Working from home? Here are the apps for remote meetings

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Since uninstalling 2020 and reinstalling it without a virus isn’t an option, our only choice is to adapt to this weird, yet new normal we are living, and hope we’ll return to the old normal, or something like it, in the not too distant future. Fortunately, much of the technology to help us adapt to this new normal is already here, at least when it comes to working from home. Remote meetings, for example, are now a mainstay of the work-from-home arrangement, and there’s no shortage of remote meeting apps from which to choose. On the contrary, the sheer number of these apps can make it difficult to decide which one is best for you or for your business. In the hopes of helping to make that decision easier, below is a brief profile of some of the more popular apps in use today.

Remote meeting apps and their special features

All the apps discussed allow for remote multi-party video calls via mobile devices and desktop PCs. Furthermore, most offer both free (or at least a free trial) and upgrade versions, and are available for both Android and iOS devices. Also, they all support text chats, screen and document sharing in real-time, whiteboard sharing, meeting metrics, active-speaker and gallery views of participants, and several other features not mentioned here. To differentiate between them, however, we look at features that are special to the particular app.

Supports one-touch access to meetings making it very easy and instantaneous for meeting attendees to connect no matter what the device.
Has special productivity features for highlighting meetings, and creating transcriptions and automated alerts.
Has exceptionally high-quality audio and video.
Available for Linux in addition to Windows and Mac OS.

Cisco Webex
Gives users convenient and easy to use live stream capabilities straight to a conference room.
Ability to join calls from other services like Skype for Business.
If you’re using the app on your mobile, there is a feature that calls you when the meeting is live and dials you straight into the conference.
Automatically sets up the participants’ screen view depending upon the type of file being shared. For example, a PowerPoint presentation will be shown as a slide presentation with all of the needed controls displayed so that collaboration is convenient and easy.

Google Hangouts Meet
As a standard app in the G Suite platform, everything works with your Gmail/Drive account, calendar and other Google products.
With the G Suite enterprise edition, users can dial in phone numbers to access meetings so even if they have a slow, or no Internet connection at all, they can still call in.
Supports cross-device syncing so users can start a Hangout on a desktop and continue on any device e.g., laptop, mobile etc.

Integrated into Google Calendar, Outlook, and the other Microsoft Office products, which makes it easier for the meeting’s host to set up as-needed meetings or scheduled meetings in advance.
Gives meeting hosts the ability to show meeting attendees their entire screen or only selected applications.
Offers a variety of rich technical settings for better webcam visuals such as brightness, contrast, hue and saturation controls.

There is only one subscription for joining rather than multiple pricing tiers which eliminates the need to wade through the different options offered at each price level.
Allows users to personalize their private meeting rooms with an image of their choice that is displayed whenever invitees are waiting for their call to begin.
Host presenter can pass control to another person while the meeting is live.

Microsoft Teams (replacing Skype for Business)
Can jump from instant messaging to a video call with just a click of a button.
Supports calls to mobile and landlines.
Can add emojis and custom memes to discussions.
Has a bots gallery for improving productivity such as a bot for polling co-workers, a bot for delivering scheduled reports from sources like Salesforce and Google Analytics.

Has touch-up appearance and virtual background features.
Can join a meeting without signing in.
In addition to sharing your screen, there is a handy button for pausing screen sharing so other meeting participants can’t see if you have to fix or adjust your presentation.
Lots of convenient shortcut keys that make features such as mute/unmute, screen sharing, recording etc., easier to access.

A word of caution
As vital as video conferencing tools are to the continued operation of businesses, we cannot throw all caution to the wind and assume they are secure. On the contrary, many such tools are vulnerable to hackers; just look at the recent “zoombombings” where uninvited guests have used the screen-sharing feature to broadcast undesirable content and imagery. The Covid-19 pandemic has just added fuel to the fire as hackers exploit it to launch corona cyber attacks aimed at compromising our data and security. Indeed, the FBI has even issued a security warning about working from home reminding people not to click on unfamiliar links, give out login information or download attachments. They also suggest putting a password on your Wi-Fi and using a VPN. And individuals and businesses alike are fair game, with SMBs seen as especially vulnerable due to their lack of dedicated resources for defending against attacks. SMBs, therefore, need to ramp up their cybersecurity more than ever. No SMB should be without robust endpoint antivirus technology for detecting and preventing malware attacks. And given the prevalence of online meetings, the antivirus should include powerful camera and microphone protection to make sure hackers aren’t watching and listening to private conversations.

No do-overs for 2020, only doing better
Since we can’t undo what the Covid-19 pandemic has started, we can at least do better as we move forward. And as we adapt to the tsunami of change that has confronted us all, it’s reassuring to know that there are plenty of excellent technologies and tools that can help us along the way.