Zoom - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More
Whether you work on a distributed team with people around the world, have another branch of your company in another city, or just need to talk face-to-face with clients without having to travel to their offices, group video chat is one of the most important things in modern business. It's something that needs to just work, and be as easy and reliable as a traditional phone call.
And yet, that's often not the case. Video calls typically require confusing apps and accounts, and they're prone to drop out right in the middle of important discussions.
It's impossible to make a perfect video chat system, but Zoom tries to get as close as possible with streamlined desktop and mobile apps focused solely on video chat along with support for H.323/SIP room systems and phone dial-in to enable videoconferences with almost anyone, anywhere. Check your Zoom settings, and you'll see exactly how much bandwidth your video is using—along with your current internet connection bandwidth, video framerates, and more. Zoom will lower the video quality if needed to keep the conversation going, even if your internet isn't as fast as it should be.
Starting a videoconference is quick and free. Just open the Zoom app, click the Start with video button, and you'll quickly get a link to share with others so they can join in. Or, you can start without video for just a group phone call—or to share streaming video of your full computer screen or of just one particular app that's currently running. The latter option is a perfect way to run a screencast with a presentation or video, without accidentally showing the rest of your programs to viewers.
Or, you schedule a meeting for anytime in the future, with a preset meeting ID that's saved to your calendar for a simple way to invite anyone else. Your participants won't need a Zoom account; they'll just have to install the Zoom app, click the link in the invite, and you'll be chatting together in seconds.
And no matter how many people join in, Zoom makes it easy to see who's talking, and shows them in the center of Zoom's window—or you can choose to see a preview of everyone's faces, and Zoom will put a boarder around the video of the currently active speaker. During conversations, there's a text chat box where you can hold side conversations and share links, along with a prominent button to share your screen. When you need to put your files and presentations up for everyone to discuss, Zoom opens them full-screen on everyone's computers to make sure no one misses out.
But if someone does miss out—perhaps if their internet goes out, or if they're away today—they don't have to miss what was talked about. Just tap the Record button in Zoom, and it'll save a full video recording of the whole videoconference to your computer.
It's not the tool you'll likely use to text chat with your team all day, and it might not replace Skype for 1 to 1 calls. But Zoom is a much simpler way to bring your whole team together for a video call, one that continues to work well even with dozens of people working together at once.
Originally published January 13, 2016; updated May 28, 2018 with new features including base 100 meeting participants (from 50 previously).
Do More With Zoom
- High quality group video chat, with screen sharing and text chat built-in
- Share screens from any iOS app
- Share online files from Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive in chats
- Connect chats to SIP/H.323 rooms
- Record chats into MPEG4 video files
- iOS and Android apps available
- Free Basic plan for group chats with up to 100 participants with a 40 minute limit, and unlimited 1 to 1 meetings
- $14.99/month per host Pro plan for unlimited group meetings
- $19.99/month per host Business plan for phone support, custom URLs, on-premise install, single sign-on and more
Up to 500 meeting participants available with higher level plans.