Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Video Conferencing Software

Online meetings

Download the Software | Etiquette | Configuring Hardware
Security & Privacy Considerations | Webex | Zoom

A virtual screen capture of a “virtually” meeting showing two people chatting.

Online Meetings Far More Common

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a radical change in how Canadians were working and socializing.

When businesses, non-profit organizations and churches were forced to close, they began to meet online using video conferencing software.

While streaming services like Facebook and YouTube worked to get information out, people missed interacting with others. Zoom filled that void.

Almost overnight, Zoom, which was founded back in 2011, became a household name.


Indeed, it became such a phenomenon that it became part of everyday language: People would "Zoom" their colleagues; we'd talk about Zooming, "Zoom meetings" and "Zoom calls".


In sum, Zoom became synonymous with online video communications in a short space of time, and in 2020 almost every type of organization has needed its services.
Check Point blog

Working from Home

Working from home has both freed us from the office commute and disrupted our personal lives.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 80 percent of Canadian employees were working primarily at external workplaces. This decreased to 27 percent during the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, only six percent of employees were working remotely for most of the time before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Twenty percent of the Canadian workforce working remotely is an astounding increase from pre-pandemic numbers, as, in 2016, only four percent of Canadian employees worked from home.


However, the latest numbers are still significantly lower when compared to the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, an estimated 40 percent of Canadian employees worked from home.
Made in CA

While there is pressure for employees to move back to the office, many don't miss the commute. Others are still concerned for their health.

Keep Your Space Professional

When working from home, don't forget that your home office becomes a professional space. Your company may have specific policies or you may to develop one for your home if there are too many interruptions.

Here are some recommendations for securing your home workspace:

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Video Conferencing Software

While there are other options, I've focused on Webex and Zoom.

While Zoom is better known, security and privacy issues make Webex a better option unless you have the resources to secure the network behind it.

Download the dedicated meeting client from the vendor for a better experience.

Business Solutions

If you're going to be working with colleagues on a regular basis I strongly recommend you choose a paid plan that takes security and privacy seriously.

Free plans allow 100 participants for 40 minutes.

Personal & Family Solutions

Those connecting to family and friends may find these options more suitable:

Be aware of software limitations including which devices are supported.


Reviews can help you choose the right solution for business or social.

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Business Meeting Etiquette

If you're using the meeting software for business, don't forget that you're in a business environment and act accordingly.

Identify Yourself

Take care to ensure your ID is clear to the meeting host and participants. Showing up as an anonymous “User” could leave you stranded in the “waiting room.”

This is especially important when everyone doesn't know each other or when a guest may not know the role for each person.

Create an account with the software vendor. In most cases this is free and provides you wish a credible ID (especially if you use your work-related email address for meetings with colleagues).

Be Considerate

Make the best use of your online time together.

Be Professional

Because you're at home, don't forget that you're in a business meeting.

Remember, it is harder for a speaker to judge whether they are reaching their audience if video is turned off. This is important in online meetings; doubly so when it is an online class.

Avoid Distractions

You'll want to control your surroundings as best you can.

Audio and Video Settings

Configure your hardware before the meeting to ensure everything is working so you can both hear and be heard.

Meetings Can Be Recorded

Be aware that meetings can be recorded and that transcripts of the meeting and your chats can be made available to your boss.

I recommend storing the recordings locally on a hard drive rather than online for security.

When Mute is Not Really Muted

Engaging your conferencing software's mute button may still broadcast it to the software's servers.

A new study shows that pressing the mute button on popular video conferencing apps (VCA) may not actually work like you think it should, with apps still listening in on your microphone.


More specifically, in the studied software, pressing mute does not prevent audio from being transmitted to the apps' servers, either continually or periodically.


They found that no matter the mute status, all apps occasionally collected audio data, except for web clients that used the browser's software mute feature.

You can physically unplug an external microphone or use your computer's audio settings to mute your microphone rather than depending upon the meeting software's mute button. (Cisco Webex has since fixed this issue.)

Consumer Reports questioned Google, Microsoft and Cisco about the data collection outlined in their privacy policies and sent recommendations on how the firms can improve.


No company refuted the findings, but Cisco said “privacy is a basic human right, and we never rent or sell our customers' information.”

Improve Your Meetings

These articles offer advice that can help your meetings succeed:

Learn from others' mistakes.

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Configuring Your Hardware

I strongly recommend testing to ensure that sound and video are working correctly before each meeting.

Familiarize yourself with the features on the app you'll be using including how to adjust sound and video. This will allow you to optimize your experience and deal with any issues quickly and without disrupting the meeting more than necessary.

Join the Test Meeting

Most vendors provide test meetings while using their app:

Prepare Your Environment

There can be a lot of competition for your WiFi bandwidth, especially if you're working from home while others are present.

Prepare your environment and take precautions to avoid being disturbed before your meeting, especially if you've experienced issues in previous meetings.

If you're having difficulties, try these troubleshooting tips, beginning with restarting your computer or device.

Headset Strongly Recommended

Having a headset or earphones with a microphone greatly decreases the chance that either feedback or background noise will interfere with your meetings.

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Security & Privacy Considerations

Both hosts and attendees have a responsibility to ensure they tighten security and privacy settings.

Are video conference platforms safe to use for your organization?


The basic answer to the question is “yes”, however, there are several caveats centered around security.
Check Point blog 2020

Keep Your Software Updated

Always download and install the latest version of meeting software. Updated software provides new features, is more secure and can fix issues.

Check for updates regularly (most can be checked from within the app).

Some software will install automatically within the app but if you have to download an update from the vendor's website, that downloaded file needs to be installed.

Downloading but not installing updates is like buying new batteries for a dead flashlight then leaving the new batteries in the drawer.

Keep Your System Updated

Ensure that all the software on your device is currently supported by the vendor. This includes the operating system, whether it is Windows, macOS, iOS or Android.

When your device no longer runs a supported operating system, replace the device.

Running unsupported software or hardware puts your data and your privacy in danger.

Security Software

You should be running effective and currently-supported security software on your device. While there are free versions, you have to consider how the developer is paying to develop and market that free software:

Ransomware will lock your data and you'll have to deal with criminals to get it back. Recovery is unlikely unless you have current backups unaffected by the ransomware.


A VPN can enhance privacy and security but can limit the bandwidth available for a meeting.

Test your network speed prior to the meeting.

Meeting Privacy

You can improve your privacy by paying attention to the privacy settings in the conferencing software as well as on your device.


Online meetings can be recorded and transcripts of the meeting (including chat) can be made available to others. Consider whether recording the meeting is necessary.

Meeting Hosts

You want to set up your meeting in the most secure manner and ensure that only those you invite are entering the room:

Encourage meeting participants to enhance security:

Sharing links in the meeting can open security flaws in meeting software and reveal network credentials.

Managing "Open" Parties

Some folks want to have events that where others can invite participants.

Be cautions when setting up public events to avoid security problems during your event and in the future.

There have been a disturbing number of “Zoom bombings” where uninvited people come into a meeting with malicious intent including exposing young children to pornography and inappropriate content.

Meeting Invitees

When receiving an invite, be aware that meeting apps are often targeted by spammers.

Invitee Security Responsibilities

Meeting invitees can improve security by:

More About Security and Privacy

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Webex is strongly recommended for better security and reliability. It integrates well with Microsoft 365, Google Drive and more. Media coverage is sparse but positive.

40-minute Limit for Free Accounts

Webex's free client provides for one host, up to 100 participants with maximum meeting duration of 40 minutes.

A paid account has more options if these limitations don't work for you.

Installing the Webex App

The Webex desktop and mobile apps are strongly recommended for the best experience. This site has a simple tutorial for downloading the app then connecting to a Webex meeting.

However, you can join a Webex meeting using just your browser:

Webex Meeting Suggestions

There are a series of tools in the bottom menu.

You can use virtual backgrounds to mask what is behind you during a meeting. Your image may be jittery if you don't have a fast computer.

Webex Support & Setup

Check the Webex support resources if you're having trouble:

Webex Security and Privacy

Because Webex was built for business, it came with good security and privacy. When signing up for a Webex account or using the Webex apps, you are asked to agree with the following:

Cisco Webex is brimming with security features. Cloud recordings are encrypted, there is an option for end-to-end encryption, and you can add meeting passwords and lock rooms too.
Webex is secure by default, and doesn't make it the user's responsibility to opt-out of sharing their data, or change meeting settings in order to be protected. This is a part of Cisco's belief that it should never trade convenience for security.

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Zoom is very popular, but had significant bad publicity and security issues.

40-minute Limit for Free Accounts

Zoom's free client provides for up to 100 participants with maximum meeting duration of 40 minutes.

Purchase a paid account if these limitations don't work for you or your business.

Zoom Installers

Zoom installers work in Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.

The Zoom Web Client

Zoom offers a web client that avoids the issue with having to download and install software, but there are limitations on controlling how participants are identified and not all browsers support it equally. You may find that not all the meeting controls are available to you.

The Zoom web client allows joining a Zoom meeting or webinar without downloading any plugins or software. However, the web client has limited features and functions best on Google Chrome.
Zoom Support

The Zoom web client can impair your meeting's security and privacy.

Zoom Support & Setup

Check the Zoom support resources if you're having trouble:

Improving Your Zoom Experience

Make the most of your Zoom experience with these resources.

Zoom Virtual Backgrounds

A Zoom virtual background hide what's behind you but can be jittery and distracting unless you meet the system requirements.

To achieve the best virtual background effect, Zoom recommends using a solid color background, preferably green.

Learning More

There are lots of articles on how to make the best of your Zoom meetings.

Zoom Security and Privacy

Zoom garnered a lot of attention about serious security issues which caused major agencies to ban Zoom. Not all those issues were Zoom's fault:

In general, Zoom's problems fall into three broad buckets: (1) bad privacy practices, (2) bad security practices, and (3) bad user configurations.
Bruce Schneier
To provide enhanced protection, Zoom has launched end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for both free and paid accounts, and users can opt to enable or disable this feature. With E2EE turned on, the encrypted keys are created on the participants' machines, so only they have access to them. This data can't be accessed by anyone else, including Zoom. However, activating E2EE disables features like streaming and cloud recording.

Improved Security for Everyone

Zoom responded positively by working hard to correct the deficiencies. Significant security and privacy improvements led New York's attorney general to approve Zoom again.

Zoom's approach to data routing has also changed. Now your video call will not be routed by mistake to a Chinese or other foreign server. Free conferences will stay in the domestic region, and paid subscribers…can choose which countries their information goes through.

Zoom free account users will have to turn on this security feature plus verify their identity with more than an email address.

Related Resources

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Updated: December 19, 2023