If you want to converse with multiple colleagues or teammates remotely, find out the best teleconferencing services your smartphone and computer can use.
There is no substitute for a real discussion or meeting, but at a time of general pandemic, video conferencing has become a preferred solution.
What are the most recommended tools? If you are lucky enough to have an IT department in your company, ask them for advice: software is probably already installed on your laptop, such as Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts Meet.
Otherwise or if this software does not allow your contacts to be called outside the company, here is a selection of teleconferencing services, chosen as the most universally compatible free offers.
Since video calls may inconvenience certain parties, the selected software is able to mix video conversations with purely audio calls. If the other party does not wish to appear on screen, they can cut the video by clicking on the icon symbolizing the camera.
Some professionals telecommute with their company’s MacBook or laptop, and the installation of new software is likely to be blocked.
To invite them, it is better to use video conferencing services that do not require the installation of software and can work with an Internet browser: they have a better chance of escaping the constraints of their IT department.
These are, for example, the free versions of Hangouts and U Meeting, or Skype for the Web.
The free version of Skype is rather generous in option. Skype is our top recommendation since many users are familiar with this service and will be more likely to adopt it.
Especially since the free version of Skype is rather generous in options: you can invite up to fifty people to chat on video, record the call, show what is displayed on its screen to other participants.
For minimizing the risk of industrial espionage, conversations are encrypted. And you must create or connect to your Microsoft account to use Skype.
If you want to communicate with a small group of people who have the freedom to install software – and the motivation required – and if you are looking for more sophisticated features, then Zoom is the recommended option.
Zoom became the most downloaded Internet application in the world during the COVID-19 crisis, with nearly 300 million users. Not bad for a solution launched in 2012 in Silicon Valley by a Sino-American engineer, Eric Yuan, who emigrated fifteen years earlier to California.
Despite the dominance of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, none of them, any more than Cisco, was able to compete with Zoom in its ease of use, access, and in the quality of its service.
Eric Yuan worked at Cisco in the 2000s. He proposed that they develop a simple application, operating entirely on the Internet and usable on a smartphone. The firm did not want it. Google or Facebook are now trying to catch up. It is the strength of Silicon Valley to bring up new competitors continually.
Zoom offers plenty of refinements compared to Skype: a whiteboard for drawing diagrams, the automatic transcription of the interviews in text format, the creation of appointments integrated into professional calendars, the possibility of organizing question-and-answer sessions in which we participate by raising our hands, etc.
The free version of Zoom is, alas, limited to forty-minute meetings. This length or time can be enough for many meetings, but not all professional meetings of course.
Note that security vulnerabilities have hampered the meteoric rise of the Zoom application.
IT experts have identified several vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. They also discovered that the company shared information about some of its users with Facebook and could very discreetly go and search users’ LinkedIn profiles without their knowledge.
Another problem is the appearance of a Zoombombing phenomenon: individuals have managed to interfere in videoconferences to disseminate, for example, pornographic or hateful content.
Better to use a computer than a mobile for its larger screen and, therefore, better visibility. But not everyone has permanent access to a computer.
On smartphones, the product of choice is WhatsApp.
Most of your colleagues are probably already registered for this service.
But this application only allows two to four people to chat on video. To meet with larger teams, you can use Skype or Zoom mobile apps.
What if the connection is choppy
The coronavirus crisis is likely to cause a spike in connections so that these services may suffer from quality issues. Video is a greedy medium in computing power; some apps may be less reliable than others. If you have problems, test another service, if you can.
Control the speed of your Internet connection and the Wi-Fi antenna.
But first, check the speed of your Internet connection and the Wi-Fi antenna that distributes it in your home: your connection problems can also come from there.
If the speed displayed in the reception box is less than 2 Mbit/s, or if the sending box indicates a figure lower than 1 Mbit/s, the bottleneck is probably located at your place.
In this case, move your laptop closer to your Internet box to try to speed up the Wi-Fi connection, and repeat the test. If the speed does not go above the recommended figures, try replacing your home Wi-Fi connection with that of your smartphone, if however, you receive 4G at home.
Check the speed of your mobile connection by turning off your phone’s Wi-Fi and launching a speed test. If you are satisfied with this solution, use it in moderation: videoconferencing can consume half of a 10 GB telephone plan in less than five hours.
For better sound quality, the ideal is to use headphones with a built-in microphone, which will allow you, in particular, to increase the volume without disturbing your interlocutors. In any case, if you work in a noisy room, mute your microphone when you are not speaking by clicking on the icon, which symbolizes a microphone.