While we practice social distancing or shelter in place as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Zoom has become a household name. Since the crisis, Zoom has been experiencing record numbers of daily users. Starting out at 10 million in December, recent numbers indicate the platform has seen as many as 200 million daily users.
Zoom is typically used for virtual business meetings. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, as schools shut down and social gatherings were discouraged or even prohibited, school and social use has soared. Zoom happy hours, family gatherings and book clubs alike are taking advantage of the free service for virtual get-togethers.
Just as quickly as Zoom exploded in popularity, however, it came under intense scrutiny for privacy and security issues. The familiar name became an infamous word. The company did quickly take responsibility. It apologized and assured users that the issues would be resolved.
Still, the damage is done. Many are now looking for alternatives.
Trending Toward More and More Remote Work
Remote work has been on the rise for over a decade. According to a FlexJobs report, more than 3.9 million employees in the United States were working from home at least half of the time before the COVID-19 crisis. This represents a 115 percent increase since 2005.
Finding a secure and effective platform is important as the uptick in remote work, conference calls and virtual meetings is quite likely to continue after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
For businesses looking to offer remote work to its employees, many factors will come into play as they decide which platforms best meet their needs.
Depending on how you need to use virtual communication, there is an option out there for your business. Platforms cater to all types of businesses, users and needs. There are platforms that cater to single-employee, small or large businesses. There are even platforms found to work particularly well for WordPress users. You name, it’s out there.
Internal Meetings Considerations
When working remotely, effective communication, work force management and project management are all critical functions in maintaining effective team operations. Face to face interaction and various other features are often required to satisfy this type of need. Platforms offer options galore including:
- Screen sharing
- Remote control of another’s desktop
- File exchange
- Digital whiteboard communication
- Chat via instant messaging
One sophisticated option, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), even allows users to dynamically change voice calls to video calls and shared meetings at the touch of a button without establishing new connections.
External Client Meetings Considerations
Many of the same important considerations exist for external client meetings and sales calls. But the priorities for these types of interactions may be different and, as a result, additional features may be necessary.
When providing customer service, training and support or conducting sales calls, connectivity and audio clarity are critical. If this is the highest priority, reviewing the best VoIP options might make sense.
Business audio systems wear many hats. They must provide voice communications for employees; they have to support a call center for sales, customer service, and support; and they need to connect with and through a variety of other channels, like video conferencing, conference calling, mobile communications, wireless handsets, and text. User demands are becoming increasingly complex as users expect their voice service to provide advanced functionality like call recording, among other things.
Advances in cloud phone systems make it possible for businesses to remain reliably connected with their employees, sales prospects and customers regardless of where they are located.
Making a Decision
When deciding, look beyond just the features.
Be sure to consider factors like whether scaled pricing is based on the number of hosts or attendees. This is important and can be a deciding factor in your choice.
Also consider ease of use:
- Test the features to sign up, create a meeting, send invitations, navigate audio and video.
- What do the admin features offer?
- Then sit in the seat of the attendee and assess what the user experience is like. If an attendee is likely to struggle with the platform, game over.
Consistent favorites include WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Blue Jeans, GoToMeeting, Nextiva and Ring Central. Several of these options are even expanding their free service offerings to accommodate the current crisis and the resulting remote work surge.
Many of these services have free accounts, but those free accounts vary significantly in what is actually offered. Be sure to check the included features, how many participants are allowed, etc.