Choosing the Right Video Conferencing Tool for your Accounting Firm

We are all having to get used to a new way of working and living. Working remotely brings new challenges for managing productivity and maintaining communication between employees. This is where technology helps.

Around the world, people are downloading apps that connect them with others, whether that is to stay in contact with family and friends or to communicate with colleagues and clients. At the time of writing this blog, seven of the most downloaded free apps for Apple ioS are communications apps. (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Messenger, Google Duo, and WhatsApp).

Many of us are already familiar with the direct messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or Apple’s Facetime but for team conversations and work, you’ll want more functionality.

Video conferencing apps offer features that enable you to collaborate and work together, such as:

  1. Being able to have a group chat with more than two people.
  2. The ability to share your screen, so you can talk about a document you are working on or share a graph, presentation or a spreadsheet. 
  3. Being able to record meetings and share them for the purposes of writing up action points or to share with non-attendees.
  4. Being able to invite people to a call using a URL link.

There are a number of tools that offer this service and, no doubt in the current climate, more players will be entering the market. In this blog, we’ll look at the three major players in video conferencing:  Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, and Microsoft Teams. The reason we are not including Skype in this list is that Microsoft has announced an end of life program for the integration of Skype for Business with third-party audio conferencing providers (ACPs), concluding July 2021. However, Skype is still a useful tool for Skype to Skype calls. 

Note: before you download video conferencing, make sure the devices you and your team are using have a microphone and camera.

Zoom, Hangouts Meet, and Microsoft Teams enable online meetings, screen sharing, file sharing, and chats. Microsoft Teams and Zoom have a free version with fewer features than the paid subscriptions and they all have free trial periods. At the moment these tools are offering extended trials to help businesses through the current period of remote working.

Zoom has a number of plans to suit your business. The free plan will suit many businesses. On this plan, the meeting time is limited to 40 minutes with a maximum of 100 participants. You still get support and collaboration features. Paid plans give you more features such as participants, longer meeting times and controls. Plus you get a custom personal meeting ID which comes in handy when you want to invite someone into a call on the spot. Zoom’s website has a breakdown of the meeting plans for your business.

Google Hangouts Meet works with Google’s G Suite. For example, in Google Calendar you can create a meeting and choose Hangouts Meet under ‘add conferencing’. In response to Covid-19, all G-suite customers can get free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities including larger meetings for your to 250 participants, live streaming to up to 100,000 viewers and the ability to record and save to Google Drive. For longer-term pricing click here.

Microsoft Teams are offering a 6 month free trial in response to Coronavirus. On the free plan, you get limited chat and collaboration, plus meetings, calls, and security. You can have up to 300 members and storage is limited to 2GB.  To get administration tools or Microsoft support you’ll need to move to a paid plan. These start from approximately US $5 per month. For more information on the plans, click here.

For many businesses, who are now working from home, video conferencing allows you to maintain a sense of team. Keep productivity levels up and projects on track by building in a regular catch up. A video ‘check-in’ at 9 am is a good way to start the day, identify the work in progress and keep motivation levels up.

Stay safe and stay connected!

 

 

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