Video conferencing technology is an essential component of a comprehensive business communication and collaboration environment and strategy. The benefits are many: reduced travel, increased collaboration, and more engaged employees, to name a few.

Have you selected an enterprise platform for your business? Zoom and Cisco WebEx have risen to the top of the market as popular selections. CUCIT has implemented both systems in our experience as video conferencing system integrators. Both systems have their own distinctive benefits and features. The right choice for you will depend on your existing infrastructure and key use cases.

Video Conferencing Today: In the Era of COVID-19

In the current remote workforce climate, video conferencing technology is mission critical. During the week of March 14-21, 2020, enterprise-focused mobile app downloads reached 62 million – the highest number ever seen. Businesses must respond to this demand by providing clear platform direction and instructions to end users. If they do not, users are likely to seek out solutions on their own, leading to potential data leakage and security risks.

At-A-Glance: Comparing Key Platform Features

Cisco WebEx and Zoom are both video conferencing platforms that offer various types of video conferencing solutions:

  • One-on-one to large scale meetings and events
  • Webinars and training use cases
  • Cloud-based calling
  • Online collaboration

However, each vendor brings a unique background to their enterprise video platform.

Cisco WebEx: A Purpose-Built, Enterprise Collaboration Solution

Cisco WebEx is Cisco’s video and team collaboration software platform. Cisco positions WebEx as a full unified communications solution for the enterprise: they can provide chat, video, and phone capabilities, as well as in-room hardware. WebEx was created in 1995 and acquired by Cisco in 2007.

If your organization already relies on Cisco for IT infrastructure, considering their video conferencing platform is a natural choice. WebEx is a very popular platform choice among large enterprises already invested in Cisco infrastructure.

Zoom: A Cloud-First, User-Friendly Video Platform

Zoom began in 2011, founded by an ex-Cisco engineer. Zoom was built to be a cloud-native, mobile-friendly video conferencing platform. Today, Zoom offers video conferencing collaboration and webinar software, leaning on third-party partners to provide infrastructure endpoints.

The Zoom platform is often lauded for being very easy to use. It has historically been the more popular platform with small business. However, this is changing as the platform matures, and many mid to large enterprises use Zoom today as their primary conferencing platform.

Features Comparison Chart

This comparison chart provides a detailed, feature and specifications-oriented comparison of the WebEx and Zoom platforms. We have extended our comparison beyond video conferencing and into other aspects each manufacturer offers, such as calling and digital signage. Consider your comprehensive roadmap and future integration needs as you review the data.

 CISCO WEBEXZOOM
Platform Structure

Four platform modules for different use cases: Meeting Center, Event Center, Training Center, & Support Center.

Supports up to 1,000 attendees, with support for Events of up to 3,000 at additional cost.

Two platform modules: Zoom Meetings & Webinars. Zoom Meetings includes breakout room functionality, like WebEx Training Center.

Scales up to 1,000 for meetings & 10,000 for webinars (see pricing tiers).

Unique Features

On-premises bridging of Video traffic via Video Mesh solution.

Advanced features for webinar administration including attendance and attention indicator tool.

People Insights feature, allowing in-depth attendee profiles.

On-premises bridging of all Zoom traffic via Zoom meeting connector. (Zoom performs better overall in low bandwidth situations.)

Virtual background feature and ability for simultaneous screen share from multiple attendees.

Breakout Rooms, enabling single meeting to split into breakout groups.

SecurityAll meetings require passwords by default; overall very security-focused, due to history as a corporate business platform.Recent updates to security features make platform comparable to WebEx.
Calling and Contact CenterWebEx Calling provides call subscriptions for telephony users and rooms, a mature platform that is integrated into their WebEx Teams client.Zoom phone capability is newer part of their platform, current features are limited; no contact center play.
MessagingNative WebEx Teams is a feature-rich messaging platform.Native Zoom Chat: not as robust as WebEx Teams, but can augment with Zoom’s Slack integration.
RecordingCurrently allows for unlimited overage.Allowed 1G per user default (Pro and above), can pay for additional.
Managed Video EndpointsCisco WebEx EndPoint Platform provides an in-room, appliance-based solution for various room types.Zoom partners with third parties to build Zoom-approved room endpoint solutions.
Digital SignageWebEx does not have digital signage and room scheduler capabilities, but Cisco can provide a full-scale solution outside of WebEx to integrate.Zoom Rooms include basic digital signage and room scheduler capabilities, included in subscriptions with at least one Zoom Room.
Notable IntegrationsCalendar integration, single sign-on, Active Directory sync; ability to live-stream to YouTube, Facebook Live, and custom services.Calendar integration, single sign-on, Active Directory sync; ability to live-stream to YouTube, Facebook Live, and custom services.
SupportOffer multiple tiers of support with various SLAs, pending your needs and level.Business plans include dedicated phone support; add-on support available at a per month fee, priced per endpoint.
   

Is WebEx or Zoom Best for Your Business? Consider Five Key Areas?

The right video conferencing platform for your business will depend on your current environment and system expectations. Here are five key areas that IT administrators and leaders should consider before purchase:

  1. Environment
  2. Security
  3. Call quality and user experience
  4. Room-based video conferencing
  5. Pricing

Environment: On-Premises, Cloud, or Hybrid

WebEx: Maximum Platform Flexibility

WebEx can be purchased and implemented as an on-premises, cloud, or hybrid platform. This allows you ultimate flexibility for how you wish to slot the system into your infrastructure. For ongoing management, WebEx provides an online portal that enables visibility to the entire system, including conference rooms and physical Cisco endpoints that you have connected to the platform. Historically, Cisco’s visibility into specific call quality has been limited. However, they have recently made strides in this area and increased administrator analytics.

Zoom: A Cloud-Based Solution

Zoom is a cloud-based solution only. Similarly, to WebEx, Zoom provides an online management portal for viewing system details and quality statistics at an individual call level. This granular level of detail has historically been a strength for them. When it comes to room endpoint integration, the online portal visibility may be limited depending on the room endpoints you are using. Unlike Cisco, Zoom does not manufacture their own endpoint devices. They rely on third party hardware, which can be managed from your Zoom portal depending on compatibility.

Security: Is Zoom or WebEx More Secure?

WebEx: Designed With the Enterprise in Mind

WebEx was designed with the enterprise business in mind. The platform was built with security as a top concern, and that is evident in many of their long-standing features:

  • Password-protected meetings
  • Ability to remove participants
  • End-to-end encryption using TSL protocol

When you deploy WebEx, the platform is automatically configured to the most secure settings and preferences possible. They are hyper-focused on user privacy and have committed to never sharing user data or intelligence. All in all, security is a big strength for the WebEx platform, and a critical selling point for security-minded IT leaders.

Zoom: A Good Choice With Proper Training

After an influx of Zoom bombing incidents in early 2020, Zoom has achieved a reputation of being less secure than its competitors — including WebEx. In response, Zoom has gradually implemented several security features to meet enterprise needs; simply put, they’re working on their security posture and policies. In our field experience, most actual Zoom security issues stem from two problems:

  • Lack of site updates: Zoom has gradually improved the security features in its platform, and if IT administrators are not updating their Zoom platforms with these new features, they will not get the benefits. Many security issues today occur because administrators are not taking advantage of newly added security configurations. (And in our opinion, Zoom should make this functionality mandatory, not optional.)

Update 5/7/2020: Zoom has released a forced upgrade to Zoom 5.0+ for all systems to enable GCM Encryption across the entire Zoom platform. After May 30, 2020, all Zoom applications running on versions older than 5.0 will be forced to upgrade when trying to join a meeting.

  • User training gaps: Many of Zoom’s security problems stem from user error: lack of password setting, excessive link sharing, etc. With adequate user training, Zoom can be the right choice for many businesses.

It is important to note that in addition to these challenges, Zoom has been in the news for their data security and sharing practices. There are concerning reports of them selling user data to advertisers for profit. We are keeping an eye on how they improve their policies and security moving forward.

Call Quality and User Experience

WebEx: True Enterpise Collaboration

For a true “enterprise collaboration” experience, Cisco does have a more robust set of features:

  • Advanced webinar administration tools like polling, attendance, and an attention indicator tool
  • Wider range of controls for meeting hosts, including file transfers and the ability to remove attendees

Compared to Zoom, users sometimes complain that the WebEx interface is not as intuitive. Features can be difficult to locate, and users will require dedicated training upon system launch. That said, WebEx has recently completed a redesign of their interface that has significantly improved the intuitive user experience.

In addition to these features, WebEx Calling is a mature voice platform and is a viable solution for enterprise voice communications in your organizations, with a full unified architecture platform. If you are looking to replace your voice system with a single collaboration and calling architecture, WebEx is a good choice.

Zoom: Immediately Intuitive

For most users, Zoom’s interface is more immediately intuitive compared to WebEx. Users who are not accustomed to video conferencing technology find Zoom to be easier to use from the outset. They may not have some of the enterprise features that you find in WebEx, but less features equate to an easier learning curve for many. If immediate ease-of-use is critical to you, Zoom may be a great option.

Zoom does have a calling platform: Zoom Phone. However, CUCIT does not recommend it as a replacement for your voice system just yet — it is not mature enough.

Room-Based Video Conferencing

WebEx: A One-Stop Shop

If you are heavily focused on in-room video conferencing, Cisco is a one-stop shop. The WebEx software and Cisco in-room endpoints were purpose-built to work together. They manufacture endpoint options from single desk units to large-scale wall installations. Having a single vendor for all your video conferencing and collaboration needs may be convenient for businesses who require more than a remote, cloud-based experience.

Zoom: Many Options, But Greater Complexity

Zoom does not manufacture their own in-room video endpoints, but they do contract with third-party providers (such as Logitech) to enable in-room conferencing solutions. You can even use Cisco hardware with Zoom. On the one hand, due to the variety of integration possibilities you will have many endpoint options to choose from; on the other hand, this multi-vendor approach can result in ongoing support complexity. You will have multiple vendor contact points for issues and creating a standardized environment may be difficult.

There are also notable cost considerations for Zoom in-room conferencing. If you work with businesses or partners that will call into your Zoom meetings from their video endpoints, Zoom will charge $49/month per port. This can become cost prohibitive. (Alternatively, Cisco will connect to 250 end points per meeting in their base subscription cost.)

Pricing

Zoom and WebEx provide very similar off-the-shelf packages for personal to large business plans. At the enterprise level (typically 200+ users), however, options become complex for both.

Your business relationship with the manufacturer and desired add-on features can create a plan that is customized entirely to your organization and user needs. These variables include:

  • Per-user pricing differences based on specific user access needs
  • Discounts available from Zoom and WebEx, pending your current spend with them on other products and your relationship with an authorized reseller or partner
  • Your desire to include specific platform features like phone service (in addition to standard meeting audio), in-room endpoints, and special features like “Call Me”

Pricing Comparison Chart

 CISCO WEBEXZOOM
Personal / Basic PlanNo Cost. Host up to 100 participants.No Cost. Host up to 100 participants.
Small Business Plan$13.50/month/host. Host up to 100 participants.$14.99/month/host. Host up to 100 participants.
Medium Business Plan$17.95/month/host. Host up to 100 participants.$19.99/month/host (10 host minimum. Host up to 300 participants.
Large Business Plan$26.95/month/host (5 host minimum). Host up to 200 participants.

$19.99/month/host (100 host minimum). Host up to 500 participants.

Must contact Zoom sales to purchase. Various features/add-ons available.

Enterprise Licensing / PlansFor enterprise clients, Cisco offers more plan options with customized packages based on your Named Users, Active Users, and Employee Count. Pending your relationship and discount level with a Cisco authorized reseller, per user costs may be cheaper than above list prices.Similar to Cisco, Zoom will create custom enterprise packages dependent on user makeup and client needs. Contact a Zoom reseller or referral partner for options.
Meeting Audio PlansToll call-in included with plans; call-me feature is additional cost, as are international plans.Toll-free call in and call-me are additional cost, starting at $100/month.
Phone ServiceCisco offers various phone options and pricing levels, comparable to Zoom pricing. Contact your partner for a quote.Starts at $10/month/user. You must already have at least one paid licensed host.
Managed Video Endpoints$29/month fee per room integration$49/month fee per room integration
External Video EndpointsSupports up to 250 external endpoints, included in subscription.Charges $49/month per port for all external endpoints connecting to meetings.

Making the Best Video Conferencing Decision

No video conferencing platform is going to be the perfect fit for every organization. WebEx and Zoom each have their strengths and weaknesses but are comparable platforms overall. This healthy competition places you in a strong position as the business consumer. Your decision should weigh the areas that matter most to you:

  • On-premises, cloud, or hybrid platform preferences
  • Security policies and roadmap
  • User experience, features, and adoption
  • In-room conferencing expectations

Our opinion on these tools is based on implementation experience. CUCIT partners with both Cisco WebEx and Zoom. We believe that depending on the business infrastructure and end users, each can be a great choice for business video conferencing. Reach out to us if you are curious about trialing either platform, or to bend our ear about your environment and what might be the best fit.

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