In this article, we look to address those issues. We investigate exactly what Zoom is as a piece of software so that we can more precisely find alternatives to Zoom that will work for you and your specific purposes. We also discuss why the need for Zoom meeting alternatives are necessary as well as what the best Zoom alternative could be.
Importantly, we also explore how you can stay safe while using any of the Zoom webinar alternatives. In doing so, we look into VPNs and whether they are a good form of security to have in place while using video conferencing software. It’s important to remember that simply because you are using a different form of communication app for your work, it does not detract from the very real need to protect what is being transmitted over the internet.
In This Article –
What is Zoom?
Zoom is a piece of software that allows its users to conduct video conferences over an internet connection. The app itself is free for most, though if you require meetings with more than a certain amount of people, you will need to pay for a subscription.
Users can conduct audio calls with Zoom, but its main draw is its easy to use format where meeting attendees simply have to log in via a meeting number and pin. From there, the software can pick up on who is talking and bring them to a main window on a person’s phone or computer. Users can also view all meeting attendees in a gallery format too.
It’s gained notoriety as it is possible to use it in conjunction with a wide variety of operating systems. This has meant that it can be used by a very broad spectrum of people, from devices they already have. Content can easily be recorded for further sharing. Additionally, the project sharing capabilities are helpful as users can annotate each other’s screens.
People have been using it in increasingly innovative ways too. For example, the company has said it has seen a surge in the amount of workout sessions taking place by personal trainers that cannot work as they normally would due to social distancing measures.
Why Do I Need Alternatives to Zoom?
While Zoom meets a lot of people’s needs and requirements, it has recently come under fire for Zoom security issues that have been highlighted in the media. While it may sound like something out of a spy film, there really is a major Zoom security flaw in its software.
The Zoom security flaw is sadly, that there have been a number of attempts by espionage from the likes of countries like North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China. The reason that this has been able to happen is due to the substandard encryption techniques and Zoom’s reliance on China servers. Sadly, this means that whilst it is already vulnerable to hacking or spying, it could feasibly be compromised by Chinese pressure in the future as well.
In the meantime, the substandard encryption of the application, that does not provide end to end encryption on all calls, means that any conversations are susceptible to being overheard. This can mean that sensitive data regarding specific companies can get into the wrong hands or any amount of data linked to individuals and their financial information could be revealed. This is why companies and individuals need an open source Zoom alternative.
What is the Best Zoom Alternative?
Bearing the need for alternatives to Zoom in mind thanks to the much-publicized Zoom security issues, what brands are available to answer that need? Below, we list a number that we think offer reliable and innovative solutions to the demand for video conferencing – in times of the Coronavirus and beyond.
Cisco Webex is both a free and paid-for subscription service. The free version does offer a great deal already to its customers as it allows meetings to have 50 attendees at one time, and three users can hold meetings simultaneously. Meetings can run for up to 40 minutes in the free version as well as giving users the ability to share screens and record their streamed content.
The paid-for plan has three different tiers that start at $13.50 a month per host user. Within that plan, a host can have 50 attendees a meeting. The second tier offers hosts the ability to hold meetings with up to 100 attendees and charges $17.95 a month. For $26.95 a month for the highest tier, users get a five license minimum and the ability to host meetings of up to 200 people.
This may make the free version appealing to some, but the paid-for plans also give its users cloud storage as well as some management capabilities. Whichever is chosen however, users like Cisco for its ease and speed to connect with colleagues. There is an additional chat feature as well as the ability to share screens that users find helpful.
It is so common when looking at technological solutions to overlook some of the software that we often have in place. Whatsapp is an application that so many people around the world have installed – particularly outside of the US. It is commonly used as a messaging app, thanks to its ease of use. However, it is less commonly used for audio calls and particularly not well used for video catch-ups.
In fact, Whatsapp is great for video calls and can even host group calls too. They’re quick to set up – you only need to video call a group that you have and select participants and you’re set. It is, therefore, a good option for those that need a no-frills video conferencing solution. If you simply need to call people as opposed to have project sharing capabilities and other fancier features, then this is a good option – particularly as it is already downloaded on so many people’s devices already. This makes life a lot easier for businesses looking for video conferencing alternatives to Zoom as not only is the capability already set up, people already know how to use it.
Downsides, other than the fact that it does not offer many high tech features, would be personal. It’s owned by Facebook which some people take a strong aversion to. This aversion can be fairly counterproductive given that Whatsapp is a highly effective and efficient piece of technology that manages to serve its users and customers with ease. Additionally, while it may have come under fire for privacy issues in the past, it does offer end to end encryption as standard. The result is a highly secure way to call, text or have video conferences.
Houseparty is a fun app that is a good option if you want to have drinks with your friends or even set up a quiz night for you and your pals to take part in. It’s available for use across iOS and Android devices. What’s great about Houseparty is that it takes care of setting up games for you. They’re already installed on the software and they’re exceptionally easy to access. So if you love to play Head’s Up with your friends when you meet up in more normal times, then you can do the same through the use of the Houseparty app.
While it isn’t suitable for meetings, for one as it is not a professional-looking business type app, it also can only hold house parties for up to 8 people. This isn’t a lot in comparison to a lot of other Zoom alternatives, but if you just want to meet up and have a game with a handful of friends, this is a great option for you. Plus, if the games installed aren’t for you, you can also buy more whilst in the app itself. Another great thing about Houseparty is that it is already fairly popular – the likelihood that your friends already have it on their phones is high, so the admin behind getting all your wanted quiz night attendees in one online space is less troublesome.
With its dedication to providing businesses with efficient software to work with, it is unsurprising that Microsoft has its own video conferencing application too. In fact, most people who have an Office 365 subscription will have it already as it is already part of the suite of software included in the package. That means, it is likely that you have it if you have ever used Word, Excel or Powerpoint as part of your day job.
Additionally, the fact that it comes from Microsoft, a well known and well-used brand, means that there is an increased chance that those who use it will find it easy to do so. This is thanks to being well-practiced in using Microsoft software already so that Microsoft Teams seems almost intuitive. What is also great about Microsoft Teams is the host of features it has on offer. It gives its users the ability to share files with fellow colleagues, set up and have conference calls as well as an easy meeting scheduling tool so that meetings take place quickly and easily.
Downsides to Microsoft teams is that it isn’t the best at being one of the Zoom conference alternatives if you want to just meet up with friends online. This is mainly down to the fact that it is quite expensive given that you have to have a Microsoft 365 subscription to have it in the first place. However, if your company already has this subscription, this is a very good possibility for Zoom conference alternatives that answer the Zoom security flaw.
Skype is an already well-known piece of software that gained notoriety as one of the first video conferencing packages. Simply because it is old, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is dated, however. Skype can still pack a punch when it comes to standing up to the newer video conferencing solutions.
It’s a powerful app to use thanks to a mixture of excellent features that can really benefit users. It offers standard audio and video call recording but also live transcription or file sharing so that it is suitable for both personal calls and professional ones. Disadvantages are the fact that you need to have a subscription if you want to call from Skype to other landlines, but once you have that subscription, you can make an unlimited amount of calls internationally for free.
When comparing it to Zoom, users will like that it is possible to share meetings with free Skype subscribers with a link to its free conference call service. Importantly, users can also log into their Skype accounts through smart devices in the home like Amazon Echo. Xbox users can also run Skype calls through their games console which is great as often Xbox users will also have an audio headset as standard – so that meetings can remain private, even if you are at home with the rest of your household, like so many people are in lockdown.
How Else Can I Stay Safe While Using Zoom Meeting Alternatives?
The above brands are all great at keeping its users safe in the face of hacking and spying of video conferences. However, there is always more that can be done than just relying on the software itself to keep you safe whilst online. Below, we look at other ways to stay safe while using Zoom alternatives.
Without a doubt, using a VPN at all times is the best way to ensure that you remain safe whilst using an internet connection to transmit data. There are a number of different providers for VPN services available – some are free while others are a paid-for subscription. Depending on your needs and requirements, a free VPN provider could be suitable, while other users will need the services of a subscription company.
VPNs work by hiding IP addresses and encrypting the data that is transmitted over an internet connection so that any information shared is totally illegible to those that gain unauthorized access to it. They can also hide your whereabouts in the world so that you add another layer to your safety and security while online.
A key way to protect yourself while online is to ensure that you have secured your device with a strong password. All devices need to be secured when using video conferencing services, so tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and mobile handsets all need to be password protected. Again, it’s an extra layer of security that will help deter hackers.
If you have a VPN, you will already have a secure network from which to work, but it is important to ensure that if you don’t use a VPN, your network is at least secured with a password. Using open unsecured networks for video conferencing allows anyone that is using the same network to view your content with ease. This means that you are likely to share sensitive information – whether you are an individual or a business.
What are the Best VPN Brands for Zoom Webinar Alternatives?
We rate the following two VPN brands to use whilst conducting Zoom webinar alternatives as they are reliable, quick and incredibly secure.
ExpressVPN has been a market leader in the VPN world for a long time for good reason. It has some of the quickest connections around so that video conferencing will remain a smooth and seamless experience for all users. Plus, it has some of the most robust security features available with 256 Bit AES encryption as standard – this is the level of encryption that the US government uses.
Surfshark, whilst a relative newcomer to the world of VPN providers, is able to hold its own against the most established brands. They offer an unlimited number of simultaneous connections under just one subscription price, so that if you have a meeting with a large number of attendees, it’s an excellent option to ensure the security of your video conference.
While Zoom is a user-friendly piece of software, it’s security flaw sadly lets it down. With so many of us using video conferencing to conduct business meetings, it is not acceptable to use a software that can be hacked into. The above Zoom alternatives are great options for those that require a safe and secure way of conducting meetings that ultimately have to take place over an internet connection. Working from home or remotely is increasingly more possible, thanks to the growth in apps that allow us to work efficiently, but that means we have to work harder at staying secure online too.