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Six Free Video Conference Services to help you get and keep connected

During a crisis like the one we are undergoing at the moment the first thing that people look for is news; the internet is an overwhelming source of news, some truthful and some misleading.  We can be bombarded 24 hours a day with bad news and that can lead to feelings of worry and even toward depression.  

It is more vital that, during this period, we stay in touch with our friends and families and feel a sense of connection to break the isolation.  Technologies have evolved quickly and now it is actually quite easy to reach out to friends and family with video calls. Now it is down to your creativity to make that work for you in different ways – perhaps a virtual evening with friends all videoconferenced together, perhaps an online cooking event with family – cooking a family meal together while being apart and even going so far as online parties and events.  Interestingly it isn’t a new phenomena, in the US in the 90s there was a chain of small nightclubs that broadcast to each other the dancefloors and bars from around the country live and in real time – so even if you were dancing in one city you could be with people in another one!

These are some of our favourite video collaboration tools that you can use to stay in touch and explore new ways of socialising.  We are really interested to hear your ideas of how you are getting together with your friends and family – drop us a comment on our Facebook page!

  • Skype

Probably the best known video/telephony software worldwide and with over a million active users worldwide.  Skype has the opportunity to make calls to other users but also to make calls to old fashioned landlines (although for a price)!  Skype is reliable and many people have been using it for many years, it saw a slump in usage during the 00s and early 10s but is undergoing a resurgence since being taken over by Microsoft.  Signing up is easy if you have a Microsoft account and you can find people by their email address if they also have a Skype account. Skype allows multiple users to talk at once and is often used for corporates to do video conferencing.

  • FaceTime

We use Facetime a lot in our organisation because we all have apple devices and it is quick to have a one to one video conference. It does require an apple device for all parties which can be restrictive and the ability to do calls with multiple participants is poor.  It is fantastic for a one to one chat with your close friends and family.

  • Google Hangouts 

Google Hangouts is a great alternative to Skype and a bit more user friendly and allows you to set up free video chats between up to ten parties at once.  The service is becoming more and more popular in the business community, particularly with startups which rely on Google to provide other services such as mail.  The good thing about hangouts is that it works well even with a poor internet connection and it works on all platforms. 

  • Zoom 

Zoom has become particularly popular during the pandemic because it has a very friendly interface and allows everyone to see each other at the same time.  We use it for webinars and for public meetings where we are not concerned about privacy. There have been a number of recent issues around security which have been well published and include ‘Zoombombing’ where people are jumping onto other people’s calls.  Zoom has recently published some guidance on how to prevent this and we recommend that you check it out before using the platform. If you follow the guidelines and do it securely – then it is a very nice to use platform for social gatherings. 

  • WhatsApp

WhatsApp is probably the most well known messaging platform and allows you to make video calls and send messages on your mobile device.  What isn’t well known is that it will support video calls with up to 4 parties involved which can be great for family meetings or catch ups with friends and co-workers.  While we do use it for calls and video conferencing, we mostly use it to stay in touch with groups through text messages. 

  • Facebook Messenger

Probably the most widely used platform for messaging and staying in touch is facebook messenger.  Facebook messenger also allows video conferencing and voice calls and we often use it to stay in touch with our clients as many of them use Facebook to follow us and contact us.  

With all of the services above you should keep in mind that you will be using data, so whether that is over your phone or your fixed internet connection make sure you know the limits of your current data plan.  

At GleamDream we all wish you a good WiFi and a strong mobile internet connection so you can enjoy your remote learning, working and even more socialising.

We look forward to hearing from you on our facebook page about how you are using social media to adapt your hobbies and social life to a new online version!

Kate Gould

Author Since: March 30, 2020

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