Need to Set Up a Video Conference in a Hurry? There's an App for That

  in  Communications
To participate in a video conference means to have a virtual meeting. Instead of sitting around a large table, discussing important things, you get to chat to the other participants via a screen. You can talk in real time, even if everyone else is on the other side of the world.

Larger companies often have video conferencing facilities in-house. A meeting room will normally be set up with video conferencing equipment so that a video conference can take place at a moment's notice. Of course, this is all well and good if your business has the IT infrastructure in place and a budget to match, but for smaller businesses this kind of financial outlay just isn't practical. For them, free video conferencing applications are a far better alternative. They may not be as reliable, but the fact that they are free certainly sweetens the deal. So what are the options if your business needs to set up an impromptu video conference?

Skype
Skype is perhaps the best-known video chat application. It is free, easy to use, and most people have heard of it. Skype apps are available for all platforms and more than 299 million people use Skype to keep in touch with friends, family, and colleagues. You can use Skype video chat to talk to one person at a time, but it doesn't allow you to have a group video chat, so for video conferencing Skype is limited.

Peer
The Peer app is aimed at professionals and is an excellent networking tool. It is currently only available in the iTunes store, but the developers say it will soon be available to Android users via the Google Play store. Peer links into LinkedIn, so you can use the app to start video conferences with your colleagues and clients on LinkedIn. Peer has lots of useful features, including the ability to send video invitations to your contacts.

ooVoo
ooVoo supports up to six video conference users and is free to use. Video quality is very good on the ooVoo platform - something that can be a problem with other free video conferencing apps such as Skype.

Google Hangouts
Google is the undisputed King of the Internet and since most people have a Google email account, Google Hangouts is easy to set up in a hurry. Google Hangouts offers uses the usual features such as voice and video chat, but for small businesses, the group video chat facility is very useful. You can invite up to ten people to join your video conference when using Google Hangouts; you can also share photographs through its live video stream.

Yugma
The free version of Yugma supports up to ten people in a video conference on Mac, Windows and Linux platforms. Should you be planning a larger event, upgrade to the premium version of Yugma and invite up to 500 people to join in, although it might start to get a bit confusing if everyone decides to talk at once.

Jitsi
Jitsi is available on Mac, Windows and Linux and unlike some of the big names such as Skype and Google Hangouts, Jitsi is open source and therefore 100% free to use. Jitsi integrates with Yahoo Messenger and AIM chat programs; the software is also updated very frequently and is therefore a continual work in progress.

CamFrog
CamFrog works on the basis that you set up a video chat room and then invite others to join you. All you need is a webcam for other participants in the conversation to see you, and vice versa. It works on all operating systems, including mobile platforms.

Larger businesses will probably prefer to use paid video conferencing services rather than free apps as these offer a better and more professional experience.