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Web Conferencing Vendors Offer Free Access During COVID-19 Social Distancing Measures

Web conferencing vendors lined up to offer their software services for free on Monday as workers around the globe started their weeks working from home, complying with social distancing recommendations in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Microsoft says the premium tier of Microsoft Teams will be available free to all users, allowing them to schedule video calls and conferences. Team limits will also be removed. The free offering comes via a free six-month trial.

Google is also offering its Hangouts Meet software for free to all G Suite customers through to July 1. Users will be able to host meetings with limits of 250 participants as well as livestream to up to 100,000 viewers under a single domain account. All meetings can be recorded to Google Drive. Normally this tier of service would add US$13 per month per user onto the base level subscription.

Zoom lifted the time limits on its video calls for free version users in China and is doing the same by request for education sector users in Japan, Italy, and the US.

LogMeIn is offering critical front-line service providers with free use of many of its products for three months. It’s releasing Emergency Remote Work Kits that include solutions for remote meetings, video conferencing, webinars, and virtual events. It’s also supporting IT support and management of remote employee devices and apps as well as remote access to devices in multiple locations.

Zoho is also offering its Remotely software package, which includes a range of apps that assist with online collaboration and productivity, for free until July 1. It includes Zoho Meeting for web conferencing purposes.

Source: Web Conferencing Data Quadrant at SoftwareReviews Published Feb. 20, 2020.

Our Take

With a huge portion of the population in many countries now pushed into remote working scenarios due to the coronavirus pandemic, many companies will see their business continuity plans tested.

Most companies will already have some web conferencing or collaboration tools in place to support those who may work at home periodically. But with entire organizations taking to the home office, those systems may be pushed past their limits. Already on Monday, Microsoft Teams outages were being reported in Europe and the US as millions logged in to collaborate.

IT teams and task forces responsible for business continuity processes should monitor whether their online working solutions are doing the job effectively or not. If your team discovers performance issues or runs up against unexpected limitations on your service tier, then take stock of the temporary free options available from vendors. Also check with your own vendor to see if you can upgrade your staff to a better level of service for no cost.

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