Coronavirus: Remote working software and productivity tools beyond Zoom
California-based startup Zoom is arguably the business story of 2020. So much so that AdWeek touted it as the "King of the Quarantine Economy". And, rightly so.
Since the global outbreak of COVID-19, which has forcibly confined people to their homes, the remote-working and video conferencing platform has witnessed an unprecedented surge in valuation and users. In fact, it has clocked more monthly active users in Q1 of 2020 than it did in all of last year.
Zoom's stock has more than doubled in the last three months, and it is now more valuable than Silicon Valley upstarts Uber and Lyft combined. The startup's billionaire-founder Eric Yuan has added $4.7 billion to his fortune this year, and his wealth now stands at $8.26 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Experts believe that Zoom's freemium pricing model was tailor-made for the coronavirus-induced remote-working universe. That, in fact, allowed the video-conferencing platform to come out of its enterprise bubble and reach the common man (or individual users).
However, Zoom continues to be limiting in some ways, especially with its 40-minute remote meeting cap on basic plans. Even though the platform has removed that limit for schools and universities to enable seamless virtual learning, other users have to shell out at least $14.99 per month for a Zoom Pro plan.
If you're a large organisation that needs to have 300 or 500 participants on a video conference, you pay even more - $19.99 per month and beyond.
Further, if you want to book a Zoom Room, a dedicated virtual conference room, the rates go up to $49 per month, thus reducing the feasibility of the platform for many businesses.
But, there are several alternative remote working and real-time collaboration tools. YourStory draws up a list of the five most interesting ones.
Amazon is a cloud computing giant, but its workplace communication software Chime might be less publicised compared to some of its other products.
Amazon Chime lets you meet, chat, and place business calls within and outside your organisation through a single interface.
Not only this, but even developers can use the same communication infrastructure to add audio calling, video calling, and screen sharing features to their applications using the Amazon Chime SDK.
The most attractive element of Amazon Chime is that it has a pay-per-use pricing model that lets you pay for only the features you use, on the days that you use them. There are no upfront investments or long-term contracts. You can switch between Basic and Pro features.
Large enterprises can use the Amazon Chime Voice Connector to migrate their telephony workloads to AWS. The Voice Connector supports inbound calling, outbound calling, or both, and also offers phone analytics to companies.
Homegrown SaaS unicorn Zoho has filled nearly all gaps in the enterprise software market. With Zoho Meeting, it brings to the table a comprehensive solution for video conferencing, webinars, web presentations, screen sharing, and more.
You can even record meetings, and the integration with Zoho’s Office app suite allows you to pull documents, spreadsheets, and other files in real time.
The biggest USP of the software is that it lets anyone join a call or a conference through a dial-in number or an email link or a browser extension. It doesn't need you to download an app or sign in. Having said that, Zoho Meeting has desktop, web, and mobile app versions.
The monthly Pro version of the software is priced at $10 for meetings and $19 for webinars. You also get call and webinar analytics in the package.
True to its design ethos, Adobe brings layout customisation and increased controls in its collaboration software, Connect.
Adobe Connect lets you share presentations, documents and multimedia content from your library in the cloud, and maintain consistency in fonts, animations, and imagery. You can even zoom in to see content, chat, ask questions using Q&A, and respond to polls.
The platform also allows you to annotate and whiteboard more effectively, with just a tap of your finger on the selected content. The Adobe Connect Learning Management System is useful for running virtual classrooms or remote training programmes.
Adobe Connect is free for 90 days, after which you pay a monthly fee of $50 for meetings and $130 for webinars.
Microsoft Teams comes with a punchy tagline: Work remotely without feeling remote.
And the software, which is gradually replacing Skype for Business, pretty much lives up to the promise. Teams can be accessed on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.
Teams is a unified communication and collaboration tool with features including workplace chat, video meetings, scheduling reminders, file sharing and storage, Office 365 integration, etc. The biggest USP of Microsoft Teams is its pricing ($5 per month per user) and its multi-language (15+) support.
It allows you to get into a video-conference with 10 or 1,000 people. You can host audio, video, and web conferences with anyone inside or outside your organisation, and also use Microsoft Teams during live events. Schools can sign up for free.
BlueJeans is one of the earliest cloud-based video conferencing services in the world.
It allows businesses of all sizes to conduct multi-party video calls with the highest quality of audio powered by Dolby Voice. BlueJeans also offers post-meeting highlights and transcriptions, along with real-time analytics, and automated alerts.
To host a meeting, you have to create an account. But, anyone can join a meeting through the desktop or mobile app without logging in. The number of participants are capped at 100.
A standard BlueJeans plan costs $9.99 per month, while a pro plan can be availed at $13.99 per month. For enterprise plans, the rates are customised based on the organisation's requirements.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)