Think working from home is just a sweet job perk? Think again.
Today, flexible work has become the new normal, with more and more employees opting to work remotely or telecommute a couple of days out of the week. Over the last 10 years, remote work has grown by 91%. Today, 4.7 million people in the US work remotely, up from 3.9 million in 2015.
With so many employees trading in face time for FaceTime, businesses need to be more flexible than ever and use tools like video chat software and instant messaging services to help their distributed teams connect and collaborate.
For years, Skype was the go-to platform for video conferencing. In fact, by the end of 2010, it had over 600 million users around the world. It’s still a strong contender, and though many people love how quickly it can connect to a meeting, it has its fair share of hiccups.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- Why you might look at an alternative to Skype
- How to choose a good Skype alternative
- The 6 best Skype alternatives out there
But first, why would someone not want to use Skype in the first place?
Why would someone need a Skype alternative?
Well, let’s just say that the app that was once synonymous with video calling has always had complaints about freezing up or dropping calls unexpectedly. That still happens—regardless of your internet speed. Skype also uses up quite a bit of bandwidth, and its recent redesign and clunky UX has left users scratching their heads.
Lastly, even its paid subscriptions lack some of the functionality of newer tools, like integrated task management, unlimited app integrations, and file annotation.
Good news is there are plenty of alternatives to Skype video on the market. Of course, each one has its pros and cons, but depending on your needs, you might find a product that’s a better fit for your team.
How to choose a Skype alternative that’s right for you
Obviously, a good alternative should, at the bare minimum, have the same key features as Skype so you’re not missing out on any important functions. These features include:
- One-to-one instant chat
- Group instant chat
- Audio calls
- Video calls
- Screen sharing
- The ability to call phone numbers (both mobile and landline)
The best alternatives to Skype should have all of this and then some. Here are some other things you might consider:
- Affordability: What’s the overall cost of the service?
- Ease-of-use: Is the tool simple and easy to pick up—even for someone who’s not a tech whiz?
- Call controls: Does it have options for muting, screen sharing, and ending calls like Skype?
- Meeting limits: How many participants can you have on a call at one time?
- Software integrations: Can you connect contacts, invites, and other data with outside business systems like Trello, Zendesk, Salesforce, or GitHub?
- Call quality and reliability: Is the video and audio quality clear and crisp?
- Customer support: How quickly can you get help or answers to your questions?
Based on the above criteria, we rounded up six different platforms that are similar to Skype—but offer a lot more in terms of functionality and overall effectiveness.
The 6 best Skype alternatives for business
Team chat, video conferencing, and task management are just a few of the features of this free team collaboration app. It also has phone calling, texting, and instant-messaging capabilities, all on one platform. (In fact, this company even started a podcast using RingCentral.)
You’d be hard-pressed to find an app that has so many communication options. Unlike Skype, which was built as a voice app first and a video app second, RingCentral was built specifically to give teams a unified workspace online to communicate, collaborate, and get work done—which is particularly useful when the team’s members are in different locations.
RingCentral doesn’t have a user limit either, so everyone on your team can have an account. It also has built-in integrations with tools like Salesforce and Zendesk, free live support, and more. It’s also one of the most affordable options on this list.
RingCentral offers a free version that includes online meetings with unlimited chat, 500 total video calling minutes, and software integrations. The Standard edition costs $5 per user per month and adds more video calling minutes per month, as well as 24/7 customer support.
Webex is an enterprise solution for video conferencing, online meetings, screen sharing, and webinars. It lets employees from all over the world to work together and collaborate on projects. Many companies rely on Webex for training and customer support.
With Webex, you get two services in one: Webex Meetings and Webex Teams. Webex Meetings is a full-service video conferencing solution that can host meetings with up to 200 participants at a time. Everyone in the meeting can be on camera at once, and Webex Meetings offers standard video conference features like screen sharing and meeting recording.
Webex Teams is a separate platform that all Webex Meetings users can access. Using the Teams app, teams can work together in one digital location. Staff can message each other, make video calls, and bounce ideas off of each other via the app’s whiteboard tools.
One of the biggest downsides to Webex, though, is its price point. With only nine host licenses available on the Starter plan, it’s only realistic for very small businesses. Any businesses with more than nine employees would have to shell out a lot of dough for a higher-priced plan to support their entire staff.
The Starter plan costs $14.95 per host per month and includes 5 GB of storage, up to nine host licenses, and the ability to host meetings with up to 50 participants. The Plus plan is $19.95 and includes 5 GB of storage, up to 50 host licenses, and a meeting capacity of 100. The Business plan costs $29.95 per host per month and includes 10 GB of storage, up to 100 host licenses, and a meeting capacity of 200.
Google Hangouts is another popular alternative to Skype that offers a lot of the same features, including HD video calling and instant messaging. If you use Gmail, or your company uses G Suite, then you’re probably pretty familiar with this product.
Google Hangouts is one of the most intuitive options on this list. You can also share your screen, which makes it useful for collaboration and showing presentations. Of course, the biggest upside to Google Hangouts is its integration with other Google services, which can help you stay connected with your friends or colleagues. For instance, you can start a Hangouts chat or call right from your Gmail inbox.
Google Hangouts has a limit on the number of people who can join a video call at a time, which can be annoying if you have a large company. It also isn’t designed for text communication and lacks many useful chat features like editing, deleting, pinning, forwarding messages, and message search. Some other important points to note: its notification system leaves much to be desired, file sharing is limited to images, and there’s no desktop app.
G Suite pricing starts as low as $7.80 per user per month for Basic, $15.60 per user per month for Business, and $34 per user per month for Enterprise.
Zoom is a video conferencing system that offers many of the same features as Skype for Business, including web chat, video meetings, and conference scheduling.
This app is probably most known for its clear video quality, making it a good choice for remote workers who want to feel like they’re as close to the action as possible. It also offers a lot of flexibility in terms of its native mobile apps, and it supports Blackberry, Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows operating systems.
One drawback of using Zoom is that only certain users, called “hosts,” can schedule meetings. If companies want to give more of their employees this ability, they have to purchase additional licenses, which can get expensive for larger teams. Second, while Zoom has some innovative features, such as white-boarding, polling, and remote control, they can be tricky to use and access during meetings. Lastly, service interruptions are common for people with bad connections, since there’s no way to adjust the video quality.
The Free version can host up to 100 participants and offers unlimited 1-to-1 meetings, but caps meetings at just 40 minutes. The Pro tier starts at $14.99 per month/host and goes up to $19.99 per month/host.
Slack is a Skype substitute that started out as a chat tool that lets teams have group and one-on-one chats. Now, it’s evolved to also offer file sharing and video calling.
Slack is a good fit for businesses that want to collaborate over different channels. It’s easy to access on the go, letting people take video calls on both mobile or desktop.
One of the most common complaints about Slack is that it turns into a never-ending time-suck of conversations and pings. With the main mode of communication being instant messages, you don’t really get the option of having more in-depth or organized project-based discussions.
Slack has a free version as well as two paid plans that cost $6.67 or $12.50 per user per month. Paid versions offer advanced features like unlimited message history, multi-organization support, and guaranteed uptime.
Microsoft Teams is a chat and collaboration platform that’s designed to simplify group work for Microsoft Office 365 customers.
Teams sorts information into channels and each channel only contains conversations, meetings, and documents related to the topic of that specific channel. The result? Instead of getting side-tracked with random email or getting stuck trying to clean up your inbox, you can focus your time and attention on the channels where you actually do your work.
And like all of the other tools on this list, Teams has a video calling feature as well. If you’re used to the Microsoft Suite, this would be a natural alternative to try if you need something a little more robust than Skype.
Microsoft has been working hard to include the Skype for Business meeting functionality into Teams, but it isn’t quite there yet. The meeting experience isn’t very intuitive, and it doesn’t promote some of the great capabilities available in Teams for meetings (such as note-taking in OneNote). Also, according to PC Mag, “the more teams you create, the harder it becomes to navigate the app.”
The service offers a free version and also comes included with Office 365 subscriptions starting at $5 per user per month.
What is the best alternative to Skype?
While we’re (naturally) quite proud of RingCentral, there are so many apps similar to Skype on the market that it all comes down to what matters most to your team.
If you’re looking for all-in-one functionality at an affordable price point, we suggest you check out RingCentral—there’s even a free trial. And you’re looking for a free alternative, there are lots of those as well.
After all, at the end of the day, what matters most is keeping your team connected and engaged, whether they’re working from home or Rome.