With the spread of COVID-19 affecting how we work and interact, our Internet Strategist, Kerry Allman, has put together a list of videoconference options for our churches, commissions, and committees. While the list is not comprehensive, it is a good starting point in helping us stay connected. You will see under the Zoom option that the Office of the Bishop is able to offer support, either to work with your congregation to set-up its own account, or to enable you to host your own meetings under one of our licenses (see Zoom section below).
One thing to consider when evaluating videoconferencing options is the speed of your internet. The faster your internet speed, the better video and user experience you will have. You can test your internet speed by going to https://speedtest.net and running a test. For a one-on-one videoconference call, download/upload speeds between 400kbps/400kbps are needed, with a recommended speed of 500kbps/500kbps. The more people who are on the call, the more bandwidth needed.
GoToMeeting is an excellent video conference service and is used by many businesses of all sizes. Depending on the plan you select, you can host meetings with up to 2,000 people. However, only 25 attendees can be on a video stream at one time. GoToMeeting works on desktop apps, mobile apps, and web browsers. You can host instant meetings or schedule them for later. This can also integrate with Outlook and Google Calendars that allow you to schedule meetings directly from those programs. Current pricing plans range from $12 to $16 per license per month. Only the Enterprise package will allow you to use the Council Room at Diocesan House in the GoToMeeting environment. Key features of GoToMeeting are unlimited meetings, screen sharing, dial-in lines, meeting locks, and recording.
Microsoft Teams meetings provide web, audio, and video conferencing using the device of your choice. This video conference service is ideal for organizations looking to save money because of its low prices and what’s included in the cost. Microsoft Teams has both free and paid plans. Both plans allow video conferencing for up to 250 participants, and users can tap into Microsoft Office’s most popular programs for no additional cost. The free plan includes 2GB of storage for each user; 10GB of shared storage; screen sharing; channel meetings; and access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote online apps. The paid plans are part of Microsoft’s Office 365 services. Those plans range from $5 to $15 per user, per month. In addition to access to all of Microsoft Office’s other online software, these plans let you use the desktop versions of each program. Since many businesses already use these Microsoft programs, bundling them with a video conferencing solution can be a big cost-saver. Key features include polls and surveys, screen-sharing, whiteboarding, and a text chat platform.
Webex is an ideal video conference service for groups that place an importance on cloud collaboration. There are two different platform types, Webex Meetings and Webex Teams. Webex Meetings is a sophisticated video conference solution that allows you to host meetings with up to 200 people, depending on the service plan you select. Plans range from $14.95 to $29.95 per host, per month. You can save 10% by paying annually, instead of monthly. Webex Teams is an app for continuous teamwork with video meetings, group messaging, file sharing and whiteboarding. This platform is designed as space for employees to work together, while Webex Meetings gives you the freedom to host video meetings with those both inside and outside, your organization. One of the nice things about Webex is that while the plans differ by how many people can attend a video meeting at one time, all of the service’s features are included in each plan. This is different from other provider’s videoconferencing options which may vary depending on the plan selected. Webex includes HD video, speaker views, screen sharing, recording, and integrations with Microsoft Office, Office 365, Outlook, Google Calendar, and Lotus Notes.
Zoom is a good option if you wish to host meetings for large audiences (up to 1000 participants). Everyone attending a video meeting can have their high definition video feed and webcam on at the same time. Many of the other video conference solutions limit the number of video feeds that can be turned on simultaneously. Zoom has active speaker views, telephone dial-in numbers, meeting recording, screen sharing, group messaging, and integrations with Chrome and Outlook. Other tools include the ability for meeting participants to “raise their hand” to ask a question without interrupting, the option to designate someone else to schedule meetings for you, and high-definition video and gallery views that allow you to see up to 25 other meeting attendees at one time. Zoom’s key features include HD voice and video, screen sharing, group messaging, whiteboard, and recording.
If this is an option that you would like to pursue and you have identified a significant need for it, your church or organization can get a substantial discount in pricing if you sign up for Zoom through TechSoup. The Office of the Bishop can offer its office staff as a resource to help get you set up and troubleshoot common issues. Contact Internet Strategist Kerry Allman for support with new account setup: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If having one’s own account for this is not an option, the Office of the Bishop is currently using Zoom with a multiuser license and can allow diocesan churches, commissions and ministries to gain time for videoconferencing through this account. There is a link to an online form that can be filled out to reserve time (https://dioceseofolympia1551.formstack.com/forms/zoom_request_form). We ask that your request be made at least 2 days in advance, and earlier when possible. Once your request is made, a member of the resource team will get in touch with you to go over the details. Contact Resource Coordinator Mat Koski for support with meeting setup: email@example.com.
Lastly, there are a few free videoconferencing options, including Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger Group Chat, Facetime, and Whereby. Each has its own pluses and minuses including platforms supported, number of attendees, etc.