Zooming, Skype and all that

Six months ago you could pretty much guarantee that most attendees to business meetings and interviews would not turn up in pyjamas eating a bowl of cornflakes. Now, thanks to the massive rise in video calls and conferencing since the lockdown, how can you be sure? – It’s amazing how many people seem to develop problems with their web camera in early morning meetings “but don’t worry its ok I can hear you all perfectly” – they say!

Video calling and conferencing platforms have been around for a while now and their use has grown steadily as an alternative to plain old phone calls and face to face meetings since their introduction. Understandably, that growth has accelerated dramatically recently and I think it will become more and more a part of our lives going forward. Whether it’s staying in touch with family and friends, a business meeting or an online doctors appointment these services are now vital. Many of you may already be au fait with some of these services but what are the differences between them and which one is best for you? Hold tight as I try and unravel it all in my 300 (approximately) remaining words.

There are two main camps here. The services aimed at businesses and those at individuals. Most, if not all, services are free to use (although the business platforms reserve their best features for paying customers). Its worth noting that most of these big platforms offer more than just video calling but often instant messaging and audio only calls too (and the business focused ones can offer things like screen sharing and document collaboration)

The two big business platforms are Zoom and Microsoft Teams. They offer better security and can stretch to having hundreds of people on the same call. As such they are perfect not just for businesses but any organization or society that wants to meet with more than a few people at the same time.

Services like Skype, Apple’s FaceTime, Facebooks’s Messenger and Whatsapp are aimed more at the individual who wants to keep in touch with friends and family. Facetime is only available to people with an Apple device (iPhone, iPad or Mac) whereas the others are available on all platforms (Windows, Mac, Android and iPhones & iPads). You just need to download and install the relevant software (or App if using a phone or tablet) then register and sign in.

Its worth noting that fundamentally most of these services work the same. You set up an account then start adding contacts to your list so you can call them. This can be easier on some platforms than others. For instance if you are already a keen Facebook user, and everyone you need to talk to is on your existing friends list, then the Messenger app is all ready to go. If you use other Microsoft software like Outlook for your emails then Skype might be a better option as it can automatically scan your email contacts and add anyone with a matching skype account automatically.

Ultimately I think it’s a good idea to know your way around most of the major platforms as you will probably find everyone is using a different one.

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