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Social distancing due to COVID-19 prevents us from meeting in person, but these Video Conferencing services can keep you connected to your colleagues and clients.
As your clients and you seclude yourselves with remote work, your ability to meet face-to-face with clients and potential clients has likely been affected. We wanted to expand on our previous post on video conferencing solutions to help you find free and low-cost solutions for having video meetings with your clients, as well as your colleagues.
Many people would prefer to use video conferencing solutions that aren’t as heavily tied to a particular mobile ecosystem, but instead work regardless of the type of phones that they have. Here is a roundup of the services out there that offer free video conferencing solutions.
Google Hangouts Classic (Formerly Google Hangouts)
While customers of Google’s GSuite paid productivity hosting service can get more functionality through Hangouts Meet, the free version of Google Hangouts (now known as Hangouts Classic) is a viable video conferencing solution available for free.
In order to use Google Hangouts, you will need a free Google account. The fastest way to sign up for a Google account if you don’t already have an account is to sign up for a new free email account on gmail.com.
To use Hangouts to talk with your clients, you can follow this guide on Google’s help documentation. Please note that all participants in a Hangouts Classic call will need to have Google accounts.
Google Meet (Formerly Hangouts Meet)
Google’s new version of Hangouts, Google Meet is now available for all Google Accounts.
While all Google accounts include Google Meet, the features included with the service vary for G Suite customers you have. Advanced features, such as recording meetings and support for meetings with a large number of participants, are normally limited to Google’s more expensive Enterprise plan, which is billed at $25/user/month.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, however, Google has decided to offer the Enterprise level of service to all G Suite customers at no additional cost until September 30th.
Google has a robust guide to using Hangouts Meet available in their G Suite Learning Center.
Microsoft’s Skype application is available on Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android, and it allows you to easily make video calls and host video conferencing meetings from anywhere. Skype’s basic service is 100% free, with premium add-ons available for very specific needs.
Microsoft has posted a how-to guide on how to use Skype to make a video call. While you need to have a Skype account in order to make a call, your clients and colleagues can join a meeting without signing up for the service by simply going to a link that you provide to them.
Zoom Meetings is a popular service for video conferencing and video calling, and they offer a free tier that allows unlimited one-on-one meetings, as well as group meetings with up to 100 participants for a maximum of 40 minutes at a time. If you need more advanced functionality or longer meetings, paid plans are available starting at $14.99/month.
Zoom has a getting started guide that describes how to use their software on Windows or Mac. As with Skype, while you need a Zoom account to start a call or meeting, your guests can join the call without signing up for the service.
Apple’s FaceTime app has come free with all iPhones for the last several years, so there is a good chance that your clients already have FaceTime available. Apple has posted a guide on how to use FaceTime on your iPhone or iPad. If you own a Mac and prefer to use your computer to video conference instead of your phone, you can use FaceTime on the Mac as well.
FaceTime supports video conferences with groups of up to 32 people at a time, but it really shines in one-on-one communications, for which starting a video call is as simple as dialing a phone number.
Webex has been a leader in video conferencing since 1995, and they offer a free tier of services with support for meetings of up to 100 participants. Paid plans are available starting at $13.50/month for firms that need more advanced support and features, but the base free tier can easily handle most of your video conferencing needs.
For information on how to use Webex, check out this getting started video and helpful guide from Cisco.
Google’s Android operating system currently comes packaged with the Google Duo video calling application. Duo operates very similarly to Apple’s FaceTime, but it is available on both iOS and Android and is also available on practically any computer through Duo for web.
Google has posted a guide on how to make calls with Google Duo on their support site. You can make one-on-one calls, send video messages, and have group conversations with up to eight people at a time.
Unlike many of the services on this list, FreeConferenceCall.com doesn’t even have a paid plan. Their free service supports meetings with up to 1,000 participants and offers features that would normally be considered premium, such as call recording and screen sharing. For organizations that value their service and wish to contribute to help them keep their free service available, FreeConferenceCall does have a pay-what-you-can model, in which you can choose an amount to contribute, based on what you feel the service is worth. They also offer a number of add-ons that you can purchase for low fees.
FreeConferenceCall has published some video guides on how to use the service.
Most of the free plans do not have built-in call recording support, but UberConference’s free tier does support Call Recording out-of-the-box for meetings up to 10 participants. Advanced features are available on business plans starting at $15.00/month.
Check out this guide for how to create or join an UberConference meeting.
Temporarily Free or Discounted Premium Services Due to COVID-19
In response to this global crisis and increased demand for remote working and remote meetings, some companies that normally charge for their services have offered special discounts on their services, or even offered their services for free.
Legaler is unique on this list as a service specifically designed for law firms. It integrates with legal marketing and matter management systems, as well as helping you organize your meetings by legal topic. Legaler does have a free tier, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are offering their paid “Active Plan” completely free for a full year to any solo lawyers or small firms with 10 lawyers or fewer.
Hat Tip to our friend Bob Ambrogi, who posted about this offering first.
Lifesize, which has recently merged with Serenova, announced that all companies affected by COVID-19 can receive an unlimited number of free licenses to their platform for six months to help them quickly facilitate remote work policies during the crisis.
Lifesize has a video guide on how to get started with their service.
Other Paid Video Conferencing Solutions
The following services are not free, but they are also popular solutions for video conferencing.
GoToMeeting was introduced in 2004 as a companion product to the existing GoToMyPC and GoToAssist services, which were already popular for remote work over the internet. GoToMeeting does not offer a free plan, but their business offering has been stable for over a decade. Plans start at $12.00 per organizer per month for 150 participants, with Enterprise offerings that support meetings with up to 3,000 participants. While GoToMeeting does not have a free tier, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial on their website.
You can find guides on how to use GoToMeeting on their support site.
While GoToMeeting is more business-focused, Join.me (which is run by the same company) offers extremely easy access to individuals with permanent shareable URLs that you can give to your clients to call you again and again, as opposed to one-time links generated on a per-meeting basis. Plans start at $10/month.
Join.me has a guide on how to get started with their service on their website.
BlueJeans enhances the general video conferencing options with advanced features such as Dolby Voice-powered audio and automated meeting notes with searchable recordings. Plans start at $9.99/month.
BlueJeans has a long list of training tutorial videos on their website to help you get started with their service.
For the safety of your clients, your colleagues, and you during the coronavirus outbreak, please be sure to follow the guidelines of the CDC and practice social distancing as much as you possibly can. Video conferencing solutions like the options listed above can help you get the benefits of face-to-face meetings with your colleagues and clients while maintaining safe remote work practices.
We wish you good health in these trying times.