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Free videoconferencing tools: 5 creative ways they can help you get things done

Christopher Null | Oct. 23, 2014
Here are five extra ways you can put a free system to work for you.

Make Face-to-Face Interviews Less of a Hassle
Videoconferencing can streamline the interview part of screening prospective employees. Rather than setting up a phone screener and in-person interview, get them both done with a videoconference. This lets you see how poised the candidate is over what can often be a somewhat awkward communications medium..

Video interviews also make it easier for you to take notes about the candidate by typing them up right on the screen while you're chatting. Just make sure you use a quiet keyboard.

Impromptu Security and Surveillance
One of the more clever uses for videoconferencing software requires no one on the other end of the line at all. Just set up a webcam on a computer at your office, initiate a video chat with that webcam from your house or mobile phone, and let the connection run.

The webcam works as a real-time surveillance tool, which you can use to keep tabs on the office after hours, keep an eye on the cash register, or simply play Big Brother at the office when you're away. Note that privacy laws in most U.S. jurisdictions--as well as common decency--require signage [PDF] to be posted in businesses where video monitoring occurs in a semi-public space or an area used by employees.

The catch, of course, is that you need someone on the other end of the line to "answer the phone" when you first initiate your call. One easy way around this: Remote desktop or remote control software. Before you initiate the videoconference, just fire up software like Chrome Remote Desktop. When the call comes in, accept the incoming call on the remote computer through the Remote Desktop connection. You can then end the Remote Desktop session and let the video feed run undisturbed.

Citrix GoToMeeting gets gold star for sharing
This feature was inspired by Citrix, which launched a zero-cost version of GoToMeeting called GoToMeeting Free earlier this year. The company recently added several new features.

First is screen sharing. Users can now collaborate in real time via video while sharing their computer screen, which is great for both presentations and troubleshooting sessions. The service has been upgraded to support 25 languages (automatically loading whichever language your browser uses) and now works on Android phones. Finally, while GoToMeeting Free was formerly available only on the Google Chrome browser, it now works with Firefox as well--no additional downloaded software required.

GoToMeeting Free does have limitations, of course. The biggie: Only three users can join a conversation simultaneously (a common restriction among free, business-focused video chat services).

GoToMeeting Free is just one solution of many in this market. Whichever one you use, it'll pay to think outside the squawkbox about what else they could help you do around the office. 


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