[App Fridays] Zoom rival Cisco WebEx becomes India’s #2 virtual meeting tool amid coronavirus

Cisco WebEx, like most remote collaboration tools, has gained significantly from the coronavirus lockdown. Here’s how the app stacks up against its peers like Zoom.

24th Apr 2020
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With remote working becoming the new normal due to the coronavirus outbreak, cloud conferencing apps have witnessed exponential growth in the last one month. 


There is ‘quarantine favourite’ Zoom, of course, which has become the default video conferencing tool worldwide albeit its security and privacy issues. Then, there is BlueJeans, which recently got acquired by Verizon Business. And there are several others too. 


Almost every software that allows remote collaboration, conferencing, and communication has gained from the pandemic. Cisco WebEx is one such tool.


Cisco WebEx

Photo: YS Design

The app is ranked #2 in the ‘Business’ category of Google Play Store and #3 on Apple App Store. Cisco WebEx trails only Zoom, which is currently caught in a privacy scrutiny. As a result, users are increasingly hunting for alternative cloud meeting services


Cisco WebEx has recorded over 10 million downloads, and is rated 4.1 out of 5. It is compatible with devices that run Android 5.0 or above. 


Cisco claims that WebEx delivers over six billion meetings per month, providing “industry-leading video and audio conferencing with sharing, chat, etc.” 




App features

The app possesses all features atypical of virtual meeting applications


On Cisco WebEx, enterprises can host webinars, town halls, and training sessions. They can also get personalised meeting rooms, customise video layouts, screen and file sharing, calendar app integration, call scheduling, meeting playbacks, etc.


Cisco WebEx also enables users to create in-call polls and live Q&A sessions. This makes the platform highly participatory and interactive. 


Cisco WebEx

Photo: Apple App Store

Cisco WebEx can also be accessed with hands-free voice commands via Google Assistant and Google Home Hub.


It also comes with AI-based features like facial recognition that make meetings more efficient and intuitive, thereby separating Cisco WebEx from a host of other video conferencing platforms.  


Users can also access participant profiles (like organisations and designations) directly from the call. Please note — WebEx “may collect meeting usage data and personal information, including email addresses of the user”, Cisco states on the app listing. 


To create a meeting, users can log in with their Cisco WebEx accounts. To join a meeting, they can log in using their Facebook, Google, or Microsoft accounts.




Subscription model

Cisco WebEx runs on a four-tier subscription model.


Enterprise users are billed annually on a conventional SaaS model. (Subscription prices increase by $1.5 to $3 on monthly billings.)


The Basic pack is free and offers unlimited meetings for up to 100 participants, end-to-end call encryption, and the complete suite of in-call features


Cisco WebEx

Photo: Google Play Store

The Starter pack costs $13.50 host/month. It comes with regular administrator controls, cloud storage, and personalised customer support on top of basic features. 


The Plus pack can be availed for $17.95 host/month. Users can get additional benefits like advanced analytics and 24/7 support on top of the Starter pack features. 


The top-most tier is the Business pack, which costs $26.95 host/month. It allows up to 200 participants in a meeting, and offers increased cloud storage and brand customisation options for the client. These features are in addition to the Plus pack.


Pros and cons

Enterprise software analysts say Cisco WebEx is more secure than its biggest peer Zoom. Besides end-to-end encryption, users can also activate multi-factor authentication and mandatory password changes.


Despite that, it hasn’t been spared of recent email phishing attacks. 


Webex

Photo: Google Play Store

That apart, the app is visually appealing and packs in a strong audio and video performance — a critical element in remote conferencing.


That alone puts Cisco WebEx ahead of its peers. 


However, one of its major drawbacks is pricing. Despite several price drops over the years, Cisco WebEx continues to be more expensive than most e-meeting platforms. This potentially deters small businesses and startups from using the product. 


WebEx is mostly targeted at large organisations — especially those that already use Cisco’s suite of enterprise products — for carrying out multi-party conferences. 

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)

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