If you’re a small business looking to invest in video conferencing, all your worries have disappeared up into the clouds.
Cloud-based video conferencing has become the industry standard, and its arrival means the departure of all the video conferencing hardware heartache that once plagued online visual communication.
Ask your more experienced business colleagues and they’ll tell you stories of having to buy expensive hardware and servers, of having to install and configure software, of dealing with data centers and call control and network issues. It’s all gone.
With the best cloud-based video conferencing services, all that is someone else’s problem. For the cost of an annual subscription fee, all you have to worry about is fitting out your conference room with the best cameras and microphones–and you can that in 4K for less than $2,000–and deciding how to lay out your video conferencing room.
Cloud-based video conferencing has taken over, and the only question that remains is: how do you identify the best services?
Choosing the Best Cloud-Based Video Conferencing Services
There are literally dozens of cloud-based video conferencing platforms available today. In fact, many of the finalists on our list of the best video conferencing software of 2018 exist solely in the cloud.
To separate the best from the rest, we’ll go over some key features you’ll want from your vendor:
- Tight Cloud Security
- Sufficient Storage
- All the Standard Features
- Plenty of Extra Features
- Scalability to Grow with Your Business
- User-Friendly Enough to be Used by Non-Experts
- Connectivity Options to Suit Every Domain
Let’s start with (possibly) the most important.
Tight Cloud Security
Despite what the poet once said, there’s nothing lonely about a cloud. Not paying for servers and data centers to carry all your information is perhaps the biggest cost incentive for switching to the cloud, but it comes at a different sort of price–privacy. In most cases, your data, files, and personal details are all in the hands of your VC vendor, and they store it alongside every other customer’s information.
Most vendors publicly display their security methods, including the availability of end-to-end encryption for your calls. Do your research and make sure your vendor, be they a giant like Microsoft or a hot new player like Zoom, has a strong track record on security.
As I said, it gets crowded up there in the cloud, but you should always feel like you have enough room to keep your digital affairs in order. Storage space is a key differentiator among cloud services because it’s expensive to maintain–you’ll notice the first thing vendors will offer you as an incentive to move up a fee range is more storage room.
You can see how some of our favorites stack up against each other below. Basically, you’re looking for a balance between cost and space. As a guide, Google Drive comes with a free 15GB of storage, and that’s plenty for all your GSuite needs.
All the Standard Features
If you’ve spent any time with us at VC Daily before, you’ll know the standard video conferencing features by heart. Thankfully, most of these are omnipresent these days, but if you find something missing, it’s a red flag to look a little deeper into what your vendor is offering.
A standard video conferencing solution for your office should include:
- Group video calling for at least six people at a time
- Screen sharing
- Video recording and storage
- Meeting scheduling linked to corporate calendar
- Instant messaging in-meeting
- File sharing in-meeting
- Interoperability with leading apps
- Full-screen display
- Chat window orientation
- Screen minimization and browsing
Plenty of Extra Features
Once you get past the basics, you’re into product differentiation territory and its time to decide what features you need. Here you’ll find things like advanced moderator controls, app- and screen-specific sharing, translation features, automated note taking, third-party notifications, the ability to lock meetings (and other meeting controls), and host of others that may (or may not) be critical for your business, depending on your specific requirements.
Scalability to Grow with Your Business
The easiest way to fall into an unwanted subscription trap is to underestimate the growth of your own team. Every VC vendor puts limits on the number of hosts or licensees that can use their product at each stage of investment. Be careful though–while it may be just the six of you huddled around a few desks today, in the future you may need video connections across floors, buildings, or even state and international borders.
Choose a vendor with enough room on the high end to one day accommodate your business when it booms.
User-Friendly Enough to be Used by Non-Experts
Again, the best cloud-based video conferencing services will fall into this category. The industry has long been driven by a “keep it simple” mantra in an effort to broaden the appeal of video calling. The bottom line is, once the initial installation is done–and your office IT enthusiast is probably overqualified to download and install most video calling software–it should only take one meeting to get everyone up to speed on how to use your new video caller.
To find a user-friendly setup, take advantage of free versions and trial periods. You’re looking for an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to schedule, launch, and host a meeting, to add and delete contacts, and to switch between the standard features you’ll need in-meeting.
Connectivity Options to Suit Every Domain
Things get a little more complicated here, but you’re really just making sure your video setup can handle all the devices and platforms you’ll use during work. This includes employees’ own devices, especially smartphones, and any web-based, browser-based, and mobile-based applications you use internally or externally. It takes a chat with a rep to get to the bottom of most of these details, but don’t be afraid to demand a flexible, robust service.