Zoom CEO offers K-12 schools free videoconferencing tools

Zoom is offering K-12 schools free videoconferencing tools during the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: Zoom

Around the world, primary and secondary schools, along with universities, have begun transitioning to online learning as the coronavirus pandemic forces people to practice social distancing. In response, many have turned to Zoom, a popular videoconferencing platform, to conduct their business and ensure that students can still access their education.

Following Zoom’s biggest single day of app downloads on Thursday, its CEO, Eric Yuan, is offering K-12 schools in the U.S., Italy, and Japan free access to the company’s videoconferencing tools. The move is a tremendous example of global leadership from the tech world in a time of crisis.

Keeping the Wheels Turning

Although businesses have successfully been using Zoom for some time, its impact during the COVID-19 outbreak can’t be understated. After learning that schools are temporarily canceling face-to-face classes around the world, students and teachers turned to Zoom as a solution. The videoconferencing software is already showing its potential for keeping the world afloat while people work from home.

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According to the mobile intelligence firm Apptopia, 343,000 people have downloaded the Zoom app globally. That’s a huge spike from just 90,000 downloads two months ago.

To help lessen the effects of the pandemic, Yuan is offering K-12 schools access to its videoconferencing tools free of charge and without a minutes limit. All teachers and students need to do is fill out a form with their school email address.

Ready for an Influx

Countless new users conducting meetings online for the next few months will put a huge demand on Zoom’s servers. Fortunately, it seems that the company is prepared for what comes next.

In response to questions of whether Zoom will be able to keep up with every college class in America using it simultaneously, Yuan had a cool answer. He says, “The beautiful part of the cloud is, you know, its unlimited capacity in theory.”

Zoom hosts its platform on 17 data centers spread across the globe. The company operates these independently. Each takes advantage of a cloud architecture feature called auto-scaling. This allows the servers to add more computing power, up to 100x, when demand is increased. They can then decrease it to save costs once it wanes.

Despite the massive uptick in usage thus far, Zoom has been able to handle it without a problem. Perhaps that’s because the company has been preparing contingency plans for the coronavirus since January. That’s when its effects were first felt in China. Zoom also trained all of its employees on how to respond to natural disasters prior to going public.

Humble Amid the Madness

Despite the fact that Zoom has gone from a niche business tool to one that’s helping keep society connected during a global crisis, Yuan is handling the situation admirably.

Rather than attempting to profit off the situational increase in demand (which it certainly could), Zoom’s CEO forbid the practice. In an interview with Forbes, he says, “I told the team that with any crisis like this, let’s not leverage the opportunity for marketing or sales. Let’s focus on our customers.”

He goes on to say, “If you leverage this opportunity for money, I think that’s a horrible culture.”

While the influx of new users may or may not translate to paying customers after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Zoom is indifferent. Instead, the company is focusing on providing a service that the world desperately needs right now.

That type of behavior from an influential tech company is inspiring and shows how crucial the industry and its leadership is to the world today.


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