Think back to high school or university: Did you ever have a class where the teacher got everyone involved and invited students to participate, discuss, and share their opinions?
Bet that was more interesting and engaging than the teacher who just lectured you for an hour until the bell rang, right?
If you felt like you learned more in the discussion-based seminar than in the lecture, you’re not alone: Studies have shown that collaborative group work can positively contribute to learning progress and improve performance.1
And while your employees are no longer college students, collaboration is also more productive in the workplace–especially compared to one-sided meetings that rely on screen sharing and have attendees zoning out.
But to work collaboratively on a remote team, you need to select the right online meeting platform. Unfortunately, many virtual meeting tools make employees feel like they’re listening to a lecture rather than interacting with their coworkers, so you need to take a close look at what each platform offers before making a choice.
In this post, we’ll look at Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard and compare their features and pricing. Zoom and Around are great for talking, but not so much for easy collaboration. That’s why leaders of highly collaborative teams in small remote companies should look for intuitive, easy-to-use alternatives that act as a home base and support a more collaborative way of working through features like multiplayer browsers and persistent rooms that save your work. So, while we’re at it, we’ll show you how Switchboard helps you achieve just that.
Say goodbye to one-sided meetings
Switchboard helps you create a collaborative remote workplace that empowers your people to do their best work.
Sign up for free.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: overview
Before we dive into the details, here's a quick visual overview of each option so you can see how Zoom, Around, and Switchboard stack up against each other.
*Available with limitations on free plan
**Available with paid plans
***Built-in whiteboard and also works with any browser-based one. e.g. FigJam
****Available as add-on
*****Available via Miro
Now let’s take a closer look at these three tools and how they can help you.
Zoom is one of the most recognizable video conferencing platforms out there today, used by people in industries from education to healthcare. And although paid plans come with tons of add-ons, the free version keeps it simple with free 40-minute meetings and 100 participants per call.
You can use Zoom for various types of meetings, including team meetings, client calls, webinars, online training, and virtual events. And breakout rooms allow you to divide large meetings into smaller groups for focused discussions.
But the tool doesn’t let you host very interactive calls, so meetings are more like one-sided information-sharing instead of a collaborative effort.
Recently acquired by Miro, Around isn’t your typical video meeting tool. It’s a more collaborative solution that lets teams create permanent rooms they can return to whenever they need to hop on a call together.
And since it’s now a part of Miro, Around makes it easy to work on wireframes, mockups, and flowcharts with your team during a meeting. Plus, the tool’s echo prevention delivers high-quality audio even when there are multiple team members working in the same office or room.
However, Around lacks some key collaboration features, so it falls short of being an ideal solution for remote teams that need to work async and in real time.
Switchboard is a collaborative digital workspace that lets you and your team work together on documents and apps inside a virtual room—without having to share your screen. It’s designed to foster team connection, collaboration, and productivity through intuitive meeting rooms.
Switchboard lets you communicate in real time with video, audio, and chat. You can also work side-by-side allowing everyone to scroll, type, and browse the same document at the same time.
You can create virtual rooms for brainstorming, host spontaneous meetings with your team, and connect with clients in an interactive space.
Throughout the meeting, you can explore any file in the room, moving around and viewing whatever you want without getting in the way of others. Best of all, Switchboard saves all your files, docs, and apps after every meeting, so you never need to download anything or repopulate the room again.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: engagement features
Teaching a class shouldn’t feel like lecturing to a roomful of cardboard cutouts, and running an online meeting shouldn’t feel like you’re just talking to a screen. To engage your team, you need a virtual meeting tool that helps everyone feel like an active participant and not just a passive attendee.
Both Zoom and Around offer traditional engagement features like hand raising, emoji reactions, and screen sharing, but Switchboard takes things up a notch.
Rather than sitting back and watching someone present what’s on their screen, Switchboard’s multiplayer experience means all participants can engage with all the files, apps, and documents within the room, keeping everyone involved and contributing.
This highly engaging format means you can also use Switchboard to host virtual team-building events like monthly game nights and set up biweekly coffee chats, which helps build a cohesive team and strong company culture.
Zoom engagement features:
- Hand raising
- Breakout Rooms
- Emoji reactions
- Virtual backgrounds
- Live captioning only available with a Zoom live transcription license
- Audio, video, and screen sharing
Around engagement features:
- Hand raising
- Emoji reactions
- Audio sharing & music playlists
- Color filters
- Collaborative games
- Audio, video, and screen sharing
- Annotations/drawing on screen share (only available with paid plans)
Switchboard engagement features:
- Multiplayer canvas
- Dedicated, persistent rooms
- Sections to organize documents and apps
- Host not required for members to enter a room
- Room permissions for members and guests
- Presentation mode
- In-meeting video, audio, and chat
- Screen sharing for native apps
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: collaboration features
A highly collaborative team needs a highly collaborative meeting tool, and while screen sharing and virtual whiteboards are useful, you need more advanced functionalities to make remote work productive.
Both Zoom and Around have similar–limited–collaboration features, but Switchboard transforms your video calls into a virtual office brainstorming session. Rather than one presenter and a screen full of passive attendees, Switchboard’s multiplayer format lets everyone actively participate in every meeting. Attendees can work together on documents, apps, and files and take notes simultaneously within the meeting room.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms also mean you can leave everything in a room after a meeting and find it right where you left it next time. That means all your insights and materials are ready and waiting for a spontaneous brainstorming session or troubleshooting call.
Around also lets you create permanent meeting rooms, but doesn’t offer meeting memory. That means everything you add to the room—meeting notes, tools, etc.—disappears once the meeting is over.
Zoom collaboration features:
- Screen sharing
- In-meeting chat
- Meeting recordings
Around collaboration features:
- Whiteboard via Miro
- Screen sharing
- In-meeting chat
- Meeting recordings
- Echo prevention for in-person collaboration during online meetings
Switchboard collaboration features:
- Persistent rooms that save your work
- Secure, fast multiplayer browsers for instant collaboration
- Sticky notes
- Google Calendar integration
- Accommodates every web-based whiteboard
- Web-based canvas to add multiple apps, websites, PDFs, and images side by side
- Shared online workspace and rooms for recurring meetings
- Unlimited rooms for 1:1s, meetings, and projects
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: async working capabilities
Remote teams rely on async work when employees are spread out across time zones. But when everyone’s working on a different schedule, you need to always be able to get reliable, up-to-date information about your projects at a moment’s notice.
Zoom is designed specifically for real-time communication, so when it comes to working async it falls short of true collaboration. And while Around integrates with Miro, that’s about as far as it goes in helping your team work async.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms, on the other hand, empower your employees to work on the schedule that best suits them while making it easy for other team members to catch up on their progress. More than an online meeting tool, it’s a versatile virtual workspace where you can get work done before, during, and after meetings—alone or with your team.
Once you leave a meeting, all your information is still there for the next time, so you can pick up where you left off. Team members don’t have to message whoever ran the meeting to request the materials you discussed during the call—it’s all right there in your permanent meeting room.
Finally, Switchboard lets you record your meetings so any team members who weren’t able to attend can get up to speed on their own time.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: user experience
When you’re looking for an online meeting tool, your top priority should be usability. Awkward transitions, technical glitches, and a clunky interface can take participants’ focus away from the purpose of the meeting, which is a barrier to collaboration and productivity.
If you just plan on running regular team meetings with little to no collaborative work required, Zoom and Around may be enough for you. However, though Around offers multiple meeting view options, you have to switch between views if you want to take notes and then see your meeting participants, which can interrupt the flow of your meeting and makes it a less intuitive tool to use.
With Switchboard, everything you need is right there in one view. You can take notes, add files, use web-based apps, see participants, and work with your team without having to switch between views or sort out integrations. This means you’ll rarely need to share your screen, though you always have the option.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: pricing
Now you know how each of these tools works, let’s look at pricing options for each.
- Free version with limited functionality and attendee numbers
- Pro Plan: $139.90/year per user
- Business Plan: $189.90/year per user
- Enterprise Plan: custom priced
At the time of writing, all users have access to Around’s Pro plan for free until they roll out pricing later in 2023. There will be three plan options:
- Free plan available for small teams and individual users
- Pro: $8.97/month per user
- Business: $15.97/month priced
Switchboard is currently free with all features included. It plans to introduce pricing tiers in mid-2023 and there will always be a free option.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: meeting capacity
When choosing the right tool, you need to think about the size of your team and your working style. Here’s how each option compares.
Zoom meeting capacity depends on which plan you sign up for, while Around and Switchboard, on the other hand, both have capacity for 50 participants on any plan. And while traditional video conferencing platforms often prioritize capacity, what you gain in number of participants you often lose in the ability to collaborate.
That’s why Switchboard is designed for real-time and async working to boost collaboration and connections. It lets you get more done together and has a positive impact on your company culture, which is much more important for smaller teams than being able to get hundreds of people on a call.
- Free account capacity: 100 participants
- Pro account capacity: 100 participants
- Business account capacity: 300 participants
- Enterprise capacity: 1000 participants
- Any plan: 50 participants
Switchboard is made for highly collaborative, small distributed teams so you can get up to 50 team members together. Your teams can also find each other before, during, and after meetings to build relationships, get work done, and boost remote collaboration.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: integrations
Platforms that integrate with other tools make work run more smoothly. But you’ll also find tools like Switchboard that don’t require any integrations–it works with all browser-based tools–so you don’t have to modify or rebuild anything in your workflow.
You’ll find thousands of integrations in the Zoom app marketplace, including analytics, collaboration, and customer service tools. You’ll even find game integrations for running remote work culture activities and event management tools for running virtual training and workshops.
And Around integrates with Slack and Google Calendar, which makes it easy to get meetings in everyone’s schedule and send meeting notes to participants. Plus, Miro’s acquisition of Around means the two tools work together seamlessly.
But Switchboard is redefining what it means to integrate with tools and apps. With Switchboard, there’s no need to integrate—you can work with all your most-used apps right within a meeting. Plus, its persistent rooms mean you only have to add your apps to a meeting room once. Every time you return to that room, everything will be right where you left it so you’ll never have to worry about setting up your integrations before starting a meeting again.
Zoom integrates with over 1,500 third-party apps like:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Calendar
No need to integrate your favorite apps with Switchboard: Just copy and paste a link into the canvas or open a browser in your room. And you're also not limited by how many integrations your meeting platform offers—the sky literally is the limit.
Zoom vs Around vs Switchboard: Which should you pick?
Now that you’ve seen what each tool has to offer, it’s time to think about which type of solution your team needs to succeed. Let’s look at who each platform is best for:
Best for highly collaborative teams: Switchboard
For remote teams who still rely on collaborative work and want their meetings to feel less like a one-way lecture and more like an engaging discussion, Switchboard is a no-brainer. It’s designed for remote and hybrid teams of up to 50 employees that want to make remote collaboration even better than in-person.
Because Switchboard is an online meeting tool that doubles as a virtual workspace, it makes spontaneous brainstorming sessions possible. This helps your team work together more effectively, even when they’re on different sides of the world. And as we learned in school, collaboration gets better results.
For example, you can create a designated room, like a pair programming space, for team members to hop into whenever they need help debugging. That way, employees feel like they’re sitting next to each other, solving problems collaboratively on the fly.
Best for large teams: Zoom
If you run meetings with more than 50 employees, Zoom is a great option. The tool’s large meeting capacity means it’s great for both large teams and companies who often run webinars or online workshops with high numbers of attendees.
But Zoom is less suitable for small, highly collaborative teams as it lacks the functionalities you need for engaging meetings and for true side-by-side collaboration.
Best for teams that use a digital whiteboard: Around
If your team depends on using a digital whiteboard for wireframing, ideation, and brainstorming, Around is a good option. It integrates seamlessly with Miro, and you’ll find a Miro Board tab within each meeting room, so you can open to whatever flow chart or diagram you need to look at and everyone in the meeting can collaborate on it.
However, the tool limits you to using Miro, so if you already work with a different whiteboard tool, you’ll want to find a solution that accommodates other platforms.
Switchboard: Less one-way lectures, more collaboration
Think back to that discussion-based high school or university class, and remember how much you enjoyed being engaged by a teacher who valued your input and involvement. With the right tool, you can create a similar environment for employees, making remote work more collaborative and productive. All while helping employees feel heard and engaged and in turn preventing remote work burnout.
But you can’t turn to a traditional video conferencing tool if this is your goal. That’s why, in this post, we reviewed Switchboard as well as two alternatives, Zoom and Around. Zoom has some great video conferencing features, but it’s not designed as a truly collaborative workspace. And while Around is more of a virtual workspace–with more collaboration features than Zoom–it’s less intuitive to set up and use than Switchboard.
With Switchboard, you can create an engaging and dynamic workspace using features like persistent rooms and multiplayer functionality. This keeps your employees focused and involved in meetings, rather than making them feel like they’re back in college sitting in a one-way lecture.
Say goodbye to one-sided meetings.
Switchboard helps you create a collaborative remote workplace and empowers your team to do their best work.
Sign up for free.