Thursday, April 16, 2020

There's a free alternative to Zoom, but it has a catch

Demand for online collaboration tools and video conferencing software has boomed in recent weeks, with big players like Microsoft and Google chasing market share from the likes of Zoom and WebEx. 

While Zoom customers grew from 10 million to 200 million in a few months, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts relaxed the rules to aid first responders, schools and enterprises with a view to on-board them to their respective platforms. 

The latest to join the bandwagon is Twilio, which has announced three months of free access to its video platform for those working in healthcare, education and nonprofit organisations that are involved in the Covid-19 crisis response.  

Zoom alternative

Twilio aims to offer a solution for front line health workers by letting them screen people for Covid-19 online, as well as assist other patients remotely. It also aims to offer an alternative solution to schools offering remote education to students and NGO workers fighting the pandemic.

The company has further limited the free offer to new signups before June 30 and for existing users who require additional video services. 

While there are quite a few video conferencing solutions available, there seems to be a stretch on the bandwidth across several countries. Microsoft has already reported that its cloud servers are facing a lot of stress due to the unexpected increase in the usage of Teams applications. 

Zoom, on the other hand, had been a preferred choice among the adopters because of its easy to use interface and free offerings to various sectors. However, reports about security vulnerabilities, lack of end to end encryption of video calls, and its Chinese connections with regards to routing calls through offshore locations has raised questions about the platform's security.

Even though the company has publicly apologized for these issues and has announced various steps to control the damage, it still faces a class-action lawsuit.

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