Over the past several months, Zoom, a video communication platform, has seen tremendous growth. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic spanning the entire globe, people and businesses have been flocking to online tools that help us stay connected. Whether you’re looking for better tools to work remotely and communicate with your team, or simply stay connected with friends and family during self-isolation, our guide aims to help you get started with Zoom!

While Zoom offers a wide range of products including virtual meeting rooms, webinars, and various enterprise solutions, we’ll be focusing on the basic features to get you started such as:

Creating a Zoom Account

One of the great benefits of Zoom is how user-friendly it is to get started. If you’re looking to host a meeting, simply head over to https://zoom.us and click the big, blue, “Sign up, it’s free” button. You’ll be directed to a standard account creation page where you can enter your email or sign up with your existing Google or Facebook account.

Once you’ve verified your account, you’ll have access to your Zoom dashboard. From here you can schedule meetings, check out various training resources, or upgrade your account as your needs change.

Zoom dashboard
Zoom Dashboard

How to Set up a Zoom Meeting

Zoom allows for a variety of ways to set up a meeting such as scheduling in advance or starting a meeting on the fly. While there are plugins available for applications such as Outlook or Chrome, we’re just going to focus on launching meetings from your browser or the desktop client. It’s also worth mentioning that Zoom is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android!

Meetings via Your Browser

Once you’ve logged into your account, you’ll see several options in the upper-right corner allowing you to schedule, join, or host a meeting.

Clicking “Schedule a meeting” will take you to a web form where you can specify your topic, a description, when the meeting is and even the duration. It’s worth mentioning here that the basic version of Zoom hs a 40-minute time limit on meetings with over 3 users.

Schedule a meeting from your browser via the Zoom website.
Scheduling a Zoom meeting via your browser

There’s a number of additional options you can select for your meeting such as requiring users to enter a password before gaining access, muting participants when they join, and even recording the meeting automatically to your computer.

When everything is set how you’d like, simply click save and you’re done. From here you’re given a number of options such as saving the meeting as a template for future meetings, adding to your calendar of choice, or starting the meeting.

Launching Your Meeting

If you’re ready to launch your scheduled meeting, you can simply click “Start this Meeting”. But wait! What if you don’t want to schedule a meeting in advance and you just want to spontaneously hop on a call with your friends? Simply click on “Host a Meeting” and select with or without video. The steps below will be the same whether you’re hosting on the fly or scheduling a meeting in advance.

From here your browser will pop up a system dialogue box asking if you want to open the Zoom application. If for some reason you’re unable to download and install the application, you can simply click “Cancel”. If you then click the “click here” link on the launching page, it will re-launch the system dialogue but it will also show some additional text allowing you to start the meeting directly from your browser.

Launching Zoom from your browser
Launching Zoom from your browser

Your meeting should now launch directly in your browser! From here you’ll have access to all the standard meeting controls including sharing your screen, inviting participants, chatting with others and more. Be sure to allow Zoom to use your mic and, if you’re using one, your webcam.

Running a zoom meeting from directly within your browser
Zoom application running directly in a Chrome browser

Meetings via the Desktop Client

Meetings set up through the desktop client follow similar steps as via the browser but with a clean, intuitive interface. When you launch the application you are able to either join an existing meeting or sign in to your account. It’s worth noting here that you can join an existing meeting without signing into a Zoom account. All you need is the meeting ID and a display name.

Launching the Zoom desktop client
Launching the Zoom desktop client

Once you’ve signed into the application, you’ll have access to a range of options. These include viewing your meeting history, your contacts, chat, and various options for launching, joining or scheduling a meeting. You’ll also see any of your upcoming scheduled meetings on the right-hand side.

Clicking the orange “New Meeting” button will immediately launch a new Zoom room. Click the down arrow first to specify whether or not you start with video or use your personal meeting ID.

Zoom application dashboard
Zoom application dashboard

If you want to schedule a meeting in advance, you simply click “Schedule” and fill in the relevant details. Meetings can be set up as recurring or one-offs, and you can specify some nice quality-of-life options such as muting the participants on entry or enabling a virtual waiting room. Once the meeting is scheduled, you can start it directly from the app dashboard by clicking “Start”.

Scheduling a Zoom meeting via the desktop application
Scheduling a Zoom meeting via the desktop application

Now you’re all set to launch your meeting! When you’re inside your meeting room you’ll see a range of options. You can adjust your audio and video settings, specify which devices to use, manage your participants, share your screen, and more.

Zoom meeting in action
Zoom meeting in action

How Much Does Zoom Cost?

Zoom offers a number of flexible pricing options ranging from a free basic account for personal meetings, to a comprehensive enterprise plan for companies with over 100 users (hosts). For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be looking at the Basic and Pro subscriptions.

Zoom Basic

  • Great for friends, family, and individuals
  • Free
  • Hosts up to 100 participants
  • Unlimited 1-on-1 meetings
  • 40 minute limit on group meetings

Zoom Pro

  • Great for small teams or power users
  • $14.99 USD per month (per host)
  • Includes all the features from Zoom Basic, plus:
  • Meeting duration limit of 24-hours
  • Advanced admin feature controls
  • User management
  • Reporting
  • 1GB of MP4 or M4A recording to the cloud

Zoom also offers versatility with plan add-ons and the ability to quickly upgrade or downgrade your account when needed.

Zoom vulnerabilities

A sudden explosion of popularity comes with its own host of problems. It’s not surprising to learn hackers and trolls have started to pay more attention to the platform as well. The Guardian recently published an article highlighting a number of concerns and even touting “Zoom is malware”.

Problems include things like privacy concerns due to an attention-tracking feature (already permanently removed by Zoom) or trolls raiding meetings, now known as “Zoombombing“. Despite all issues and criticisms, Zoom has actually been doing a decent job of pushing security updates and remaining transparent. On April 2nd, Zoom tweeted out a blog post highlighting what they’ve done to address theses issues.

There are a number of things end-users can do to protect themselves. Setting meeting passwords and not sharing personal meeting IDs on public spaces are a great start. You can even lock the meeting room once everyone is on (Security button > “Lock Meeting”).

Is Zoom Right for You?

Ultimately, Zoom provides an easy-to-use, intuitive, cheap or free platform that allows users a way to virtually hang out. With a wide range of available options, add-ons, and features, the platform has allowed millions of people around the globe to find new ways to adapt to our “new normal” and stay connected while staying home.

With their continued focus on security improvements and addressing privacy concerns, I think it’s safe to say Zoom will continue to be a major player in the video-conferencing space for a long time to come.