The pros and cons of Skype, Teams, Viber, Zoom and others

21 July 2020 Consultancy.eu 6 min. read

Online and video conferences have proven their worth in the crisis both for businesses and individuals. And going forward, it is a near certainty that Skype, Teams, Viber, Zoom and similar video calling platforms will maintain or even increase their significance for the digital exchange of video and audio in the near future.

Video calling platforms are enjoying explosive growth in their popularity since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of daily active users of Zoom for instance jumped from 10 million to over 200 million in the space of just three months, while Microsoft Teams saw its number of daily active users balloon from 32 million users in March to 75 million as of early May. 

According to an estimate from Statista, there are over thirty well-functioning free-to-use video call and chat platforms running on Windows applications. But for many that are on the verge of picking a preferred video calling platform, the question is: which platform is best to use? An overview of the pros and cons of the eight highly used platforms: 

Cisco Webex 

Pro

  • Strong source code protection
  • Professional focus
  • Ideal planning of meetings with good calendar integration
  • Additional settings via web access
  • Good features including comment/markup functions
  • Recording of meetings
  • Participation via phone with domestic dial-in number

Con

  • Room for optimisations regarding data protection
  • Limitation to 50 minutes
  • Simple chat without file transfer
  • Guest registration only via e-mail

Google GotoMeeting

Pro

  • Best protection in the classes of Data Traffic and Identity in test
  • Professional focus
  • Well layed-out user interface
  • Separate windows for participants and shared contents supported
  • Technically mature meeting setup
  • Handover of mouse / keyboard control
  • Recording of chats and meetings

Con

  • Authentification/Access Control should be improved
  • Desktop application only availabe in paid versions
  • Simple chat without file transfers 

Jitsi

Pro

  • Robust protection of video conferencing functions
  • Open source, ad-free desktop application
  • Simple invitation procedure
  • Audio recording
  • File transfer via chat service
  • Multiple chat rooms

Con

  • Overall not state-of-the-art security technology
  • Registration of all participants required
  • Not compatible with Jitsi Meet
  • Hardly suitable for online collaboration
  • Somewhat cumbersome operation 

Rakuten Viber

Pro

  • Good protection against identity fraud
  • Smartphone-oriented WhatsApp alternative
  • Simple establishing of contacts
  • Convenient file sharing
  • Ample-featured chat service
  • Transfer of video calls between computer and smartphone

Con

  • Some aspects of the security test in need of improvement
  • Registration of all parties via app with their cell phone numbers
  • Only two attendees in video chats
  • Almost no collaboration functions
  • Ad inserts 

Microsoft Teams

Pro

  • Excellent overall result in the security test
  • Business-class free video chats without time limitations
  • Wide platform support
  • Most complete features in the test
  • 10 GB cloud storage for file sharing and file transfers
  • Remote control of shared applications possible
  • Permanently avaible chat
  • Integration with Microsoft 365

Con

  • No recording of meetings and no phone dial-in in free package
  • Setup and operation somewhat demanding at first 

Skype 

Pro

  • Strong protection of the video conferences in the security tests
  • Widely spread
  • Available on many platforms
  • Free video chats with up to 50 participants and no time limit
  • Many extras such as surveys, live subtitles, photo creation
  • Recording function for meetings
  • Comprehensive online help
  • Integrated VoIP service

Con

  • Source code protection capable of development
  • Somewhat confusing user interface
  • (Decent) ad inserts

Blizz Teamviewer 

Pro

  • Highest security in the test
  • Video meetings without time limitations
  • No registration necessary for hosts and participants
  • Simple setup of meetings
  • Best handling in the test panel
  • Dial-in via domestic fixed-line number possible

Con

  • Limitation of video chat to max. five participants (free version)
  • Moderate feature set
  • Planning meetings requires registration
  • No direct utilisation via web browser at the time of testing

Zoom 

Pro

  • Strong protection in the classes of Video Conference Security and Data Traffic Protection
  • Highest functionality in the test
  • Straightforward planning of meetings with calendar integration
  • User friendly interface with good participant presentation
  • Basic functions for online collaboration

Con

  • Identity Protection still capable of development according to test
  • Time limitation for 3 or more participants of 40 mins (free version)
  • Attendance via fixed-line phone subject to costs 

Security?

The rapid growth in uptake of video calling platforms is also seeing more and more questions being asked about their security. In online meetings, it is important that sensitive and personal information is treated confidentially and the security of the video conference platforms is guaranteed. So how safe are such platforms?

To gain insight in the matter, experts from umlaut analysed the security of eight free-to-use video chat platforms on Windows desktop applications, looking into six main dimensions: Authentification/Access Control, Local Data Protection, Identity Protection, Secure Code Practices, Video and Phone Conference Security and Data Traffic Protection. 

Based on the tests, Zoom and Teams acheived the grade “very good”, Cisco, Google GoToMeetings, Skype and Blizz received the grade “good”, while Jitsi and Rakuten graded as “satisfactory”.

Commenting on the outcome, Hakan Ekmen from umlaut said: “Contrary to initial fears, the security of the video chat desktop applications we examined is overall pleasingly good. But, there still is a way to go because all platforms are still far from the ideal of 100% security. The advice for users is therefore clear – always take a close look. And we will continue to do so as well in the future.”