Updated August 31, 2020
Virtual meetings were made for small businesses. If you’re trying to grow your influence on a limited budget, video conferencing is an affordable way to chat with customers and other stakeholders anywhere in the world, without breaking the bank on travel. You get the benefit of face-to-face connection without the costly overhead. That’s the dream, right?
Well, one little wake-up call: the market for video conferencing tools is swarmed with options. This kind of competition is great news for small businesses, since it means most of these products are pretty wallet-friendly. But there’s one catch. It can be time-consuming to slog through all of the options and even trickier to decide which one is right for your business.
Did you think we’d leave you hanging? Never. We’ve rounded up some of the top names in the video conferencing game and broken down their pros and cons, so you don’t have to.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- 6 video conferencing features that every small business needs
- 6 of the best video conferencing platforms for small businesses
Video conferencing platforms aren’t one-size-fits-all. There’s a chance you’ll read this post and want to do some of your own digging on other software. So before we break down the different tools, here are some essential features to ask about before signing a contract:
1. An easy-to-use interface
This is hands-down the most important piece of the video conferencing puzzle, because it determines how well your team adapts to the new software you’re paying good money to use. If it’s a pain to figure out for your employees and clients, it’ll end up languishing in the business tool graveyard until your contract expires. (Don’t be shy, we all have one.) Small businesses especially can’t afford this kind of wasted spending.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Every app’s website says their interface is user friendly…but would they tell you if it wasn’t? The only way to know for sure is to take the tool for a test drive, with a demo or free trial. This might take a little more time than skimming a web page, but we promise it pays off in the end.
Involve your low- or no-tech team members in the app-testing process. If you find a tool that’s low stress for them (or, gasp, even enjoyable!), you’re bound to get your money’s worth office-wide.
2. Screen sharing
Picture it: you’re on a call with your team, talking about how awesome this quarter’s numbers are. You have some snappy-looking graphs on your computer that make the data easy to digest, but your video conferencing app doesn’t offer screen sharing. Now, cut to you emailing the doc to everyone and waiting for them to receive, download, and find the right page of the file.
In the words of every infomercial ever: there’s got to be a better way!
What’s the point of this all-too-familiar anecdote? Don’t invest in a video conferencing app that doesn’t offer screen sharing. This feature is now pretty standard across most platforms, but double-check before buying. You’re going to need it.
Screen sharing in RingCentral Video
Indulge us a minute, because we think our latest screen-sharing feature is pretty sweet. You can share your desktop, specific files, website windows, and more:
Screen sharing is a powerful way to collaborate on documents in the moment and eliminate mile-long email chains. Be sure to add this feature to your “must-have” list as you look for the perfect video conferencing software for your business.
3. Text chat capabilities
Wait, weren’t we just talking about video chat?
Trust us: it’s clutch to be able to write messages during face-to-face meetings. Maybe you have a question for the presenter, but you don’t want to interrupt them. Or perhaps you have a link to share with the group for their reference. Just drop it in the chat, simple as that.
One big bonus to this feature: people prefer to communicate in different ways, and chances are you have a mix of introverts and extroverts on your team. The more options you can provide for employee input, the more engaged they might be. And engaged employees stick around, saving you time and money.
4. Meeting recording
“Today’s video call was great. Too bad you missed it!”
Say goodbye to meeting FOMO with the option to record and archive your video conferences. This lets you get more mileage out of dynamic presentations and keep your out-of-office team members—salespeople on the road, for example—in the loop. These recordings could also come in handy when it’s time to onboard new employees, especially at a distance.
5. File sharing and storage
File sharing and storage aren’t necessarily the most important thing to have in a video conferencing tool. But it’s still useful—either as a native feature or as a third-party integration—to be able to share and store team assets in one convenient place.
6. Cross-device compatibility
If your team moves around a lot, it’s wise to find a video tool that lets them switch back and forth between their devices: yes, even mid-meeting. We aren’t tethered to our desktops anymore, so look for video conferencing software that understands this and gives your team the freedom they need to do their best work.
RingCentral’s meeting-flip feature
For example, RingCentral lets you “flip” your meeting so that you can smoothly switch between devices while in the middle of a meeting:
Now that we’ve set some expectations, let’s look at a few conferencing software options and how they stack up for small businesses.
We’ve curated the following video conferencing tools for small businesses based on the Goldilocks principle, meaning these options aren’t too limiting in scope—nor are they too complex or expensive for the average small business.
They’ve been selected based on a mix of budget, efficiency, and scalability—that sweet, sweet trifecta that helps small businesses thrive.
Let’s start with the obvious one:
1. RingCentral Office: Best overall value for small businesses
Sure, we might be a little biased. But hear us out.
With RingCentral, you’ll get crystal-clear, HD video and voice quality on every call, and that’s just the beginning. This platform checks all of the above must-have tools for your video conferencing needs. You can share your screens, message the whole group or individuals, record the presentation for later, and hop between devices with ease:
Our all-in-one app doesn’t stop at video conferencing, either. That’s why it’s the best value for the price. The RingCentral app is simple to use and packed with additional features, including:
- Unlimited audio calls and conferencing
- Seven layers of security across all devices
- Team collaboration: messaging, file annotation, task tracking, and more
- Business SMS
- Online fax
- Voicemail transcription
- Personalized onboard training
- 24/7 live support via phone, chat, and email
- Real-time metrics to monitor service quality
- Over 200 app integrations: easily connect RingCentral to your CRM, calendar, and other tools
But back to why you’re really here.
With RingCentral, you can host video meetings for up to 200 participants, depending on the plan you choose. This kind of scalability will save you the hassle of outgrowing the platform down the line: a problem you might run into with some of these other apps.
🚗 Ready for a test drive?
RingCentral Video comes included in RingCentral Office, which also gives you other useful features like team messaging, unlimited calling within the US and Canada, and more. Here’s an overview of RingCentral’s pricing and plans for small businesses:
|Messaging and Phone||Messaging, Video, and Phone||Messaging, Video, Phone
|Messaging, Video, Phone
2. Google Meet: Good for file collaboration
After a low-key launch back in 2017, Google Meet has become a standard piece of the G Suite. Like Apple’s Group FaceTime, Google Meet expands on an existing casual tool (Google Hangouts) to reach the business crowd, but it has a lot more versatility. Like RingCentral Office, you can integrate any number of apps your team is already using. And in classic Google fashion, you can build custom apps via Apps Script, if you have the know-how and time.
You also get unlimited Google Drive, which is a super intuitive file-sharing product. Plus, there’s secure, unlimited storage (if you have five or more users), and it can pair with Google Voice for a basic cloud phone option.
Now for the downsides. Google Meet is reliable for collaboration across a team; that’s why RingCentral easily integrates with their major products. But there’s no business SMS or secure online fax options. There’s no clear, simple way to integrate your internal teamwork with your external customer engagement, and no personalized setup or training included. Google Meet also restricts access to features that come standard with RingCentral, such as recording and saving meetings, for its higher-level plans.
In short: Meet is similar in cost to RingCentral with comparable security, but fewer practical tools specifically geared for small businesses, especially at the lower price points.
3. Zoom: Good for small teams on tight budgets
Zoom has almost become synonymous with video conferencing, due to the recent pandemic outbreak. If we go by the stats, downloads for the Zoom conferencing app hit 2.13 million in a day in March 2020 due to the sudden demand in virtual meeting software.
Any software suddenly exposed to that much usage is bound to face some hiccups. One thing to note is that hackers are taking advantage of Zoom’s overnight popularity to spoof Zoom users and steal their data. The FBI even released a formal warning to caution unsuspecting users to watch out for “Zoom-Bombings.”
Zoom has since tightened up their security, but if you’re not aware of how to secure a public meeting, intruders can still disrupt your calls. And more recently, in August 2020, Zoom faced another unfortunate (and public) snag when their system went down on what was the first day of virtual school for millions of American students.
If you’re a small operation just looking for video chat, Zoom might be right for you, and you can get it free with limited participants. But if you’re looking for a more long-term solution, you might feel some growing pains with Zoom. You’ll only get 100 participants for 40 minutes, and after that it’s a big step up in pricing.
There’s also no team collaboration features outside of active meetings: no general team messaging, file sharing, or task tracking, so you’ll need to get other apps to supplement. Juggling multiple apps can lead to time lost to toggling and information slipping through the cracks. If growth and efficiency are your top priorities, it might be best to look around for a more inclusive video conferencing option.
Curious about Zoom but want to learn more about the alternatives? Check out this comparison chart.
4. Microsoft Office 365 E3: Good for project management
Looking for Skype for Business as a chat and video alternative? It’s now part of Microsoft Office 365. As the highest-end of 365’s plans, Office 365 E3 includes Microsoft Teams, a place where your employees can chat, meet via video, share files, and track projects. You also get Outlook email and “unlimited” cloud storage (5 TB per user), if you have more than five users.
But there were a few drawbacks that hurt the platform when it came to overall value. Similar to RingCentral, there are a ton of possible app integrations with Microsoft 365. But unlike RingCentral, you have to pay extra for certain add-ons, like phone and audio conferencing. And business texting isn’t even an option.
According to Tech Radar, OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, lacks the polish of other similar services and doesn’t always feel intuitive or easy to navigate. This can be a real time-waster when getting your team ready to roll. And when it comes to security, it seems RingCentral’s seven layers are the ones to beat, with Microsoft coming in at only five layers of protection.
5. Zoho Meeting: Good for collaboration with clients
Like RingCentral Video, you don’t need to download an app for Zoho Meeting. While downloading a Zoho Meeting app on your desktop or mobile device is always an option, you won’t miss out on any major functionality if you decide to use Zoho Meeting to host or join a meeting from a browser.
Its parent company, Zoho, is known for its wide range of products, like Zoho CRM, Zoho Desk, and Zoho Books. Zoho positions its video conferencing solution not just as an internal communication tool for small businesses, but also as a webinar, whiteboarding, and presentation platform they can use to interact with customers.
All of this comes in handy especially for creative and sales teams who work closely with clients on projects.
6. UberConference: Good for social media integration
Like RingCentral Video and Zoho Meeting, UberConference also offers a no-download option for teams to host and join meetings directly through web browsers. Its paid plan also makes it easier for participants to join without entering a PIN authentication, which is great. The free plan, however, requires people to have a PIN in order to join a meeting.
Its integration with social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn makes it easy for you to send an invite link to your participants to attend a video call.
UberConference comes with the standard set of features that most other video conferencing tools have (such as call scheduling and screen sharing) except you can’t record a video of a screen sharing session. You can record only audio, which is a big drawback for most small business users who want to record certain video sessions to share with people who couldn’t attend the meeting.
Some recurring complaints about UberConference from former customers are about dropped calls, difficulty reaching tech support, and an overall unstable network. As a small business, reliability should be at the top of your wish list for video conferencing, since you want to convey a sense of polish and professionalism right out of the gate. Be sure to read customer reviews and ask plenty of questions before choosing any platform.
Which video conferencing software is best for small businesses?
RingCentral is the industry leader and offers some serious bang for your buck, thanks to hundreds of integrations alongside their HD video conferencing feature. But we know every small business is different, and that’s why we pulled together this diverse set of tools for you to investigate as you weigh your options and priorities.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s always a good idea to take these products for a test drive with your team, so you can choose with confidence the option that makes their lives easier and increases productivity. Take advantage of free trials or demos from the tools on this list, or others that you’re researching, before you buy. That way, you can spend your hard-earned money even more wisely and get a product your team will love to use.