REMOTE OFFICE | 7.5 MIN READ
Remote conferencing, also known as virtual conferencing, has gained widespread popularity in recent months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses nationwide are starting to see its benefits, as it allows them to continue business operations without requiring face-to-face interactions. The market has become inundated with remote conferencing platforms, which can make one brand start to seem indistinguishable from the next when you're trying to pick one to use. Which remote conferencing platform is the best fit for your business? Keep reading to find out.
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Why Choose Remote Conferencing?
Remote Conferencing Platforms Compared
How to Choose the Right Platform
Why Choose Remote Conferencing?
Improved Business Operations
Remote conferencing lets you conduct business in a more flexible way. Instead of feeling like your client has to visit you or vice versa, you can host meetings virtually, which also saves your company money on travel costs.
Clients who are located far from your office may also prefer to conduct business virtually, as it allows them the freedom to host meetings on their own terms.
If your company has offices around the country or around the world, remote conferencing lets you stay connected with them in a more meaningful way than email and phone calls.
Emails and phone calls can get lost in translation and messages can be mis-interpreted, especially when the receiver cannot see and hear the intended tone of the message. Remote conferencing lets businesses with multiple offices carry out projects in a more productive and meaningful manner.
Remote Office Capabilities
If your company wishes to experiment with a remote office, remote conferencing allows you to maintain productivity while letting employees experience the freedom associated with remote work.
Instead of making remote employees come into the office for a meeting, you can simply have everyone join a virtual meeting online. This is beneficial when you have remote workers in multiple time zones, as it's easier to plan a virtual meeting around time zones than an in-person meeting.
Remote conferences allow you to advertise your business in new ways. While lunch and learns are a great way to bring prospective clients to you, sometimes your prospects don't want to meet in person right away.
Virtual webinars and educational sessions give you a way to interact with prospects in a less intrusive way, giving you a soft introduction to prospects who may not be ready to meet you in person.
Hosting webinars lets you build a relationship with an audience of your choosing. If you wish to cultivate more meaningful relationships with current customers, invite them to an educational webinar about a topic of your choosing.
If you wish to drive sales, gear a webinar towards solely net new prospects that, after watching your webinar, may be pushed further down the sales funnel.
Additionally, many remote conference providers can give you hard data about meeting attendees, which makes planning follow-up engagements easy, especially when you have to plan follow-ups for hundreds or thousands of attendees.
Remote Conferencing Platforms Compared
- Reputation- Teams' parent company Microsoft is an established enterprise software vendor, which lends some credibility to the brand itself.
- Great for intra-company meetings- Teams is a good fit for companies using Office365 that want to hold meetings between offices. Since everyone at said company would have access to Teams, holding a conference call would be easy.
- Integration- If you already own Office365, integrating Teams into your network should be relatively easy.
- Scalability- Conference hosts can have up to 10,000 team members, which is great for collaboration when planning conferences and webinars.
- Security- Teams' security features are robust, including measures such as two-factor authentication and data encryption in transit and at rest.
- Compliance- For those looking to protect the privacy of sensitive data, Teams has implemented measures such as communication compliance for channels, chats, and attachments, retention policies, Data Loss Protection, and more.
- Accessibility- Only Office365 clients can use Teams. This could become an issue if you wish to have conferences with clients or prospects who don't have Office365.
- Interface- Teams' interface is clunky and less user-friendly than that of competitors.
- Meeting size- Only up to 20 people can participate in a video or audio call on Teams, which poses a problem for organizations who wish to hold large conference calls.
- App permissions- To promote collaboration, Teams relaxed their permissions settings. Any user can become a team owner, team members have full access to the data on the team's public channels, and guests from outside a company can share files and create new channels within the team.
- Guest access- The guest access feature lets team owners invite outside parties from to participate in team activities. Guests have full access to team channels, chats, shared files and meetings. There aren't many restrictions to control who can receive guest access privileges, which could lead to sensitive data being exposed.
- Popularity- Zoom has hundreds of millions of users, making it the most popular remote conferencing provider available.
- Free version- There's a free version for those with low budgets. While the downside to this is that meetings are limited to 40 minutes, this limit could help businesses stay on track with meetings that tend to go too long.
- Host controls- Zoom allows meeting hosts to employ a variety of controls to manage a call, ranging from
- User-friendly- The platform is designed to be easy to use, which makes setting up calls quick, especially for those with limited technical knowledge.
- Scalability- If you pay for the most expensive Zoom package, you can hold conferences with up to 1,000 participants, which is more than almost any other competitor.
- Data sales- Zoom has been accused of selling customer data to Facebook for use in targeted advertisements. The company faces a class action lawsuit for their practices.
- Zoom-bombing- This term, which describes an act in which an un-welcome guest invades a Zoom call to share lewd and inappropriate content, could pose a threat to the security and sanctity of your meetings. To avoid becoming a victim, Zoom recommends turning on a few different host settings.
- Malware- Morphisec Labs researchers identified a flaw in the Zoom application that can enable hackers to record Zoom sessions and capture chat text without any of the meeting participants’ knowledge. This malware can even do so when the host has turned off recording features.
- Lack of end-to-end encryption- As of the publishing of this article, Zoom doesn't employ end-to-end encryption, which is when data is encrypted when it's sent to and from a server, and not even the server has the keys to access and decrypt that data. In Zoom's case, data is encrypted when it's sent, but Zoom stores the keys to decrypt data internally, effectively not entirely securing the data. The company says they are working to address this security issue.
- Widespread rejection from companies- Starting in March, government officials and large companies, ranging from Google to the Senate, banned the use of Zoom for its' security issues. Though the company has taken multiple steps to address its security concerns, this is worth noting.
- Integrations with Cisco- WebEx integrates well with the popular Cisco UC phone systems.
- Free version- WebEx's free plan comes with a variety of high-quality features that businesses with smaller budgets could benefit from. In light of coronavirus and how it has increased the need for remote conferencing, WebEx has expanded the free features that they're offering.
- End-to-end encryption- This feature is beneficial and configurable.
- Security- Since WebEx's parent company is an established enterprise network appliance and solutions vendor, this is a testament to the reputation and security of the brand as a whole.
- End-to-end encryption- Though having this feature is a pro for security, it limits popular options including remote computer sharing and personal meeting rooms.
- Presentation display- If you have Microsoft Office 2013 or later, when you share a presentation, some elements may not display properly when you share a PowerPoint
- Meeting size- You can have up to 200 participants in a meeting, which is lower than other providers. Additionally, you only get up to 200 participants if you purchase the most expensive plan.
- Security vulnerability- Earlier this year, a vulnerability was discovered that could allow an unauthenticated remote attendee to join a password-protected meeting without providing the meeting password. Though Webex patched this security gap, it shows that no platform is invulnerable.
- Video quality- Unlike some other providers, GoToMeeting has a range of settings, from video brightness and contrast to hue and saturation, that users can manipulate to make the lighting perfect for calls.
- Established brand- The other elder statesman in the room
- Scalability- GoToMeeting's Enterprise plan lets you have calls with up to 3,000 participants, which surpasses industry giant Zoom's limitations to let you host bigger meetings than just about any other provider on the market.
- Free version- GoToMeeting's free plan isn't as good as other competitors. It offers less perks, for instance smaller meeting sizes.
- Meeting limits- GoToMeeting's free package sets limits on calls. You can only have calls that last up to 40 minutes.
- No end-to-end encryption- The fact that GoToMeeting doesn't offer this feature means that your data isn't as secure as it could be.
- Security- There are multiple parameters used to secure meetings, from randomly generated meeting codes to various host controls such as meeting locks and more.
- Price- AnyMeeting offers a variety of plans at affordable prices, and is currently running a special where you can get their Pro version for free through 2021.
- Features- There are many unique features that, when packaged together, build a competitive offering. For instance, users can receive emailed transcripts of meetings, chat reports, and more.
- Integration- Users can streamline workflow by integrating with Slack, Google, and more. Since AnyMeeting is owned by Intermedia, a business phone services company, Intermedia customers can easily integrate AnyMeeting into their organization.
- Compliance- AnyMeeting ensures that your organization is compliant with data regulations, employing HIPAA-Compliance among other features.
- Meeting size- AnyMeeting users can host webinars with up to 1,000 attendees.
- Less users- Because AnyMeeting has less users and is in general less known, some businesses may want a more established brand.
How to Choose the Right Platform
When evaluating a remote conferencing platform, consider the following factors before making a final decision.
Obviously, cost is one of the most important considerations when deciding which remote conferencing platform to use.
While some may assume that the most expensive package is the best, sometimes companies take advantage of that mindset to build expensive packages that are almost the same as the cheaper versions.
Evaluate all features and services that come with each package that a company offers. If the free version seems almost comparable to the more expensive one, then maybe you could be just as well off with a cheaper package.
However, cheaper isn't always better. If a more expensive package comes with more features, see which features are needs versus wants for your company. For instance, if your company needs many of the features that are included only in the pro package, then consider upgrading to a more expensive option.
Before choosing a platform, make a list of your must-have security features and see which platform meets your qualifications.
The security of a remote conferencing platform should be one of your chief concerns when choosing which one to use. Depending on your industry, you may need one that can comply with HIPAA or PCI DSS. If your industry has specific security requirements, check with your provider to see if they can comply.
As a host, you may want certain controls for your calls, such as meeting locks and microphone disabling. While certain host controls are usually pretty standard across all platforms, others aren't, so ensure that you carefully do research.
Another way to tell if a platform is secure enough if is they encrypt your data. Encrypted data ensures that even if a hacker accesses the data from your conference, the data is scrambled and illegible.
RELATED: Remote Conferencing Security: How to Find the Right Provider
Conference host controls allow the meeting leader to decide who talks or shares content. These controls are useful if you're having a large meeting with hundreds of attendees, seeing as they let you mute microphones to control noise, among other benefits.
When it comes to meeting security, host controls provider a great barrier against unwanted intruders. While some conferencing platforms let you host a password-protected meeting to control access, a hacker could still bypass this to enter your meeting.
Some companies have started adding controls that let you close the meeting so that once it starts, nobody new can join. However, without this feature, you leave the door open for an intruder to join the meeting at any time.
In this scenario, if an unwanted guest starts causing disruptions, conference hosts should be able to mute microphones, disable video or screen sharing controls, turn off chat features.
Additionally, if an attendee starts behaving inappropriately, as the host, you should be able to kick them out. Having access to host controls allows you to continue meetings with minimal disruptions and quickly remove unwelcome guests.
Compliance with Data Regulations
As more consumer data is collected and stored online, the government has begun to implement more regulations to protect consumer privacy. These regulations can extend to how remote conferencing is conducted if private consumer data is shared.
For instance, if an unwelcome guest accesses an appointment between a doctor and his patient and they hear sensitive information, the doctor could potentially be in violation of HIPAA for not protecting patient confidentiality.
While host controls can be used to quickly kick out any unwelcome guests, check with your remote conferencing provider to see what other methods they use to protect sensitive data that's shared in these meetings. For instance, some remote conferencing providers are HIPAA-Enabled.
One way to test the security of a platform is to see if meeting transcripts are emailed to all attendees, and if so, are these transcripts encrypted? If a company says they do encrypt data, double check − some of the big players in the industry have been caught red-handed for touting false claims of end-to-end encryption.
Picking the right remote conferencing provider for your business isn't a black-and-white decision. Different companies will value different aspects of a platform, which means that before joining a platform, your business needs to figure out its needs and wants in a provider.
Remote conferencing will only become more mainstream as time progresses. Join thousands of other companies and propel your business to new heights today.
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.