Video conferencing enables businesses to improve the communication and collaboration between their clients, partners, customers and employees. For companies with offices and employees based all over the country (or even the world) video conferencing enables your team to collaborate wherever they are while reducing their travel costs.
In the past this technology was only really an option for larger businesses but today there are a wide range low cost platforms to suit every budget. But how could Video Conferencing benefit your business?
What is Video Conferencing?
A video conference is a live visual / audio connection which enables at least two people who are in different locations to see and speak to each other. This could be by sending static images and text but the most modern technology can transmit full-motion video and audio between multiple geographic locations. If your employees have a device with an internet connection, they can attend a meeting from their kitchen table, local coffee shop, on the train or from the other side of the world.
Early examples required complicated dial-up processes or telephone logins, but the emergence of Cloud internet technology has made video conferencing even simpler, quicker and easier to use. The result is that there has been an increase in lower cost platforms with no need to invest in expensive hardware, servers or even to have a designated meeting room. Small businesses can benefit from video conferencing without needing to make a large upfront investment or long term financial commitment.
Benefits of Video Conferencing
Video conferencing could enable you to…
- Improve communication with employees, clients, partners and customers
- Take advantage of the skills, expertise and advice from consultants and professionals all over the world
- Eliminate geographic restrictions and employ the best people for the task from all over the country / world
- Manage remote and home workers more effectively with face-to-face communication
- Reduce travel costs, time and inconvenience
- Pay for the service on a pay-as-you-go, monthly basis to avoid large upfront costs or capital investment
- Access the technology you need now and scale it up as your business grows
Video Conferencing Costs
The cost of a video conferencing system will depend on several factors. The cheapest and more commonly recommended option is to use a Cloud hosted system as it eliminates the need for a hardware at each of your sites.
Many providers offer their services in packages so you can choose the level and price which suits your requirements. Some providers such as Zoom and Skype offer free packages but they tend to have very limited functionality in terms of how long your meetings can last for or how many meeting participants you can include. However, for some small businesses they may be perfectly adequate.
Packages will usually be priced per host / participant month and will specify a minimum and maximum number of meeting ‘attendees’. Higher priced packages will include more features like recording, company branding or unlimited participants / meeting duration.
Many providers will offer a free trial of their platform so you can give it a test run before you commit to an annual contract.
Video Conferencing Providers for Small Business
There is a video conferencing provider to suit every budget and size of business, including free services for particularly small businesses or startups. Here are a few of the leading providers with an overview of the services they offer.
Zoom was founded in 2011 and is based in San Jose, California. The company offers a range of services including high quality video and web conferencing. Zoom’s free service offers a great standard of functionality and will enable you to host meetings with up to 100 participants with a limit of 40 minutes on group meetings.
Their lowest priced ‘Pro’ Package is best suited to small teams and offers more customisation in terms of functionality, e.g. the option to purchase more participants, unlimited meeting duration, recording. Paid services begin at £11.99 per host per month for the Pro Package.
Zoom is a hybrid Cloud service which means the virtualized software can be setup in minutes and easily scaled up as businesses grow. The system is compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebooks, iOS and Android.
Skype by Microsoft is targeted primarily at Office 365 users as it integrates seamlessly with Outlook and their other applications. There is a free Skype platform which is incredibly easy to download and set up and will enable you to include up to 25 people on group audio calls and up to 10 people on video calls.
However, they also offer a paid service called Skype for Business which includes all the usual Skype functionality plus a range of great features for businesses. You can meet with up to 250 people at once even if they’re not Microsoft users.
If you have Office 365 Business Essentials or Premium it will schedule meetings directly from your Outlook account. It will also enable you to record meetings including audio, video, IM and screen sharing, use a digital whiteboard and access Microsoft documents.
Skype for Business is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android and prices start from £1.30 per user per month.
GoToMeeting do not offer a free package but you can use a 14 day free trial with up to 50 attendees to test out the system. The lowest priced package is £15 per month per user (billed annually) and key features include:
- Up to 10 participants
- Web Audio
- Screen Sharing
- 1-Click Meetings
- Dial in Conference Line
- HD Video Conferencing
GoToMeeting is compatible with Windows and macOS. You can start meetings from within Office and integrate it with Outlooks. GoToMeeting also offer other applications such as GoToWebinar and GoToTraining so you can easily and quickly switch between different types of meeting.