The demand for video conferencing and collaboration tools has never been greater.
Everywhere we look, global gatherings are shutting down. First it was the Mobile World Conference, forced to fold as concerns around the COVID-19 spread. Next came Facebook F8 and Adobe Summit, followed by Google’s annual developer conference, Microsoft’s MVP summit, and IBM Think.
It’s not just large conferences that are suffering in the wake of coronavirus, however. Smaller, more concentrated meetings are being forced to move away from physical spaces and into the safer, more flexible environment of the cloud.
Social soirees of all sizes and shapes are quickly moving online. Even bigger brands like Facebook, Google, and Salesforce have started asking their employees to work from home. CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, even suggested that the new call for video will lead to a “fundamental, permanent shift in how people work.”
Accessing Video Communication & Collaboration for Free
The good news for companies who don’t have the budget set aside for a shift to video right now is that there’s an easier way to evolve. Conferencing companies are being forced to respond to the increasing demand for cloud communications.
As Slack, Microsoft, Zoom, and others all see considerable increases in usage, these organisations don’t want to be seen as taking advantage of a virus that’s causing death and panic across the globe. Instead, these companies are using the wide-spread panic as an opportunity to connect with their customers on a deeper level, while attracting new ones.
By offering free versions of some of their premium tools, the market leaders in video conferencing and collaboration can begin to expand the small percentage of the global workforce that works remotely. After all, 44% of companies still don’t allow team members to work from home.
If you’re ready to make the shift into the cloud, but your budget isn’t, here’s where you can get the technology that you need for free.
Google has had a free version of Hangouts available for a while now, but it hasn’t offered many of the enterprise-level tools that modern businesses demand. Fortunately, the company announced that it is rolling out free access to advanced features for Hangouts Meet for all G-Suite and Education customers until the first of July.
This means that you can now host meetings with up to 10,000 viewers, or 250 visitors in a single domain, for free. Plus, there’s the option to record and save meetings to Google Drive too. The Google team said that this new rollout was its attempt to “do our part” to keep teams connected.
People were thrilled back in 2018 when Microsoft announced a free version of Teams for smaller companies. Now, to support the growing demand for video conferencing and remote working, the Microsoft brand is offering a free six month trial for the premium tier of Teams too.
The globally available trial represents Microsoft’s concern for the “wellbeing of [its] employees,” as well as it’s desire to support customers dealing with the impact that infection can have on their workforces. Originally, the premium trial was available to hospitals, businesses, and schools struggling in China, where the outbreak began. However, as the infection has spread, Microsoft is making it’s technology available globally.
The free trial will include meeting scheduling and all of the Teams collaboration features, except for PSTN conferencing (see below for an offer relating to this).
Although Zoom has had a free version of its software available for some time now, the solution came with a 40-minute time limit on all video conversations. At the end of February, Zoom lifted these time limits for users in China. According to Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, the company wants to help the people that are most profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 virus.
Zoom has seen a massive increase in usage since the spread of the virus started, bringing in more active users than ever before. Users outside of China can still sign up to the free version of Zoom to host up to 100 participants, access free 1-to-1 meetings, and create group meetings lasting up to 40 minutes.
Avaya was one of the conferencing and communication companies on the frontline of the Coronavirus outbreak. The company donated audio and video equipment to workers in China, dispatching support for speedy deployments.
Today, the global company is taking steps to support more companies on a global level, by offering the Avaya Spaces solution for cloud meeting and collaboration for free. Avaya Spaces is available to all educational institutions and non-profit organizations across the globe. The free solution will support video conferencing for up to 200 participants, with access to video, voice, chat, content sharing, and online meetings.
Enreach / Centile
Centile, part of Enreach, is the European leader in the development of mobile-first Cloud PBX and UC solutions. They are just about to launch ISTRA Collab Business, the videoconferencing and collaboration solution integrated into the ISTRA Cloud PBX platform. In the meantime, in order to help as many companies as possible work remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak, Enreach, Centile’s holding company, is now offering Enreach Meetings for free until September 1st 2020. Enreach Meetings is a videoconferencing solution based on the same technology and interface as ISTRA Collab Business.
- Group video calls and dial-in access up to 10 participants (or devices)
- Pre-entry waiting room for guests
- In-meeting group and private chat
- Screen & document sharing
- Video broadcasting
- Specific rights for host
- Directly accessible from your (mobile) browser
Cisco recently reported that the traffic in it’s Webex solution within China has increased by 22 times since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, the solution has seen up to five times as many users across South Korea, Singapore, and Japan.
To respond to the growing demand, Cisco has expanded the capabilities on its free offer in all countries where the technology is available. The updated free version now includes support for up to 100 participants, as well as unlimited usage with no time restrictions. There’s also toll dial-in available, in addition to existing VoIP capabilities. Additionally, Cisco is working closely with partners to offer free 90-day licenses to businesses that aren’t already Webex customers in the current environment.
StarLeaf, one of the world’s leading providers of meeting room and video conferencing solutions, recently announced new measures to support customers with their business continuity efforts. New StarLeaf plans have been created that involve various new product and service offerings, such as a free version of the conferencing software, available on a global basis. Additionally, customers can also access more licensing flexibility.
The free StarLeaf version is available across all devices worldwide. Users just need an email address to get started. Users can then meet with anyone through video. There are also trials available through StarLeaf’s partner network. StarLeaf customers that aren’t sure how long they’ll need to enable remote working will be able to access flexible conferencing license options, which allow them to expand their technology when and as needed. StarLeaf is also launching a new remote-working environment to provide customers with resources to help create remote work solutions.
RingCentral already offers a no-commitment free trial to users interested in its Meetings software for collaboration. As one of the leading providers in the VoIP and collaboration industry, RingCentral offers tools like HD video and screen sharing within their Meetings stack, as well as recording and text-based chat. You can use the private chat or group-chat in-meeting, depending on your needs.
There’s a restriction of 40 minutes on group conversations within the free version of RingCentral Meetings, but there’s no limit imposed on one-to-one meetings.
Dialpad is another company offering businesses the tools that they need to work from anywhere, wherever a high-speed connection is available. Internally, the business has been implementing a flexible policy for team members that want to work from home since 2011.
To help other companies in the current landscape follow suit, Dialpad has started to offer the DialpadTalk and UberConference PRO technology in their communication stacks to any business throughout North America and Japan, for free. This free access will continue for the next couple of months as the concerns around the virus continue to grow, helping companies to adapt more quickly to the changing workforce demands.
Updated 19th March:
For all existing (approx. 1.6M) UberConference Free users and new signups, Dialpad are:
- Removing the 45-min limit (up to 5-hours, max)
- Increasing the maximum participants from 10 to 50
Additionally, Dialpad Talk paid users can upgrade to UberConference Business, as opposed to the UberConference Free version included with their accounts. They can therefore enjoy all the benefits of UberConference Business (no cap, up to 100 users, no PIN, Voice Intelligence, etc) at no additional cost. Eligible users will be notified by email and an in-app announcement.
8×8, one of the leading solutions for cloud communications, recently announced an expanded range of global capabilities for the standalone and free version of 8×8 Video Meetings. The company has now increased the capabilities and global reach of capabilities within 8×8 video meetings, providing employees and companies with location-independent access to unlimited meetings through any mobile device or internet-connected desktop.
Since the start of February, demand for 8×8 Video Meetings increased significantly, with users from more than 125 countries now using the tools. New registered users for the standalone 8×8 offering almost tripled too. CEO, Vik Verma, hopes the expanded free solutions will help people to collaborate and communicate more effortlessly in the cloud environment.
Zoho, one of the leading companies in the collaboration space, recently launched a full virtual collaboration platform named Remotely. The solution aims to help companies to continue operating as normal during the rise of the coronavirus epidemic. The platform will be available to use for free until the 1st of July 2020, at which point, Zoho will review the situation and deliver a potential extension.
Raju Vegesna, the CEO of Zoho, said that the Remotely offering is a humanitarian gesture that will help businesses to mitigate the impact the spreading virus. Included in the technology are collaboration, productivity, and project management applications, alongside tools for the automation of migrating data into the Zoho cloud platform.
Remotely also addresses cybersecurity concerns for businesses, by enabling IT teams to apply security controls to the data that team members can access. However, IT organizations, in many cases, would still need to ensure that the connections they deploy are secure.
To help organisations of all types adapt to the very real work challenges presented by Coronavirus, Lifesize is offering free cloud video conferencing services for six months to companies around the world, with no limits on the number of hosts they can add, number of meetings they can hold or the length of those meetings. In addition, current Lifesize customers can add as many full-featured users as they want to their accounts, free of additional charge beyond what they are already paying.
This move is to technologically equip companies to handle the spike in remote work or entire teams working from home, allowing all employees to remain productive and collaborative, and to “keep the world working.” This offer is available to all organisations of all sizes, globally, for six months.
Communication leaders, DTEN, recently launched the Stay Connected program to help educational institutions, healthcare providers, and companies mitigate the challenges caused by COVID-19. The Stay Connected scheme provides organisations with a month of free access to the award-winning video conferencing solution designed by DTEN for Zoom Communications. Additionally, to enhance the free offering, DTEN is also offering a 30-day subscription to Zoom Rooms for free.
According to DTEN, the global health emergency that we’re facing today has expanded the world’s understanding of just how valuable video conferencing and collaboration technology can be. Because of this, the DTEN brand wants to make sure that its technology is available to support anyone and everyone that might be affected by the coronavirus. Stay Connected also allows first-time users to request the DTEN D7 55 inch display to be shipped to their facility. This model integrates video conferencing, content sharing, interactive whiteboarding, and more, and it can be used with no cost for up to 30 days.
There are many collaboration and communication tools on the market today that typically come with a free trial lasting a week or two. LogMeIn usually comes with its own fourteen-day free trial. However, that’s about to change. According to the company, it will be providing critical front-line service providers and healthcare providers with free access. The solution, available for educational intuitions, non-profit groups, and municipalities will provide access to various LogMeIn products for three months, through the availability of Emergency Remote Working kits.
The Emergency Remote Work Kit from LogMeIn delivers collaborative communication for up to three months, helping businesses to stay connected through webinars, virtual events, and video. You can also access tools for the remote management of employee devices.
While Monday.com hasn’t changed anything about its free-to-use service, employees and businesses can still access the video conferencing system for free, with a few restrictions. This collaboration tool provides today’s users with a robust platform where business leaders can assign tasks, manage workflow, and support ongoing collaborative experiences in the workplace. There are fantastic colour-coded work boards available to keep employees on track, as well as easy-to-use tools for staff members that help to keep staff members in touch.
The free trial allows users to test the service before they commit, providing access to useful workforce management technology during crucial times in a business’s progression into the remote work environment.
Modality Systems OneConsultation
Designed specifically to support the healthcare companies that are facing significant challenges in the current COVID-19 environment, Modality Systems is offering a new offer for its OneConsultation service. The company submitted an open letter to NHS Groups this month, informing them that they could access their OneConsultation system, with integrations for Microsoft, for free.
The OneConsultation technology provides NHS groups with everything they need to communicate and collaborate in the cloud, as well as offering virtual consultations to patients. Because there’s no complicated set-up required, NHS Trusts can start delivering virtual conferences within a matter of hours.
Mitel MiTeam Meetings
Mitel understand that businesses around the world are currently facing unprecedented difficulties as they ask their employees to work remotely for potentially weeks on end. To help organisations ensure business continues in this unpredictable environment, they are currently offering a six month free trial of MiTeam Meetings, in addition to a range of offers for existing MiCollab and MiVoice Connect customers.
PGi, a global business communications and collaboration provider, is at the forefront of the remote work movement – their video conferencing and webcast technology helps people, enterprises and teams connect around the world to unleash productivity. PGi is focused on reducing the impact the coronavirus has on its employees, customers, partners and communities around the world. As such they are offering GlobalMeet Collaboration for free unlimited meetings for up to 125 participants with HD multipoint video, Dolby voice audio, local dial-in access, recording and many more features.
Meetupcall are a conference call provider who enable businesses to connect with one another from any country in the world. A fully GDPR-compliant and ISO 27001 certiﬁed service means that you can be conﬁdent that your calls are completely secure, whilst a whole range of additional features led the BBC’s Kate Russell to say “you may never have a face-to-face meeting again”. Meetupcall has over 10-years’ experience in the ﬁeld of remote working. Indeed, as a conference call provider, remote working is their focus. They say that the biggest hurdle to eﬀective remote working is keeping in touch with people – both your employees and colleagues, as well as your customers and clients. Sign up for a free extended one-month trial.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Rainbow
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s cloud-based communication and collaboration platform, Rainbow, helps your business to get through such difficult times by providing you with the services that enable your staff to work remotely from safe locations. With their collabration expertise well-known, ALE Rainbow are offering free licences up until 30th June 2020 to help keep your business up and running in these uncertain times. Just some of the features on offer are:
- Carry-out video meetings with customers, partners or colleagues from home
- Call from any device using audio and video
- Share screen and file for efficient interactions
CallTower, a global leader in delivering cloud-based enterprise-class unified communications and collaboration solutions, announced today free Cisco Webex Meetings and CT Cloud Meeting Powered by Zoom conferencing solutions, with no commitment, until June 3oth, 2020, to keep employees working while remote from the head office, during the COVID-19 outbreak. Find out more and sign up here. CallTower also offer 90 days of free Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams users.
Vonage has experienced a sharp increase in demand and use of its video APIs and collaboration solutions in the wake of COVID-19-driven office closures, having processed more than 1 billion video API minutes since January 1, 2020, a significant increase versus prior periods.
For organisations that may not need a complete cloud solution right now, Vonage has taken the Video APIs that power some of the largest embedded video applications in the world, and its own Vonage Meetings solution, to custom build a standalone video solution to help customers during this time of need.
The new Vonage Free Conferencing service will be available for anyone to use free of charge for up to 90 days.
Vonage is also offering three free months of Vonage Business Communications services for educational, healthcare, and non-profit organisations within the US, UK, and Australia. Fill out the form and someone will respond soon. Within a matter of days, your employees will be able to:
- Connect remotely (virtually anytime, anywhere) via the VBC Desktop app and VBC Mobile app
- Access everything they need from a single screen with the ability to integrate CRMs and other productivity tools with VBC
- Leverage mission-critical business tools that are crucial to keeping your workforce connected and productive
Updated 31st March:
Vonage has extended the availability of its free desktop and mobile video collaboration product, Vonage Video Conferencing (VVC), through to the end of the year.
Additionally, to keep people connected with family and friends, the company has made Vonage Video Conferencing available to its 1 million home phone service customers, in addition to the general public.
Unlike traditional video conferencing, Video Window’s purpose is to “create an extension of physical space to help employees feel more connected with each other as if they were in the same office”. Their goal is to help teams achieve their highest level of success possible. During this crisis, with so many companies implementing travel bans and asking teams to work from home, Video Window are offering up to 10 Video Window licenses per company for free for the next 60 days.
Vidyo from Enghouse
Enghouse are providing temporary free licences of their cloud-based video collaboration platform: Vidyo – at no cost.
Working with a robust, enterprise-grade video communication platform can offer even the largest organisations the flexibility to continue operating from nearly anywhere for extended periods of time. The platform provides good quality video to support both customers and employees even on low-bandwidth connections like 3G. With its long history of supporting financial, government, health and field service sectors, Enghouse Vidyo is a highly scalable and customisable video platform.
Facebook Gives Free Portal Video Devices to Employees
Facebook may not have an offering for the global workforce when it comes to free video communication. Still, the company is giving free Portal video chat devices to any employee that requests one. The company confirmed this recently, stating that it is shifting more aggressively to remote work solutions due to the recent COVID-19 fears.
It remains to be seen whether Facebook will also provide other solutions for video conferencing and collaboration to people outside of the organisation.
Offers for Selected Organisations
The following offers are not aimed at the general market.
TrueConf, an award-winning video conferencing vendor, has responded to the growing need for a stable e-learning platform by giving educational institutions their free on-premises video conferencing system for up to 1,000 users.
The coronavirus outbreak is placing a heavy strain on the cloud services as more and more universities and educational establishments are switching to distance learning and looking to use video conferencing as a preferred tool for holding lessons. TrueConf have therefore responded to the growing need for a stable e-learning platform by giving educational institutions a free on-premises video conferencing system for up to 1,000 users until June 30, 2020. For more details visit the TrueConf site.
Workplace from Facebook
Workplace from Facebook has announced that it will be providing access to its Advanced Tier free of charge for governments and emergency services globally for one year.
For these organisations, which are on the frontline of combating COVID-19, this will help inform, connect and safeguard their employees, allowing them to share critical information in real-time, provide updates on the health and welfare of their employees, and enable leadership to reach employees via live videos, posts, and more. Workplace helps connect everyone in an organisation, including frontline or deskless workers, and is deeply committed to supporting everyone within these organisations during this crisis.
Important information regarding this free offering includes:
- Offer available to all government organisations (at a country and local level) and emergency services (including ambulance, dispatchers and law enforcement) pending legal and compliance checks
- Through Workplace from Facebook, companies can instantly share information, live stream meetings or announcements, support two-way communication or even employ bots to quickly gather feedback from employees. The World Health Organization is currently using Workplace to share critical information about COVID-19 amongst its workforce, host staff seminars and create an open forum for employee questions
- Workplace Advanced is built for connecting entire organisations. It will provide these organisations with familiar Workplace features, such as Chat, Live video and Groups, plus advanced admin controls
CircleLoop, the cloud-based phone system for business, has pledged to provide free business telephony to any school, healthcare provider or charity who is facing remote working challenges, due to the unprecedented outbreak of Coronavirus across the country.
CircleLoop will be offered free of charge for the next 3-months to any existing or new customers who need to facilitate remote, mobile or flexible working at short notice. They sate that their internet-based phone system can be live in a matter of minutes, following completion of a short online form, with no card or payment details required. The system supports calling, call menus and greetings, voicemail transcription and a range of other features.
Schools, healthcare providers and charities looking to take advantage of this free service can sign-up instantly today.
Video Conferencing Reviews
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Video Conferencing Providers
Where Will YOU be Collaborating?
As more companies continue to rely on video conferencing and collaboration tools worldwide, there’s a good chance that we’ll see an increase in the number of businesses offering free and expanded solutions to their customers.
Stay safe and well, and follow your own government’s advice on how to handle and mitigate the spread of coronavirus.