4 ways to implement HR support for remote employees Box, Dropbox shore up clouds; Box-Microsoft integrations go live

Amid coronavirus, Microsoft Teams users balk at video stream limit

Users working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak are complaining that Microsoft Teams can't display more than four video feeds simultaneously.

Some users working remotely because of the coronavirus outbreak are abandoning Microsoft Teams for alternative video conferencing platforms because of the product's limit on the number of video streams displayed at one time.

Microsoft Teams only shows the video feeds of the four most recent people to speak in a meeting. In contrast, Cisco Webex shows up to 25 streams at once and Zoom displays up to 49.

The four-stream limit in Teams has become a more vexing issue for users in recent days as millions of them work from home to avoid spreading the new coronavirus, COVID-19. Some users are hosting Teams meetings with more participants than ever before.

Netprofile, a small public relations firm based in Finland, began using the free version of Zoom on Tuesday after encountering the Teams limit for the first time in a company-wide meeting on Monday. The firm subscribes to Office 365 and has used Teams for smaller meetings in the past.

"We hadn't had everyone attending [Teams meetings] before, so this four-video limitation hadn't mattered that much," said Toni Stubin, a consultant at Netprofile. "For now, we're trying out the free version of Zoom and it looks promising."

Since Monday, more than 120 people have commented on Microsoft's user feedback website for Teams requesting that the company increase the limit. Numerous commenters threatened to switch to Zoom or said their companies had already done so because of the restriction.

But Microsoft may be hard-pressed to expand the limit right now. A recent spike in demand for cloud services has congested Microsoft's servers. The vendor on Monday began degrading certain features in Teams in response, according to a note sent to customers.

Microsoft told customers that it would temporarily reduce video quality in Teams to "accommodate new growth and demand during these unprecedented times." The company said it might also update presence statuses less frequently, among other measures to keep its services online during the coronavirus outbreak.

The notice came the same day that a partial outage prevented many Teams users from sending messages and performing other tasks on the platform. Issues with Teams chat cropped up again in Europe on Tuesday. The company said both incidents were related to "a caching issue" but did not provide specifics.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been promising to let users display more than four feeds at once in Teams since May 2019. The company said its engineering team was "continuing to make good progress on this feature" as of January 2020 but had not slated the expansion for launch.

Since 2016, over 4,500 people have endorsed the idea of showing more than four simultaneous video feeds in Teams.

Dig Deeper on Video conferencing and visual collaboration