is the “Me” tier and will cost $14.99 per user when paid annually. This tier allows up to 50 people who can connect from any computer, Android or iOS device. These meetings come with dial-in numbers.

“My Team” is the next tier, priced at $19.99 a month per host when paid annually. You receive everything in the “Me” tier along with a command center dashboard, up to 75 participants and 10 hours of cloud meeting recordings.

The “My Company” tier includes everything from the first two tiers. It also includes connection H.323//SIP room systems and calendar support for this. The “My Company” allows for up to 150 video chat participants but to get a price quote you will need to call BlueJeans directly.


Lifesize

Another video conferencing platform that offers high def video on a cloud-based video collaboration platform. Lifesize has three-tier pricing. Lifesize Standard starts at $16.95 a host per month and is designed for smaller teams. It offers unlimited meetings for up to 100 participants. This includes personal meeting support, Single Sign-On support, and lone video chat and support for it.

Lifesize Plus is set up for small to midsize companies. This selection offers more features but needs a minimum of 15 hosts at $14.95 a month per host. It allows for up to 300 participants that include phone and email support, Microsoft integrations, real-time meeting insights and 1-hour cloud recording per host.

Lifesize Enterprise carries a $12.95 per month cost with a minimum of 50 hosts. This selection offers unlimited US audio calling, allows for live streaming of up to 1,000 viewer events, premium support and offers unlimited video recording.


Cisco WebEx

This video conferencing service is set up like a meshing of web conferencing and voice calling services. A person can join video chat meetings via the phone or online, depending on where a participant is located and what they may have access to at the time.

WebEx has three plans, the Starter for $13.50 per host per month, the Plus for $17.95 per host per month and the Business for $26.95 per host per month.


The above were some of the bigger names. The paid-for services can be very powerful but also heavy on the pocketbook. If you are a smaller group, perhaps the free versions would be a better fit. The best advice, do your homework before you commit. Take a hard look at your needs and what each service offers. There is something for every business type and in today’s atmosphere, the more selections available, the better for everyone who is trying to maintain their status quo.

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