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How Do I Choose the Best Free Video Conferencing?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Choosing the best video conferencing depends on a lot of factors like how many people will be attending and what computer operating systems those people use. Additionally, you may want to choose a video conferencing company that allows upgrades to premium services so that your software programs can grow with your business. In general, video conferencing programs have less features and support than paid ones, but they can still be a valuable resource to a small business. Free video conferencing can also be used by families and friends to stay in touch when in-person interactions are not an option.

Free video conferencing programs typically do not allow more than 10 people to meet at once. Anywhere from two to six people is common, with more people allowable if the primary user upgrades to a paid service. This limitation can be a severe drawback or even a deal-breaker for a business, but it is usually perfect for non-business people like families and friends to stay in communication. If you need free video conferencing for around a dozen people or more, your options may be slim to none. The good news is that video conferencing is relatively inexpensive when paying for a service that supports less than two dozen people.

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Some free video conferencing programs support only certain operating systems; for example, Apple®’s iChat® instant messaging and video program is designed only for the Mac OS®. The vast majority of free video conferencing programs are made for either Windows® or support all operating systems, including Linux®. Fewer free video conferencing programs are browser-based, meaning they do not have to be downloaded and installed. These can be useful if your employees use shared computers or an operating system that is not widely supported. They have specific downsides, however, like sometimes being more prone to connection hiccups than installed programs.

A particularly useful aspect of some free video conferencing programs is the ability to upgrade, gaining more features, and bigger rooms. Such programs can be used in preparation of company growth in months or years from the time you began using the service. This allows a smoother transition than making employees learn and become comfortable with new video conferencing systems. Some programs can be upgraded to allow literally hundreds of people to video conference at the same time. While usually expensive, these services often come with a lot of features free video conferencing software does not.

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pastanaga
Post 3

@irontoenail - To be honest, I'm not sure I would even want to attempt a real conference with multiple people on free software. Maybe if it was a handful of family members and we just wanted to chat, it might be OK, but I have enough trouble talking to one person over video, let alone more than one. We almost always end up losing the connection or getting sick of all the delays.

I'd rather just stick with text in the first place, unless this video conferencing online is being done through a professional service.

irontoenail
Post 2

@clintflint - The same goes for people who are attending a conference of any kind online, but particularly video conferences. Always try to get there half an hour early, so you feel comfortable with the software. It always takes much longer than you might expect to get that kind of thing set up. With my luck, I almost always have to download an update before I can use anything.

And a free video conference isn't going to be perfect, so be prepared to be frustrated. See if they have an audio only option, or even a text only option and if anyone is going to be taking notes or recording the video. That can be useful even if everything works perfectly.

clintflint
Post 1

If you're depending on technology like this for a video conference event, you should check and double check it before the day. Try to get conditions as close as possible to the actual conference. Make sure you have the same number of people logging in and, preferably, using the same kind of equipment and systems to do so. You might even want to stage a mini-conference or a getting-to-know-you event before the conference, so that you can use the time to iron out any problems that might occur.

I've been to more than one video conference that ended up excluding several people, or not working at all, because of software or equipment failure. There's no way to protect against that entirely, but testing certainly will help.

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