Cumulus Global is advising customers to use “free” versions of Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts Meet for work-at-home scenarios sparked by the coronavirus.
“We are trying to make sure our customers know what’s available to them like Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts Meet,” said Cumulus Global founder and CEO Allen Falcon.
“This isn’t about people buying things. It’s making sure customers know how to use what the free software they already have. Most of our customers have not been trained to use these technologies so they hesitate. Now is the time to make people comfortable and let them understand what they can and can’t do with these technologies. Training and support is key to make sure employees can use these tools that are available for free.”
At least 50 percent of Westborough, Mass.-based Cumulus Global’s customers pay for a videoconferencing service even those services are available with G Suite and Office 365, said Falcon.
With the coronavirus outbreak, Cumulus Global – a Microsoft and Google partner – is advising its customers to make sure that employees are “comfortable” using videoconferencing and web meeting tools like Teams and Google Hangouts Meet
“A quick training session or refresher will reduce stress and help ensure meetings go smoothly,” said Falcon in an email to customers titled “Impact of the Coronavirus on Small and Midsize Businesses.”
On March 3, Google announced that it was rolling out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities until July 1 to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers. That includes the capability for larger meetings up to 250 participants per call; live streaming of up to 100,000 viewers and the ability to record meetings on Google Drive.
“Google is making it easier for people to work remotely with videoconferencing,” said Falcon. “All of the features that come with the enterprise edition of Google Hangouts Meet are now available to every G Suite user.”
Microsoft, meanwhile, which includes Teams for no cost to those who pay for Office Suite, is offering businesses and educational institutions not currently licensed for Teams a free Office 365 E1 offer for six months. What’s more, as of March 10, Microsoft rolled out updates to the free version of Teams that lifts restrictions on user limits.
“What Microsoft and Google are doing is helping mitigate the the impact of coronavirus with technology,” said Falcon.
“We can’t prevent coronavirus at this point. The question is how healthy can we keep our businesses as we also worry about our personal health? We are not looking to take advantage of this crises."
"But at the same time we need to make sure our customers know how to use the tools they have. And if there are small gaps we need to fill to keep them running smoothly then we will provide targeted solutions for those gaps.”
Every business is going to have to value the “risk and impact” of coronavirus and how they move forward, said Falcon.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Falcon of the coronavirus impact on small and midsize customers. “I think that most business people will take the necessary steps to mitigate the situation.There are going to be some hard choices and decisions and then things will move forward.”
Even though he is optimistic, Falcon said there is little doubt that the coronavirus will “wreak havoc” on the economy.
“Our economy is the semi-trailer cruising down the highway and the coronavirus is the Volkswagen Bug that cuts in front of us and slams on the brakes,” he said.
“We are trying not to crash into the VW right now. The key for businesses is adopting technology that keeps the business healthy even if they are required to work at home. Our general guidance is understand what you have and how you can use it before you jump in and spend on something new. There is no need for a panic buy.”