Best Video Conference Services 2020
Updated: May 1, 2020
The rise in remote work has made video conferencing systems a necessary tool for many businesses. The best systems have a quick learning curve, are affordably priced and include all of the necessary tools to hold productive meetings. To help you find the right one, we researched more than 30 options, looking at factors such as price, how easy they are to use and how many participants each meeting can hold.
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
Editor's Note: Looking for a video conferencing solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.
What makes this software especially appealing is that everyone attending a video meeting can have their HD video feed and webcam on at the same time. Many other video conference solutions limit the number of video feeds that can be on simultaneously.
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 all of the 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 were impressed with Zoom's customer service. We received excellent support over the phone and liked that the Zoom website is filled with valuable training guides and videos.
This video conference solution has both free and paid plans. The paid plans range from $14.99 to $19.99 a month per host.
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 its integrations with Outlook and Google Calendar 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 interrupting the speaker.
GoToMeeting has a 14-day free trial and three service plans. The Professional plan is $14 per host per month, while the Business plan is $19 per host per month. You need to contact GoToMeeting directly for a custom quote on the Enterprise plan, which ranges from $18 to $47.20 per host per month. Each plan is slightly discounted if you pay annually. The plans differ in the included features and how many attendees you can host.
GoToMeeting provides customer support 24/7. In addition to personal support from customer service representatives, the GoToMeeting website features helpful training documents and videos with useful tips on how to use the software.
Small businesses have three paid plans to choose from. The plans range from $5 to $20 per user per month with an annual commitment. All of the plans allow you to host meetings with up to 250 participants. There is a free version of Teams, but it only lets you host one-on-one video calls, not conferences with multiple attendees.
The video conferencing features include options to create polls and surveys, share your screen, and work on a digital whiteboard. In addition to video conferencing, Microsoft Teams allows for collaboration among employees. The service includes a text chat platform, audio call capabilities and a way to share files.
You can host meetings from a desktop or mobile app. Once you join a meeting, participants have the option to turn 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 Teams video conferencing system.
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 in 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 and Google Calendar on all plans.
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 a 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 and access the software in several ways. It has a desktop app for Mac and PC systems and a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. Additionally, there is a web app that allows you to access the full software from any browser. This means anyone can quickly join a meeting without downloading the desktop or mobile app.
Cost of Video Conferencing Services
Depending on your company's needs, you can access video conferencing services for a relatively small investment. Most video conferencing solutions charge a per-host fee, so you don't necessarily need a license for everyone in your company. You only need multiple licenses if you plan to host multiple meetings at the same time. There is no cost for those just joining a meeting.
While some companies offer free versions of their systems, paid offerings typically cost $10 to $30 per host per month. Many video conferencing service providers offer multiple plans that differ in the number of participants that can join a meeting and how many features are included.
Free vs. Paid Plans
Many video conferencing service providers offer both free and paid plans. There are several differences (besides the price) between these types of plans.
Free plans often limit how many people can join your meeting and how long your conferences can last. For example, some providers cap the number of attendees on free plans at around 25 or 30. Most free plans also limit how long your meetings can last. Zoom, for instance, has a 40-minute time limit for each meeting on its free plan.
Most paid plans have higher caps on the number of participants in each meeting. This can range from 100 to a few thousand. Paid plans also don't restrict meeting length.
Features is another area where these types of plans differ. Free plans typically have limited features, while paid plans offer more robust sets. Customer service options are also limited with free plans. You may only be able to reach out for support through an online help ticket. Paid plans, on the other hand, often offer 24/7 phone support. Some even provide a dedicated customer success manager for your business depending on the service plan you choose.
Depending on how you choose to operate your video conferencing system, you may need additional equipment. If all you want to do is host and join meetings from your desktop or laptop computer, you don't need any other equipment as long as your computer has a built-in camera and microphone. If it doesn't have those, you can buy small cameras and microphones for less than $50 each.
The larger costs come when you want to turn a space in your business, like a conference room, into a dedicated place to host video conferences. For this, you will need cameras, microphones, speakers and monitors.
For quality HD cameras, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand. The more expensive options can pan and tilt and zoom in on the person speaking.
Microphone and speakers are typically combined in one device. These range from about $50 to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the size and model you choose. Monitor prices vary greatly by size.
Some video conferencing services offer complete packages of all the equipment you need.
Video Conference Service Features
When choosing a video conference service, you should look for certain features before making a buying decision.
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.
In addition to limiting the number of users in a virtual meeting room at one time, some services 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 HD video feeds? You likely don't need production-grade video, but you also don't want a grainy or blurry video feed. The video quality should be good enough that it isn't a distraction to those on the other end of the line.
In addition, you want a service with high-definition audio quality. If those in the meeting can't hear you, the high-quality video won't make much difference. Make sure the audio and video feeds are in good working order before choosing a conferencing system.
While you may prefer everyone to join your meeting by video feed, that might not always be possible. For those times, you want a conference service that gives participants the option to join by phone so they can at least hear the audio.
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.
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 that goes out to invitees, 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, even the host, can join a meeting from a smartphone or tablet.
While joining a meeting from a computer or mobile app is convenient, your business may need a video conference service that allows you to use an entire conference room for video calls. Some video conferencing services provide the equipment – like cameras, microphones, speakers, monitors and software – needed to host these meetings in a conference room.
There are times when someone can't make an important meeting. Most conferencing systems can record meetings to be watched later. Some services store the video chat recordings in the cloud, while others require you to store them on your own devices.
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 the speaker.
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, remote access via mobile apps, group chat, custom branding, the ability to join a meeting via web browser (without downloading special programs or software), and the option to let multiple people host a meeting at one time.
Benefits of Video Conferencing
Video conferencing provides a number of advantages to businesses. One major plus is that they help team members 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 employees 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 sitting in the same room. That face time can be especially valuable for remote workers.
Video conferencing also helps businesses establish better relationships with customers. It often isn't practical (or financially prudent) to travel to see every customer or client each time a meeting is necessary. 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 you build and strengthen relationships with your clients.
As video conferencing systems become more sophisticated and easier to use, many organizations are realizing that becoming a remote company is a real possibility. Instead of businesses spending money on overpriced office space, video conferencing allows them to invest that money elsewhere while still keeping a productive team in place.
Video conferencing also allows businesses to hire more remote employees from around the world. Technology that helps keep remote employees engaged allows you to broaden your search for top talent; you aren't limited to candidates in the city where your business is located.
Community Expert Insight
As part of our research, we reached out to video conferencing system users to learn which systems they find most valuable and what they like about them. The majority of the 50-plus people we heard from use Zoom and said they like how it operates and what it has to offer.
Ty Stewart, CEO and president of Simple Life Insure, has been using Zoom for years and is pleased with the service it provides.
"I've used other conferencing services in the past, like Google Hangouts and Skype," Stewart told Business News Daily. "I think Zoom provides a more elegant solution for businesses, and I've found it to be more reliable."
His favorite aspect of the platform is the waiting room, which allows him to stay in his conference room for back-to-back meetings without worrying about the next person he is meeting with interrupting his current conference.
"When the next person arrives, I get a notification that they're waiting, and they're not admitted to the room until I accept them," Stewart said. "I can also reject new participants."
Miranda Horvath is a massage practitioner with her own small practice and an online consultant for other small practice owners. She uses Zoom and loves that it offers flawless communication, easy-to-follow instructions, and clear links and features for the calls.
"I had several dropped calls using Skype with clients, and it looked unprofessional, so I moved away from using it," Horvath said. "The only feature I wish Zoom had was to be able to upload your call recording directly to Google Drive or Dropbox, instead of it downloading to your computer, and then having to upload to my G-Drive. It's just an unnecessary two-step process."
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, is also a fan of Zoom. She likes that it allows her to conference with so many people at one time, and she appreciates the reliability.
"The video quality is also extremely clear and does not freeze up," Sweeney said.
Kayla Cartwright, senior consultant at Adaptovate, uses several different video conferencing platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts. In her opinion, Google Hangouts is the easiest to use.
"I would recommend [Hangouts] for small-group conversations," Cartwright said. "The screen and sound quality are generally strong. As an added feature, if using the entire G Suite and Google Calendar, you can automatically add a Google Hangouts link to any event invitation for easy access, and the invitation will automatically add a Hangouts link and dial-in information."
Cartwright said Microsoft Teams is newer to her organization, but she appreciates some of its unique features.
"When [Teams is] installed as an app on your computer, you can easily see your entire calendar at a glance, quickly direct-dial or direct-video other users without setting up a preexisting link/line, and share either your entire screen set or a specific, single application at one time," she said. "Asynchronous chat is also embedded into the app, as is an easy meeting-recording feature."
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, investigating new changes and companies in the industry, and we thoroughly scrutinize both new and preexisting 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 provided reviews of companies that were previously best picks:
To help you find the right video conferencing platform, we researched and analyzed dozens of options. Here is an explanation of how we arrived at our 2020 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 our 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 offer 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 10 finalists: 8x8, Amazon Chime, Highfive, GoToMeeting, Intermedia, 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, posing as business owners and asking questions 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
To determine our final choices, we evaluated each service from this short list based on the number of meeting participants it supports, number of video feeds allowed at one time, ease of use, features, cost and customer service.
Video Conference FAQs
What is the difference between video conferencing and web conferencing?
While there are some differences, these services are becoming increasingly similar. Originally, video conferencing companies focused on providing hardware – such as video cameras, displays, microphones and speakers – to be installed in specific conference rooms. Businesses could then hold face-to-face meetings with others who had similar technology installed on their end. Web conferencing focused more on allowing people to hold video calls and online meetings through their computers and mobile devices.
Today, many video conferencing services also allow for web conferencing and give users the freedom to join from any device. While the companies can still equip conference rooms with hardware to host meetings, much of the service is stored and hosted in the cloud.
What is the biggest video conferencing challenge today?
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 and 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.
To get the most out of your video conferencing service, you must factor in how bandwidth is being used for your business's 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 don't employ the most up-to-date security protocols.
What is the best free video conferencing software?
While you can find paid plans for relatively cheap, if you don't need all of the tools and features the paid services offer, you may be better off with a free plan. If you are in search of free video conferencing software, you have a host of options.
Skype is one free option. With it, you can make group video calls with up to 50 people. Google Hangouts is another video conferencing solution that is free of charge, letting you host video calls with up to 10 people at a time.
Many paid video conferencing services offer free plans. Zoom, our choice for the best overall video conferencing service, has a free plan that includes a wide range of features and allows you to host conferences with up to 100 people. The only drawback to this option is that you are limited to 40-minute meetings.
Webex is another one of our best picks that offers free service. You can host meetings with up to 100 people, and there are no restrictions on how long your meetings can last.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of video conferencing?
There are many advantages to using video conferencing systems. First off, they allow you to meet with a group of people who aren't all in the same location. Unlike a regular conference call where everyone is on the phone, video conferencing brings you all face to face.
While it doesn't replace in-person interactions, seeing the people you are meeting with, even if it is on a video screen, makes your meetings feel more personable than a phone call. It also forces people to at least attempt to pay attention to the meeting. Unlike when you are on a regular conference call, the other participants in a video conference can see when you are tending to other tasks.
Besides the ability to meet face to face, video conferencing provides a number of tools to make meetings more productive. One example of this is screen sharing. If you have a document or slide presentation to help make your points, you can share your screen so everyone can follow along.
You can also record your meetings. If you are making a presentation, the ability to record it so you can loop in those who couldn't attend is a huge advantage to video conferencing.
One disadvantage to video conferencing is that you are at the mercy of the technology required to run the systems. If your internet connection is weak, it will impact the quality of the call. In addition, not all systems are created equal in terms of how they operate. Some are glitchier or crash more than others. It is critical to look for a highly reliable video conferencing solution.
What should you look for when putting video communication software to the test?
You should consider several criteria when choosing a video conferencing solution. The first, and possibly the most important, is how easy it is to use. You don't want a video conferencing platform that is frustrating for those hosting or joining a meeting. You want a quick learning curve so users aren't trying to figure out how everything works when they should be focusing on a meeting.
You also want a system that offers all of the features and tools your company needs. Not everyone has the same requirements, but at a minimum, you should have a system that offers screen sharing, HD video and high-quality audio. Other features you may deem necessary are meeting recording, dial-in options, and instant messaging with other attendees.
Another aspect to consider is how many participants the software allows in each meeting and how many of those attendees can be on video at the same time. If you never have large conferences, most of the options on the market will serve your needs. However, if you ever need to host conferences with more than 50 people, make sure the video conferencing solution you choose can fit your needs. Some platforms also limit how many people can be on camera at once, while others allow everyone in attendance to have their camera on.
Another major consideration, as always, should be price. You want a system that is going to fill all of your needs but not break the bank. There are many affordable options, so choose one that fits within your budget.
What hardware and equipment is needed for video conferencing?
The equipment you will need depends on how you wish to conduct your video conferences. If you want to use a desktop, laptop or mobile device, you don't need any added equipment as long as each has a built-in camera and microphone.
However, if you want to turn a space in your office into a room that can support video conferences, you will need other equipment, including a camera, a microphone, speakers and a video monitor. You will also need a console to run the meeting. The consoles allow you to start and end meetings, and give you the option of linking in to share your screen.
Full List of Video Conferencing Systems
8x8 Virtual Office
Amazon Chime + Vonage
GlobalMeet by PGi
Intermedia Hosted PBX Software
Editor's Note: Looking for a video conferencing solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.