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Zoom: What is it, how much does it cost, and is it worth it?
Zoom Meetings has become one of the top video conferencing platforms since the pandemic started. It’s the backbone of online education, how we conduct our meetings, and even a handy method to stay in touch with family members. Despite its popularity, some may not have a good grasp of what Zoom Meetings is and what it can do. Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know.
One of the biggest challenges that Zoom Meetings aims to tackle is communication between remote workers. We’ve all experienced our fair share thanks to COVID-19, and video software continues to make life a little easier.
What is Zoom Meetings?
No, we didn’t have a lapse in grammar for this section. The product name is actually Zoom Meetings, not just Zoom. So what is Zoom Meetings? It’s a video conferencing platform from a company called Zoom. It allows employees of a company to have online meetings while working remotely. The software allows for HD video and audio and supports up to 1,000 participants per session, although the exact number depends on your plan — more on this later.
Zoom Meetings has all the features a company needs to hold online meetings, no matter how big or small. Participants can join in from a computer or a mobile device anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. They can turn their cameras on so others can see them, or keep them off to preserve some privacy. Each individual can also control their microphone to give whoever is speaking their undivided attention. Zoom Meeting offers many other valuable features, some of which you can check out below.
The main features of Zoom Meetings:
- Record meeting: Make a recording of any session with the push of a button. You can save a recording locally on a device or upload it to the cloud. This allows employees who couldn’t attend the live meeting/webinar to check it out later.
- Screen sharing: Participants can share their screens with others, which is handy for various presentations and educational workshops.
- Chat: Every Zoom Meeting has an integrated chat feature, allowing participants to communicate during a meeting and ask questions.
- Virtual hand-raising: When you want to speak or ask a question, you can signal it to the host by raising your hand virtually. This improves communication during a meeting, preventing multiple people from talking simultaneously.
- Polls: A host can create a poll and share it with participants in the meeting to gather their responses and opinions on a given topic. This comes in handy for voting on various business-related decisions, for example.
- Mute participants: The host of a meeting can mute the mic of any participant. This is a vital feature used when someone forgets they have the mic and their children are screaming in the background, for example.
- Whiteboarding: Hosts can use the Whiteboard feature to visualize any concept, just as they would with a real whiteboard.
- Local and cloud recording: Users can record meetings, and either store them locally or in the cloud. This makes it easy to go back to the recorded videos to go over the content.
- Remote PC control: Take over another user’s computer or device to show them how something is done, or simply to control an office computer.
Other features include Virtual Backgrounds, allowing you to set an image or video as your background during a meeting. It’s an excellent option for those who don’t want people to see the inside of their apartment. Then there’s Touch Up My Appearance, which is basically a filter that smooths out your skin, making you look more handsome for that critical meeting.
As far as privacy is concerned, Zoom Meetings has you covered. It supports end-to-end encryption that ensures no one can snoop on your meetings — not even the company itself. There were some privacy issues regarding “zoom bombing,” but this was fixed long ago. Now you can take advantage of waiting rooms and codes to better control who enters a meeting.
You can also add a few extensions to Zoom Meetings if you need even more flexibility within the software. Right now, you can add Firefox, Chrome, or Safari for browser support. Zoom offers Gmail, Outlook, and Office 365 plug-ins if you also want email.
How much does Zoom Meetings cost?
The good news for most people is that Zoom Meetings has a free plan available. However, the costless version has a lot of limitations in place, making it unsuitable for most businesses. The free plan lets you host up to 100 participants and participate in unlimited one-on-one meetings, both essential benefits. Unfortunately, the problem comes in the form of a strict 40-minute time limit on all meetings.
If that’s no good for you, you’ll have to open your wallet and get ready to pay up. However, pricing is affordable, starting at just $14.99 per month per host. You can check out all the pricing plans and the features each includes in the image below.
Keep in mind that the pricing is per host, not per participant. This means you don’t need to pay a monthly fee for every participant that joins a meeting or webinar. People can join for free, but the meeting host — the one who sets up a meeting — has to pay a monthly subscription. The more hosts a company has, the higher the monthly bill is. Keep in mind any user can host even without paying; they’ll just be restricted to all the free plan features (like a call being limited to 40 minutes.)
It’s worth noting each plan also offers various add-ons. These include increasing the number of participants that can join a meeting, the option to add extra cloud recording storage, and more. Additionally, Zoom has separated and expanded its business plans to cater to companies and workers better.
Aside from the Business plan shown above, you can also get Zoom Business Plus, which includes unlimited calling, 10GB of cloud storage, translated captions, and more. It costs $25 a month.
Is Zoom Meetings worth it?
You’re probably wondering why you’d want to pay for Zoom Meetings if you can opt for a free service like Skype instead. Well, there are several reasons why that’s not the best idea.
While Skype is free and doesn’t have a time limit in place for meetings like the free version of Zoom, it has many other limitations. The first is that only 100 people can join a group chat, making the software unsuitable for many mid-sized companies. You also can’t mute the microphones of any of the participants in a call, which is a feature you need during large online business meetings — trust us on this one.
Skype isn't great for online business meetings and webinars.
There are other business-oriented features Skype and other similar services lack, including the ability to raise a hand when someone wants to speak, among many others. Skype is designed for personal and not business use. If you frequently have online meetings, especially with multiple people, we suggest paying a monthly fee for software like Zoom Meetings. We use it regularly here at Android Authority and love it. It’s definitely worth the starting price of $14.99 per month.
However, Zoom isn’t the only video conferencing software available. Skype’s owner Microsoft offers Microsoft Teams, which combines video conferencing and messaging into one service that also includes many other features. Google’s Hangouts Meet is a great option, but it’s a part of the company’s G Suite subscription that includes additional cloud storage space and other features. Other options include GoToMeeting and Zoho Meeting, as well as many others.
What is a Zoom Room?
Zoom Meetings isn’t the only service the company offers. It also has Zoom Rooms, which refers to the hardware setup (monitors, cameras, etc.) required to launch Zoom Meetings in a company’s conference room.
Zoom Rooms are aimed at large companies.
The Zoom Rooms service requires an additional monthly fee ($49 a month per room) on top of what you’re already paying for the Zoom Meetings software. It includes what the company calls a Zoom Rooms Scheduling Display used to view upcoming meetings and schedule new ones. Additionally, it comes with Digital signage that allows you to share images, videos, and URLs to the screens in a Zoom Room when you’re not using them for a Zoom meeting.
Zoom Rooms are designed for larger companies with hundreds or even thousands of employees. They can rapidly become expensive since you need to purchase the monitors, microphones, and all the required hardware separately — they’re not part of the $49 monthly subscription. Those interested in the equipment needed and recommended by Zoom can head here to learn more.
What is Zoom Chat?
As if video calling and conferencing weren’t enough, you can also tap Zoom to replace your workplace IM system. Zoom Chat is the company’s alternative to services like Slack, and it’s one of the newer Zoom tools.
It can take some of the scheduling headaches out of video meetings, as Zoom Chat allows you to create your meeting anywhere at any time. You can also restrict the meeting to specific groups within your organization. Zoom Chats is designed to work on both desktop and mobile, and it allows you to share essential files like code snippets while working with your team.
There you go — pretty much everything you could ever want to know about Zoom Meetings and a few of its most popular services. Hopefully, we’ve prepared you for your next meeting, and maybe we’ll be able to work in person again someday.
What is Zoom Phone?
Zoom Meetings has also launched a solution for those who need a cloud phone solution for businesses. This service makes it possible to call locally and internationally from any connected device. It meets significant carrier standards and offers secure communications and encryption.
Prices start at $10 a month per user for the pay-as-you-go model. You can upgrade to the $15 plan, which offers unlimited calls, or pick the $20 plan if you need support for more countries.
Zoom events and webinars
Zoom events and webinars make it possible to organize larger virtual events. You can use it to host single-session, multi-session, and concurrent session events. It can handle hubs, registration, and ticketing. What’s best is that participant limits get wild with these plans. You can have well over 10,000 attendees. It also includes a lobby chat for all users, live streaming of sessions, event reporting, attendance reports, and more.
Zoom Contact Center
In an effort to cover all communication needs for businesses, Zoom has more recently released Contact Center. This is a unified software hub you can use to keep in touch with customers using phone calls, SMS, instant messaging, and even video calls. You can even get a toll-free number, and access to all these goodies starts at $60 a year.
While Zoom Meetings was made with work communications in mind, it is a great tool for personal video calls. Many of us used it during lock-down to make virtual parties!
There is a free version of Zoom, but it limits you to 40-minute calls, 100 attendees, and three Whiteboards.
How much you pay for Zoom will depend on your needs. For many, the free plan or cheapest $14.99/month plan will do. If you’re a company in need of Zoom’s advanced features, the bill can add up to thousands a year.
Most Zoom features work on any computer or smart device. The only feature you’ll need specialized hardware for is Zoom Rooms.