The Best Video Conferencing Programs to Stay Connected On Easter
Updated: Apr 18
Easter is a time to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the day that our Lord demonstrated his divinity by coming back to life. Since Easter is a day of celebration for many Americans, it is traditional for families across the country to gather together to enjoy each others' company. As we all know, this year, extended family visits are difficult if not impossible. Due to the risk of spreading COVID-19 we have been instructed by our leaders to stay at home and maintain physical distancing. This unprecedented situation on Easter Sunday has been very difficult for many families. It has been especially stressful for grandparents who look forward to seeing their grandkids during holiday visits.
Fortunately, we are living in a digitally connected world, and there are quite a few video conferencing tools available to help us communicate with loved ones. While many people are already familiar with FaceTime by Apple or Google Duo, these are apps primarily designed for smartphones and tablets. (CNBC published a recent article on these apps that's worth checking out.) But these lightweight programs aren't the best tool for everyone. In the list below I want to suggest four free video conferencing products that people can use via their computer and which offer a few advanced options such as annotations and file sharing. These are great programs to communicate with grandparents and they provide helpful features when studying with a friend or communicating with a professor.
Zoom has probably received the most publicity as of late, due to its rise in popularity during the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, Zoom's stock price has nearly tripled in value since the beginning of the year. (I do not own stock in this company currently, but it would be a good choice for day traders who like to profit on volatility.) I like Zoom because it has a fairly intuitive interface, the video quality is fairly stable, and the Basic version is free and allows for unlimited one-to-one meetings. If you want to conference with two or more parties, there is a 40-minute time limit. Zoom is also easy for less tech savvy users to install.
Another good choice in this space is Skype. This product is probably well known among the older crowd as it used to be a popular way to communicate with others around the world. It's still common for people to ask others if they want to "Skype" when all they really mean is video conference. However, after Microsoft purchased the company in 2011 they integrated it into their business offerings and it became a bit more confusing to utilize. Currently the free version of Skype allows 50 participants on a call and a meeting can last up to 4 hours. Users originally needed to download a program and connect it to a Microsoft account. These obstacles have largely gone away, but the program, for me, still feels a bit cumbersome. And I say this as a stock investor in Microsoft. I do like how Skype allows users to blur their backgrounds in their videos, however. This is a nice touch if the room you are in is a bit messy. (Zoom allows people to change their backgrounds to a picture, but without a green screen the user's image often ghosts out.)
Uberconference is a less known video conferencing product, but it is well designed. Its free version allows up to 10 participants to connect for 45 minutes. (During the COVID-19 crisis the company has generously provided users on the free plan the ability to conference for as long as five hours and has increased the number of participants on a call to 50.) While I don't have financial investment in Uberconference, I have used their paid business version and I was impressed with its simplicity and clarity.
The final video conferencing option that is worth considering is Webex by Cisco. Webex was a PCMag.com Editor's Choice winnder last year. It has also been a popular option in the education sector. I have used this program during several virtual business meetings and found it to be fairly straightforward. Due to COVID-19 Cisco has temporarily improved the free version to allow 100 participants, changed the 40-minute limit on a meeting to 24 hours, and added call-in abilities. I don't currently own stock in Cisco, but I would recommend buying some soon, as this company is expanding rapidly.
If you like to make comparisons on your own, I would encourage you to check out these free video conferencing programs. There are others out there, but these are all topnotch solutions for staying in touch with friends and loved ones. If you would prefer to simply be pointed toward the one I think is the best, then I would recommend using Zoom. I've been pleased with its reliability, user interface, and the fact that many people are already familiar with the program. Interestingly, my church has been so impressed with Zoom that it recently purchased a Pro account for all of its small group leaders. Whichever program you ultimately choose, be sure to use it, reach out soon, and encourage someone you care about. We don't need to fear COVID:19 when we have a Lord who has overcome death itself.