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Coronavirus: Zoom accelerates away as office workers make video calls

The Covid-19 pandemic has required people to change their working habits, and many are routinely using conferencing tools

Since the start of March, the use of business video-conferencing tools has skyrocketed as employees work from home because of the coronavirus.

Data seen by Computer Weekly shows there was a vast increase in the use of video-conferencing tools as Western governments began ramping up their coronavirus lockdown efforts.

The data, based on single sign-on and multifactor authentication from enterprise users logging into conferencing services and other software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps via the Okta cloud-based identity management service, showed a massive increase in the use of video-conference software.

Logins to RingCentral grew by 58% for the same period, while Cisco’s WebEx experienced 44% growth in logins. This suggests that, during this period, the three services experienced huge growth in the number of users logging in for video calls with their work colleagues and to take part in online meetings hosted on these platforms.

Between 2 and 13 March, Okta reported an increase of 132% in what it describes as “login events” to Zoom’s video-conferencing service.

On 20 March, Computer Weekly’s sister site, SearchUnifiedCommunication, reported that Zoom was struggling to keep some of its services online because of the spike in remote work resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Data collected for the company’s Okta businesses @ work study found that, since 2016, tools such as Slack and Zoom have grown significantly, displacing the traditional email systems and even Skype, that companies used to rely on for communication. 

The data from Okta showed that Slack and Zoom both continue to rank in the most popular apps. Okta reported that Zoom was not only the most popular app, it was also the fastest-growing. 

Okta also found that the use of Cisco Spark and Workplace by Facebook were rising.

It noted that Slack was the fastest-growing app in 2014 and 2015, and in 2016, Slack exceeded 2.7 million daily active users, 800,000 of which were paid. In 2019, the company went public with a $23bn valuation and in October 2019, Slack announced it had more than 12 million active daily users.

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The report found that Zoom was the fastest-growing app in 2016, with its revenue growing by 300% in 2016 and by 150% in 2017. Zoom also became the most valuable tech IPO of 2019 after it rallied 72% in its first day of trading. In fiscal year 2019, Zoom reported sales of $330.5m, with net income of $7.6m.

Given that Okta logs access to the SaaS applications used by its corporate customers, its research indicates which applications are most popular in the enterprise. At the start of 2019, Okta CEO Eric Yuan told CNBC that it had 100 million customers, and has ambitions to expand its platform to support up to 50 billion customers.

Over the last few years since it began producing its annual Okta @ work report, the company has tracked the popularity of Microsoft Office against G Suite, the rival product from Google. “Microsoft 365 has continued to rank supreme as the most popular app in the report and holds this title to date,” said Okta. “This shift really kick-started when Satya Nadella joined as CEO, and Microsoft embraced the cloud, encouraging customers to move their email to Microsoft’s cloud with Office 365.”

On the other hand, it found that G Suite has been steadily growing in its user base. When Okta looked at active users, it found that G Suite’s year-on-year growth was 50%, while Office 365 saw 38% user growth.

According to Okta, the data shows organisations prefer to take a hybrid approach, adopting both Google apps and Microsoft apps to meet business objectives and licensing agreements.

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