The pandemic COVID-19 has brought with it some new vocabulary and new practices. We wash our hands, we take our temperature, we shelter in place at home, we watch YouTube and Netflix, we practice social distancing and we wear our masks on the rare occasions we need to leave the house — and we Zoom.
Zoom.us has been around since 2011 but many have only recently heard of it. As described on their website, “Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing service you can use to virtually meet with others — either by video or audio-only or both, all while conducting live chats — and it lets you record those sessions to view later. Over half of Fortune 500 companies reportedly used Zoom in 2019.”
Even though participants must download the Zoom app to communicate with each other, it’s designed to be so easy it’s almost completely transparent. Earlier this week I was part of almost 3,000 users on Zoom attending one webinar. Tonight I was a presenter with a group of just 14. Zoom can be useful with as few as two people who need to video-conference with each other from their homes. That’s part of the beauty of Zoom — it scales easily.
The other factor that has made Zoom so popular is its cost. For up to 100 users videoconferencing up to 40 minutes, Zoom is free. For more than 40 minutes or for more than 100 users, monthly or yearly rates are within the budgets of most small businesses. With today’s work-from-home environment, Zoom has become an integral tool for thousands of businesses. They are having their best year ever.
Service isn’t perfect. They’ve had some security issues with hackers breaking into meetings and wreaking havoc. But they’ve responded with more secure connections and stronger password protection. In some cases there are ongoing technical glitches that stubbornly interrupt service. Tonight, for instance, my presentation was interrupted three times as I lost my connection due to an application crash while I was sharing my screen with the group. Fortunately users are mostly patient and understanding, at least for now, with some of these technical issues.
One of the participants in my meeting tonight said after the meeting that even if/when social distancing ends, they’d prefer to keep meeting this way. Several others quickly agreed. Zoom may become part of our “new normal.”
No pants required.