Read more about SaaS optimization: How to Stop Being a Target of Vendor Upsizing

Optimizing Your Spend on Zoom (or Any Other Communications Tools)

9 min read Mansoor Ahmed

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If there is any company that became a household name overnight, it’s Zoom. And if there’s any budget items that ballooned overnight, it was–you guessed it– spend on Zoom.

Many organizations adopted Zoom (and other communications tools) virtually overnight as COVID-19 lockdowns hit, virtually quadrupling the company’s revenues in less than a year. While that kept the engine of business running, it also meant that due diligence went out the window.

Which means that, if your organization uses Zoom or one of its competitors, you’re probably overpaying.

But don’t jump ship and start trying free tools just yet. With a little work (or the right tool), you can rightsize your Zoom spend and save a significant chunk of your IT budget this year.

Ways to optimize Zoom

The 3 Steps for Reining in Your Spend on Zoom (and Other Communications Tools)

There are three main ways you can optimize your meetings and communications software:

  1. Explore your communications “stack”
  2. Rightsize the licenses needed
  3. Rightsize the features you pay for

We’ll take a look at each of these in turn.

Start by Taking a Look at Your Communications Stack

It’s important to start with an analysis of that communications stack to understand what the organization truly needs. Most communications tools these days are actually bundles of different software solutions; Zoom, for example, isn’t just meeting software. They also offer webinar features, a phone system, a chat system, and more. The same goes for other popular tools, like Slack and Teams. Chances are high that there is a lot of overlap in your tools that you are not even aware of. Some tools might even offer features for free that you are paying top dollar for in another tool.

For example, consider a company paying for a Zoom Pro account to host stakeholder calls. That company also uses Slack. If those stakeholder calls are audio only, Slack’s “huddle” feature can do the job—and likely already comes with their Slack license. The Pro licenses are redundant, unless you need some of the more advanced features of Zoom.

Initiating a Huddle in Slack

It works the other way, too. If your organization is already using Zoom, there is probably no need for another solution for creating webinars, as Zoom already has this capability for its PRO and Business plans.

Rightsize Your Zoom Licenses

Most communications tools these days have a free tier that allows users to use the software with certain limitations. Removing those limitations, and getting more features, requires a paid license. That’s how spend on Zoom starts to get out of control, as there are ramifications to “over licensing.”

Zoom’s pricing structure is a great example here. The main difference between a free version and paid version is whether you can create and host meetings. Not everyone in your organization needs to create meetings, however. A team leader using a Business license could host a meeting of unlimited duration with 100 people, even if the other 99 participants are all Basic (free version) users. That meeting should theoretically “cost” just one business license, not 100.

This school just wasted a lot of money handing out Enterprise licenses to people who probably do not need them.

Likewise, the main difference between a Pro license, a Business License, and an Enterprise license is the size of meetings. Even if you are a large corporation, ask yourself: Do you really have meeting with 300 participants? If not, then you might not need that Enterprise license. 

How to Rightsize Your Zoom Licenses

Zoom came out with a new set of reporting tools in November of 2021. Short of using a more automated solution (such as ours), this is the best place to start getting a handle on your company spend on Zoom.

  1. Head to the Zoom web panel. Select Account Management then Reports. (If you do not see this option, it means you do not have the right access to view reports.)
  2. Select “Active Users”. Once you have done this, you can activity by user, using the tabs at the top. This will show all the Zoom users under your current account, as well as their license type. You can also see how many meetings they participated in, and the total minutes spent in meetings:
  1. Look for users who are not using their zoom licenses (zero meetings or minutes used, or close to it). Typically, these are either people who have left the organization, or who are using Zoom on their own license. For example, in the above list, the first user has just one meeting, and the seventh user has just two. These are the accounts to investigate first.
  2. You can download this list by choosing “Export as csv file.” This will give you a copy of the list that you can check against your company’s HR database (or similar record). Note anyone on the Zoom list who is not in the database, or has been marked as having left the organization.
  3. If a user is no longer with your organization, you will want to remove them by deleted the user. But, before deleting a user from your organization, be sure to transfer any meetings, webinars, or cloud recordings they created to another user. That way, any important information they might have stored while with your organization will be preserved. Once a user is deleted, that information is no longer accessible!
  4. Once you have taken care of users who are not longer with the organization, it’s time to look at those users with low use. Are they using their own personal Zoom license? Or some other meeting software? Do they truly have little need for virtual meetings?
    • If they have their own personal Zoom license, you should ask whether it is OK for them to continue doing that, or whether you want them on the organization’s license. If they truly can use a personal license, they should be unlinked from your account. (Unlinking is better than deleting in this case, since the user might need to again upgrade their license in the future.) If they should not be using a personal license, they need to be trained on using the appropriate login credentials and account.
    • If they are using a different meeting software, the merits investigation. Is there a whole team or department doing this? If so, why? (Are they needing certain features? Or using legacy meeting software?)
    • If the user truly has little need for meetings, they should be unlinked from your account. Unlinking a user will give them their own basic, free Zoom account that is not associated with your account (and thus not charged). Again, be sure to transfer any meetings or cloud recordings before you do so.
  5. You should plan to do this process regularly, depending on how high the turnover rate is in your organization.

Rightsize the Features You Are Paying For

Rightsizing the number of paid licenses is one thing. Getting the right kind of paid licenses—and truly getting value out of each and every feature—is another. Zoom, like most SaaS software, simply provides buckets of features divided into payment tiers, possibly with some add-ons. And so one of the biggest ways that spend on Zoom balloons is that organizations overpay for the features they need.

For example, an organization might have a Zoom Enterprise account to take advantage of unlimited cloud storage. (Recordings do take up a lot of space!) But they might not need the other features in an Enterprise account, such as webinar software and company branding. They might not even need the 50+ licenses (see above). This is a case where the organization could get away with a cheaper Business or Pro account, and then simply buy additional cloud storage as a separate add-on.

Other “seldom used” features in conferencing software bundles include things like:

  • Telephony minutes
  • International dial
  • Chat capabilities
  • Chat templates/chatbots
  • CRM capabilities
  • Event management
  • Audio-only conference calls

How to Rightsize Zoom’s Features

  1. Get the list of features that come with your pricing tier. Note that you might have to verify conferencing pricing, webinar pricing, and/or Zoom bundle pricing. An overview of Zoom plans and add-ons can be found here in their support section.
  2. Not all Zoom features will have readily accessible usage statistics, but some will. For example, to see the extent to which your organization uses cloud recording, head to the Zoom web panel. Select Account Management then Reports. (If you do not see this option, it means you do not have the right access to view reports.) Then select Cloud Management. This will give you a chart of usage/storage over time, for any selected time period.
Zoom reports dashboard
  1. Likewise, you can view phone usage from the reports panel, under Phone system. This lets you see usage by call queue, user, or site location.
  2. If any features are not being used on a regular basis, it might be wise to downgrade your plan and then purchase add-ons as needed for those rare occasions when the feature is used. For example, you could possibly downgrade from an Enterprise plan to a Pro plan, and then add cloud recording or large meetings as an add-on, as needed.
  3. Check the maximum number of participants allowed in a meeting under your license. With Zoom, both the Basic and the Pro licenses max out at 100 participants, while Business allows up to 300 and enterprise allows up to 500. Even if your organization has 500 people, we’re guessing that not everyone would need to be in a single meeting at the same time. If your meetings never get beyond 100 people, a Pro license might be fine.
  4. Finally, do the downgrade. If you have a Business plan with Zoom, you can use the web portal to downgrade to a Pro plan. If you need to downgrade to a different plan, Zoom suggests that you contact your sales rep. Changes occur at the beginning of the next billing period.

Again, while the reporting dashboards might be unique to Zoom, chances are good that other meeting software has similar reports and dashboards. These should form the basis of your rightsizing efforts if you are choosing to do it manually.

And if the manual process gets to be too tedious, it’s time for a more centralized and automated tool.

Using Quolum to Monitor and Rightsize SaaS Communications Tools

Here at Quolum, we realized that the manual process of rightsizing licenses was too time-consuming, and that organizations rarely did it on a regular basis, as they should. Seeing what they spend on Zoom was just the tip of the iceberg.

That insight led us to create a better solution that built cost optimization directly into SaaS procurement and management. Our holistic tools report on overall SaaS and SaaS feature usage so companies can identify and eliminate wasteful spend. Our tools allow an organization to:

  • Visualize spend on SaaS software over time
  • Optimise spend basis feature use analysis
  • Manage SaaS renewals
  • Aggregate invoices

Interested? Get started now.

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