For many years, ubiquitous video conferencing was a technology firmly in the realm of science fiction — a video-phone almost defined “futuristic.” Later, such devices became technologically feasible, but only for those with dedicated high-bandwidth connections and expensive, specialized hardware. Over the last decade, however, on-demand video conferencing has increasingly become just a basic, normal expectation for almost anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone. The magical has become a commodity. Now the only question is, Which video conferencing offering to use?
The good news is that there are so many products to choose from. The bad news is that there are so many products to choose from. The overview that follows is not exhaustive, since the market is quickly evolving, with some well-established players, an ever-changing list of challengers, and also some industry-specific products — but this list should give you a jump-start in your search.
Especially for larger enterprises, video conferencing implementation needs to be part of the broader picture, involving both IT and communications strategic plans. Fundamental issues such as intended use cases (general communication, team collaboration, marketing, live streaming/presentations/lectures, tutorials, real-time product and technical support), as well as security, technology and communication standards, branding and organizational policies for use all need to be clearly and carefully thought out.
But the simple fact is that workers at all levels, as well as customers and vendors, have come to use and expect video conferencing. So if you don’t make it happen, it’s certain that your employees or team members will.
Video conferencing and messaging are areas that often have significant overlap. Some mobile apps, such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Google Duo, enable video calling but are primarily one-to-one products. Some of the products and solutions covered here are also part of the larger unified communications (UC) market, which generally includes integrated packages of team-based messaging, workspace and collaboration tools. Some UC collaboration packages that also have video conferencing as a component (such as Slack) are not included in this roundup, which includes primarily tools that are historically more centrally focused on calling and multiperson-capable video conferencing. I also am not including a number of social media-oriented video chat apps (such as ooVoo), even though some enable multiperson video conferencing, since they tend to have little enterprise support, focus or appeal. The selection criteria are necessarily somewhat subjective, so apologies if your favorite tool is not among those we discuss, and feel free to make suggestions for any products you feel should be included in the future.
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