The incursion of Covid-19 or coronavirus upon the world saw a dramatic change in the work culture around the world. With people stuck at home, the workspace shifted from the office to the virtual space. This also pushed the tools of communication such as video conferencing apps to the mainstream popularity. Video conferencing apps which previously were a medium to conduct business meetings across multiple locations were suddenly booming. This new age shows how work can efficiently be done from home. The soaring popularity of such tools pushed several tools to the forefront in the vast space of virtual communication. Also Read - Zoom starts rolling out end-to-end encryption, coming soon on iOS
Video conferencing apps are the primary requirements for Work from Home (WFH) to work by a long distance. Today, we will look at four major players in the video conferencing space at the moment. The four contenders include BlueJeans which is branded in India as Airtel BlueJeans, Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Google Meet was previously known as Hangouts, and the other two largely focused on the enterprise before the recent fame. We have been using all three services for a while now and here’s our perspective on how these three compare. Also Read - Google says Hangout users can switch to Chat from next year
Interface and user-friendliness
The first thing that one would notice about the three services is the interface that they offer. To start off BlueJeans offers a very clean interface with clear options for scheduling, starting and joining a meeting. This is focused more on just the video calling part and offers less collaborative options which ensures a clean UI. Recording, screen sharing, and different view options are clear and easy to find. There’s an option to show only the speaker or up to 25 video participants. It also has the option for directional Dolby audio for devices that come with the feature. It also has options to show statistics about the call which is very useful. Also Read - Google Meet app for Android gets new interface and features
Zoom is also not terrible when it comes to the interface and user friendliness. But it’s interface is filled with multiple options that clutter the screen. Though the interface for scheduling, starting and joining a meeting is pretty straightforward. But joining the call is sometimes confusing with just one small text line to do so for anyone on the web. I have had people frequently complain that they don’t see how they can join on the web, until explained so. Changing views and asking for recording permission can also be confusing at times. Hosts have the option to lock and change views and cells.
Google Meet is the most minimal of the three when it comes to UI and interface. It has a simple UI where users can schedule, start and join a meeting from the home screen, with large and clear indicative buttons. It’s possible for Google to offer this simple interface of Google Meet because it has a whole suite of other features that do the rest of the job like Calendar. Recording, and fixing views are extremely simple on this service and clearly visible.
Microsoft Teams on the other hand offers a more complete interface. And by that we mean features like Chat, Meetings, a timeline, calendar, Calls and Activity. While inside calls it has a simple and effective interface that eanbles recording and changing different views. Despite having multiple options in the app, it keeps things simple and accessible.
Apps and Features
Moving on to the next segment, BlueJeans offer a Desktop as well as Android and iOS apps. In fact, most of it’s features are accessible over the desktop app. Meeting administrators can mute and unmute individuals along with a whiteboard feature. Besides this the meeting can be streamed using Facebook Live making it a good candidate for webinars and events. Notifications can also be turned off to ensure participants are not disturbed.
Zoom also has Desktop, Android and iOS apps. To record meetings, users need to be logged in from one of it’s apps else the recording will not get saved. Zoom offers the option for a Personal Meeting ID for each profile which means users can start meetings at short notice. Zoom also allows users to connect to calendars including Google Calendar, iCal and Microsoft Outlook. Another feature that Zoom offers is that participants can join in through phone lines using dial-in numbers. The Pro variant allows unlimited recording time but the unpaid version has a 1-hour limit.
Google Meet on the other hand does not have a desktop app, but it does have Android and iOS apps. Google Meet has options to share screen, and customization for the layout. One of the more interesting features that it offers is live transcription of what the speaker is saying. This means people can follow the conversation even without sound, but the transcription is definitely not perfect and only works in English. Recorded calls are directly saved to Google Drive.
Microsoft Teams, like the other three also offers a Desktop, Android and iOS apps. It has options to connect the calendar which gives access to scheduling meetings. There’s a separate chat feature which enables people on the organization or on the private user’s list to communicate with each other outside of having calls. There’s also the the timeline which is called Teams which is effectively a place to collaborate for an organization by hosting discussions.
BlueJeans uses encryption in terms of security and has two-step authentication. Only invited participants can join a meeting using a unique one-time passcode that can be authenticated via email confirmation or by logging into a dedicated BlueJeans account.
Zoom faced huge backlash earlier this year over its flawed security service but has since improved a lot. It’s new Zoom 5.0 introduces a lot of security reworks which include AES 256-bit GCM encryption which is very tough to crack. Besides this it also offers cloud recording of passwords and secure account contact sharing. The company also rolled out 2FA authentication for users to offer more security options.
Google Meet data is also encrypted in transit by default. Even the Meet recordings stored in Google Drive are encrypted by default. Google Meet does not allow Anonymous users in meetings along with other secure features.
Microsoft Teams in terms of security enforces team-wide and organization-wide two-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory, and encryption of data in transit and at rest.
Last but not the least, pricing is sometimes a deal-breaker. BlueJeans is the only service among the three which does not have a free tier. BlueJeans offers the initial three months for free in India following which it is apparently priced ‘competitively’ in three tiers. We approached the company regarding the pricing but the reply we received was that, “It is not ready yet.”
Zoom on the other hand has a free tier which offers 40-minute limited time calls but no recording. It’s Pro variant starts at $14.99 per month for one user. While Zoom Business retails at $19.99 per month and allows up to 300 participants instead of 100.
Google Meet was previously a part of the paid Google Suite, but has been made free to use now. But the recording feature is still limited to the paid Google Suite.
Microsoft pushes Teams as part of the Office suite, which means users need to subscribe to the Office 365 suite. This has slabs for pricing which start at Rs 125 per month which is the basic plan, Rs 660 for the business standard plan, and Rs 1,320 for the E3 plan. But Teams does have a free tier which anyone with an email ID can access.