Updated: Apr 18, 2022
Easter is a time to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the day that our Lord demonstrated his divinity by coming back to life. Since Easter is a day of celebration for many Americans, it is traditional for families across the country to gather together to enjoy each others' company. But as we all know, in-person family visits are still difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons. Gas prices, flight costs, and fears surrounding a possible resurgence of COVID-19 have hindered our ability to gather together. This is the third time Easter Sunday has been difficult for family visits. It has been especially stressful for grandparents who look forward to seeing their grandkids during this important holiday.
Fortunately, we live in a digitally connected world, and there are quite a few video conferencing tools available to help us communicate with loved ones. While many people are already familiar with Apple FaceTime or Google Duo, these are apps primarily designed for smartphones and tablets. (CNBC published a helpful article on these apps that's worth checking out.)
But these lightweight programs aren't the best tool for everyone. In the list below I want to suggest four free video conferencing products that people can use via their computer and which offer a few advanced options such as annotations and file sharing. These are great programs to communicate with grandparents and they provide helpful features when connecting with a friend or communicating with a church small group.
Zoom Basic probably received the most publicity during the pandemic, due to its astonishing rise in popularity in such a short time. I like Zoom because it has a fairly intuitive interface, the video quality is fairly stable, and a large number of people have used it and are familiar with its features. The Basic version is free and allows one-to-one meetings to run for up to 30-hours. If you want to conference with two or more people, there is a 40-minute time limit. Zoom is also easy for less tech savvy users to install.
Another good choice in this space is Skype. This product is probably best known among the older crowd as it used to be the most popular way to communicate with others around the world. It's still common for some people to ask their friends if they want to "Skype" when what they really mean is "video conference." Unfortunately, after Microsoft purchased the company in 2011 they integrated it into their business offerings and it became a bit more confusing to utilize. Currently the free version of Skype (called Meet Now) allows up to 100 participants to connect for up to 24 hours. Users originally needed to download a program and connect it to a Microsoft account. These obstacles have largely gone away, but you get more features when you sign up for a free account.
RingCentral Video Pro is a less known video conferencing product from a company that has a long history of providing teleconferencing services to businesses. Their Video Pro program allows up to 100 participants to connect for up to 24-hours at a time. This free program also comes with a wide range of features, such as 10-hours of cloud recording and closed captioning. I thoroughly tested this program in the past and was very impressed with its simplicity and functionality.
The final video conferencing option that is worth considering is Webex Suite Basic by Cisco. Webex won the PCMag.com Editor's Choice Award for business in 2022. It has also been a popular option in the education sector. I have used this program during several virtual business meetings and found it to be fairly straightforward. The Webex Suite basic is a free video conferencing product that allows up to 100 participants to communicate for up to 50-minutes at a time.
If you like to make comparisons on your own, I would encourage you to check out these free video conferencing programs. There are other options available, but these four are all topnotch solutions for staying in touch with friends and loved ones.
If you are curious, my top recommendation for a free video conferencing solution is RingCentral Video Pro. It is easy to use, reliable, and has pretty much all of the features of a paid video conferencing program at no cost. The only reason I don't use RingCentral is because I purchased an annual subscription to Zoom Pro two years ago and have gotten proficient in using it. While Zoom Pro is not cheap, I've been pleased with its reliability, user interface, and the fact that many of my participants are already familiar with its features. I not only use it to connect with friends and family members, I also use it for weekly small group meetings.
Whatever program you ultimately choose, be sure to use it soon, reach out often, and encourage someone you care about. There is so much to be thankful for and to celebrate when we remember that we have a Lord who was willing to die for our sins.
(Photo credit: Wix Media)