VoIP conferencing software is all about keeping you connected. Most people will be aware of the big names like ‘Skype’ and ‘Yahoo!’, but there are plenty of contenders in the quest for the conferencing crown. The great advantage of voice-over IP services is that they are often cheaper than making the same call via a telephone line or similar service. This is especially the case if you’re conference calling a few people around the globe!
VoIP Conferencing Software
Not all services offer VoIP conference calling feature, allowing multiple people to join the same call simultaneously, but let’s make a comparison of the ones that do. Here we’re going to look at packages of all shapes and sizes, and see what the software really offers.
The Skype user interface Image Source: Lloyds screenies
In this section we’ll look at the big dogs, the larger companies or the ones with the most capability/global market awareness. Our first VoIP conferencing software comes from the king of I.T. and networking, Cisco.
Cisco IP Communicator at first glance appears a little limited as it is only available on Windows operating systems. Ability and compatibility, however, are two entirely different things. When Cisco do anything, they do it well. They are also the only company known to use the SCCP IP protocol in their system. They offer recording, good display and interfaces, 3-way conference calls, speed dial, transfer and holding, as well as Meet Me conferencing. It’s a top contender in the Windows field, but lacks ease in understanding and use; perhaps they should team up with a branding company to help make their products user-friendly which might also help them to look slightly more modern too!
Microsoft Skype was an obvious addition to the list of bigger boys; they’re currently the number one video and voice conferencing software in our homes today. While this is not necessarily reflected in the business industry, even the suits have begun to take notice. Windows officially took over Skype and recently completely replaced its own ‘Windows Live Messenger’ with the world renowned blue ‘S’ bubble. The compatibility of Skype is its key; Skype apps and software can be found on Linux, Macs, Windows, Android and iPhone. There’s video conferencing, file transfer, voicemail, and even Skype to phone and vice versa. Skype is a force to be reckoned with and likely to remain that way.
VoIP Applications Image Source: Saad Faruque
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Blink is not as widely known in the mainstream, but its users are indeed high in number. Its main strength is its ability to host unlimited conference peers. This impressive feat simply depends on how many callers the bandwidth can handle so don’t get carried away! Available on Linux, Mac and Windows, this free software features Wideband capabilities for those multiple callers, and desktop sharing available on Mac OS.
King of the underdogs, as far as capability is concerned, is Bria. The CounterPath Corporation have developed this finely tuned beast for Windows and Mac OS (Linux is limited to voice calling). This software boasts video conferencing for 3 at a quality of full HD (1280 x 720p), and great integration with Windows and Mac OS phone books.
Perhaps the least known of the underdogs, Oovoo offers mobile and landline phone-calls, much like the superpower of Skype. Video chat and embedding in websites, this software finds its strengths in quantity, rather than quality (although the quality is still high!). Oovoo video calling can add up to 6 phones, IM 12 friends, and has great screen sharing capabilities. Social networking and file sharing of up to 25MB make it a tough underdog, whose bark and bite are both a force to be feared.
VoIP for Gamers
Video conferencing isn’t all about business, or chatting with family and friends. Sometimes it’s about playing an MMORPG, FPS or RTS with people around the world; training noobs sometimes takes a little bit of communication. If that didn’t make much sense, then skip to the conclusion, but if you just drooled on your keyboard then please read on!
Mumble is a fantastic VoIP software that’s completely free; it’s one of the best options for gamers because of its capacity for unlimited clients. All you have to do is make sure your server bandwidth and memory are up for the challenge. This software is tailor-made for gamers, so it offers great customizability and in-game overlay. Directional audio and echo cancellation will mean that you don’t have to mess with your mic while you should be moving your mouse.
TeamSpeak is our final VoIP software, and is just as compatible with Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Android, and iOS as the last piece of kit. It’s limited to 32 people without a license, but the cap rises to 1000 with a non-profit license. TeamSpeak offers 3D sound effects, and is extremely firewall-friendly with file transfers, which can often be a pain with many VoIP software systems. In-game overlay as standard and a great plug-in system mean a great, capable piece of kit, but perhaps not as refined as Mumble.
When it comes to VoIP software it’s clear that different options suit different needs. Some programs you may want to avoid because they aren’t as finely tuned as others, which often comes down to the developer’s funding and capability. Whatever it is you need, though, there will be the perfect piece of software out there for you. Finally, the greatest strength of VoIP software is it’s usually always free and you won’t need to call your IT support team for assistance.