Zoom is a video conferencing app that lets you interact virtually with your colleagues and loved ones when you are away from them. Fast and very user-friendly, the platform is available for free on PC, on your mobile devices or via the Internet.
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What is Zoom
Zoom Cloud Meetings, or Zoom to put it simply, is an online video conferencing platform that was created in 2011 by the Californian company Zoom Video Communications. Available free of charge, the service allows you to organize, join or share videoconferencing meetings. This free version of Zoom is fully functional and meets most user needs.
Zoom owes much of its current popularity to the general craze towards telecommuting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the platform has become a must in the professional world. More than half of the Fortune 500 companies would have used the platform in 2020 and recent figures even indicate that a peak of more than 300 million users was reached in one day in April 2020.
The application is available for all devices with an Internet browser as well as for tablets and smartphones running Android or iOS.
What are the main features of Zoom?
In essence, Zoom is a video conferencing service, hosted in the cloud, which you can use to communicate with your business or personal contacts. Completely secure, the application allows you to organize, join or invite a colleague during a video conference. In the latter case, the person is invited either by using their email address or by adding their Zoom contact. It is therefore not necessary for the guest to register on the platform.
On the one hand, thanks to online storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive, Zoom allows you to share files (text documents, audio files, images, videos, URLs) with your colleagues. You can even share part or all of your screen or whiteboard by choosing which camera will be used.
On the other hand, you can chat or send messages to the participants present in the meeting. You will then have the choice between chatting with everyone, with a sub-group or with a colleague in particular. The functionality of creating a survey before or during the webconference is particularly interesting in this context.
Of course, you can manage the participants by dividing them into sub-groups and you can even record the entire conference as well as all of your interactions with the participants for delayed broadcasting.
What’s new in the latest version of Zoom?
Among the new features brought by the new version of Zoom, we can note the possibility of no longer having to download the Zoom client to use the service. Indeed, the platform is now available in a completely dematerialized way on the official website of the company. All you have to do is go there and use an extension grafted to your Internet browser to benefit from the service offered by the service.
In addition, a major update has been made concerning the security aspect of Zoom. Following repeated Zoombombing incidents that affected meetings not protected by password, the company decided to strengthen the encryption to protect user privacy. It is now mandatory to lock a meeting with a password and end-to-end encryption has been available as an option since July 2020. In addition, Zoom now has a waiting room and allows the removal of unwanted participants.
The new version of the application currently allows conference hosts to pause a meeting to deal with miscellaneous incidents that may occur during the session. To this functionality is added a system for detecting conference links made public without the consent of the organizers. The latter will then be automatically warned if such a situation arises.
What are the differences between the free and paid versions of Zoom?
The free version of Zoom allows you to gather up to 100 participants in a single chat room. However, the maximum duration of a meeting is limited to 40 minutes from 3 participants. The free version also allows you to take advantage of all the features offered by the software, but be aware that you will only be able to connect from one device (computer, tablet, smartphone) at a time.
The paid versions of Zoom are available in several offers (Pro, Business and Enterprise) which enrich the functionality of the free version. The Pro offer allows the host to create personal identifiers, to record as many meetings in the cloud as long as the total duration does not exceed 24 hours.
The Business offer allows you to associate personalized URLs with meetings, to benefit from a meeting transcription service and to obtain personalized customer support. The Company offer is intended for structures with more than 1,000 employees. The latter allows unlimited storage in the cloud, offers a customer success manager and offers several promotions relating to webinars and Zoom rooms.
To be able to use Zoom on your computer, several options are available to you. If you are not the administrator of your computer, launch your web browser and go to the platform’s official website. Once there, you will need to download an extension allowing you to participate in your meeting.
These extensions are available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox and they allow you to take advantage of all the features of Zoom regardless of your operating system. Extensions for Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business are also available.
Note that Zoom also offers software, called “Zoom Client for Meetings”, which can be installed free of charge on your Mac or PC. To organize your meeting, you will need to install the “Zoom Rooms for Conference Rooms” software available for free download from the company’s website.
However, if you want to use Zoom on your smartphone or tablet, you can freely download the latest version of the application from the App Store. This then requires iOS 8.0 or higher to run on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Zoom is also available in the Play Store and you will need Android 5.0 or later to take advantage of all of its features.
What are the best alternatives to Zoom?
Several alternatives to Zoom are available free on the Internet.
Skype is a video conferencing application from Microsoft. Just like Zoom, Skype enables file, media or desktop screen sharing. It also benefits from instant messaging and Internet telephony. Its videoconferencing functionality allows up to 50 participants with no obligation to register or create an account.
The application can be used directly via the browser, be installed on your computer running Windows, Linux or MacOS or on your mobile devices equipped with Android, iOS or Windows Phone.
Still on Microsoft’s side, the Microsoft Teams collaborative communication application offers video or audio calling, file sharing and storage, and instant messaging. Teams can manage up to 9 video streams simultaneously and offers interesting features such as the ability to request the floor during a meeting or access to several statistics on past meetings.
In addition, Teams is perfectly integrated with Microsoft 365 and OneDrive, which allows it to facilitate collaborative work on Word, Excel or PowerPoint. The application is available from any PC via the online service or via the mobile versions on smartphones and tablets.
The American giant Cisco Systems, for its part, offers software and a mobile videoconferencing application called WebEx Meetings. Like its competitors, WebEx Meetings provides its users with basic online communication, meeting and collaboration functionalities. Completely flexible, this service easily adapts to the size of your structure (small team meeting or conference of up to 3,000 participants). In addition, the platform is available for free on Windows or Mac for desktop versions and in the Play Store or App Store for mobile versions.
We will end this list with the online service GoToMeeting offered by the company LogMeln. It is an online meeting, instant messaging, screen sharing and video conferencing service. However, the free version of the app does not allow file exchange or meeting recording. In addition, meetings are managed via the web application and are limited to 40 minutes for a number of participants limited to 4. The service is however accessible to all because it is run through Internet browsers.