Working While Away This Weekend? Your Best Options for Videoconferencing

Videoconferencing using Google Hangouts
Screensharing using Google Hangouts

The best part of Thanksgiving may be the long weekend: four days of uninterrupted snacking and napping, right?  Except that almost never happens: at some point over the four days, you may need to do catch up on some work, and you may even need to collaborate with colleagues. Videoconferencing is a great solution to working remotely that we should take advantage of 365 days a year, but it can be extra useful during the holiday season. Below are a few options to explore:

This is a very robust videoconferencing service that’s also designed to host webinars and training sessions. You can also videoconference directly from your mobile device: GoToMeeting has a dedicated app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. You video quality will only be limited by the front-facing camera on your device, so it may not be the most beautiful video, but you could be using in the airport right now if you wanted. GoToMeeting isn’t cheap, with monthly and yearly pricing available based on the number of organizers, starting at $49 a month or $468 a year. If you’re doing a lot of videoconferencing, especially with clients, it may be worth it for the quality.

Skype is the classic videocalling app, which is great, because it means lots of people already know how to use it, and they do offer group calls, but only for Skype Premium members ($53.84/a year). It takes installing the app, though, so it’s not a great solution if you need to make a quick videocall from someone else’s computer. Skype-to-Skype mobile calls only work on Android and Blackberry on Verizon (bizarre), but there are Skype videocalling apps for iPhone that promise improve on the built-in camera.

Google Hangouts
Newer than Skype or GoToMeeting, Hangouts expand on Google’s pre-existing videocalling to offering multi-user videoconferencing. The biggest selling point here is that it’s free, though in many ways the experience reflects it. Google Hangouts feels more like a fun, consumer-oriented program, but will definitely work if you have savvy users and a fairly informal culture. It’s integrated into Google+ and Google Drive, so it’s easy to share from Google’s apps. But till more people are familiar with its tech, and Google refines the user experience, it’s probably not a great bet for important client meetings.

Microsoft Lync Online (Office365) 
This is part of the official Microsoft Office offering for the cloud that makes all your office must-haves portable. Lync Online is one component, and it’s an app for videoconferencing, online meetings, and instant messaging, kind of like Skype, but made more professional. It provides screensharing, can host up to 250 users on one call, and can sync with Microsoft Outlook as part of the Office365 suite. As a standalone product, Lync is available starting at $2 a month per user, or you can subscribe as part of the Office365 package (that includes MS Office online) starting at $6 a month per user.