Which videoconferencing tool to use

  • Describe some of the issues with videoconferencing
  • Explain some drawbacks of the different video conferencing tools available
  • Identify some of the issues around security
Which videoconferencing tool to use

Such was the ubiquity of the Skype video calling service in the early years of the past decade that in 2014, it was added to the Oxford English dictionary as a verb to denote the practice of video calling - in much the same way Google has become a verb to describe the practice of searching the internet for information.

Yet the recent Covid-19-inspired rush to embrace video calling as a feature of both business and social life seems to have left Skype behind: the pioneer in the market being usurped by rivals, with the hype that once belonged to Skype now buzzing around rival apps Zoom, Houseparty and Microsoft Teams.

Skype is actually owned by Microsoft, which focused much resource and energy on it following its acquisition of the business in 2011, and scrapped other products such as Microsoft Messenger in 2012 as it tried to drive customers to the company it had acquired. 

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Yet  Skype has now been usurped by a product from the same company. 

It is notable that none of the advisers to whom FTAdviser spoke about their adoption of new technology mentioned Skype as the primary service they use, with Zoom and Microsoft Teams being most popular. 

The problem with Skype was that in 2012 consumer habits were shifting away from Desktop and towards Mobile.

In an effort to adapt its product to this new world, Microsoft embarked on a series of updates, but these resulted in numerous glitches, including messages and calls repeating across multiple devices, and issues of calls dropping, creating reliability problems for the company that had become a verb. 

Darren Briaris, technical consultant at Altus says that Microsoft has been proactively directing business clients to use its Teams product rather than Skype, and this has dented the popularity of the latter as a business tool.

The arrival of Zoom and Teams

Zoom was launched in 2011, while Microsoft Teams was released in 2016; Teams was targeted exclusively for business clients, but in March 2020, as lockdowns began across the world, the company began targeting consumers. 

A key advantage of Zoom is that an individual does not have to have an account to be able to join a meeting; one just needs to enter the nine digit code to join a meeting.

Zoom’s growth has been also fuelled by the offer it made at the start of the lockdown to waive the 40 minute limit to use the service for free, for up to three people. 

For people in bigger meetings, the basic package Zoom account for a longer time frame is £11.99 a month.  

A feature that is particularly useful for business meetings on Zoom is the screen sharing facility, whereby one participant in the call can share the contents of their desktop with all other users.

It is also possible for people to hack the calls and share inappropriate content, due to the screen sharing facility.

There are ways around this, for example, in the Settings function, one can choose an option which means only the host can screenshare.