Coronavirus or COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and is wrecking havoc on businesses all around the world. In the financial industry, this means that it’s even more difficult to collaborate and build a meaningful relationship with clients. To maintain the same rapport, mortgage brokers, accountants and financial advisors must use digital tools that can aid in communication, connection and collaboration while we are all working from home. The fact of the matter is, self-isolation and remote working is becoming more and more prevalent, and whether we like it or not, we may be operating in this manner for many months to come.
To help resolve some of the burden of having to try multiple video conferencing software yourself, we’ve compiled a list of the best video conferencing software for business. Our team have tried and tested each one when we have been connecting with our clients, colleagues and potential customers on a day-to-day basis. We’ve tested each of the video conferencing tools detailed below – including Skype Online and Zoom video conferencing – and figured out which one is ideal for which occasion.
Our team of website designers and developers wanted to share this list in the hopes that we can do some small part in relieving the burden that many businesses are going through. Whether you are a mortgage broker, financial advisor, accountant, or even just someone looking to connect with colleagues and clients efficiently, please check out our recommendations below.
Discord is a chat app that supports video calls, voice chat and text. It can work in browser but really you want to be using it as a downloaded application. Typically it has been used by gamers to communicate during play-time and is effectively the gaming equivalent to Slack. Thanks to the range of functionality available to Discord we have been able to integrate it with a lot of processes in our company – for example we can request a song off YouTube via Discord from one of our channels, and we use it to automatically notify certain users when a website build is complete.
We use Discord as our every day communication but after Coronavirus forced the team to work remote, we attempted to use it for the first time across 18 people on a video call simultaneously. This didn’t prove as effective as we would have liked, which in turned inspired us to try out a few others. Note that Discord allows for public and private servers so you can use it to meet new people, or strictly limit the use of Discord to your company or internal team.
Free to use
Discord is a freemium platform which apart from being useful to chat to friends, is also great for creating places or ‘channels’ where people can congregate relative to a specific subject matter – i.e. meet up to find other players. Coming with a ‘free’ price tag, it’s worthwhile trying out at least to see if you can use it as a cost-effective instant messaging tool.
They own your data (technically)
If you choose to use Discord you are running through their servers meaning they have access to all your data. As a private company with their own proprietary software they can technically do whatever they want with this data. Although to be honest, in this day and age, it’s hard to find a company that doesn’t legally write that they own your data. The alternative to Discord in the gaming world would be IRC which is typically known to be more secure as the servers can support SSL and authentication on connecting.
Can be challenging to Setup Video Conferencing
Discord can be difficult to setup, particularly for users who aren’t too familiar with a lot of technical options and want something that is easily plug and play out of the box. The trade off is once you get your permissions right it can be a very powerful tool for moderation and management of users. If like us, you have a lot of projects going on at once, and website designers or developer contractors that come in and out of the organisation, then you want to make sure project privacy is in tact. Discord is great at setting rooms and channels to only be accessible to certain people, while allowing others to be accessible to all. As you can imagine, setting the specifics and customising the application can take a bit of time but the time costs are worthwhile if you get it right.
If you are a technically savvy small to medium sized company with multiple projects then Discord is worth giving a go. It’s fast, robust and great for interacting one-on-one or with small groups of people. Once you try to do large team video conferencing or video calls however (eight people or more), then you may be better off switching to an alternative software. Still you can’t go pass the fact that it is free, and considering its main use case is for gamers, you know you can rely on Discord to be as efficient as possible as a voice chat program wouldn’t be much use if it slowed down your games when you played.
Zoom Video Conferencing
Straightforward and easy to use application for video conferencing. Zoom allows you to create meeting rooms which people can check into just like a normal ‘meeting room’. One of its greatest strengths is that it allows the moderator of a room to make the room accessible to people that do not have zoom – i.e. everyone else simply clicks on the meeting link and can jump right in using their phone, tablet or desktop computer. Zoom is probably the most popular platform amongst large and enterprise organisations with a lot of Universities already stating they are using Zoom for video communications during the Coronavirus era.
Easy to Use
While Zoom’s basic package is free, they put a limit of 40 minutes on the meeting which can be a bit frustrating when you are half-way through a conversation and your time is up. With that being said though, it is super easy to use from the time you download the application to your first group meeting. You want to really be using Zoom video conferencing on a paid package which gives you almost all the features you would need for a small to medium sized company. For larger organisations, Zoom gives you the option for Business and Enterprise usage which allows for a greater number of participants at a fair monthly fee. This is why Universities are big fans of Zoom, at its highest point it allows 500 participants in one room and a robust connection.
Developer APIs and integrations
One really cool thing about Zoom which we have experimented with a little is the ability for our website developers to create our own stack solutions with video voice and screen sharing APIs. I would definitely recommend having a play with this if you are looking for some outside-the-box functionality with Zoom’s video infrastructure. While we have experimented a little, we are keen to personally explore this a bit more when the use-case arises.
Zoom video conferencing may not have all the features you are looking for in team and clientele collaboration but it’s a great tool specific to video calls and audio chat. The system was engineered with focus and is known as one of the most reliable solutions on the market. There are not many other solutions that can boast the same number of participants while running a stable video stream. With affordable pricing and an easy-to-use user experience it is worth trying Zoom for your business during remote working due to Coronavirus. Note you will still need to also use an alternative chat and communication program on top of Zoom as it’s not really optimised for anything other than conferencing.
A great chance discovery by one of our team members, the main benefit of using Whereby is that it is probably the easiest ‘meeting’ and best video conferencing software to setup – in that there is no setup. With Whereby, you can use it for free for up to 4 participants in one room, or alternatively have up to 12 simultaneous connections for their entry paid tier.
The best thing about Whereby is you can use it from a web browser – both on desktop and mobile (for the newer mobile smartphone devices) without having to install anything. This means getting into rooms is very very easy.
No login, no problems
Have you ever tried to get your parents onto a video call? It’s almost impossible. Now think about getting 10 people who have varying degrees of internet savviness and see how you go with that. For most larger companies going through remote working, the process of implementing a video conferencing application on employee systems could be sorted by the IT team, but for SMEs who lack the resources, working with IT can be overly cumbersome.
That’s why we like using Whereby for standups, WIPs and casual conversations. With no login required, it’s easy to get into a room and hash something out. This includes conversations with potential customers. For mortgage brokers that are looking for a website designed specifically for their industry, we find it easy to jump into a Whereby room for an initial meet and greet.
Whereby feels like a startup. Their user experience reflects the speed in which startups take place, but at the same time they don’t seem to have figured everything out 100%. As a paying customer using Whereby for business use, you expect a certain level of support and every time we send an email or raise a ticket we just don’t seem to be hearing back from them. This is somewhat understandable in the current climate but it really does make you question the validity of being a paying customer. The main thing we were enquiring for was a means to go from a max of 12 users to their next tier up of 50. Eventually, we didn’t get any response – 3 weeks and counting – so we just decided to switch to Google Hangouts.
Amazing application that will allow you to start chatting to anyone within seconds. Works well for family and friends but not ideal for business-use. Their algorithms for delivering communication is relatively linear and simple – i.e. everyone chats at once and no sense of gating or ‘moderation’. As a result big conversations often are difficult to navigate. I would see Whereby almost as a virtual room where people come in and out as they please. It doesn’t particularly suit engagements such as conferences or lectures where there is a single person managing the flow of conversation. One thing worth mentioning though is they have the coolest view for getting to see everyone – i.e. Whereby use a tiled layout whereas all other programs seem to only focus on the person speaking.
As with all things Google, they are great at building out their ecology of tools for Google users. However, if you are not a Google user you start to run into serious problems of accessing anything to do with G Suite. Luckily, we are a G Suite Business customer and our company is already paying for our emails and drive usage. This means Hangouts for enterprise use comes ‘free’ as part of the package. Assuming it has been enabled by your G Suite administrator then it should also be free for you – otherwise if you are a normal gmail user, you should be able to use it with other gmail’ers.
If you’ve already had the pleasurable experience of being in a video chat with more than a bunch of people, you will notice that things can either feel very awkwardly unorganic or extremely noisy to the point that it’s dysfunctional. Google are probably the only video conferencing tool that we have used that somewhat addresses this. They have built in a smart algorithm that detects who is speaking and gives that person priority over all the channels. The tangible outcome is highly noticeable. For example, in the aforementioned Whereby, when two people speak at once what happens is that both streams come through making neither audible. What tends to happen when people realise this is that talking becomes slow as everyone second guesses when they can speak. In Google Hangouts case however, speaking is more normalised as their algorithm handles who speaks and places the priority of both the screen and the audio to that person while muting everyone else. The effect is a quicker, more natural conversation where everyone feels more open about speaking rather than being cued.
Like Zoom, it is obvious that Google Hangouts was built to consider both casual and business use. Their Hangout invite is linked to Google Calendar allowing you to place a meeting invite directly from calendar, and avenues for sharing their Google Hangout links are more effective. You can share it as part of calendar, or link it manually by any other means. This makes it easy to set up rooms, share rooms, join rooms or simple idle in rooms as you please. It also allows for moderation of rooms by group administrators that is more effective than just a ‘hangout’.
There is also a handy record option in Google Hangouts which allows you to save meetings – with your audience’s consent – for future reference. This is particularly handy for mortgage brokers, financial advisors or accountants dealing with numbers or subject matter requiring precision. I know we have already used this function for creating websites for accountants to help with identifying the scope of work and deliverables.
Artificial Intelligent Captioning
A super cool feature that is probably more novelty than anything at this time, Google have implemented their AI to automatically close caption dialogue. The accuracy rate is probably too low to use and rely on but it makes for a really fun experience if you want to give it a go. We experimented with this in a team chat and it definitely brought about a few laughs.
Like a lot of things Google does, their video conferencing tool is great and almost a no brainer if you are already part of the Google ecology. Where they lose points is when you start to try to use their tools outside the system. As well as this, the video conferencing tool doesn’t come across as a specialist tool but more a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. If you are already a Googler and your colleagues are then this is most likely the tool you are going to use rather than spend more money and time on another application, however we’ve found that the team naturally gravitates to other applications if the choice is given.
Skype Online for Business
Some people may find it odd having Skype on this list but it does merit a mention due to its established presence in the video conferencing software market and it’s unique tools for business application. Not to be confused with Skype, Skype for Business is the enterprise version of the old-school application that has been around since the beginning of video conferencing. While it’s safe to say Skype is not high on most people’s lists, it has started to nuance it’s features into a premium for-business product that large organisations may find benefit in using due to it’s specific features for security and user management.
As you would expect from a Microsoft product, the way Skype is attempting to position themselves in the modern world is the shift into an enterprise tool. As such, one of the main benefits of using Skype is that it has a high-level of security authentication. Skype for Business encrypts communication between users. It also prevents team members from sharing resources within the platform to outside individuals. These security protocols are extended access where organisations can choose to allow access to only corporate devices or certain devices that meet the company’s security requirements.
Track Expenditures Across Users
With multiple users across your organisation making calls everywhere in the world, you need an ability to track these calls and outflow. Skype for Business allows for Voice-over-IP (VOIP) phone system, and a means to keep track of the expenditures and calls being made within the organisation. With the aid of Skype Manager, administrators are able to centrally manage all your organisation’s multiple Skype accounts and allocate credits to whichever one needs. Furthermore, you can use Skype Manger to set up staff accounts and keep a watch on how much everyone in the organisation is spending.
Skype may seem outdated with modern applications now available but like all Microsoft’s suite of products, it still has a purpose for enterprises and organisation use simply due to their sheer presence in legacy systems that exist in the world. I’m sure many of you, like me, have amassed a rolodex of their own on Skype and would want to ensure that contact list is not lost or forgotten. For new users with no history or need for management capabilities, Skype for Business may not be for you.
Based on your specific use case, there is not necessarily one software that fits all scenarios for a video call. As a team, we consistently jump between multiple tools based on the kind of meeting that we are planning on running. A creative sprint with quick conversation and dialogue lends itself to Google Hangouts, otherwise a casual chat and hang is more typical to be found on Whereby.
You should decide what’s best for you based on the circumstances and impression you want to make on your audience. For more information on any of our tools and services regarding websites design for mortgage brokers, financial advisors or accounting firms, please do not hesitate to get in touch.