They say there isn’t such a thing as “free lunch”. However, at least free-looking communications systems do exist, and temptation for a smallish organization to choose Apple FaceTime, Microsoft Skype or Google Hangouts can be strong. The fact that they are consumer solutions hasn’t stopped them from being used also at work. After all, since those “free” messengers are already capable of creating a decent audio and video meeting between multiple persons, why pay for professional solutions?
One apparent reason is support, because one really can’t talk about it in free solutions. Sometimes things work, sometimes not, and there’s little users can do about it. There are also many differences in feature sets between free and professional video messengers. Not many home users need advanced multi-display and material sharing features found in pro-level video meeting systems. Voice- and sound quality isn’t that critical at home, either. Free solutions don’t generally scale up as well as pro-versions, and their sessions and materials can’t be saved for future use (learning purposes, Youtube, etc.). Data security is what it is, and strong encryption may be missing. It is also impossible to connect to other systems your customers and partners may be using.
Basically it’s all about one’s practical needs. For many small companies and teams something like Hangouts can be enough to start with, later to be expanded with, for example, Vidyo’s professional level video meeting technology. It’s not a good idea to pay for something you don’t need. On the other hand, if a team’s or company’s processes clearly demand reliable, high-quality video connections to VCs, customers, owners, partners, etc, and there is frequent need for material sharing and other premium features, then a free solution can be saving in the wrong place, costing even more in the end.
Then there are situations and environments where the “free lunch” doesn’t work at all. This situation arises, for example, when there’s need to have video meetings between different systems. This situation in quite common in companies, since your customer may well use an incompatible, different video meeting system. In the end what counts is how well the used system serves your business needs and processes, and that people like to use it in their daily work. Then it becomes a part of everyday business communication, instead of something unused at the office.