Working from home is the new normal, and the on-going pandemic is going to have a lasting effect on the way we work forever. One way to work and communicate effectively is video conferencing, which facilitates teamwork in a professional setup. Two leading apps in this segment are WebEx and Zoom.
WebEx is owned and operated by Cisco, a leader in the space for several years. They offer a host of other IT services (both hardware and software). Zoom is a newcomer that saw crazy growth in the last few weeks and was unable to keep up with the rise in demand. There have been multiple reports of hacks and security lapses with the team scrambling to release security updates — more on that below.
This is what I like about Zoom. You don't need an account or sign up, unless you want to host meetings. Just download the app, enter the code you received via message or link, and join the room. The on-boarding process cannot be simpler. Things are different if you want to host a meeting. That requires an account, and you need to add your contacts before you can send invites. That's understandable.
WebEx has two versions: WebEx Teams for collaboration and WebEx Meetings for conferencing. WebEx also allows joining meetings without signing up, but like Zoom, you need to create an account when hosting a meeting. WebEx does one better here by allowing users to join a meeting using any “any Cisco or standards-based SIP video device.” Skype is a good example. No need to get familiar with a new tech just to join a meeting now. WebEx also has Call Me feature, which means you will receive a direct call when its time for the meeting.
Creating an account is easy with Google and other social media sign-on options in both. WebEx Teams acts more like Slack where you can manage channels and initiate calls, text, and share files. For this comparison, I am leaving it out as it will be like comparing apples to oranges.
2. Creating and Hosting Meetings
There are two types of rooms in both Zoom and WebEx. One is a regular room that you can create anytime and send invites to contacts. Another is a personal room that is permanent, allowing anyone to connect with you at any time. I recommend you do not share your room with everyone for privacy reasons.
Once the meeting is on, there are a few options available, like record meetings for future references, screen and file sharing, and whiteboarding. Because WebEx was designed with enterprise users in mind, it additionally offers People Insights feature, which allows in-depth analysis of attendees.
Both the apps offer video recording and transcriptions, but WebEx will mail you the files immediately.
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3. When the Meeting Is in Session
Zoom and WebEx will let you raise your virtual hand if you want to say something while a meeting is in progress. No need to interrupt the speaker abruptly. WebEx again goes a little further here with some additional tools like polls, attendance, and Attention Indicator tool. The last one will try and gauge whether you are paying attention during the meeting or not. Polls are also available on Zoom, and so is the ability to live stream the meeting on YouTube.
Not happy with your background? You can choose a virtual background during Zoom meetings, so no one knows how rich or poor or even where you are. Income disparity is real and can be embarrassing for some folks. Very thoughtful.
4. Webinars and Breakout Rooms
Zoom comes with Breakout Rooms, where you can break one big meeting room into several smaller rooms. Each room will have its own set of participants with their separate topics, discussions, and so on. You can create up to 50 breakout rooms in the same conference. Examples can be marketing, sales, and finance or budget teams. WebEx misses out on this one.
Both the video conferencing apps support webinars, but Zoom also offers the option for creating on-demand webinars. That means you can record a webinar, and users can access it when they want. You can share files with the viewer, stream it to YouTube, and viewers can ask questions in real-time. WebEx also allows you to track leads, offer discounts on products/services, take attendance, and view detailed analytics. These extra features make it very useful for marketers.
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5. Privacy and Security
WebEx was designed with businesses and enterprise users in mind. That's why security and privacy was a key concern.
Zoom has since then released a statement with a number of security updates with more in the works. I wish they had done it sooner. I suppose they didn't anticipate the exponential growth since December. Still, that's no excuse for what transpired.
Some steps in the right direction include a password to prevent Zoom bombing, waiting room, ability to kick out and restrict users during the meeting and hide meeting ID, so screenshots are safer, among others.
WebEx, unlike Zoom, offers end-to-end encryption using TLS protocol. Zoom recently added the ability to remove participants and password-protection, but they are present WebEx already. You can also force users to use OTPs before they join a meeting in WebEx.
Fun Fact: A former Cisco WebEx employee founded Zoom. Though the recent security lapse was shocking, I think the company takes security and its reputation seriously.
6. Pricing, Platforms, and Integrations
Zoom has a free plan with unlimited 1-on-1 meetings and group meetings with a 40-minute limit. No more than 100 participants are allowed in this plan, but you get screen sharing and collaboration tools. Pricing starts at $14.99/month per host and goes up to $19.99 and offers features like up to 1000 participants, personal branding, meeting transcript, and cloud storage.
WebEx also has a free plan with up to 100 participants, and pricing begins at $13.5/month per host going up to $26.95/month per host. Additional features include file sharing, transcripts, personal branding, and cloud storage.
Zoom is available on all popular OS for desktop, mobile, and browsers with add-ins for Outlook and IBM Notes. The same goes for WebEx, but because it integrates with more apps, there are more options.
Zoom integrates with many apps like Slack, Skype, Outlook, Google, and few select others. Same goes for WebEx that works with Gmail, Outlook, Office365, Salesforce, Slack, GitHub, and Trello, among others. Between the two, WebEx again offers more integrations.
Zoom In, Zoom Out
WebEx offers more whether you look at features or security or anything else for that matter. It is also pricier, but then again, security and privacy are priceless, and any lapses can prove even more expensive.
It is worth noting that WebEx is more suitable for companies and enterprise users. Zoom can be used by schools, small companies, startups, and even families. Part of the reason why it went viral was the free plan and easy on-boarding process.
But Zoom's time has not come yet. The recent security updates are useful, but winning trust after losing it can be hard.
Zoom is a powerful video conferencing tool and we're written a comprehensive guide on it. It's called the Ultimate Zoom Guide. Click on 'Learn More' button below to check it out.
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