Zoom vs WebEx vs Teams Comparison: Which is the best for you

Zoom / WebEx / MS Teams are all market-leading video conference and collaboration tools for personal as well as commercial use. Zoom is best used for individual and small to mid-size businesses due to its ease of use, easy to navigate UI, and all-encompassing functionalities.

WebEx is probably best used if you are a mid to large company that needs a dedicated video conferencing platform which is easy to use, specific functional platforms, and advanced reporting.

Lastly, Teams takes on a different area of the market by including video conferencing features as well as collaboration abilities and file-sharing that helps to transition away from the traditional document management system model.

With so many options available to you it can take a lot to decide what product should be implemented.

Let’s take a look at how these platforms stack up, starting with Zoom:

Zoom is a video conferencing and communications company based out of San Jose, California, founded by Eric Yuan in 2011. Eric was a previous Cisco WebEx engineer who felt he could make improvements, by simplification and since then Zoom’s popularity has grown hugely.

Why Zoom?

Zoom words in letters

A big reason why is it’s so popular is definitely due to it’s easy to use interface.

If you purchase the full version, all functions are included which is a big pull, as a lot of Zoom’s competitors ask you to buy different platforms for various specialisms of video conferencing like Cisco WebEx and Go To Meeting. Also, Zoom doesn’t require any additional software to work, once you have picked your package, either basic (free), pro, business, and enterprise, you can pretty much get started immediately and start creating and conducting meetings.

As we all know audio can make or break a video conference, so Zoom has some great ways to control participant audio.

This includes the host being able to mute a participant’s audio, deactivate a microphone and camera, allow sound or not, as well as being able to see all participant settings.

Another immensely helpful element is being able to see more information about how participants have logged in. Are they using computer audio (inbuilt mic) or if they have chosen to dial in with their phone. This is important as audio issues will crop up with video conferencing and being able to know how to troubleshoot during the conference.

Related: Zoom Meetings Review: The Ultimate Video Solution?

What features are available?

Zoom tries to make it as easy as possible to start and join a meeting, usually all users will be sent a meeting ID which adds an element of security.

You can start an instant meeting, or schedule it and set up your preferences more in-depth and any calls can be password protected if you want even more added security.

As well as all of this, Zoom allows you to operate a personal room which allows you to immediately start a meeting without having to schedule a meeting which can be very useful if you are having team meetings and want to keep things simple.

As well as this, in any Zoom meeting, you can utilize a waiting room where people are held until you manually admit them. This is a feature that is good for security and if you are in a confidential industry can protect valuable information from being seen by people you do not recognize.

Zoom settings

Zoom vs WebEx vs Teams Comparison Which is best for you The last feature I want to bring to your attention is the Zoom breakout rooms. This is by far one of the best features that Zoom possesses and will be something that people or companies may believe is a deciding vote for Zoom.

The breakout rooms are best used IMO as an online training function. It allows the host or co-host to be able to take all participants, assign them into groups (max 50 rooms) and allow everyone to have their joint conversations where they can discuss, share content, use a whiteboard for brainstorming, or process mapping, etc.

Each breakout group can have a leader assigned to run and manage each breakout room, and you can also allocate a co-host to control each breakout room (co-hosts have more rights and permissions).

Once the breakouts have been created, assigned, and started, you can change group names, retrospectively add other participants into any group, and as a host or co-host, you can join any breakout group at will to “check-in” on how the group activities are going.

As a participant, you will see a timer to show how much time is left as well as being able to see everyone in your group on camera. This last point sets Zooms breakouts apart from the other two systems in this comparison.

Overall Zoom is a great out of the box platform which is feature-rich which has an easy to use video conference experience that is best for an individual to small businesses.

But… it’s not all good news

Privacy

Online Security

Privacy is a big concern with Zoom currently, and if you in a regulated industry this may cause a medium to high risk.

Zoom’s privacy concerns have been all over the news since COVID-19 started and quite frankly before that too.

Some of the security issues are listed below:

The security concerns have not been good for Zoom’s public image, although have done a lot of work towards rectifying the issues including making sure users ensure passwords should be used in all meetings as well as the waiting room to avoid unwanted participants.

If you feel comfortable with these problems, then purchasing Zoom is a great purchase which will give you companywide. Some people though will find this too big a hurdle and may not want to risk anything happening.

It is up to you to navigate the potential risk, if you are a company, I would check with your data management/privacy team to gain corporate advice. If you are an individual, you will probably have very few problems. Let us know in the comments, how you managed the risk and if you went with Zoom or not.

Related: Worried about Zoom’s privacy problems? A guide to your video-conferencing options

Pricing

Pro's

  • Easy to use interface
  • All in one platform
  • Best breakout rooms of all systems

Con's

  • Privacy concerns
  • Submenu items not always easy to find
  • Video quality average – even in HD

Does Cisco WebEx match up well?

Disclaimer: In a corporate setting, I do use WebEx and feel it is one of the best platforms on the market so I do have a bias towards this product although this review will be based on my personal experiences.

Cisco is a large, multi-national technology corporation based in San Jose (same as Zoom) and is responsible for the development of its video conference platform, WebEx.

Depending on the WebEx package you buy, you can have up to 3 different conferencing platforms:

WebEx Meeting Center

Girl sitting outside on a video conference call
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

This first platform we will discuss is WebEx meetings.  This is what everyone has access to and is designed for team meetings, video conferencing, catching up with family and friends, which gives you most of the functionality you need for easy to use video conferencing.

WebEx is driven from the WebEx app. When the app is downloaded for either windows or IOS this increases usability and allows you to utilize increased functionality when participating in meetings.

When it comes to scheduling meetings you can do this in 2 ways.

  • Use the outlook productivity tools plugin. (This allows you to create a meeting invite template in outlook) – The primary method for businesses.
  • Manually scheduling through your WebEx account site (manual scheduling – most likely process for individuals

There are multiple types of meetings you can book – WebEx meeting, personal room meeting, or even a personal conference meeting.

 

Joining a meeting

When joining a WebEx meeting there a few points to remember. Firstly, if it is possible download the app which means it will run the application locally rather from the browser specifically gives you access to a higher level of functionality and smoother meetings.

When you join, you will receive an invite with a green join button, once you have clicked this, your meeting will start. You may have some popups to go through, but after a few seconds, your meeting bar will load and you will be well on your way.

Remember, when you get to the audio and video connection screen, choose your audio – either your in-built microphone in your laptop or choose to call in or be called by WebEx are the most common choices. Once you have completed this process, you will be participating in the meeting.

The Interface is pretty clean and simple, with all icons at the bottom of your meeting window as well as your tabs across the top-left of the page. Everything from screen-sharing, collaborating with a whiteboard are all available to you, which should give you a very good, streamlined experience.

Audio glitches do happen ffrom time to time, but no more than any other platform, and if you wish to use the call service, usually your company will require a teleconferencing service with a provider. 

Starting a meeting

Ok, so that was joining, but what about if you want to start a WebEx meeting?

This can all be achieved by going to your WebEx site and selecting your meeting and clicking start meeting.

Interestingly the process is the same for both hosts and attendees when joining. When you enter the meeting, you can change participant privileges, record your meeting, control access as well as creating breakout rooms (discussed below).

Breakout Rooms

Meetings Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms are a way to split a larger group into manageable smaller groups to discuss, work together and collaborate jointly in their own space.The audio of each participant will split and move to each room whilst breakout rooms are in order, and end either when the participants wish to leave or the host decides they wish to conclude the breakouts.

WebEx’s breakout rooms are very simple, you basically add which participants you wish to join each room and sent them on their way. Once in the breakouts, a co-host will lead the meeting, and can share their whiteboard or screen content, to establish a group working dynamic.

Once the breakouts are finished, everyone will be brought back into the main room where they can rejoin the wider group and discuss their findings.

The breakouts are now available in WebEx meetings so anyone with a host account can launch and run them whenever they wish.

WebEx Security

Cisco has placed security very high on their agenda, and WebEx meetings allow you to add a password as well as changing your phone access code to the meeting every time.

Once you are in the meeting, you first will want to lock the meeting for security’s sake then move into the main meeting itself.

As a host, you can mute participants, start and stop your video, and stop attending videos. Also, you can make a recording of the session, have a view of all participants as well as controlling the chat (IM) feature.

When in the meeting, one of the most important functions is the screen share which is very easy in WebEx. This will allow you to share your screen, an application, a whiteboard, or a video or document file.

Within the program, you can also keep people in the lobby (similar to Zoom’s waiting room) for security reasons.

Lastly, Cisco has integrated the breakout rooms into WebEx meetings which allows you to break participants into discussion groups. This is a recent update (Sept 20th, 2020) \

Related: What is new for WebEx version 40.9

WebEx Event Center

Girl sitting at a desk on her laptop
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

WebEx Events is Cisco’s dedicated webinar platform which gives you slightly more advanced features compared to the above meeting center.

Meetings vs Events

Apart from everything which has already been discussed, the WebEx events setup is a bit more complex due to a webinar needing the setup before the meeting itself. This allows you to change email settings, setup preferences, limits and restrictions, as well as auto sending out invitations to prospective participants.

One of the new things are the roles available, these are the Host, the Panelist, and Presenter. The host and presenter roles are the same as in meetings, although you need to have the presenter role to share your screen in events. The panelist is best defined as a guest speaker, who will be presenting a portion of the webinar.

Another new feature is the Q&A, which allows attendees to ask the host, presenter, or panelist questions and they can answer in-kind in any order they wish, which gives you more control and flexibility than the chat (IM) functionality.

You also can use emoticons, gather feedback, and utilize hand icons to engage with your participants in a more interactive and social way.

Related: Comparing WebEx Meetings, Training and Events

Events Registration

The other big side of WebEx Events is being able to send out registrations to participants either by an invite or via a link.

Once someone has registered by typing their first and last name, email (plus any other data you wish to select) you will be notified that registration has taken place and who registered.

The participants will then receive another email (webinar) providing the event join link which allows people to easily join your event.

Outside of this, most of the functionality/look of the interface is the same as WebEx meeting center and should be familiar to existing users.

WebEx Training Center

Online training at a desk
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

WebEx training is designed as the online training platform although it does have an older user interface and is probably a little more difficult to get used to (at least initially).

Prior to September 20th, WebEx Training was the only Cisco platform to include Breakout rooms which was a big gap in the trilogy of systems for Cisco as Training is not available unless you purchase the enterprise version, which for individuals and small businesses may not be financially viable. Now Breakouts have been included  into WebEx meetings which allows Cisco to reach a wide spectrum of its audience.

Another point I must add about WebEx training is recording, The recording is currently in ARV format which is a WebEx only codec and this means you need a specific WebEx media player to play these recordings. I have been notified by Cisco this feature is up for consideration to change it to the more universal MP4.

As an initial conclusion on the training center, I would say the UI is not very user friendly, although given enough time you can grasp its complexities. Now Breakouts have been transitioned to meeting center as well, it doesn’t have a lot of unique areas that would make paying the extra for the enterprise version cost effective.

Pricing

Note: WebEx Events and Training are not available in the basic or meeting center package. You can either buy these separately or buy the enterprise version, please see below for pricing plans:

With the enterprise version you also get WebEx support, this is not something we have personally had any real experience with, but in essence is a virtual support tool, where a helpdesk or trainer can log into someone’s WebEx meeting remotely to offer support and assistance.

If you are in a mid to large company or for blue-chip corporations, WebEx is a fantastic platform to use at an enterprise level. While there are still enhancements Cisco can make for sure, they have always seemed very responsive when I have put in support tickets and will video chat with you to discuss.

It’s recommended that all users download the app onto their desktop for ease of use and remember you can download a WebEx app for your cell phone to give an additional method of logging into meetings as well.

Pro's

  • Very in-depth, feature-rich platform(s)
  • Personal room for quick non-confidential team meetings
  • Mobile app available for meeting access
  • Easy to use
  • Secure
  • Responsive community and support

Con's

  • Less “techy’ people can find functions confusing
  • App required for full user experience
  • WebEx Training needs updating
  • Some users prefer an all in one platform

How does Microsoft Teams factor into the mix?

Team in an office
Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Microsoft Teams is a new cloud-based collaboration tool with a video conferencing platform for use with Microsoft 365.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based collaboration tool for office 365 license holders to be an evolutionary successor to Skype for business and Microsoft Classroom in the office 365 education version rolled out in 2016.

Related: Microsoft Teams Review

In 2017 Microsoft released Teams to be used in conjunction with office 365 subscriptions but meant a large corporate outlay.

In 2018 they released a free version but with limited storage and capacity to help with organizations that did not require the entire 365 subscriptions.

Microsoft has also released a mobile-friendly / responsive version, but one thing to note: teams are not designed for personal use, it is for organizations specifically.

MS Teams, hence its name, is based on something called teams, which could be defined as groups where people in a business can be placed into and can collaborate.

A team could be e.g. Marketing, HR, IT, etc, anything that shows a function of a business generally can be a team.

Channels

A channel is a smaller version of a team, and there may be multiple channels in the specific team, e.g. collaboration, projects, etc. This is the main place where people can communicate and chat with each other. Channels can be locked down or kept open based on your company’s security and privacy needs, although this can only be done by your Team’s administrator e.g. IT.

Don’t forget channel tabs though. This is where you can “pin” or attach if you like, apps or files to a channel although you may do this for each channel individually to make sure each separate channel is set up independently.

Chat

This is where you can IM or private/public message between yourself and your co-workers to enable collaboration.

Activity

We like to think of this as the social component of MS Teams as it shows all comments, reply’s and other types of notifications to keep a log of all public conversations which are happening in the specific channel.

How are admins involved?

Administrators are the key to opening up Microsoft Teams to the organization. The first will create initial teams, and then create channels within those sub-teams. They are also responsible for setting up security roles, access, and permissions and making sure users are set up correctly.

Remember though although “chatting” is a huge part of how the Teams infrastructure functions, it also has built-in video conferencing which you can use with up to 10000 participants, whether or not this number is enough or too much will completely depend on your organization but having that amount will allow you to run large video meetings without needing additional packages.

One thing to remember though, if you want to run webinars called “live events” this is still being worked on by Microsoft and isn’t the finished product as of yet, although it is workable.

Also, breakout rooms on teams are not up to the same standard as Zoom, WebEx, etc, but with the money, Microsoft is spending per month on teams it probably won’t be long until they reach and surpass their competitors on this aspect.

Microsoft Teams also has file storage and sharing functionality where people can access files and documents, add them to channels, open them through a web browser, a link or download them locally to their desktop.

Teams creates SharePoint sites to store and manage files in the back-end of the system and utilizes OneDrive to store the files in shared folders which can be independently managed and secured by your system administrator.

Does Teams have any competitors?

Yes, indeed it does. Probably the biggest and well known is Slack.

Both Teams and Slack have very similar functionality and features, like channels, file sharing, instant messaging.

The best way to put it would be if you currently use Microsoft 365 applications you are probably best to go with Teams due to its easy integration with other 365 products and it being a part of the 365 subscription model.

If your organization operates with Google’s G-Suite then Slack is a much better option as it has more integration options available and was designed with these programs in mind.

Other rivals include companies like Facebook who do have their equivalent of Teams although as of right now isn’t worthy of this discussion.

Teams can also integrate with other programs pretty well. Software like Trello, Zoom, and WebEx can be integrated to enhance the experience and to fill gaps where Teams are not currently optimally positioned.

How easy is teams to use?

For the non-technical among us, what do we care about the most when we go into Teams… are we greeted with a lot of extra information that we don’t need or understand, or is it a slick interface that only gives us what we require?

Well, when people initially see teams it usually is a bit overwhelming especially if you have one of the more advanced, paid plans. There is a lot of information, icons, and functions on the screen at once.

To be honest, until you get used to how Teams works, the interface will probably remain a bit confusing, but….after a while, you will get used to the nuances of the platform, and when you do, things will start to fall into place.

In essence, here’s the deal…

Teams are split into columns, firstly left to right is the navigation bar, this is a vertical bar with features and functions for you to access.

The 2nd column (activity) is very dependent on what tab you have chosen in the previous step (navigation bar), if you have chosen chat then you will see previous chat history, or if you have chosen activity then you will see all comments and reply’s in the main feed. 

Lastly, you can access the team’s column where you can see teams and channels associated with those teams, although as a user you can only access teams and channels you are a part of.

Pricing

Anything else I should know about Teams?

Well there are some things you should know that we haven’t discussed in great detail here

This is a collaboration tool, not specifically a video conferencing tool

If you use a VM like Citrix or VM Ware, you will need to download the program locally as well as the video may be problematic in a virtualized environment.

Live Events (Webinars) or Breakout Rooms still seem glitchy and the interface isn’t simple enough in our opinion so these are some aspects you will have to give some time for Microsoft to develop properly.

To engage with external people, you will have to supply them with a teams meeting like to join conferences.

Pro's

  • All-encompassing collaboration environment
  • Increased transparency
  • Higher team productivity
  • Seamless transition to a digital framework
  • Progressing video conference capability
  • Utilizes SharePoint / OneDrive for file storage and sharing
  • Great for onboarding new hires

Con's

  • Companies who depend on Outlook may find working with Teams tough.
  • Structure of files are sometimes difficult to find
  • Meeting experience still needs work
  • Administrator settings can be confusing with permissions and access
  • Automation’s need to be refined to avoid overly manual processes

Conclusion

So now you have read about all three platforms, let’s discuss what we think.

Firstly, we are not comparing apples to apples.

Zoom and Cisco WebEx are your more typical video conferencing platforms where engagement and communication tools have been implemented afterwards. Microsoft teams is by default a collaboration and comms tool of which Microsoft has introduced video conferencing, breakout rooms, and other conferencing functionalities after the fact and are still being refined as we speak.

Overall trying to find a winner is extremely difficult and to be honest, all platforms have different organizational use cases.

If you require video conferencing and have to meet a lot of people externally, conducting online training, Zoom and WebEx will be much more useful to you. We would choose WebEx over Zoom, due to privacy concerns and have had skin in the game for much longer with considerably more resources and expertise via Cisco.

On the other hand, if you want the simplest platform out there with the quickest implementation timeframe then consider Zoom at the very least, but be aware that the gaps discussed may be too much risk for an organization to stomach but fine for an individual.

If you require a collaborative tool where video conferencing is not the core purpose, then MS teams is the option you should pick. Having one of the largest tech companies in the world behind it, Teams can only be a huge success in the future. If you would like to know more about Teams vs Slack and what the buying trends are in the marketplace check out this blog post from CNBC.

Hopefully, this has helped you in your buying decisions between Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams. If you have purchased one of these systems or are debating the decision, please feel free to add a comment as we’d love to hear what you think about this comparison.

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