6 top videoconferencing services put to the test
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The 6 top videoconferencing services put to the test
Fifteen months after the US and Europe first went into lockdown, many office workers have still not returned to their pre-pandemic workplaces. During that time, video conferencing apps continued to see an unprecedented — and unsurprisingly — level of popularity. And as conversations about what the workplace of the future could look like heat up, organizations are increasingly looking for solid up their collaboration technology stack to support a shift to hybrid work.
Since we first reviewed the top video conferencing platforms last year, Zoom has posted its total revenue in the first quarter of 2021 at $956.2 million. up 191% year on year; Microsoft Teams has 145 million daily active users, up from 75 million last year; and Cisco Webex has rolled out more than 400 new capabilities since September.
During the first rush to work remotely in early 2020, many companies turned to the video app that was most convenient. Now it’s time to reassess whether your organization is using the best video conferencing platform for its needs. Here at Computerworld, we’ve tried to take some of the headache out of your decision-making process by trying and evaluating several leading video conferencing platforms.
For last year’s review, we tested five key platforms: Cisco Webex Meetings, Google Meet, LogMeIn GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. For this year’s updated review, we’ve added another leading platform, BlueJeans, to the mix. With the help of colleagues in the US, we conducted a series of group video calls across the six apps to find out which system offered the best service for meetings with remote employees.
The key criteria we used to evaluate each platform can be narrowed down to user experience, audio and video quality, and management considerations, including management tools and security. We paid special attention to the user interface of each platform, the in-meeting features, and how easy it was to use with no prior training. The good news is that all six platforms provide us with solid audio and video, along with a good range of features that helped improve the experience of every video call we had.
However, not all video conferencing platforms are created equal and as a team we preferred some products over others. While our opinions are subjective, we hope the following reviews and side-by-side feature comparison chart helps any organization struggling to find the right video conferencing software make an informed investment decision.
Note: All meeting screenshots are provided by the vendors. For privacy and security reasons, we have chosen not to show screenshots with Computerworld employees in their homes. BlueJeans virtual meetings
Founded in 2009 as Blue Jeans Network, BlueJeans launched its cloud-based service in 2011 with the goal of making video conferencing available to anyone with a video device. In addition to its main video conferencing platform, Virtual Meetings, BlueJeans offers meeting room, telehealth, webinar and other event products. The company was bought by Verizon in 2020.
As with all platforms included in this review, our BlueJeans test call was conducted on the free version of the platform, with participants joining the call from a variety of devices and locations.
When I first downloaded the desktop app to set up up the meeting, I was immediately shocked by the fact that my webcam was turned on automatically and my face became the background of the login screen. At no point was I warned that this would happen or asked if I wanted to enable or disable this setting for my camera Agitated. After logging in to the app, I could use my camera, but having my face unexpectedly staring at me as I entered my username and password wasn’t something I was happy about.
Institution up a meeting within the app should in theory be very simple: there is an option to link a Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook calendar. However, when I tried to integrate BlueJeans and Outlook, I was told it was not possible because Outlook was not installed on my device. (It is.) As with most other platforms, luckily the solution wasn’t that onerous; you simply copy the pre-generated personal meeting information to a calendar invitation and send it to all participants.
Once on the call, another quirk we encountered was the fact that all participants had moderator privileges enabled by default. Again, this could be something the host can enable or disable when setting up up the meeting, but when I organized the call, it was certainly not clear to me. Fortunately, no one abused this newfound power during our test call, but it can certainly cause a problem when meeting with remote users.
In addition to those first problems, the in-call features offered by BlueJeans all seemed to work as intended. Although the version we tried was not feature rich, all participants could share their screens, view and annotate the whiteboard, and enable a virtual background. There is also an option to add a nameplate to your video tile; however, that can only be seen by other participants when they are in gallery mode. video conference review 2021 bluejeans gallery BlueJeans
BlueJeans offers meeting participants the usual array of controls and views during meetings. (Click image to enlarge.)
A colleague who tested the ability to join the meeting via different web browsers was happy to find that BlueJeans supports Firefox, Safari and Opera in addition to Chrome and Edge. In addition, another colleague who used the BlueJeans iPhone app to access the conversation was “pleasantly surprised” by her experience. Audio and visual quality
Unfortunately, one platform will always have to come last in the audio and visual quality test, and this year it was BlueJeans.
A colleague was having trouble getting his microphone to work with the platform, but even after this issue was resolved, for many of us the picture quality was noticeably grainy and the audio tended to drop out every now and then.
It should be noted that at no point was it bad enough for us to drop the call; however, several participants noted that this call was the worst in terms of overall image quality. Management Considerations
BlueJeans offers four virtual meeting plans, offering more advanced management capabilities at each tier. With Pro plan and above, the platform offers integrations with dozens of apps for business productivity, collaboration, marketing, and IT management and security.
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