Video conferencing has experienced steady growth over the past decade, becoming an essential tool for connecting remote workers and distributed teams. But now the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented, rapid adoption and record numbers of downloads for video conferencing apps, with the market expected to double over the next seven years.
There’s no shortage of good video conferencing tools available. While some offer extensive features and integrations with enterprise software suites, others are better suited for quick, easy, face-to-face meetings.
Whatever your video conferencing needs are, here are the 10 best tools for 2021.
10 best video conferencing tools for 2021
- Google Hangouts Meet
- Microsoft Teams
- Cisco Webex Meetings
- Zoho Meeting
- Owl Labs Meeting Owl
Zoom has become a household name for video conferencing by offering the most robust and feature-rich software of any of its competitors. “Zoom is the mammoth in the space for a reason,” says Lance Cummins, president at the content marketing firm Nectafy.
While there have been concerns about Zoom’s security, it currently remains the best option for those who want reliable HD video and audio, and powerful functionality such as sophisticated permissions and host controls, virtual backgrounds, and more.
Zoom is also a great tool for holding webinars and other large group meetings. The free option allows meetings of up to 100 participants for 40 minutes (or unlimited time for one-on-one calls). Paid plans start at $14.99 a month per host and allow meetings up to 24 hours long, personal meeting IDs, and more.
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2. Google Hangouts Meet
Google Hangouts, which offers free video calls to individuals, and Google Hangouts Meet, Google’s enterprise video conferencing tool, are both fully integrated into G Suite. Hangouts Meet is free to all G Suite users, who can create meetings of up to 100 participants right in Google Calendar.
While Hangouts Meet (currently being rebranded to Google Meet) lags behind Zoom in overall features, it does offer collaboration tools such as screen sharing and dial-in numbers for those joining by phone; it also runs entirely in the browser, so users don’t have to download any other software.
Those with Business and Enterprise G Suite plans can hold meetings of up to 150 and 250 participants respectively. They also have access to features such as meeting recordings and livestreaming. (Google recently extended these premium features to all G Suite users until September 2020, to help organizations cope with the effects of COVID-19.)
3. Microsoft Teams
For organizations that use Microsoft tools, Microsoft’s communication and collaboration platform Teams offers increasingly impressive video conferencing functionality. Teams replaces Skype for Business, which is being absorbed into the broader Teams platform. Users can hold audio, video, and web conferences, or live events with up to 10,000 attendees.
Teams integrates with the Microsoft Office 365 product line and offers features such as in-meeting chat, recordings, notes from previous meetings, collaboration abilities, scheduling assistance, and more. Pricing starts at $12.50 per user per month for the Business Premium plan, which includes Teams, Exchange, OneDrive cloud storage, SharePoint, Yammer, and Stream.
GoToMeeting by LogMeIn was the original leading enterprise video conferencing tool and still offers plenty of features for businesses of all sizes, such as a dial-in conference line, a custom meeting URL, in-app messaging, collaboration tools such as screen sharing and whiteboards, meeting transcription services, and no meeting time limits.
You can join meetings from either a mobile device or desktop, but if it’s your first time using the software, you may need to download it. Pricing starts at $12 per organizer per month with an annual contract for meetings of up to 150 participants.
Also from LogMeIn, Join.me is a great option when you need to set up a video call as quickly and simply as possible. Users can instantly create and share a link to a personal meeting room without downloading any software or scheduling a meeting. The user-friendly interface allows one-click screen sharing but lacks the extensive features of other options. Plans start at $10 per month; a free trial is available.
BlueJeans is a cloud-based conferencing app that combines simplicity with a rich set of features. You can launch meetings from a browser — no software downloads necessary.
Features include screen sharing, whiteboards, recordings, and chat. BlueJeans integrates with popular collaboration tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google’s G Suite. Annual plans start at $9.99 per host, per month with 50 participants per meeting.
7. Cisco Webex Meetings
A stalwart among large enterprises, Webex is Cisco’s conferencing solution. It combines web video conferencing and voice calling.
Webex Meetings is now a great option for organizations of all sizes thanks to its recently improved free plan, which allows users to host up to 100 participants with no limits on meeting time or number of calls, and includes meeting controls and collaboration tools, dial-in numbers, and 1 GB of cloud storage.
For teams that want more functionality, such as recordings and administrative controls, pricing starts at $13.50 per host per month.
8. Zoho Meeting
Zoho Meeting is a video meeting and webinar tool within the Zoho customer relationship management (CRM) software suite that focuses on client relationships. Zoho Meeting features functionality for question-and-answer sessions with clients, analytics and reporting to measure participant engagement, and publicity tools for webinars, as well as standard video conferencing features. Pricing begins at $8 per host, per month for up to 100 participants.
Slack is an incredibly popular communication and collaboration tool for teams of all sizes, but it also offers built-in video conferencing.
While Slack’s video conferencing capabilities are weaker than standalone video conferencing solutions, they do offer a good option for Slack customers who just want to quickly jump on a video call. Slack also includes screen sharing and annotation functionality that allows participants to draw on each other’s screens — a feature that can be useful for remote teams working collaboratively.
10. Owl Labs Meeting Owl
While not a software program, OWL Labs provides an impressive physical tool for in-office video conferencing: Meeting Owl. Meeting Owl is a smart video conferencing camera for meeting rooms that captures 360-degree video and audio, and automatically shifts the camera to focus on whomever is speaking.
The result is that remote attendees get to feel like they’re sitting in the room with the rest of the team. Pretty nifty!