The COVID-19 situation and the spreading pandemic has turned the daily life of many companies upside down. It has forced us to change our usual ways a little, too. We have quickly switched entirely to remote work and remote software development. No wonder, it didn’t take us long to switch to remote knowledge sharing as well.
At Codete, we’re really into sharing our expertise. Before the pandemic, we would organize and take part in many conferences and meetups, but now — all of them got canceled. We had to either give up on them or look for online alternatives, and of course we did the latter. But we didn’t just want a tool for having video conferences (meaning: discussions) or for hosting webinars (meaning: presentations) only. We wanted a solution for both.
In this blog post, I’ll tell you about our search for the right video conferencing software that can be also used for webinars, and give you a few tips on how to choose the best one for your company.
How to choose the best video conferencing and webinars software for your business?
Before you start searching, think about your needs and the requirements that your ideal video conferencing and webinars tool should meet:
- How many people will participate in your video conferences?
- How many people will participate in your webinars?
- What platforms and web browsers will the participants use?
- Are the participants tech-savvy?
- How important is the quality of the audio/video to you?
- Do you need a live chat, screen sharing, files transfer?
- How big is your budget?
Here are a few extra things to consider concerning webinars:
- How many attendees do you expect?
- Are you planning to give live webinars or pre-recorded webinars?
- Would you like to engage your audience?
- Do you need built-in marketing features?
- Do you need automated scheduling?
- Are analytics and real-time analytics important to you?
And the list goes on…
Of course — you’d probably like to have the full package, but do you really need all the options? Unless you have an unlimited budget, I strongly recommend setting priorities. Extra features are always tempting, but many people who decide to splurge on flashy but unnecessary options, end up with large bills to cover and a lot of possibilities they will never use.
Our video conferencing and webinars software requirements
We knew we wanted a 2-in-1 tool for both internal video conferencing for 100+ people and for live webinars for 50+ participants. Ideally, we also wanted to collect the emails of the attendees.
In our case, the priorities were:
- Accessibility on different devices, operating systems, and browsers
- Usability (we aimed at an easy-to-install, easy-to-use tool)
- Good quality of audio/video
- Stable connection
- Free/low-price plan
We arrived at a couple of tools to further investigate.
Video conferencing and webinars software for business — roundup
Here’s the list of tools for business that allow for both video conferencing and webinars:
- Google Hangouts Meet
- Microsoft Teams
- Zoho Meeting
Let’s have a closer look at each of them.
GoToWebinar is GoToMeeting’s younger sibling made by the same company, LogMeIn. The former allows for hosting professional webinars, while the latter is mainly a classic video conferencing and collaboration tool. Once you purchase GoToWebinar, you also get a free license for GoToMeeting, but sadly — it doesn’t work the other way round. If you purchase GoToMeeting, you can get GoToWebinar or GoToWebinar Lite as an optional add-on.
GoToWebinar allows for hosting webinars for up to 1000 attendees and, depending on your pricing plan, gives you many extra features such as: planning and scheduling, recording and pre-recording, screen sharing and engaging the audience, as well as issuing certificates. It offers real-time analytics and a handful of marketing options. No downloading is required on the attendees’ part, they can join the webinar via browser.
When it comes to GoToWebinars’ downsides, two main issues are the outdated user interface and, well, the cost. This solution comes with a wide variety of features but at a price. Of course, the cheaper the pricing plan, the smaller the number of functionalities that you get. According to their website, their Pro plan (which is the middle one) is their bestseller. If you need a premium option and have the budget for it, don’t hesitate to give the free 7-day trial a go.
- Rich in features
- Comes with a free license for GoToMeeting
- 7-day free trial
- Outdated, difficult-to-navigate user interface
- Some users have reported audio problems
You can find all the details on the GoToWebinar website.
Google Hangouts Meet
If your company already uses Google+ solutions, Google Hangouts Meet comes for free. It’s easily accessible and user friendly, and gives you great scheduling options, but barely any analytics and marketing options for webinars. If you’re a small business with a very tight budget and don’t intend to organize large meetings or paid events, you may want to check it out, though.
You can organize video conferences for up to 30 people on Google Hangouts Meet, or stream and record a webinar for a larger audience via your YouTube channel. All the analytics and marketing features you get, are those that are built into YouTube.
- A good starting point for small companies with tight budgets
- Easy to access, easy to use
- Only for small events
- No built-in analytics, automation, or marketing options
- Requires having a YouTube channel for streaming
Learn more on the Google Hangouts Meet website.
Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype for Business)
Microsoft Teams has replaced Skype for Business, and as you can tell by the name — it’s a Microsoft solution, probably already familiar to many Office 365 users. It’s mainly a collaboration tool, but it also allows for webinars with external participants, known as live events. Up to 250 people can participate in the meetings, and up to 10.000 attendees are allowed in the live events. The audience doesn’t have to install anything to join a meeting or even.
Live events can be scheduled and recorded, but the organizers are given next to none analytics and marketing options. If your main goal besides video conferencing is to broadcast to a large audience, Microsoft Teams might be a good option for you. In general, it’s a reliable and secure solution that works both on computers and mobile devices, but it doesn’t support all browsers. So, for example, if you’re using Chromium on your Linux operating system, you may have trouble joining a Teams meeting.
You can try MS Team out by setting up a free basic account.
- Allows for broadcasting to up to 10.000 users
- No downloads required for participants
- Comes with a free basic plan
- Not too many features for webinar hosts
- May not work properly on some operating systems/browsers
You can read more on the Microsoft Teams website.
Webex and Zoom are the leading solutions on the market, and they offer comparable software. In my opinion, Webex comes with a better free version. The paid versions are very similar, but when it comes to prices, Zoom proves cheaper.
Webex by Cisco is an enterprise collaboration and webinars solution. If you’re looking for top-shelf software for video conferencing and large audience webinars, this may be the right choice for your business. Webex allows for hosting meetings for up to 200 participants and webinars for up to 40.000 participants, and it gives you a set of analytics, engagement, and customization options. You can record your events, too. It works well as a web application, but there’s also a mobile version of the app.
What about the downsides? It’s clear that it’s built mainly for internal meetings and webinars rather than for customer webinars, but you can’t complain about the latter either. It’s simply a quality solution for bigger businesses (or free personal use), but companies focused on customer webinars may be dissatisfied with the lack of automation or promotion options.
- Amazing audio/video quality
- Easy to use and practical features-wise
- Allows many participants and attendees
- Available as a mobile app, too
- Great free “personal” plan
- Designed for internal events
- Requires a Webex extension to join an event
- Expensive paid plans
At the time of the pandemic, Webex upgraded their free plan. It’s a limited time offer (no end date established yet), but worth checking out.
You’ll find all the details on the Webex website.
Zoom is yet another software built mainly for large companies, but it comes with a good free “personal” plan for up to 100 webinar attendees too. It has all the video conferencing features you may need: screen sharing, recording, chat, etc. As for webinars, it’s not rich in analytics and marketing features, but it does give you webinar reports. The quality of the audio and video connection is good, and the software (including the download process) is fairly user-friendly. At most, 1.000 participants are allowed.
Just like Webex, Zoom is designed and works best for internal meetings and webinars, therefore it may not be enough for companies who place customer webinars in the center of their business strategy. For best results, these should opt for software dedicated to such events. But for most purposes, Zoom will do just fine.
When it comes to Zoom’s disadvantages, it’s definitely the need to download it before launching. Even though it’s super easy, it may be discouraging to some people — especially taking the Zoom security issues into account, which I’ll address below.
- User-friendly and accessible
- Provides all the basic functionalities
- A satisfactory free “personal” plan
- Customizable paid plans
- Requires downloading
- Time limit for the free-plan events
- Recent security issues
Zoho Meeting is one of the cheapest video conferencing and webinars solutions. If you don’t plan on hosting meetings and webinars for large audiences, this may be the right option for you. The cheapest plan costs 15 EUR/ month and allows you to host webinars for 25 attendees and store 25 recordings. It’s simple and user-friendly, but if you happen to have any problems — Zoho is known for outstanding customer service and support.
This software solution has all the basic functionalities a small company may need: simple processes, customized registration, easy access on different browsers and devices, basic analytics and automation. You may be disappointed if you count on advanced tracking, though. In this matter, Zoho Meeting’s competition can offer you more. Also, the maximum number of attendees is 250 on the highest pricing plan, which may not be enough for some companies.
- No downloads required
- Recordings limit based on their number, not their size
- Reasonable pricing
- 14-day free trial
- Max. 250 webinar attendees (on the highest pricing plan)
- Mediocre analytics and automation options
Find more details at the Zoho Meeting website.
Our choice: Zoom
At Codete, we decided to go with a paid Zoom plan. In the last round, we were deciding between Webex and Zoom. We liked both of them, but Zoom turned out to be the most cost-effective solution for our needs. It also gives us the lead gathering options we hoped for.
You may ask, what about the recent Zoom security issues?
Well, the Zoom controversy arose right at the time when we were looking for software for video conferencing and webinars, and we obviously had to assess how safe this solution is for us and for our future webinars’ attendees. We were waiting on our toes for any message from Zoom about their security updates, especially for Apple computers (most of us use Macs for work). We stayed in direct contact with people from Zoom to keep the finger on the pulse and have an understanding about their future plans. We were very happy with the support, speed and frequency of updates, and their approach to the situation. Also, as a technical company, we have evaluated the risk on our own and reached the conclusion that the general security level compared to the other providers does not differ that much.
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