- Wide range of features
- Well-designed apps
- Free forever version
- In-depth reporting
- Cosmetic extras
- Security concerns
- Difficult to set up recurring meetings
Zoom impresses most with the large volume of features being offered, from the essential to the superfluous. As you would expect, during meetings you’re able to share your screen, share files, and use whiteboard features. The whiteboarding function also allows for co-annotation – great when giving demonstrations or lessons. Users can grab the host’s attention by raising a virtual hand while in a call, or send positive vibes through emojis. Hosts can create breakout rooms, which is a way of splitting a conference into separate sessions. These sessions can be named and given a time limit before being closed and returned to the original conference. If you don’t want to assign attendees yourself, Zoom will do it for you automatically, and you can reassign users to different sessions afterwards.
Meetings are recorded either as M4A or MP4 files and are stored locally, or you have the option of using cloud storage for up to 1GB. There’s also the ability to optimize your recordings for later use with third-party editing platforms. One neat feature we like is that you can prompt attendees to provide consent to be recorded, although this has to enabled in the settings menu first. Zoom’s automatic transcription is well worth mentioning. After setting up your cloud recording to be automatically translated, it appears as a separate text file. This can be displayed alongside your recorded video to provide subtitles.
Zoom is well known for some of its cosmetic features. There’s the ‘touch up my appearance' button which will give you a little makeover and smooth out your wrinkles – great for those times when a web conference starts a little too early for you. Then there are the virtual backgrounds, which replace the back wall of your office with an exotic location or any other custom image you choose.
Paid users get access to the Zoom admin panel, from which it’s possible to change conferencing and user settings. Zoom provides further useful features for businesses with its own webinar service and Zoom Phone – an online cloud phone service. Both of these extras link with Zoom’s web conferencing software.
Zoom provides a large amount of reporting on users, showing their total number, meetings, minutes, and webinars used, among other things. Users can also be placed into top-ten groups by different categories, like number of chat messages sent or total meeting minutes. Another highlight is the issues report, which gives you a visualization of any problems your users have had. This covers things like audio or video issues and even high CPU usage. This is just scratching the surface of the sheer depth of reporting that helps businesses maximize their web conferencing efficiency.
Ease-of-use is a large part of what makes Zoom so popular for so many users, so it’s no surprise that setting up meetings is a simple process. Meetings can be set up on the fly from the Zoom app: all you need to do is start inviting people. Of course, most of the time you’ll be scheduling meetings, and Zoom gives you lots of options to choose from. Meetings can be set for recurring custom intervals, although this is one of the few things Zoom gets wrong when compared to other web conferencing software. There’s no easy way to set up a regular weekly meeting, and even Zoom itself encourages you to use calendar extensions for this instead of its own app.
Every meeting is given its own ID number, made up of either your own personal meeting ID or an automatically generated one. You have the option of password protecting your meeting, which is highly recommended, as we will see. Your meeting can also be exported to Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook calendar. One thing we would like to see Zoom develop in future is greater customization and branding to its meeting invitations rather than the current basic text.
These are not the only issues with Zoom though: there’s also the famous “Zoombombing” phenomenon, which is when a meeting is interrupted by a hijacker who may then use their unwelcome intrusion to harass attendees or transmit disturbing images. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this from happening: it’s important to password-protect a meeting, or set up a waiting room so that the host can verify the identity of anyone joining.
Despite the issues, healthcare services will have no problem using Zoom, as the service is fully HIPAA and PIPEDA-compliant, but only through separate healthcare accounts that are available by contacting Zoom directly.
Zoom has desktop apps for macOS and Windows, as well as a version for Linux users. We tested out the macOS app and found it to be very well designed and easy to navigate. One button will allow you to start a new meeting, and there are tabs to take you to your meetings, contacts, and chats.
The apps for mobile users are similarly well designed. Android and iOS users are able to use fingerprint ID to log on and connect to your phone contacts over Zoom. Although you can’t record meetings locally while using a mobile device, you can if cloud recording is enabled. Alternatively, there’s the browser version of Zoom. However, this version has to be activated first through your settings before you can access the link to it. The web client is optimized for Google Chrome, and while it will work from other browsers there may be some minor bugs.
Zoom offers four different pricing tiers to choose from. The tiers start with Basic, which is the free forever version of Zoom. Of course, there are limitations to the Basic package when compared to the paid versions. Group meetings are restricted to 40 minutes per session and 100 participants.
This isn’t enough for most business’s needs, so Zoom offers paid subscriptions where you’ll find its full range of features. The cheapest of those is Pro, which costs $14.99 per month for each host, the host being the user responsible for setting up and scheduling meetings. Pro gives you a maximum meeting duration of 24 hours (one you’re not likely to go over), with 1GB of cloud storage for recordings. There’s still a limit of 100 participants, but for an extra fee this can be upgraded to 500 or 1,000. Users can move up to the Business package at $19.99 per host each month, which gives them access to dedicated phone support, vanity URLs, and more opportunities to add their company’s branding. There’s also an Enterprise solution for much larger companies with prices customized to suit their particular needs.
Payments are made through PayPal or any of the major credit cards. Companies are able to pay by purchase order or wire transfer. Although Zoom doesn’t provide a money-back guarantee, you can cancel your subscription at any time.
Zoom offers 24/7 support over a wide variety of channels. The most direct way to contact Zoom is by creating a support ticket. If you’re a paying subscriber with an urgent issue you can expect to see a response within an hour while low priority issues may take up to 24 hours. Meanwhile, Business and Enterprise customers are able to get priority phone support. There’s also the option of getting in touch over social media through Zoom’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The Zoom help center is a great source of information and has answers for almost every question. Everything is divided into categories, making it much easier to find what you need. The Zoom website hosts several one-minute long instruction videos – a perfect way to learn every aspect of the software. If you want a more personal way of coming to grips with Zoom, you can join one of the free daily live training webinars. These are a helpful way to interact with experts and ask any specific questions you have.
When it comes to web conferencing software, few can boast as many features as Zoom. It’s not just the number of features, but how varied they are that makes Zoom ideal for everyone from individuals to giant companies. The addition of virtual backgrounds gives Zoom a sense of fun you don’t find elsewhere, while the in-depth reporting is perfect for businesses for whom web conferencing is their lifeblood. Of course, security is the main concern for any potential users, so if you’re dealing with highly confidential and sensitive information you may be advised to look elsewhere. This question mark over security prevents us from recommending Zoom too strongly. However, if you can ignore the issue of security, Zoom’s wealth of features at a great price places it among the best in the business.