The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a period of intense turbulence for the people behind Zoom, the popular video conferencing platform that has seen a huge spike in users over the past year
The company has since come under intense scrutiny for the myriad of privacy and security issues it quickly became apparent was present in their software.
We have written about a few of the early privacy issues that were spotted in Zoom previously, but more worrying facts have emerged.
So if you're looking for an alternative system for secure but reliable video conferencing, keep scrolling down.
Zoom Privacy issues
The Zoom video conferencing software has been found to have a number of significant privacy issues since the explosion in popularity it enjoyed following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These included the fact that Zoom conference calls are not fully protected by end-to-end encryption, as had previously been claimed and the fact that Zoom has been found to route some of its chats through Communist China.
This revelation appears to have been central to the decision of the Taiwanese government and others to ban official use of Zoom.
To their credit, Zoom has moved to address some of these concerns. It claims that video meetings are now encrypted using by default use AES 256-bit GCM encryption for audio, video, and application sharing.
That's great, but there is still one big shadow hanging over this hugely popular video conferencing software: China.
As a Chinese company, Zoom must adhere to Chinese law. And this is a big problem.
A couple of years back, the Chinese Communist Party passed a law that requires all Chinese companies to share all information with the regime upon request. They also have to deny publicly that they are doing so.
This means that for all Zoom's bluster about making their video conferencing services secure, the Chinese Communist regime can still request all data relating to video calls, online meetings, file sharing, user data, desktop apps, mobile apps, video slides, essentially everything you do on their platform.
Given this, it is little wonder that a lot of online privacy and security experts have been advising people to avoid using Zoom if they want the contents of their video meetings to remain private.
Based on the information we have seen, this is a conclusion that we would concur with.
Are there safer alternatives to Zoom?
The short answer to this question is yes.
There are plenty of Zoom alternatives on the market and the majority of these do not originate in Communist China. This means that they are inherently more secure than Zoom even before we start looking at their key features.
If you want to look for a secure video conferencing platform, you are in the right place.
In this guide, we are going to highlight our pick of the best Zoom alternatives that are able to deliver the same high-quality video conferencing solution without putting your company data and personal privacy at risk.
Who are the competitors of Zoom?
There are a number of Zoom alternative services on the market that would be considered competitors. These include:
- Microsoft Teams
- Skype Meet
- Google Meet (formerly Google Hangouts)
- Facebook Messenger Rooms
But many of these Zoom alternatives are specialist and niche providers and don't offer a service that can compete with Zoom's all-round offering.
Some are, frankly, not that good, while others simply don't offer the breath of features and range of video calling tools that users are looking for.
In this guide, we are not looking to highlight competitors. We are simply seeking to recommend the best Zoom alternatives available to users on the market right now.
What is the best alternative to Zoom?
The big question is what are the best Zoom alternatives?
It is a bit like trying to suggest alternatives to Google. Zoom has become so universal that it has also become part of our everyday lexicon. Persuading people to use Zoom alternatives is therefore doubly difficult.
The first question we need to address is what features we are looking for from our Zoom alternative?
There are a number of key features that any Zoom alternative needs to be able to offer. These include both basic video conferencing and a various advanced features that users have come to expect.
It goes without saying that any Zoom alternative needs to be able to offer users high quality video calls and video meetings ideally with HD video quality reception with users around the world.
We are increasingly using Zoom as an administrative tool to send out invites and manage our video call activity as well as conduct a video call.
We therefore need to be able to schedule meetings, add them to Google Calendar and other calendars, invite and manage meeting participants, offer dial-in access where necessary and offer control over a meeting room.
With more and more business taking place online through platforms like Zoom, any Zoom alternatives needs to be able to offer real time file sharing and screen sharing to allow users to conduct a wide range of business.
The best Zoom alternatives will be able to offer a range of useful administrative features.
These will include things like screen sharing, which we have already mentioned but also things like presentation live streaming, unlimited chat messages, live in-meeting notes, and more.
There is huge scope for innovation with this type of premium features and the best alternatives are already pushing the boundaries.
Security and privacy
We have already discussed Zoom's security and privacy shortcomings.
The best Zoom alternatives must be able to match what Zoom does well, such as the end-to-end encryption and offer a decent range of security features as well as ensuring that user date cannot be harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.
Here are six alternatives to Zoom
Apple and iOS device users rejoice. You don’t need to go hunting high and low for a secure alternative to Zoom. You already have one pre-installed on your device.
FaceTime is a secure video conference tool that deploys end-to-end encryption as standard. This means that not even Apple can access the contents of your call. Only you and the people you are speaking too can see what you are talking about.
FaceTime allows multiple people to join the same video chat and is unerringly simple to use.
It does however lack some of the additional bells and whistles of Zoom and other dedicated video-conferencing tools. But if you want useful administrative features like inviting people to join meetings, screen sharing, and meeting recordings, there are better alternatives out there.
But if security is your top priority, it cannot be beaten. FaceTime is also completely free but sadly, if your team don't use Apple devices, its not an option.
And of course Apple devices don't come cheap, so while you don't have to shell out a huge amount per month for FaceTime, you probably do for your iPhone or iPad.
Jitsi is another open-source app and, despite how the name may sound, has no links to China.
It was instead developed at the University of Strasbourg. Jitsi is packed full of features and offers various different types of video chat. It also doesn’t require people to set up an account in order to join your chat.
Jitsi does not offer end-to-end encryption but it does encrypt all data that leaves your device. This doesn’t make it more secure than Zoom but it doesn’t have any of the other major bugs and issues that have been found in Zoom.
One small downside to Jitsi is that it can get a little unstable if there are too many people video calling at the same time.
But it does still offer features like screen sharing, multi-user video calls, invitation tools to invite people to join meetings, a tailored meeting link feature, and is open-source on desktop and mobile.
You don't need to look for a free version because Jitsi is 100% free but it does have a limit of 50 users per call which may not be ideal for some larger business users.
But for those looking for an alternative to Zoom, Jitsi has a lot going for it, especially when combined with a VPN.
Signal is a free and open-source messaging tool that can be downloaded onto any iOS or Android device.
It uses its own Signal protocol to encrypt all communications. It is run by a group of developers who are driven by a desire to create a secure communication tool rather than generate profits.
Signal works more like WhatsApp messenger than Zoom but does include a video functionality that is guaranteed to be protected by end-to-end encryption.
The downside to Signal as a Zoom alternative for multi-person video conference meetings is it's not suitable for more than two meeting attendees. It also lacks standard web conferencing software features like screen sharing.
But for one-to-one remote meetings and online messaging with both colleagues and clients where security and privacy is your top priority, Signal is the most secure option available right now.
Like FaceTime, Skype is already a household name and many people will already have downloaded their app onto their devices.
Skype is extremely stable and is already able to cope with multiple people on a video chat.
It is packed full of many of the same features as Zoom and lacking most of the security issues that people have been talked about with Zoom.
There are some downsides to Skype though.
It is owned and operated by Microsoft and some privacy experts are critical about how they handle their user’s data. On the flip side, that does mean that it can come bundled with other Microsoft tools such as cloud storage and even another option on this list, Microsoft Teams.
Skype Meet is not encrypted by default, so it is not secure enough for anything that might be considered sensitive information and should always be used in conjunction with a VPN.
It does offer user-friendly desktop and mobile apps and while there are costs involved, there is a popular free tier that is used by many people as well.
5. Microsoft Teams
If your company uses Office 365 as its work-suite of choice, the chances are you are familiar with Microsoft Teams. It is Microsoft’s dedicated business video-conferencing tool and, like Zoom, it has enjoyed a big spike in user numbers as the coronavirus lockdown has come into force.
Teams can support multiple-person video conferences and adds a bundle of additional features to allow you to share documents and written content too.
It is both functional and user-friendly to use and easily handles things like screen sharing, audio conferencing, live video calls, as well as coming bundled with other Microsoft software which means you can get it together with things like cloud storage from OneDrive.
Unfortunately, Teams does not deploy end-to-end encryption. But it does enforce team-wide and organisation-wide two-factor authentication and does encrypt data both while it is being sent and while it is at rest.
It is not perfect, and is still a Microsoft tool, but Microsoft Teams is not going to share your data with China and it does boast many user-friendly key features like custom backgrounds, unlimited meetings, decent training sessions and customer support, and a personal meeting room option.
There is a free version of Microsoft Teams which has some feature limitations but it is worth spending a little on the paid plans.
These paid plans are priced from just £3.80 per month and with the most user per month numbers of any service in this guide, Teams has to be considered one of the best Zoom alternatives.
6. Google Meet
If you are looking for a user-friendly alternative to Zoom with a free version, paid plans, a huge number of user per month, and a user-friendly platform that offers that familiar Google interface, then Google Meet is an option for you.
Google Meet used to be known as Google Hangouts and it has been reconfigured for the post-COVID-19 age to boast all the features like screen sharing, meeting links, options to record or access transcripts of recent past meetings, and great live video conferencing that you have come to expect from this type of software.
Google Meet is a free option but for business that want something a bit more professional and don't mind paying, there is G Suite. G Suite, which has recently been rebranded as Google Workspace is a professional conference call and work management suite which is priced from just £4.14 per month.
Obviously Google is not renowned for its online security and customer privacy provisions, but if you want a feature-heavy alternative to Zoom, Google Meet is definitely an option.
Can I use a VPN to secure Zoom?
Before Zoom introduced end-to-end encryption on its own platform, a VPN was an alternative way to ensure that your Zoom web conferencing was encrypted and secure.
But the main security issue with Zoom these days comes from the video conferencing platform itself.
It is always a good idea to use a VPN whenever you are doing anything sensitive online including holding online meetings on video conferencing platforms like Zoom.
But an online meeting on Zoom is still run through their software and this is where the security issue lie.
So, while we still recommend using a VPN when holding a video meeting on Zoom or any of the alternatives recommended in this article, it is not a solution to the security issues of Zoom itself.
Although Zoom has become an invaluable tool, there are alternatives, many you and others will already have installed.
If you're feeling a little apprehensive about the recent privacy issues regarding Zoom then why not try or look into one of the above solutions.
We have compiled our list of the best Zoom alternatives. Some are packed with features while others are a more basic offering but have the security features that Zoom is lacking or cannot guarantee.
Any other suggestions?
The video conferencing market has become a very crowded one since the COVID-19 pandemic began. I would love to hear your alternatives too if they are not featured on this list.
Let me know in the comments section if you've been using an even more secure solution, user-friendly, or feature-heavy alternative to Zoom. It doesn't matter how many user per month it has, if it is good we are happy to take a look.