When the nation went to remote work overnight, we had a slew of calls asking for support. RSI has called upon our subject matter expert Adam W. (Valhalla Integration, Commercial Division) to help guide you through the products and tools of remote work, especially for small businesses; take it away Adam!

Let’s make this social distancing thing count so we can get back to life as normal as soon as possible.  One way to do this is to finally get onboard with video conferencing and virtual meetings.  With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many service providers and video conferencing services are providing modified services to assist with remote working.

We want to help you keep your employees that are not traditionally used to working remote connected and engaged to keep business moving.  We compiled a list of current offerings by service and video conferencing providers to assist remote workers.  These are all referred to as a “soft codec” or “cloud based” solution. This means they will run on any modern computer with a web browser and internet access to provide real-time conferencing and remote collaboration.

Changes your Service Provider Has Made

First let’s talk about changes to your Internet Service Provider. A number of providers have changed their packages or billing method to help you. I’ll be focusing on services available in the Denver metro area.

Comcast – Most homes use Comcast as their internet provider for high speed internet. To help their broadband customers cope with the increase in data usage in their homes, Comcast is giving all its customers unlimited data for the next 60 days. That means your speed won’t be throttled no matter how much data you use.

Comcast has made all its Xfinity Wifi hotspots accessible for free to everyone, including non-Xfinity Internet customers. Once you’re in a hotspot’s vicinity, use the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and connect up to a secure WIFI connection outside your home. You can view a map of all Xfinity hotspots, they are everywhere and likely in some of your favorite areas.

CenturyLink – Like Comcast CenturyLink is stepping up during the COVID-19 Crisis and modifying their billing practices and data usage.  For the next 60 days they have committed to waive late fees and not terminate a residential or small business customers service due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19.  They will also be waiving any data caps during this period to support the increased network bandwidth demand.

AT&T Similar to others AT&T is waiving all overage fees, uncapping data and pausing billing for any customers affected.  Reminder, AT&T provides free WIFI hotspots all over your area and will not suspend that service during the COVID crisis.

Verizon Mobile Verizon is offering free international calling to certain countries affected by COVID-19. Verizon will also waive any new activations or upgrade fees in case you need to upgrade your data level to an unlimited package.

T-Mobile T-Mobile is upgrading customers to free unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days if they already have a phone plan that includes data.

Now that your ISP caps have been sorted we can discuss how to connect you with your company and the people within it.

Top Video Conference and Remote Working Tools 

Office 365/Microsoft Teams – Our Favorite solution at Valhalla Integration and RSI. Microsoft Teams, nowadays more of an office 365 “Feature”, is a great workplace communication platform.  In response to COVID Microsoft is offering a new 6-Month Office 365 E1 trail offer that includes Microsoft teams.  This is an awesome deal to try out one of Microsoft most robust new cloud-based product offerings.  The E1 Trial includes full meetings, collaboration and workflow capabilities an allows users to start using Teams right away.

Microsoft is really helping out with all the users out there using the free version of Teams.  Updates have lifted restrictions on user limits and have made it possible for users to schedule meetings for video calling and conferencing.

The Free version of Microsoft Teams is already a great solution for video conferencing.  It supports 300 members, guest access (no need for a teams account on your domain), One-on-one and group video and audio calls.  It supports 2 GB of shared files, screen sharing and document collaboration using the online Office apps that can be very powerful for sharing.

Zoom – Like Microsoft Teams, the free version is a very powerful tool but similar to WebEx and other services has a 40-minute meeting time limit.  Zoom has a great following of users all over the United States and is currently gaining a ton of users  due to COVID-19 so you’re bound to find other Zoom users easily.  Zoom is using this as an opportunity to help globally where they aren’t well known by offering unlimited features in their free tier of service to end-users in China.

WebEx WebEx is popular worldwide as a video conferencing platform with a strong following on the east coast of the USA. WebEx’s default-free plan offers you conferencing for up to three users.  Their free package features HD video, screen sharing on desktop and mobile devices. Here’s their catch, all free plan meeting times are capped at 40 minutes.

To increase their user base, WebEx is offering a special package with no time restrictions, support for up to 100 participants, and adds a toll-call dial-in in addition to the web meeting. This offer is being made with a free 90-day license to businesses and consumers that are not already WebEx customers.

Google Hangouts Google has been putting its hangouts meeting services to the test itself with over hundreds of thousands of worldwide employees working remotely using the service.  Google isn’t offering any free services to new users, instead they are unlocking access to their advanced video capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers.  Features like access to larger meetings for up to 250 participants and Live streaming of events up to 100,000 viewers within a domain.  The advanced features also allow the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.

These features are typically available in the enterprise level packages of G Suite.  They will be available at no cost to all customers until July 1. 2020.

Go To Meeting/LogMeIn Go To Meeting has been one of the leading video conferencing companies for years and has a great adoption rate among users across the united states.  Their recent merger with LogMeIn provides even more powerful video conferencing inter-operability and powerful remote work tools.  LogMeIn has always provided a 14-day free trial and is continuing that free service.  Now, it will provide front-line service providers like healthcare providers, educational institutes, municipalities, non-profits free for three months through their Emergency Remote Work Kits.