Buyers Guide / UCaaS / VoIP
Comparing Video Conferencing Solutions: Zoom, Teams, Webex
Over the past few years, the way we work and run business operations has undergone a dramatic shift. And, despite the protestations of a few billionaires with, shall we say, strong opinions on the subject, remote work and the accompanying need for video meeting and conferencing tools, is now firmly entrenched in corporate culture. I mean we all have a “Zoom Shirt” by now, don’t we?
That said, there are several tools at your disposal to meet your communications needs. Lightyear previously explored UCaaS and CCaaS providers, but in this blog post we’re going to focus specifically on enterprise video conferencing solutions, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex at the top of our list. So, if your enterprise hasn’t decided on a go-to video conferencing tool, and you’re finding the options utterly confusing, don’t worry! We have you covered.
Why Zoom, Teams, and Webex?
You might be wondering why we’re only comparing Zoom, Teams, and Webex? Why not other market leaders like Ring Central or 8x8?
Mainly, it’s the fact that Zoom, Teams, and Webex are the fastest growing UCaaS solutions over the last 12 months as well as three of the top-rated solutions, according to G2 and Gartner. These contenders have also garnered the most brand recognition in the U.S. and, as a result, have found a place in a huge number of enterprises.
Comparing video conferencing solutions is a complicated process as they all offer varying features, capabilities, add-ons, and pricing structures. With that in mind, we decided that the best lens through which to view video conferencing options is a comparison of the top three solutions, giving you the most detailed rundown on each.
Teams vs. Zoom vs. Webex Comparison Overview
Before we launch into the comparison, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind.
Webex, Teams and Zoom all offer “free” service tiers, but they don’t meet what we consider enterprise video UCaaS standards (i.e., maximum meeting length, participant count, and so on). In this post, we will focus on the enterprise-grade paid tiers of all three offerings. Specifically, Webex’s Enterprise plan, Microsoft’s Office 365 E5 plan (the top-tier Enterprise plan – there’s also an E1 and E3), and Zoom’s Large Enterprise-Ready plan.
Note: Microsoft offers a variety of ways to access Teams, often as a part of their larger software packages. Their “Office” 365 licenses are less expensive than the “Microsoft” 365 licenses and more expensive than the “Microsoft Business” 365 licenses (outlined here).
Additionally, there is “Teams Essentials” available for $4 per user/per month. While all of these plans include Teams, they range in feature set from too much (Microsoft 365) to too little (Teams Essentials). So, here we will focus on the Goldilocks choice for enterprise UCaaS applications –Office 365.
Both Teams and Zoom sell their video conferencing solutions separately from their phone services. Webex has a separate “Calls” package, and notably offers a “meet and calls” package in addition to the Enterprise offering we’ll be discussing here.
While all three companies list pricing on their websites for most of their offerings, for the enterprise offerings you tend to see a “contact sales” button rather than a straight up “buy now” option. As this implies, pricing for these services is negotiable and there are often volume discounts offered (i.e., more seats = better rate), along with a higher degree of customization and tailoring on these large-scale offerings.
NB: This article alone doesn’t include all of the answers. To properly vet and compare UCaaS solutions, you’ll likely need to make multiple phone calls to the providers to figure out how to get exactly what you need from their service.
For each of the plans, we’ll be comparing them in terms of Features, Security, Constraints, Price Point, Integrations and User Experience. So, let’s get to it!
Each of the offerings comes with several “bells and whistles”, too many in fact for us to cover here in detail. But let’s start with the basic features all three plans have in common.
As with most video conferencing tools, you can expect screen-sharing, virtual backgrounds, various chat and instant-messaging options, some level of guest access to your meetings, and the ability to mute the guy who’s loudly eating potato chips and forgot to turn off his microphone. Which is all to say, these three offerings are fairly similar in terms of support for basic functions you’d expect from a video conferencing tool.
That’s not what you came here for though, so, let’s get to the differences:
Language support and transcripts
Webex offers transcription and translation between 100+ languages, which is very useful for international teams. In meetings, the translation add-on allows 13 spoken languages to be transcribed into 100 other languages as subtitles.
Zoom also has both these features but seems to be lagging behind the other two with only 35 languages listed for transcription. They did announce last year that they have plans to expand their live translation capabilities in 2022.
All three platforms offer interpretation services through integrating the Interprefy app, which provides support for a range of languages.
All three platforms offer basic whiteboarding functionality, including the ability to add sticky notes and comments, collaborate and save projects. Zoom specifies storage for an “unlimited number of concurrent whiteboards subject to cloud-storage capacity.” With Microsoft’s Office 365 E5 package, storage is in OneDrive and is unlimited.
However, Teams seems to be the only one that restricts this functionality to meetings of three or more participants. So, if it’s super important to have one-on-one whiteboarding, you may want to look at the other solutions instead.
If it’s likely that members of your team are often going to need to dial into meetings from their phones (e.g., because of limited internet connectivity during travel), you’ll want to pick an option with strong audio-conferencing support.
In Teams, this feature is included on the Office 365 E5 plan but connecting is still toll-based. Teams does, however, offer 60 free minutes per user per month that can be used to dial out to users in Zone A countries.
With the Zoom Enterprise plan, audio conferencing comes as an add-on with different charges per country. Webex also supports toll dial-ins, with the rate, and availability of toll free calling, varying by country.
Out of the three, Teams is probably the stronger option here, but of course this will vary based on which countries you regularly need to call to/from, and the rates being charged in each case.
Meeting recording and storage
All three offerings allow you to record and store meetings. You get unlimited cloud storage for Zoom Enterprise, and unlimited OneDrive storage with the Office 365 E5 plan. Webex lists their cloud storage for meeting recordings as “customizable”, meaning this is something you’ll need to discuss with them when setting up the plan.
When you look at the ability to easily upload and share files during meetings, there are some big differences between the three offerings. Zoom is definitely trailing the other two here, with a measly 512 MB limit, with Webex offering only slightly more at 2 GB.
Teams is the clear winner, allowing a whopping 250 GB, backed up by that tasty unlimited OneDrive storage.
With the features that allow collaboration and sharing information out the way, the next thing to turn our attention to is how safe is that information going to be? This is especially important if you’re working in an industry that handles sensitive data or one subject to specific legal considerations like HIPAA.
In general terms, all three options use industry standards like TLS (Transport Layer Security) and AES 256 encryption to protect your calls and data sharing in online meetings. You can also enable two-factor authentication (2FA) across the board for an added level of security when connecting to calls.
An additional shared feature is the ability to turn on end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for maximum security during meetings where sensitive information and data will be disseminated (Check here for a good breakdown of how E2EE and TLS differ).
A standout feature of the Office 365 E5 package is the ability to upgrade it with additional security features that Microsoft seems to be using to position itself as the better choice for enterprises concerned with watertight security and threat intelligence.
Zoom has also historically had some pretty serious privacy issues, and it wasn’t all that long ago that some clients were dealing with Zoombombing. Zoom has since buffed up their security and, along with the other two, offer tiers certified for government use.
There is still a concern about encryption keys generated back to China, personal data collection, and calls “erroneously” routed through servers hosted in China. In response to concerns, Zoom created a separate product: Zoom for Government. Zoom for Government is reported to be solely US-based and managed by US Citizens. Cisco Webex and and Microsoft Teams now have specific Government offerings as well.
If maintaining the highest security standards is important to your business, Office 365 is probably your best bet. For a more detailed view of the options it offers, check out the Office 365 E5 page and click on the Comparison (PDF) link on the right.
Next up, let’s take a look at how the various offerings measure up in the limitations they each impose on your meetings.
Number of participants
Both the Webex and Teams offerings cater for up to 1,000 participants. Zoom is a little tighter in this regard, capping you at 500 on their Enterprise plan, unless you purchase the Large Meetings add-on (which will set you back an extra $600 a year).
There isn’t much differentiation here, with both Zoom and Teams offering a 30-hour time limit on your meetings, and Webex coming in at 24 hours.
If you’re planning to regularly use a Webinar format to connect with your client or business base, there are a few more constraints to take into consideration.
The Zoom package includes Webinar 500, which allows (you guessed it) 500 participants to join the session. After that it’s a sliding scale that becomes progressively more expensive, jumping up to a whopping $64,900/year/license to be able to run webinars supporting 10,000 attendees.
With Webex, webinar capacity depends on what you purchased with your plan, but the functionality scales up to 10,000. With their webcasting mode, you can ramp this up to 100,000 participants. It’s not clear from Webex’s materials whether you get any version of Events/Webinars automatically as part of an Enterprise-level plan, but it seems like this is an add-on you can discuss when purchasing your customizable Enterprise plan. For a full breakdown of Webex’s webinar options see here.
Finally, with Teams, the Live Events feature is included in both their E3 and E5 plan, and allows up to 10,000 people to join.
As you can see, Webex and Teams are by far the more attractive options if this is a feature you’ll be using regularly, with Webex providing the best option if you’ll be running large-scale events.
Okay, now we get to the big one, how much do these respective offerings cost? And what’s the minimum you’ll be paying in each case?
Let’s start with Zoom. Their Large Enterprise-Ready solution can be purchased with a minimum of 50 licenses at $240 each per year. That’s $12,000 annually, and remember that you’ll need that Large Meetings add-on, starting at $600 a year to bump up your capacity.
The Office 365 E5 offering is a bit of a jump upat $38 per user per month ($456 per user, per year).Buying 50 annual licenses in this case would therefore translate into $22,800.After scouring Microsoft’s marketing blurb, we haven’t seen any indication of a minimum number of licenses that must be purchased for the Office 365 E5 product, but it may be hidden in the fine print. They do state in their FAQ, however, that they offer discounts for clients that purchase 250+ licenses. It’s worth noting here that a ton of enterprises are already Microsoft Office customers, so enabling Teams involves a simple license upgrade and may come at a significant discount to list price.
The Webex Enterprise package requires a minimum purchase of 100 licenses, with custom pricing, presumably based on their configurable meeting capacity variable.
On the surface, the above information suggests Zoom is the cheaper option when you’re working with a team of at least 50 people and don’t need the extra functionality that comes with Office. In reality, however, you’re probably going to need to call each provider up and untangle the finer points of their pricing depending on what your enterprise needs are (unless you use Lightyear’s online procurement software, of course ;)).
At time of writing, Teams integrates with more than 700 apps, including staples like Trello, SurveyMonkey, Workday, Asana, Smartsheet, Salesforce and hundreds more. Zoom is even more impressive, with more than 1500 apps integrated. Webex lists “hundreds” of integrations, but without giving a specific figure (though one source we came across puts it at about 300). That said, a quick browse of their App Hub shows a decent selection of Analytics, Scheduling, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Project Management and other app categories. Of the three, Zoom definitely gets the nod given the sheer number of options available.
If your workforce is already comfortable with the additions that come with Microsoft, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you may want to stick with Teams. The Office 365 E5 plan also gives access to SharePoint for file sharing, and collaboration tools like Yammer.
There’s been a lot to take in so far but stick with us. We have one more thing for you to think about, and that’s the qualitative user experience each platform offers. If you want unbiased data on how others have experienced these offerings, look at G2 user ratings.
Webex is currently sitting on 4 stars out of 5, whereas Teams and Zoom both come in at around 4.5 stars. Zoom has a much higher number of reviews (41,000) compared to only around 12,000 for Teams and 14,000 for Webex, making the Zoom rating a little more “legit”.
Zoom performs better in “ease of use” metrics, but the reviews for Zoom are largely from SMEs that may have fewer complex requirements than an enterprise with thousands of employees.
Both Teams and Webex on the other hand seem to be favored by larger organizations, who are likely paying for higher-end options and (rightfully) have much more stringent expectations. Viewed through that lens, the small amount that these two options trails behind Zoom in reviews may actually indicate relatively high comparative performance.
Give consideration to the built in Microsoft suite functionality that comes with Teams, which can present a bit of a learning curve for participants who aren’t familiar with these apps. And while both Zoom and Teams use apps to connect on mobile, the Teams app is sometimes confusing for new users, while Zoom is generally considered more straightforward and user friendly. This is one area where Zoom excels. It’s very easy for just about anyone to use.
Zoom versus Teams versus Webex – Who Wins?
The video conferencing option you choose is going to boil down to your specific enterprise needs and which of the features we’ve discussed here are “must-have” versus “nice-to-have.” Each offering brings something different to the table in price point, security, or basic features.
If your main consideration is price, for example, Zoom (or possibly Webex) are going to be the first options to look at. Whereas if security is the more pressing concern, you can’t really go wrong with Office 365 E5 and its many additional security features.
Regardless, it’s important to understand the fine print and how your cost will scale with your UCaaS solution. For example, you might be drawn to the Teams/Office E3 price point, but then realize when adding point and audio conferencing that you’re dealing with a larger bill than you would have on the E5 plan. Or perhaps you’re keen on the Zoom Enterprise plan as it comes at a lower per-user cost than Teams, but when you add in Large Meetings and a phone plan you’re dealing with a larger bill.
If figuring out all these options feels like too much to process, the good news is you don’t have to do it alone. With Lightyear’s online procurement process, you can tell us what your “must-haves” are, and we can crunch the numbers and present you with the best options.
Alternatively, if you’re not sure what you need, give us a call, and we’d be happy to talk you through the options and get you set up with your perfect solution – so you can get back to the important stuff. Like planning a background that’ll make you internet famous 😉.
Want to learn more about how Lightyear can help you?
Let us show you the product and discuss specifics on how it might be helpful.