Best free video conferencing software for small businesses

We rank the top video conferencing tools available for free to examine their pros, cons, and hidden costs.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Video conferencing software has come a long way since the pandemic. Back then, Zoom was a novelty and CEOs were still turning their cameras off to hide their dressing gowns.

Now, flexible working is part of the office furniture, and demand has surged for tools to keep workforces connected in a remote-first world.

Free video tools are especially sought-after, boasting most of the advantages of premium options, but without the added cost. Below, we evaluate the top eight options for SMEs.

Should businesses use free video conferencing?

Naturally, free video conferencing software is a healthier option for your wallet. You’ll pay no video conferencing costs and still be able to place calls, send unlimited messages, and (usually) share files.

Freemium tiers are ideal for side hustles or micro-businesses that have short calls with a limited number of participants. For example:

  • Personal trainers
  • Private tutors
  • Tradespeople
  • Copy editors or freelancers
  • Dropshippers

However, free video meeting software is often missing advanced features offered by a paid-for plan. Providers have to make money somehow, after all.

Most free versions put limits on call time, the number of users who can join a call, video recording or transcript tools, support options, and security features.

Do you need video conferencing software?

It’s worth noting that if you already have a business email address which you use to organise business activities – such as Gmail or Microsoft Outlook – you’ll get access to the provider’s other products, including video conferencing software, at no extra cost.

When should you not use free video conferencing?

Free video conferencing is less suitable for businesses with multiple employees or those likely to have longer client calls. Today’s staff tend to work fully remote or hybrid, meaning you’ll be organising hundreds of virtual meetings per month to collaborate with your team.

It would constrain productivity with time limits and user caps in this context; especially when communicating with clients and customers. As a result, we don’t recommend free video conferencing to:

  • Businesses with 2+ employees
  • Firms based in remote locations
  • Companies operating in regulated industries

Best free video conferencing tools

Below, we’ve listed the eight best-known free video conferencing tools for businesses. These are not in rank order. Instead, each has been selected because of its unique strengths and status as a remote working tool that’s favoured by SMEs.

Zoom best for external meetings with clients

Zoom is synonymous with video conferencing. As the market leader in remote working tools, it took the world by storm during the pandemic and has continued to be favoured by companies for its ease-of-use and advanced, HD audio.

Easily Zoom’s best feature is that anyone can use the tool the only conferencing equipment needed is a computer and a link. Rivals like Microsoft Teams block key features such as messaging from guest users. That makes Zoom ideal for those making and taking lots of external calls with clients.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

Zoom Free permits users to host meetings for up to 40 minutes. While not a huge issue for internal video calls between team members (managers will simply have to keep one eye on the clock), it could be disastrous if your clients are expecting hour-long sessions.

Other features include:

  • Up to 100 attendees per meeting
  • Whiteboard
  • Team chat
  • Mail and calendar integrations

What do you miss out on without paying?

  • Zoom Pro £129.90 per user, per year 
  • Zoom Business £174.90 per user, per year 

The main incentive to upgrade to Zoom Pro is longer meeting times. With this plan, you’ll get up to 30 hours per meeting, plus cloud storage to record the meeting or make notes.

See how Zoom compares to some of the other top providers in our head to head guides:

Google Meet best for those with a Gmail account

Google Meet (1)Google Meet is the easiest way to set up a virtual meeting because it’s completely free for anyone with a Google Account (including a personal Gmail address). You can invite up to 100 participants and meet for up to one hour per meeting at no cost (this is considerably longer than Zoom’s 40-minute cap).

For mobile calls and 1:1s, there's no time limit at all. So if you have just one employee, then Google Meet might be the best option.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

The free version of Google Meet is less generous than Zoom for collaboration features. You’ll essentially only be able to host calls, although there is also an internal chat box.

Unlike Zoom, participants also need to sign into their Google Account or be approved to join by the meeting organiser. However, because there is no app to download, Google Meet is much easier to set up than Microsoft Teams because you can attend video calls in your browser.

What do you miss out on without paying?

  • Business Starter £5 per user, per month
  • Business Standard £10 per user, per month

The biggest incentive to upgrade to Google Workspace’s Business Starter plan is that it will give you access to a business Gmail account. You can then tailor the address by adding a more professional-looking, unique domain.

Sole traders can purchase a Google Workspace account, which offers access to a business email, for £6.69 per month (billed annually).

We detail Microsoft Teams below, but you can also check out our full Google Meet vs Teams guide for an in-depth head to head.

Microsoft Teams best for those with an Outlook account

Microsoft is the biggest supplier of business software in the UK, so it’s not surprising its Teams video conferencing has become so popular. Teams is recognised for its impressive app integrations because they align with the Microsoft 365 suite.

This creates a comprehensive platform for sole traders to manage their business from. For example, a dropshipper can make sales documents in Word, forecast revenue in Excel, and house sales documents in SharePoint.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

Users can schedule group audio or video calls with a maximum of 100 attendees for up to 60 minutes. There is no cap on 1:1 meetings, unlike with Zoom. These can last up to 30 hours, giving plenty of freedom for personalised client sessions.

You’ll get up to 5GB of cloud storage to share important documents and presentations, as well as store transcripts and video recordings on any device.

What do you miss out on without paying?

  • Microsoft Teams Essentials £3.30 per user, per month

Cheaper than Zoom and Google Meet, the Microsoft Teams Essentials plan supports 12 additional features, including 300 participants per meeting; a phone and web help desk; data encryption for meetings, chats, and calls; and access to Microsoft Whiteboard.

Users can also upgrade to Microsoft 365 Business Basic at £4.90 per user, per month, for a custom domain address and business email, which is just cheaper than Google Meet.

FreeConference best for a team of five or less

FreeConference is a challenger brand in the video conferencing community. While still not as well-known as Teams or Zoom, it has carved out a niche for itself by offering a generous feature list and completely ditching call time caps.

All video calls made using the free plan can last up to 12 hours. You’ll only be able to host five participants in total, but the advantage is that teams of five employees could realistically use FreeConference as the main collaboration tool.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

As well as video calling, the FreeConference free tier has:

  • Whiteboards
  • Internal chatting
  • Password-free entry
  • Document sharing
  • Email support

What do you miss out on without paying?

  • FreeConference Starter $9.99 (est. £7.86) per user, per month 

Firms who sell abroad might consider paying for FreeConference Starter. Upgrading provides access to toll-free international dial-in numbers, meaning clients phoning in from abroad won’t pay to join the meeting; an easy way to improve the customer experience.

Toll-free numbers also mean your callers won’t have to listen to a branded “FreeConference” message at the beginning of every video meeting.

Jitsi as a Service (JaaS) Dev best for developers

Jitsi as a Service (1)

Jitsi as a Service (JaaS) Dev is a free version of the open-source platform, Jitsi Meet. Offered by 8×8, a cloud communication provider, it supports 25 monthly active users and is ideal for tech-savvy sole traders, like freelance web designers.

Jitsi Dev’s unique selling point is its specialist API, a low-level JavaScript API that allows users to host the video functionalities of Jitsi Meet directly on their website. Users can also customise the tool so it works with whatever third-party tools and applications you desire.

Technophobes be aware: this does require a high-level of coding and technical expertise.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

Following an update in August 2023, users now need a Google account to sign up to JaaS. Once authenticated, you’ll gain access to the following JaaS Dev features:

  • Recording
  • Internal chat
  • Live streaming
  • End-to-end encryption

What do you miss out on without paying?

  • JaaS Basic $99 (£78) per month

JaaS Basic is a paid-for plan that provides additional features for businesses with more than 25 employees. This payment tier means you’ll be able to host 500 participants in a video call, and you’ll also have priority support.

JaaS Basic is also a bit easier to use than JaaS Dev. Its third-party add-ons are pre-built and tested with popular business tools, so you won’t have to build these yourself.

Whereby best for one-time clients

Whereby

Whereby is a relatively new name in the video meeting game, but it is already contending with Teams and Zoom thanks to its ease-of-use.

While rivals require users to download an app or set up an account, Whereby is browser-based. Participants simply click to join a call. As a result, we think Whereby is best for sole traders who sell Direct-to-Consumer (D2C), like tax preparation specialists or travel agencies.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

Whereby’s free plan gives you 45 minutes in one meeting room with up to 100 participants (although, as with Google Meet, 1:1 meetings have no time limit).

Notably, you can also embed Whereby onto your website so that visitors can jump on a call without having to open a new tab. Embedding won’t be as complicated as JaaS Dev, as Whereby’s code is pre-built.

What do you miss out on without paying?

  • Whereby Pro $6.69 (£5.50 per user, per month) 

Upgrading to Whereby Pro gives you access to three meeting rooms with custom links, each of which can be fully customised using your branding and has room capacity for 100 people.

The ability to separate callers into distinct groups could be worth the spend, particularly if you host group workshops or training sessions as part of your business.

WhatsApp  best for mobile-only needs

You may be surprised to see WhatsApp on this list. But the popular messaging app also offers world-beating video calling features for those who communicate via business mobile phones.

Users can join a WhatsApp call on the desktop if they download the platform to their computer. However, with the majority of users relying on WhatsApp’s mobile app, we recommend it to firms that contact customers directly over the phone.

What features do you get on the Free plan?

WhatsApp has very few bells and whistles to brag about. Its ethos is ease-of-use; you can mute other participants and adjust screen size, but that’s pretty much it.

That said, WhatsApp can still host calls with up to 32 participants with no limit on call minutes, which makes it a great option for those who just want a no-fuss tool.

What do you miss out on without paying?

Unless you’re using the WhatsApp Business App, WhatsApp does not have a paid-for plan as part of its video calling product, so there is no option to upgrade. This is either a positive or a negative, depending on your growth ambitions.

If you think your business might need advanced video conferencing features down the line, we recommend a more scalable solution such as Microsoft Teams.

Key things to consider for free video conferencing:

We’ve outlined the pros and cons of each of the above virtual meeting tools. If you’re still unsure about which option is right for you, here are five important factors that can make or break a system’s suitability for your firm. These are:

  • Meeting size and frequency: many free platforms include limitations on meeting length and the number of participants. For 1:1 video calls, this shouldn’t be an issue. Bigger teams must be more selective.
  • Features: consider what video call functions your business model relies on. For example, a training provider who might need to present a slideshow to clients should avoid systems that don’t offer screen sharing functionalities.
  • Ease of adding external guests: some apps, like Zoom, let users click and join a meeting within the browser. Others require lengthy downloads that might put customers off if they’ll only be using your service once.
  • Security: privacy is a big concern for customers. They want to be sure their data is secure, including on video calls. Seek out advanced security measures like end-to-end encryption if you’ll be collecting any form of personal information.
  • Ease-of-use: whether employees, clients, or customers, nobody wants to spend hours sifting through an instruction manual just to sign into a video call. Simple, streamlined platforms will go furthest to improving customer experience.
Video conferencing FAQs
  • What are the limitations of free video conferencing?
    Free video conferencing software will limit the number of minutes allotted per meeting. Some platforms, including Google Meet, don't have a time limit for video calls or meetings. Instead, they cap the number of participants who can dial into a call.
  • How many people can you have at a video conference?
    User limits depend on the provider. Most video conferencing tools, including Zoom, permit 100 participants, even on the free plan – but this does come with a limit on call minutes. Some paid-for plans, such as Microsoft Teams, can host up to 400 participants.
  • Should you pay for video conferencing?
    Small businesses with two or more employees are better off upgrading to a paid-for video conferencing plan, rather than relying on a free tier. This is because premium options can cap call minutes to under an hour, which looks unprofessional to external clients and could prove frustrating for 1:1 meetings or collaboration sessions between colleagues.
Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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