5 Virtual Conference Vendors That Are Great for Water Testing Labs

As social distancing continues due to COVID-19, virtual conference calls will remain important tools for you to safely communicate with your water testing lab's employees and clients.

This year, it's unlikely that you'll be able to meet with clients in person as you normally would at annual industry conferences. Videoconferencing works in lieu of events as a means to safely forge these same connections. This technology has also proven to be a valuable tool for hosting team meetings and sharing key information with customers.

As you continue to adapt the way you work to keep your lab running during the pandemic, virtual conferences can help you manage your employee and client communications a little easier. The good news is there are plenty of videoconference providers available. But how do you choose the right one for your lab?

Virtual Conference Software Options for Water Labs

Out of all the software providers for virtual conferences, these five tend to work especially well for the needs of water labs. To determine which tool will best suit your facility, consider the kinds of meetings you normally hold face-to-face. How many people are involved? Additionally, what software does your team already use? And how tech savvy are your clients? Keep these answers top of mind as you size up the following options.

1. Zoom

Zoom is a popular option with a simple interface for video calls. It also accommodates screen sharing, whiteboarding, recording and transcription, breakout rooms, and other additional features.

There's a free version that's fine for basic meetings, although it places limitations on the length of conferences and number of attendees. According to DGI Communications, many people switch to Zoom from other platforms because it's less frustrating to use. In other words, it's intuitive and reliable.

However, you may have heard about Zoom bombing — i.e., when hackers sneak into Zoom meetings and cause commotion, a trend that's become very popular during the pandemic. But don't worry, Zoom has since built in security options that make it more difficult for uninvited and unwelcome guests to join your meetings.

Pricing: Free for up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes; advanced plans start at $14.99 a month.

2. Microsoft Teams

It's easy to host a virtual conference with Microsoft Teams if your lab already uses Microsoft 365. Microsoft Teams is perfect for hosting internal meetings, such as presentations, team gatherings, and one-on-ones.

With this application, your lab employees can easily schedule videoconferences with others within your organization since the software is integrated with their Office applications. External guests can also join these meetings from their web browser by simply clicking a customized link.

If new software is daunting, consider the comfortable old favorite Skype, which is now part of Microsoft. You can still use Skype on its own under a free version, but you'll be directed to Microsoft Teams if you're looking to purchase a business plan.

Pricing: Free for a basic account; advanced plans start at $5 per user per month.

3. GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is as user-friendly as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, but it also has polling and smart assistant features. It's also known for being more mobile-friendly than other software because it allows you to easily start a conference from your smartphone.

You can host an unlimited number of meetings with GoToMeeting, although you'll have to upgrade to a paid plan if you need to chat with more than three participants.

Pricing: Two-week free trial; professional plans start at $12 a month for each meeting organizer.

4. Cisco Webex

If your clients are concerned about privacy and want a secure option to discuss sensitive topics, such as their water test results, consider using Webex for your virtual meetings.

This videoconferencing software is owned by technology giant Cisco and boasts impressive security features, according to TechRadar. It can be integrated into Outlook to make scheduling internal meetings much easier.

Pricing: Free for up to 100 participants for up to 50 minutes; advanced plans start at $13.50 per host per month.

5. Google Meet

Google recently rebranded and refreshed its videoconferencing software. Formerly known as Hangouts, Google Meet is integrated with the G-Suite platform. Even if your company's email addresses are custom, such as name@waterlab.com, they may actually be run on Gmail. If that's the case, Google Meet is already integrated into your email system and calendar, which makes it easy to start using it.

Pricing: Free for up to 100 participants for up to one hour; advanced plans start at $10 per user per month.

There you have it: These are our top recommendations for virtual conference software for water labs. All of the providers offer free trials to get you started, so before you commit to a plan, host a few internal meetings on the ones you're interested in to see if they're truly a fit for your lab.

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Kelly McSweeney
Science and Technology Writer
Armed with a master's degree in writing and a decade of professional work in scientific publishing, Kelly McSweeney writes about science and technology innovations. She translates complicated topics into stories that capture the curiosity of everyone from casual readers to technical experts. Kelly has degrees from Emerson College and the University of Vermont, and has worked on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics publications at Wiley, In Compliance magazine, and Pearson. Her articles about the latest research are published by ZDNet, Northrop Grumman, and Wiley.