Coronavirus is a pain in the arse—to put it mildly. We’ve seen big cancellations of large group events and conferences, and your employer might be encouraging you to work from home until everything blows over. To help ease this process, Google and Microsoft are stepping up to offer free conferencing tools for a limited time. While it’s a little bit of altruism mixed with a pinch of good PR, free software is free software.
On Google’s side, the company recently announced that it’ll be offering free access to premium features in Hangouts Meet for anyone who uses G Suite or G Suite for Education. Specifically, you’ll get three temporary upgrades:
Larger meetings, for up to 250 participants per call
Live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain
The ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive
Your company would normally have to be an Enterprise-level G Suite user to have this many people in a meeting, which would set you (or your company) back about $40 per user—each month. If you’re an admin for your organisation’s G Suite service, you’ll want to make sure you’ve enabled each of these feature upgrades starting today, if they’ve rolled out to you, as they’re normally disabled by default. You’ll have until July 1 to use them for free, when I presume your meeting limits will revert back to what they once were (rather than Google suddenly spiking your bill).
On the Microsoft side, the company is offering a six-month trial for the premium version of Microsoft Teams, which is less interesting than its other quick switch. Starting March 10, Microsoft will allow as many users as possible to join a Team (using its free version), and everyone on the free version of Teams will be allowed to schedule video calls and conferences.
Don’t expect to see similar generosity from services like, say, Slack. While the company is more than happy to give you some webinars related to remote working, it’s undoubtedly basking in all the new attention now that the coronavirus is forcing many companies to strongly suggest its users work from home for a little while. I