Google is known for their robust search engine, but in recent years, Google has expanded its user experience to include Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts replaced Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and other tools.
Google Hangouts, used in tandem with Google's other technologies, lets businesses transform their back end business processes and integrate some of these tools into an online conferencing situation. Perhaps the biggest benefit of Google Hangouts is that it's free and included with a standard Google account.
The service is accessed through Gmail, Google+, and through a Google mobile app. Chat histories can be saved online, letting the user sync them between their devices. There are a lot of features in the Google Hangout paradigm that also make it a perfect business tool. While a proprietary platform may be better for large businesses, easily integrated into Google Cloud, Google Hangouts makes it perfect for the small business to have a teleconference, share files, and save videos for later reference.
Google Hangouts was originally developed as a social tool. However, many companies are starting to purchase Google Cloud and Google accounts for each individual user, letting them utilize the infrastructure that powers your basic Google Drive, Google+, and Gmail account.
Here are the things that we think may make Google Hangouts a great fit for small businesses:
- The overall Google interface, streamlining the user experience.
- The sleek live editing options found in Google Drive, and the ability to share documents within Google Hangouts.
- The affordable prices for users that want vast storage as part of their Google Account experience.
- The ability to use Gmail as the nexus for Google Voice and Google Hangouts.
With Google, the overall interface can easily be used to streamline your business and conferencing needs. With your Google account, you have access to Gmail, the Google+ social media tool, Google Hangouts, and Google Drive. All of these tools can be used in the Hangout experience, letting you conference with up to 15 people if you have purchased a user account for members in your business.
With Google's robust user experience, you can plan your meetings on Google Calendar, invite people to a meeting, and provide them with a link to get into the conference. This makes it easy to collaborate over great distances in real time.
Some of the conferencing platforms out there lack or have limited sharing and editing capabilities when it comes to editing documents. Google Drive makes it easy to share documents over Hangouts. If you'd like, you can log into your account and see where the other user is making edits in the document. With Google Drive open, a person can be taking notes while other members participate in the conversation.
What does Google Hangouts offer over other platforms? The biggest benefit is the cost. For an entire year, you can pay only $50 and give a user access to all the tools in Google. Hangouts is merely an extension of Google and it offers your business a way of communicating across Google's apps and tools.
For larger business enterprises, we recommend using Google Hangouts within the larger Google Cloud paradigm. This way, your company can enjoy using Hangouts while enjoying the fast cloud solutions offered by Google.
We also thought that the HD solutions offered by Google Hangouts were perfect. Google lets users access HD video streaming if their network and Internet connection can handle it. There is up to 720 p available for users who can enjoy the best HD experience.
We had some concerns about using Google with users that were not part of an organization. This created some concerns for us for businesses that might be working with independent contractors. Shared documents and recorded conferences might be a security risk if shared with users outside of a company.
You are not able to record your web conferences using Google Hangouts however there are recording softwares you can download which enable you to record. If you end up using Hangouts on Air for your web conferencing needs (limits the number of participants but not the number of viewers) then your video will automatically be recorded and saved to your YouTube channel.
There are a few concerns we have about using Google Hangouts as a proprietary-level conferencing system:
- Is the Google Hangouts experience private across all platforms?
- Google Hangouts only lets 15 people conference in real time on the business end.
- Lack of specialized leadership tools that are found in other proprietary conferencing solutions.
- Some other conferencing products had easily integrable APIs with other platforms, such as ZenDesk and Facebook.
Also, Google Hangouts only lets up to 15 people participate actively in a conference. More people can view a Hangout and participate if it is being streamed. We found that with other companies, other conferencing tools let up to 30 or more people participate. If Google only lets 15 people participate in a Hangout, it might be more beneficial to do a good old-fashioned conference call.
We weren't impressed with the overall leadership tools found with Google Hangouts. Right now, admins can make basic use changes to Google Hangouts for users within an organization, but the robust control for leaders found within other platforms is lacking in Hangouts.
We're not sure how easily Google Hangouts integrates with other platforms, such as Zen Desk and Facebook. We found that TeamView lets users build some Facebook chat capabilities, but this feature is lacking with Google Hangouts.
The Bottom Line
Overall, we felt like Google Hangouts was probably a better fit for small businesses that wanted a robust platform within the larger robustness of the Google account paradigm. Google Hangouts offers some really neat features, but limits the number of participants in a conference. Other companies have developed powerful infrastructure solutions for companies that combine live chat, video conferencing, document editing, file sharing, and other cloud solutions. Proprietary-level enterprises might want to consider investing in Google Cloud, integrating the Google Hangout paradigm into a customized solution that is part of their overall business infrastructure.