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Zoom vs Skype: which is best for small businesses?

Will Zoom put you on the fast track to success, or does Skype offer fewer limits? Read on for the full lowdown on these two web conferencing giants

Web conferencing has always been important for businesses. It helps keep freelancers, remote staff, and those travelling for work all on the same page. It’s convenient, great for morale, and even better for productivity. 

Then COVID-19 happened, and web conferencing became a necessity for businesses. Companies around the world have been forced to restrict their operations to a home environment, and software enabling remote communication has come into its own.

Some providers, such as Zoom, have done so from relative obscurity – in fact, Zoom's number of daily users jumped from 10 million to over 300 million in just three months. Others, such as Microsoft acquisition Skype, feel like they’ve been around since the beginning of time itself. Both are now household names.

And it’s easy to see why. Zoom and Skype each offer free video calling, come with a litany of features, and are particularly easy to use. But dig a little deeper, and key differences begin to emerge…

Zoom vs Skype. Which one is best for your small business?



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Zoom vs Skype: The basics

Established in 2003, Skype is a name synonymous with video calling. It was acquired by Microsoft in 2011, which has since merged Skype’s previously differentiated offerings for individuals and businesses into a single package, in order to focus on marketing its new conferencing software Microsoft Teams.

Zoom came along in 2011, and by 2017 had a valuation of one billion dollars. Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength, with COVID-19 restrictions contributing to Zoom’s current daily usership of over 300 million.

It’s the classic story of the wily, established veteran vs the cheeky, innovative challenger. So how do they stack up?

 Zoom logo smallSkype logo small
CostFree version available. Paid plans start at £11.99 per host, per monthFree for Skype-to-Skype calls. International calls start at £2.40 per month (to the US)
Maximum number of participants100 (free version), up to 1,000 (Enterprise plan)
50
Supported devicesAndroid, iOS, macOS, Windows 10, Linux (including Ubuntu), BlackberryWindows, Mac, various web browsers
LimitationsFree version caps call duration at 40 minutesNo breakout rooms
Customer support24/7 (reduced service for free and lower tier users due to COVID-19)Web-based, live chat
Trustpilot rating2/5 (112 reviews)1.4/5 (1,206 reviews)

Zoom vs Skype: Features


The first thing you’re going to want to know about Zoom and Skype is what they can actually do. Thankfully, both Skype and Zoom’s free plans share most of the essentials:

  • Screen sharing
  • Whiteboarding and annotation tools
  • Document and file sharing
  • Call recording
  • Instant messaging

Both companies are also innovating, having recently introduced real-time language translation, facilitating voice calls in up to ten languages simultaneously.

Pretty much the only thing to differentiate Zoom’s free plan from Skype is that Zoom offers ‘breakout rooms'. This feature allows you to split a single video meeting off into up to 50 different sessions, allowing for a more flexible, dynamic approach to remote collaboration.

Also, Zoom’s free version supports up to 100 participants per call. Though this compares favourably with Skype’s relatively paltry limit of 50, Zoom’s free plan limits group calls to just 40 minutes long. You can work around this, sure – just restart the meeting by clicking on the same link – but it’s still a hassle to do. 

Skype’s call lengths, on the other hand? Unlimited.

Though Skype’s features are in the same ballpark as what you get with Zoom’s free plan, the real gulf between these two comes down to scalability. Zoom’s ascending pricing plans unlock business class features that Skype simply can’t live up to. These include:

  • Admin feature controls and dashboard
  • Online webinar hosting
  • Personalised company branding on meeting pages
  • The option for on-premise deployment
  • Up to 1,000 participants 

We’ll get onto exactly what you’ll pay for with Zoom in the pricing section coming up. But the message is that if you want to get the best out of the software, you can expect it to cost you.

The verdict: Zoom

For a free solution, choose Skype for its lack of limitations on call time – though if you’re set on breakout rooms, select Zoom. Feature-wise (if you’re happy to open your wallet, at least), Zoom also offers the more impressive package overall, and is better placed to grow with your business.


Do you already use web conferencing software like Zoom, or Skype?


Zoom vs Skype: Pricing


Firstly, basic versions of Zoom and Skype are available absolutely, unconditionally, 100% free.

Though, as with all ‘freemium’ products, you’ll have to pay for the best features.

Let’s start with Skype. It’s free to make calls between Skype users, although you’ll have to pay to call a landline or mobile, both domestically and abroad. If you choose this route, you can either purchase Skype credit, or subscribe. 

Skype credit can be purchased in lots of £5, £10, or £25, and allows you to make calls around the world. £10 worth of Skype credit gets you around 476 minutes of calls to the US, 599 minutes to China, and over 900 to India. It’s a good pay-as-you-go option for individuals, but falls short as a comprehensive solution for businesses.

For businesses set on using Skype, subscribing offers the best value. For a monthly fee, you can make unlimited calls to the US (£2.40) and North America (£6), while £6.60 per month gets you 800 minutes of calls to India.

Zoom’s pricing is structured slightly differently. While you get its basic features included as standard with a free plan, you’ll need to upgrade to unlock more call participants, cloud storage, customer support, and all those extra features we discussed above.

The prices in the table below are what you’ll pay on a monthly basis to use Zoom’s service. Costs are billed per each ‘host’ – essentially, those in your team that will need the ability to organise and facilitate video meetings.

PlanPriceIdeal forHosts supportedCall participants included
BasicFreeIndividualsN/AUp to 100
Pro£11.99Small businessesUp to 10100
Business£15.99Medium-sized businesses10 to 99300
Enterprise£15.99Large businesses100+500 (1,000 with Enterprise Plus)

Zoom also offers the following add-ons:

  • 500 additional participants (£51.99 to £55.99 per month, per host, dependent on plan)
  • 1,000 additional participants (£83.99 to £87.99 per month, per host, dependent on plan)
  • Extra cloud storage (from £32 per month)
  • More audio-join options, such as toll-free dialling (from £100 per month)
  • An H.323/SIP connector plan (from £39 per month)

Sure, Zoom’s pricing plans do mean the fees quickly tally up – particularly when compared to Skype’s generous free model and meagre subscription costs. But, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.

To find out more about what that might be, head to our guide to the costs of web conferencing, where we explain all. Alternatively, you can compare quotes another way…

Simply let us know what your requirements. Which features will you require? How many people will be using the system? Where is your business based? This info allows us to match you only with the conference call solution suppliers that are the right fit for your business.

They’ll then be in touch with quotes tailored to your business. It takes 30 seconds, and it’s free for UK-based businesses.

The verdict: Zoom 

If you have the budget for it, Zoom’s range of excellent add-ons make it worth the investment. However, Skype is the better choice here for small businesses and startups – particularly those that make a lot of calls abroad.


Zoom vs Skype: Setup

Like all the best video conferencing software, both Zoom and Skype are cloud-based. You can make calls anytime from your computer or smart device, from anywhere with an internet connection. 

There’s no need to install any software, and you won’t require an account – calling with Zoom and Skype can be as simple as downloading an app once, or joining a meeting with a shared code or link. There’s nothing to separate these two here…

…or at least there wasn’t, until a few months ago, when Skype raised the stakes with its new feature ‘Meet Now’ (pictured). Launched in December 2019, it allows individuals to create and join video calls from their device or computer, without having to set up an account first.

Skype Meet Now

And you won’t have to worry about whether Zoom and Skype will work with your business’ current tech setup, either. Both support a range of operating systems across Mac and PC, including Windows, iOS, and Linux… and even Blackberry!

Better still, Skype now also works with Alexa, allowing your business to make calls with Amazon devices. Zoom, meanwhile – not to be outdone – boasts excellent interoperability with video conferencing equipment, such as the Logitech Tap.

The verdict: Skype

Both web conferencing software providers are very easy to set up. There isn’t much between them here, though Skype just edges Zoom for upping the ante with ‘Meet Now’.


Zoom vs Skype: Privacy

It’s 2020, and data concerns are perpetually on the lips of the public. So how do Zoom and Skype address them?

Well, both have had infamous slip-ups when it comes to security. Skype came under scrutiny in 2013, after its parent company Microsoft was snapped giving away encrypted messages to the NSA (National Security Agency), a US intelligence agency.

On a smaller scale, the last few months have seen Zoom’s own failings brutally exploited by ‘zoombombers’ – a new species of internet troll that have gained notoriety for joining public chats to undress, or broadcast violent or pornographic images. Zoom has also had over 500,000 accounts stolen and sold online.

“We now have a much broader set of users, who are utilising our product in a myriad of unexpected ways,” Yuan said, “presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived.”

  • Eric Yuan, Zoom founder and CEO

That said, both companies apparently remain committed to doing better. Zoom has added new features that enable meeting hosts to approve entrants before they join a call, and add extra password protocols.

Plus, all messages sent through Zoom or Skype are secured with AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256 bits end-to-end encryption, the current industry standard.

The verdict: Draw

There’s little to choose between these two here. Each company has fluffed its lines at some point (in a big way), but both are up to scratch when it comes to encrypting messages.


Zoom vs Skype: Customer support

If you encounter a bug or glitch that hinders your ability to facilitate video meetings, you’ll want it sorted straight away. So how do Zoom and Skype measure up here?

Well, Zoom promises 24/7 support to all its users, with one caveat – not right now. For the months of May and June (while Zoom is inundated with an unprecedented number of requests) Zoom is offering web-based support only to customers on paid plans. 

Phone-based and chat support is currently only available to those on a Business or Enterprise plan, while free users will have to make do with an augmented array of online support resources only. Not bad, considering the circumstances!

Skype’s level of customer service, however, falls sadly short. There’s no dedicated number for phone support – your best bet is to try Microsoft’s live chat feature, and request a call through that. 

That said, Skype’s catalogue of online resources is admirable – just be prepared to wade through a lot of FAQs and prompts to get to what you’re looking for.

The verdict: Zoom

Zoom’s provision of phone and web-based customer support is a small business’ dream, while Skype needs to do more.


Do you already use web conferencing software like Zoom, or Skype?


Zoom vs Skype: Quality

When you’re giving that all-important remote meeting to stakeholders or potential investors, it’s not just about your pitch – the video quality needs to be perfect, too. 

Annoyingly, both Zoom and Skype are notorious when it comes to poor call quality compromising business or personal calls. But is there a lesser of two evils?

Not particularly. Both offer 1080p video quality, though Zoom doesn’t do this by default – you’ll have to manually turn this on, or put up with 720p resolution. 

Perhaps the biggest differentiator here is your own internet connection, which will need to be up to the task of meeting each provider’s minimum recommended network speeds. For Skype, that’s 1.2Mbps, while Zoom demands a pace of at least 3Mbps for peak performance.

The verdict: Draw

Though you won’t get the same level of call quality as with other providers – such as Cisco Webex or RingCentral – Zoom and Skype should tick most of the boxes when it comes to call quality. You’ll just need to make sure that your business’ internet connection is up to scratch!


Zoom vs Skype: Interface

Last but not least, how pleasant is it to actually host a meeting with Zoom? Is Skype as easy on the eye (and for the user) as it is on the wallet? Let’s take a look.

Skype

With a sharp, intuitive design and an engaging, eye-catching display, Skype is the more user-friendly of the two. Its expansive, ambitious interface allows your team to communicate visually, while simultaneously sharing photos and files via an instant messaging feature.

Skype
Blending style with substance, Skype also enables you to add files from OneDrive or your computer, share songs from Spotify, and create polls – helping to inject a little life into even the dullest of meetings.

Zoom

Zoom’s interface may not have the same level of polish as Skype’s, but what it lacks in frills, it makes up for in sheer, unfettered functionality. Its clean lines and subtle black toolbar fade are unobtrusive, and allow you and your team to focus on the task at hand – doing business!

ZoomZoom’s gallery view also supports up to 49 individual frames, letting you see almost 50 participants from a single screen. This makes it easy to encourage engagement and keep morale up, even during big meetings.

The verdict: Skype

You won’t have any trouble getting to grips with or utilising either Zoom or Skype. They’re both a dream to use… though if we had to choose, it’d be Skype. Its interface is colourful, vibrant, and refreshingly simple to navigate.


Final verdict

Zoom vs Skype – who comes out on top?

Sure, Skype is intuitive and highly usable. It more than rivals Zoom for features, and offers unlimited call lengths. Yet Skype is let down by frustrating customer support, a 50 participant limit, and a glaring lack of scalability.

Zoom, on the other hand, is scalable. It builds a towering range of features upon the foundations of a solid free plan, with stellar service to boot. Zoom has also proven its ability to adapt to data security holes and survive – though it’s still stymied by high prices and a convoluted corpus of add-on fees.

Ultimately, which provider you choose should reflect where your business is at right now. Do you have a small team with more modest telecommunications demands? Pick Skype. Do you require a scalable solution? Pick Zoom – but be prepared for your financial demands to scale accordingly.

Do you agree with our analysis? Have you been using Zoom zealously, or succeeding with Skype? Get in touch via robert.binns@startups.co.uk, or Tweet @rodbinns to share your experiences.


How to choose the right web conferencing software

As COVID-19 has demonstrated, there’s no silver bullet for the difficulties that transitioning into a remote working environment brings about. Still… finding the right web conferencing software is about as close as you’re going to get.

So, whether it’s Skype, Zoom, or a completely different workplace communication tool provider, let us help pair you with the best options for your business. Simply furnish us with some details about your business, and the type of software you’re looking for. 

It takes about 30 seconds to do, and it’s free (you’ll just need to be based in the UK to be eligible). When you’re done, you’ll receive quotes from leading professional conferencing software providers, who’ll provide you with tailored quotes to help your business grow.

Rob Binns
Rob Binns

Senior Writer

Rob has been writing for Startups since the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Hailing from Wellington, New Zealand, Rob brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of payments, finance, cryptocurrency, and business loans.

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