Working from home: Online meetings

The last couple of weeks have been interesting to see how a lot of people came in contact with tools and programs that I have been using on a daily basis for a long time.

In my daily work, I have been using online conference tools like Zoom, Gotomeeting,, Jitsi, WebEx, on24, … on a regular basis. But also tools that have an online conference component but are more collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Hangout/Google Apps. It is fascinating to see so many people started using these tools. Even my dad started using Zoom for his computer lessons. Normally, these take place at the local library but due to ‘stay at home’, or in flemish ‘bljift in uw kot’, they all gathered online.

In recent weeks Microsoft saw a 775% increase in usage of their Teams product. Zoom saw a 535% rise in the last month. Similarly, other products saw a surge in new users and the number of conferences. Companies that have had a ‘no work from home’ policy all of a sudden had to take a u-turn. IT-staff had a prepare capacity, processes and users to connect from their home. Whether they let users work from their home pc, rip out the desktop computer at work or gather all the laptops in stock and create a manufacturing line to prep.

One of these tools, I’ve been using a lot for the last 5 years is Zoom. I’ve spent numerous hours in as well as with competitive products. And the major reason I like it is very simple: “It just works!”

Compared to other tools I find it very easy to setup. You don’t need to install a client unless you want to share your screen. The number of obstacles to get started is almost none, the audio and video quality is great with the least amount of interruptions regardless of where your customer is located. That is, I think, the major reason for its success. It was build from the ground up with that goal in mind.

Webex has a larger user base than Zoom. Zoom’s usage ballooned from 19 million users to 200 million users in the last 2 months.

And then Zoom fell out of grace, with a lot of people, because of different reports from different sources about security and privacy concerns. Zoombombing, zoom wardialing, were the talk of the day. Certain governments and businesses stopped using the service and moved to other services.

When reading all these reports, I can certainly see the severity of some of them. My first reaction to these reports was why now? Are other tools that much better? In these pandemic times, we are challenged from all sides to keep the infrastructure running, react fast, save lives and stay healthy. Why haven’t these reports surfaced last year when Zoom went public?

Time will tell how Zoom will survive this period. First of all, users will continue to use the service. Certainly, as it works great, offers a free tier and has great features. How Zoom will survive depends on how they will react to these reports. From what I can see they seem to be going in the right direction. They fixed some security and privacy issues right away, others will need some time. But more importantly, Zoom announced a 90 day feature freeze where they will only focus on fixing security and privacy issues. This reminds me of the memorable memo from Bill Gates in 2002 when Windows was considered a swiss cheese from a security point of view. Also, Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan, reached out and got some of the best in the industry, like Alex Stamos, to help out.

To finish of I wanted to give you key take aways on using these tools:

  • Familiarize yourself with the tool you will be using. Where are the questions? How can I mute or unmute myself? How can I record a session? What are the dial-in numbers?
  • Get a good microphone. Record yourself and listen to how you sound.
  • Make sure you have a good internet connection.
  • Verify the participant list! Watch who joins? If you are not sure, ask: “Who is caller XYZ?” and kick the user if there is no response.
  • Setup a meeting password and waiting room.
  • Auto-mute on entering the session. Certainly, with 10 or more participants this is a golden rule.
  • Inform your family members when, how long you will have a conference. Inform them if you will be using video or not.

Want to have bit of fun enjoy a round of conference call bingo. For those who have not seen it before watch this real life conference call sketch.

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