Video conferencing has become commonplace in businesses of all sizes. With an increase in remote work, video conferencing services are great tools for businesses to keep their employees connected with one another.
With so many options available in 2019, it's important to choose the right video conferencing solution for your business. Choosing the wrong video conferencing software or trying to integrate incompatible services could end up costing you more down the road.
We researched dozens of video conferencing systems to find the best options for a range of businesses. Our top recommendations for video conference services are below, but if you want to take a step back and learn more about the ins and outs of video conferencing, read our guide to choosing a video conference service.
Our Best Picks
Best Inexpensive Software
Best for Large Audiences
Best Cloud Collaboration
Editor's Note: Looking for a video conferencing solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.
The free plan includes 2GB of storage for each user; 10GB of shared storage; screen sharing; channel meetings; and access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote online apps.
The paid plans are part of Microsoft's Office 365 services. Those plans range from $5 to $15 per user, per month. In addition to access to all of Microsoft Office's other online software, these plans let you use the desktop versions of each program. Since many businesses already use these Microsoft programs, bundling them with a video conferencing solution can be a big cost-saver.
The video conferencing features include options to create polls and surveys, share your screen and work on a digital whiteboard.
In addition to the video conferencing software, Microsoft Teams allows for collaboration among employees. The service includes a text chat platform, audio call capabilities and a way to share files.
Regardless of whether you choose a free or paid plan, Microsoft Teams is relatively easy to use. You can host meetings from a desktop or mobile app. Once you join a meeting, participants have the option of turning their cameras and microphones on or off. While in the meeting room, each user can also share their screen or hang up.
The Microsoft website features a number of helpful documents and tutorials on how to use the video conferencing system.
Zoom is an extremely feature-rich video conference service. Among its more valuable features are active speaker views, telephone dial-in numbers, meeting recording, screen sharing, group messaging, and integrations with Chrome and Outlook. Other tools include the ability for meeting participants to "raise their hand" to ask a question without interrupting, the option to designate another employee who can schedule meetings for you and high-definition video and gallery views that allow you to see up to 25 other meeting attendees at one time.
Zoom is simple to set up and use. There are desktop apps for Mac and Windows computers, as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. Hosts can start an instant meeting or schedule one for a later date. Meetings can be scheduled directly from the Zoom app, or from an Outlook or Chrome extension. Attendees simply have to click on a link to join a meeting.
We also were impressed with Zoom's customer service. We received excellent support over the phone and liked that the Zoom website site was filled with valuable training guides and videos.
This video conference solution has both free and paid plans. The paid plans range between $14.99 and $19.99 per host, per month. If you want to host meetings with more than 100 people at a time, you can add increased meeting capacity for between $65 and $110 per host, per month.
Webex Meetings is a sophisticated video conference solution that allows you to host meetings with up to 200 people, depending on the service plan you select. Plans range from $14.95 to $29.95 per host, per month. You can save 10% by paying annually, instead of monthly.
What's nice about Webex is that while the plans differ by how many people can attend a video meeting at one time, all of the service's features are included in each plan. Other video conference software we evaluated had multiple service plans that each included different features and tools.
Webex Meetings includes HD video, speaker views, screen sharing, recording, and integrations with Microsoft Office, Office 365, Outlook, Google Calendar, and Lotus Notes.
In addition to Webex Meetings, all users can access Webex Teams, which is an app for continuous teamwork with video meetings, group messaging, file sharing and whiteboarding. This platform is designed as space for employees to work together, while Webex Meetings gives you the freedom to host video meetings with those inside, and outside, your organization.
You can sign up for WebEx completely online. You can access WebEx in several ways. There are desktop apps for Mac and PC systems and mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. Additionally, there is a web app that allows you to access the full software from any web browser. This means anyone can quickly join a meeting without having to download a desktop or mobile app.
The host has total control of the meeting. Besides being able to mute and unmute participants, hosts determine which attendees can have their video feeds on. If all 25 feeds are being used and someone off camera needs to be switched on, the host can easily do so by turning off someone else's feed.
This video communication software is also chock-full of valuable features and tools, including screen sharing, recording, drawing tools, meeting locks, transcriptions and messaging.
GoToMeeting works on desktop apps, mobile apps and web browsers. The software is simple to use. You can host instant meetings or schedule them for later, and there are also integrations with Outlook and Google Calendar that allow you to schedule meetings directly from those programs.
The high definition video stream makes for crystal clear pictures during meetings. There is also a chat feature that lets attendees communicate with each other without having to interrupt whoever is speaking.
GoToMeeting, which has a 14-day free trial, is offered in four service plans that range from $18 to $47.20 per host, per month. There is a 20% discount if you pay annually. The plans differ in the included features, and how many attendees you can host, and how many video streams you can have on at one time.
GoToMeeting provides customer support 24/7. In addition to personal support, from customer service representatives, the GoToMeeting website features a number of helpful training documents and videos that provide useful tips on how to use the software.
Video Conference Service Features
When choosing a video conference service, a business should look for a number of features before making a buying decision. These features include:
- Meeting participants: You want conferencing software that can support the top number of users you'll have in a meeting at one time. Some services limit the number of attendees to under 10, while other providers have solutions that can accommodate several thousand at one time.
- Video stream: In addition to limiting the number of users in a virtual meeting room at one time, some services also cap how many video streams can be on simultaneously. If you want everyone in your meeting to be on camera, make sure the video conference service you choose can support that number of video feeds.
- Video and audio quality: Does the video service provide high-definition video feeds? You likely don't need production-grade video, but you also don't want a video feed that is grainy or blurry. The video quality should be good enough so it isn't a distraction to those on the other end of the line. In addition, you want a service that provides excellent audio quality. If those in the meeting can't hear you, the high-quality video won't make much of a difference. Make sure the audio and video feeds are in good working order when choosing conferencing systems.
- Dial-in: While you may prefer that everyone joins your meeting by video feed, there are times when that might not be possible. In those instances, you want a conference service that gives participants the option to join by phone so they can at least hear the audio.
- Screen sharing: A huge benefit of cloud-based video conferencing is the ability to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations or anything else you have stored on your computer. Most services allow the meeting's host to share their screen, and some services allow anyone in the meeting to share their screen, too.
- Integrations: A video conference service that integrates with your online calendar or email client makes scheduling video meetings simple. When a meeting is scheduled, directions for joining the meeting are automatically uploaded into an email, and details of the meeting are also placed on your calendar.
- Video conferencing apps: Being out of the office should no longer be an excuse to miss a video call. Most video conference solutions have mobile applications for iOS and Android devices so attendees, and even the host, can join a meeting from a smartphone or tablet.
- Room systems: While joining a meeting from a computer or mobile app is convenient, your business may need a video conference service that allows for an entire conference room to be used for video calls. Some services provide you with the video conferencing equipment, like cameras, microphones, speakers, monitors and software, needed to host these meetings in a video conferencing room.
- Recording: There are times when someone can't make an important meeting. Most conferencing systems can record meetings so they can be watched later. Some services store the video chat recordings in the cloud, while others require you to store them on your own devices.
- Messaging: Some conferencing software allows you to send written messages to those in the meeting. This can be helpful if you want to ask a question without interrupting whoever is speaking.
Other features businesses may want to look for in a video conference service are the ability to lock a meeting once it has started, whiteboarding tools to allow employees to collaborate with each other, remote access via mobile apps, group chat, custom branding, the ability to join a meeting via a web browser (without having to download special programs or software), and the option to let multiple people host a meeting at one time.
To help you find the right video conferencing platform, we researched and analyzed dozens of options. Here is an explanation of how we chose our 2019 best picks for video conferencing services.
Locating the Best Services
To select the best video conference services for businesses, we created a list of more than 30 reputable companies based on own research and other online reviews and rankings.
Choosing the Best Services
From there, we eliminated vendors that emphasize video conferencing hardware rather than a complete service, since hardware is typically more expensive and becomes outdated quickly. We also eliminated vendors that offered hardware to be used with another service's software.
Researching Each Service
After some initial research into all of the vendors, we cut our list down to 13 finalists: 8x8, Amazon Chime, Arkadin, ClickMeeting, HighFive, GoToMeeting, Intermedia, Join.me, RingCentral, Skype for Business, Webex, Zoho and Zoom. Next, we thoroughly researched each vendor, read user comments, reviewed Better Business Bureau ratings and complaints, and tested out services when free trials were available. After narrowing down the list to our final contenders, we contacted each company, asking questions posing as business owners, to get a feel for their customer service. Our process involves putting ourselves in the mindset of a small business owner and gathering the data that would be readily available to such an individual.
Analyzing Each Service
We analyzed each service based on the following factors to determine our final choices: number of meeting participants the service supports, number of video feeds allowed at one time, ease of use, features, cost and customer service.
Our Previous Best Picks
At Business News Daily, we are dedicated to finding the best products and services for small businesses. We know that your time is limited, and we invest hours into research and testing so you feel confident about our recommendations.
Each year we update our best picks, and when we do, we investigate new changes and companies in the industry, and we thoroughly scrutinize both new and existing products and services. Our process also involves revisiting companies we previously selected as best picks to evaluate whether they still are the best in their category.
In addition to our video conferencing recommendations this year, we've also provided reviews of companies we previously selected as best picks:
Video Conference FAQs
Q: What is the difference between video conferencing and web conferencing?
A: While there are some differences, these services are becoming increasingly similar. Originally, video conferencing focused on providing hardware, such as video cameras, displays, microphones and speakers, that were installed in specific rooms, like a conference room. Conference rooms equipped with this technology could then hold face-to-face meetings with others who had similar technology installed on their end.
On the flip side, web conferencing was more focused on allowing people to hold video calls and meetings via the web through their computers and mobile devices.
Today, however, many video conferencing services also allow for web conferencing and allow users the freedom to join from any device. While they still can equip conference rooms with hardware to host meetings, much of the service is stored and hosted in the cloud.
Q: What is the biggest video conferencing challenge today?
A: One big challenge is ensuring there is enough internet bandwidth to support these types of services. Businesses today rely on the internet for a host of needs.
Besides searching online and accessing critical programs like Microsoft Office or G Suite, some businesses use the internet to run their phone service and process credit card payments. Adding video conferencing into the mix puts another large strain on bandwidth use.
In order to get the most out of your video conferencing service, it is imperative that you factor in how bandwidth is being used for your other online needs. When determining how much bandwidth you need, take all of the uses into consideration and plan appropriately.
Security is another concern. Because important meetings can be recorded and potentially sensitive files can be shared back and forth, businesses can't afford to use video conferencing services that aren't employing the most up-to-date security protocols.
Q: What are some of the biggest benefits of video conferencing?
A: Video conferencing provides a number of advantages to businesses. One major plus is that they help people feel more connected, particularly those who work outside the office. This has become especially important as remote work has increased in many organizations.
Instead of just listening in on a conference call or sending emails back and forth, HD video conferencing allows participants to see their colleagues face-to-face and participate in a meeting as if everyone were all sitting in the same room. Getting that face-to-face time can be especially valuable for remote workers.
Video conferencing also helps businesses establish better relationships with customers. Often it isn't practical, or financially prudent, to travel to see every customer or client each time a meeting is needed. Video conferencing services let you share presentations and answer questions essentially face to face, just as if you were in their office. Connecting in this manner can help build and strengthen relationships with your clients.
Q. How much does video conferencing cost?
A: The costs of video conferencing services can vary greatly. The good news is that there are offerings for any budget. Some providers even offer free video conferencing, and while it might not include all of the bells and whistles, it will give you enough functionality to host productive video calls.
For services that aren't free, most base their costs on a per-host basis. The number of host licenses equates to the number of video meetings you can hold at one time. So, if you have five host licenses, you can hold five meetings simultaneously. If you want all of your employees to be able to host a meeting at the same time, then they will all need their own host license.
The specific cost for each license varies based on a few factors, including how many participants you can have in each meeting and how many added features you want to access. Those costs can range anywhere from $5 to $50 per license, per month.
For example, for eight host licenses, your monthly costs could range anywhere from $40 to $400.
Full List of Video Conferencing Systems
8x8 Virtual Office
Intermedia Hosted PBX Software
Amazon Chime + Vonage
Google Hangouts Meet
GlobalMeet by PGi
Editor's Note: Looking for a video conferencing solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.