What Can We Learn From Zoom’s Rising Amidst the Pandemic?

April 1, 2020, was the day when Eric Yuan, CEO of the popular video conferencing app Zoom published a post on the company’s blog announcing that their app has reached 200 million daily users in March. This was a grand achievement as it represents a 20 times growth in comparison to their previous milestone of 10 million daily users at the end of 2019.


A lot of experts welcomed people into a new era of zoom and appreciated the company for what it stands for in those days of pandemic - bringing together people who are forced to stay at home and when businesses are running remotely with one video conferencing platform at the center. This was a simple explanation of how much popularity zoom gained.


But then in April, the bubble burst. People came to know about the security and privacy issues in late March. These issues began to pile up and everyone from educational institutions to Government offices began asking Zoom to provide answers. And above them all, tech giants like Google and Microsoft realized an opportunity amidst it all and made their move to capitalize on the videoconferencing needs of the people during the lockdown.


Now, one might assume that bad publicity, highly sensitive issues, and the tough competitor would have brought the doom of Zoom. But still, the zoom app is used in most cases including business meetings and education classes. Indeed, things haven’t been the same as before when the Zoom application was trending, still, when people will look back to this age they will see that it was Zoom that rose amidst the covid pandemic and made good business out of it. Now let us discuss some of the critical aspects behind it.

Security As A Software Cornerstone

One of the most important things you can learn from Zoom is security-related. Anyone who has been using the application before the pandemic struck can tell you how Zoom had the same issues before it gained such huge popularity.


If I put it in other words, the team at Zoom adopted more of a reactive approach instead of a proactive approach towards the security of the videoconferencing application. It appears that the single most goal of the company was to increase their user base so they focused on the ease of use and features. They didn’t even hire an app development company or adopt a new architecture for the app. However, it explains the popularity and the widespread adoption of Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic.


But adopting such an approach had made the security of the app weak by design. Let’s say for instance that joining a session on a Zoom meeting is easy because you don’t need any specific sandboxed environments like that of Apple or Microsoft operating systems to run the application. This enables the user to gain deeper access to the application. And that’s the reason why Zoom has avoided distributing its apps through the app stores of Windows and Apple operating systems. Because they knew that their app will be vetted out based on their access level for the app to function.


And it’s not like that is the only problem with the security design of the app or the company making decisions around it. The CEO of the company Eric Yuan himself said that the best practices like session passwords and waiting rooms are some of the built-in features of the app and were already provided before the app got trendy. But the real problem here is that they don't default in real life. Yuan admits that the company assumed general users to understand the video conferencing platform just like their business customers did as they were customizing the features of the application on their own.


Now as if the problems weren’t enough, Zoom went as far as to claim that their meeting sessions are secured with end-to-end encryption. But in reality, they don’t come anywhere near to what they commonly refer to as end-to-end encryption. This was like they had shot themselves in the foot.


Now as I go on describing the poor security standards, worse strategic decisions, and deceitful marketing, one tends to assume that the Zoom application would have been lying in a coffin by now. But reality seems different. Somehow, Zoom has managed to stay that same popular video conferencing platform for students and professionals to date. One reason I could think of is that the personnel at Zoom are quick enough to cover for their vulnerabilities. They have indeed leveled up their security and data privacy standards. And they have been always shooting down all kinds of criticism with various marketing strategies.


Going through the case study of Zoom and looking over its security-related aspects during its rise, one thing is very important to note that no company should compromise even a smudge with the security. The users of this modern era are well aware of their security and privacy concerns. And they wouldn’t hesitate to point out the problems regarding it, especially if your success looks like an overnight win.


Therefore, the developers of digital products need to take security into consideration right from the start in the design phase and have to be thorough about it. Even if you get a chance to compromise some security aspects for monetary and other benefits, you should never limit the security of your application especially in the matters of privacy of users.

The Company Must Have Contingency Plans

It is not that Zoom is the bad guy here and everything they ever did is wrong. They sure know how to adopt the right things at the right time. Its app has a complicated architecture that makes it easy for the users to use Zoom which all users need in any application they use. Accommodating all kinds of features in a single place will invite a diverse range of groups from business meetings to a group of friends on a cybergame night to connect on the platform. 


But the most outstanding capability of the Zoom through which the company is standing at the top is that their experts are very quick at scaling up to meet the requirements of a diverse range of customers. Now say if you are in the middle of a session and you experience a drop in video or audio quality what you might do? You would like to argue reasonably with the customer support of Zoom. but the way Zoom has managed to gain or make a sudden jump from an app for business people to an app for all general audiences, your technical problem is considered negligible.


I know it may look like that Zoom company had got a lucky break and they hit it off. But it’s not true. The company was already preparing for possible sudden spikes before they went public. They have built 17 data centers to catch up with the work if the traffic of the app manages to surge up to 100 times. Zoom had stationed professionals all over the world to monitor the systems and trained staff were hired that could respond during the time of natural disasters. So all these preparations done by Zoom paid off when the Coronavirus hit the world.


 So, whatever the case, Zoom was prepared beforehand with a contingency plan. They were ready to accommodate unusual traffic in the face of any unexceptional circumstances but little did they know that their plan was going to be tested at a global scale and that too in a worldwide crisis. Yet, they came through victorious which shows the level of the company’s preparedness and that is praiseworthy. Many global brands, startups, and other companies could learn this from Zoom.


But one did happen that Zoom was not prepared for - a worldwide adoption of their video-conferencing application. People outside the business world also started using the app which Zoom was neither targeting for nor prepared for. So, you can’t blame the company for not serving all their customers as effectively as their target market. The company tried to help their general users by posting blogs, videos, and training guides on their websites but one mistake they made here is to assume that the tech-savviness of the educators would lead them to conduct the classes safely and securely, which turned out to be a false assumption.


It was obvious that the app development company didn’t make Zoom for general users in the first place. Eric Yuan also admitted that if he had any choice, he would immediately take the platform back to the B2B business. This clears everything. Though the company is going out of their way to help the varied range of user base that they have gained from unexceptional circumstances i.e. the pandemic, Eric Yuan suggests that the company might no longer pursue a wider market once the pandemic is over. Now that seems strange because if Zoom would have decided the other way then it would be profitable to them.


So be it. But what we learned here is that a company should always have a contingency plan especially regarding the traffic and feature functions. It has now become critical in this cloud-based era. If you have them, you might gain a competitive advantage in the market amidst unexceptional circumstances that seem to come now and then. And we could also take a lesson from here that you can't get prepared for everything life throws at you. All you can do is to be ready for making lemonade when you get lemons.

Final Thoughts

There are just so many things that we could learn from the case of Zoom’s rise in the Covid-19 pandemic. It is about how a company should manage critical product issues, sensitive customer issues, decision-making philosophy, contingency plans, and how to act when you are presented with an opportunity. We might get a clearer picture when all the dust settles down in the post-pandemic world. Then only we can truly say what Zoom is all about.


But for now, businesses need to make sure that they are making informed decisions when they are tried out during hard times. This significantly increases the chance of your success with an opportunity to help your target market by offering better products and services amidst tough times.