Novel Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire, with over 93,000 cases reported worldwide and global death toll surpassing the mark of 3,200. Facebook, Twitter, and many other tech companies have started encouraging their employees to work from home to avoid further spread of the deadly virus, which can cause the disease called COVID-19, which is believed to be originated from Wuhan in China and has reached various parts of the US, Europe, India, South Korea, and many other countries. To support the culture of work from home and to help businesses and schools reduce the impact of coronavirus by avoiding physical meetings, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco are offering their enterprise-focussed communication tools for free.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Tuesday announced that it would roll out free access to the Hangouts Meet video conferencing capabilities to all G Suite customers globally. The rollout will begin starting this week, and free access will be available until July 1.
We want to help businesses and schools impacted by COVID-19 stay connected: starting this week, we'll roll out free access to our advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities through July 1, 2020 to all G Suite customers globally. https://t.co/OWWF7s5jjR— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) March 3, 2020
Detailing the update, a blog post posted on the Google Cloud portal highlighted that the Google Hangouts Meet capabilities that will be available for free access will include the option to make large virtual meetings with up to 250 participants per call, live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain, and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.
All these features are typically available in the Enterprise edition of G Suite and in G Suite Enterprise for Education. However, Google is making them available for all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers to help them connect virtually and reduce their travel plans in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We're committed to supporting our users and customers during this challenging time, and are continuing to scale our infrastructure to support greater Hangouts Meet demand, ensuring streamlined, reliable access to the service throughout this period,” noted Javier Soltero, General Manager and Vice President, G Suite, in the blog post.
Similar to Google, Microsoft is also making its collaboration platform Teams available to all for free for six months to help people connect with their companies, schools, and colleges using the Internet. Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President for Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations, on Wednesday tweeted to announce the free availability of Teams.
The free version of Microsoft Teams includes unlimited chat and search, group and one-on-one audio and video calling, and 10GB of team file storage along with 2GB of personal file storage per person. Users also get real-time collaboration with Office apps for Web, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Cisco has also taken a similar step and announced free access to its video conferencing tool Webex for all countries where it is available. The new move is the expansion from the recent free availability of the Cisco Webex platform that was limited to the countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“With the recent uptick in Italy and additional countries, Cisco continues to actively monitor global traffic trends and usage worldwide, and have a proactive plan to support our customers with their changing needs,” said Sri Srinivasan, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Team Collaboration Group, Cisco, in a blog post. “It's our priority to enable people to work from anywhere (including home), anytime, and on any device so they stay connected with their teams and can continue their business operations.”
Cisco is offering unlimited usage with no time restrictions, support for up to 100 participants, and tool dial-in through free access of its Webex platform. The company is also providing free 90-day licenses to businesses who aren't Webex customers to encourage people to work from home and avoid physical meetings. Additionally, the Cisco team is expanding its worldwide meeting capacity, scaling up further in the US and Europe, and working with various non-governmental organisations to enable schools and other bodies to stay connected online.
Free access provided by Cisco, Google, and Microsoft would help the masses to start working from home in this hard time. At the same time, it would convince organisations to adopt the culture of enabling employees and students to work from home in case of an epidemic like coronavirus.