So, just to catch you up. The Coronavirus debuted in 2020, forcing everyone and almost every industry to move their operations online. We are talking about government offices, banks, schools, businesses, even health care. Popularly known as Covid-19, this virus is no joke, and it is going to be here for a while. In response, societies rushed to close the great digital divide, increasing the demand for communication platforms, to meet with staff and clients alike.
These communication platforms usually offer more than just video conferencing services. The average platform enables users to share their screens, chat via text, gain remote access to other users' devices, broadcast conferences to groups of passive viewers, share files, and communicate via digital whiteboards.
All those communication aids have been tweaked and adjusted to improve our work-from-home experience, especially for long-term use. Communication platforms do a lot more than connecting distant workers. Some allow you to provide customer support in real-time and connect with partners efficiently.
This digital exodus placed a strain on the existing communication platforms, thus paving the way for new services to join the feast. With tensions high in this arena, various platforms have restructured and improved their services to become the more attractive player. Here are five major communication platforms in the game today.
Microsoft Teams offers a plethora of features within just one application. Users can schedule audio or video meetings with a team or an individual. Up to 10,000 participants can be comfortably accommodated in large conferences and webinars. Teams provide the ease of scheduling calls and sharing invites throughout the organization with a full integration of Microsoft 365. Simultaneously, allowing external guests to join from their browser without having to download the application.
Teams allow seamless integration with a wide range of applications. A few are listed below.
● Azure Boards
Meetings can be scheduled in advance, and you will be alerted a few minutes prior. Recurring meetings can also be scheduled, and with the requisite permissions, you may view someone's Outlook calendar, primarily to find the right time for a meeting. One call can host up to 250 participants, which is significantly higher than other video conferencing platforms.
Additional call features offered by Microsoft Teams include call recording, live captions, chat components and functions, screen sharing, and background blur technology.
The force behind this platform is the hardware options that enable remote communication. Whether you are stationary or on-the-go, Bluetooth conferencing headsets, mobile devices, and desktop computers can facilitate all forms of communication.
Draw-backs of Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is commended for supporting a wide range of apps and services for integration, offering major functionalities expected of a business communication platform. Nevertheless, Teams faces one consequential hurdle: the only groups who may use Teams in its entirety are those who have a Microsoft 365 Subscription.
As such, Microsoft Teams is well suited for organizations that want to keep their operations structured, well compartmentalized, and solely in house. In short, it may not be for everyone. Teams is well organized, but depending on the user, it may seem complex. Therefore, making this platform the road less travelled by the average person looking for simple communication. It is also not the first choice for independent freelancers.
Zoom is the undefeated heavyweight communication platform champion, mainly because it caters to the average person looking to have a quick meeting. Zoom’s popularity has grown exponentially since the pandemic and remains the number 1 choice for virtual communication today.
You can make video calls while working from home and use it for other forms of virtual “get-togethers.” Zoom is not only used for distant learning and work-from-home capabilities, but the platform is also a great way to attend weddings, funerals, reunions, and many other social events.
Zoom Meetings provide video conferencing and chat solutions for desktop and mobile devices. Set up is seamless and offers a wide range of expansive features. Zoom accommodates up to 1,000 participants simultaneously in video conferences with up to 49 videos on a single screen. Zoom provides the option of screen sharing for presentation purposes.
The influx of users has exposed Zoom’s flaws and weaknesses, forcing the company to address these issues quickly. The company had said it used end-to-end encryption but had to clarify that claim. End-to-end encryption was not available for Zoom via other devices, such as mobile phones, to dial into the audio of a call. It would be a mammoth undertaking and, frankly, next to impossible to conduct that range of encryption.
Zoom servers based in China had been generating encryption keys given to users in other countries, which is considered a security risk. Once again, the matter was addressed. Additionally, users can now control which countries their video conferences are routed through.
Finally, instances of people hijacking in-progress meetings with inappropriate content have occurred in recent times. These incidents, known as “Zoom-bombing," were said to have happened because the hosts were unaware of the option to enable particular security features to secure calls. However, Zoom resolved the matter by altering its default settings.
Hosts now see a new security button on their toolbar during active calls. This button gives hosts quick access to important security features, such as locking the meeting, enabling a waiting room for any additional guests who try to join, and giving participants permission to share their screens, chat, and so forth.
Cisco Webex Meeting is another giant in the virtual communication arena. With multiple plans available, the free version is comprehensive enough to suit most needs. Up to 100 participants can engage in video conferences with the options of screen sharing and conducting private chat rooms.
The free package includes 1GB of cloud storage, unlimited meetings with the ability to make MP4 recordings of them. Security is catered for by TLS 1.2 and AES 256-bit encryption and supported by Cisco's expertise in networking is impressive.
A personal URL is provided upon registration that allows users the ability to customize their Personal Room on the platform.
1. By default, the host's username as the Personal Room identifier; for example, https://sitename.webex.com/meet/username.
2. Instant meetings—Quickly start a meeting, and everyone will know where it is held.
3. Back-to-back meetings—Your Personal Room is great for back-to-back meetings. Just join once and manage who can attend through the Lobby.
4. Microsoft Outlook invitations—Copy and paste yourPersonal Room link into your Microsoft Outlook invitations so that attendees can join your Personal Room just like a regular WebEx meeting.
5. Private meetings—Lock your room so you can control who is allowed in.
6. Email signature—Add your Personal Room URL and number to your email signature so everyone will know where to find you.
● Google Cloud
Lastly, Webex has become the ideal platform for quality virtual healthcare. As medical practices transition to telehealth due to the less than gentle nudge of the pandemic, Webex soars in popularity. It is the go-to platform for secure virtual medical consultations.
RingCentral offers a range of industry-standard features across all its plans. These include scheduling meetings, audio, and video calls and recording, screen sharing and annotation, and in-built chat functionalities.
● Google Workspace
● Microsoft 365, Outlook
● Skype for Business.
RingCentral allows users to make calls directly from these 3rd party platforms. The platform also allows for the user’s calendar to be integrated for the ease of accessing their schedule. Businesses already using Microsoft Suit and the Google Workspace will benefit a great deal from this cross-platform integration.
It also provides substantial administrator control, and users do not need to worry about downloading the software because it is optimized to work in web browsers.
Google Meet is the rebranding of Google Hangouts. It is part of the Google Workspace or G Suite. Targeted specifically for businesses, the platform accommodates many users simultaneously, offers a friendly user-interface, and simply says, “Hey Google, join meeting,” you can join a call with smart participation.
Google Meet aims at making it easier to connect with external clients by providing the following:
Web application interaction without the need to download a software.
A dial-in number allows mobile workers to join calls while ensuring that the call's quality is maintained.
All mobile users.
Google Meet can also work with existing conferencing hardware.
Working within Google Suit, you can access and use data from other applications with ease. You may schedule meetings, set up an event, or view an itinerary from Google Calendar.
Essentially, Google Meet is a professional business-oriented conferencing platform that does not require up-front costs for hardware, making it accessible for businesses of any size.
These communication platforms are ranked in the top 5 because of their usability, security, integrations, and their network of communication features. As we navigate life with the pandemic, the need for virtual communication will only increase, opening the market for new players and better components. Ultimately, this list can change within the next few months as communication platforms continuously update their services to become the best in the game.
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