Microsoft Teams Free Review: Your Guide to Budget-Friendly Collaboration

Introducing the latest Slack competition

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Published: July 13, 2018

Rebekah Carter - Writer

Rebekah Carter

Looking for an alternative to the Slack workflow application after the recent outage issues? You’re in luck, Microsoft has just announced that they’re introducing a brand-new free version of their flagship collaboration and communication tool, available for companies across the globe.

Available in 40 languages, the free version of Microsoft Teams will be ideal for any smaller companies who don’t want to pay extra for their workflow tool, and those who don’t already have a commercial Office 365 subscription. Plus, if you’re looking for a chance to try before you buy – what could be better than a free service?

Since it launched back in 2016, Microsoft Teams has been in almost constant competition with Slack. Of course, it’s been difficult for the application to get ahead of a solution that has its own entirely free tier. Though 200,000 businesses are already using Microsoft Teams, the absence of a free model has made it harder for small businesses and freelancers to get involved. That all changes now.

What Can You Get Out of the Free Model?

Whether you’re a small business owner, freelancer, or something else entirely, you can start using Teams immediately without any charge whatsoever. The best news is that Microsoft hasn’t stripped much of the functionality out of the premium Microsoft Teams offering, so you can still get a lot of out of your collaboration app. The free tier comes with a significant selection of features, such as:

  • Unlimited chat message
  • Simple search functionality
  • Built-in video and audio calling for groups, individuals, and teams
  • 10GB of team file storage and an additional 2GB of personal storage
  • Integrated real-time content creation with Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Excel
  • Unlimited app integrations with 140 options to choose from
  • Options to communicate and collaborate with anyone inside or outside your organisation

The Teams free offering is more immersive and in-depth than what you can currently get from Slack. In comparison, the free tier of Slack is somewhat restricted, with only 10 app integrations available, no guest accounts, and a limitation of 10,000 searchable messages. On top of that, there’s only 1:1 video chats available, and 5GB of storage for your files.

Who Can Access Free Microsoft Teams?

Ultimately, if you have fewer than 300 users to serve with your collaboration and workflow application, then you can easily benefit from all the solutions that Microsoft Teams’ free version has to offer. In fact, you might find that you enjoy it more than the Slack equivalent, as long as you don’t grow your business too quickly.

Any person with a consumer or corporate email address can sign up for Teams. However, the free version will be particularly compelling to freelancers and smaller companies who don’t already have a paid subscription for Office 365. Importantly, if you’re already signed up for a paid Office 365 commercial account, then you’ll simply get routed through the system into a managed experience for your current tenant.

If you’re worried about hitting the limits with your free Microsoft Teams offering, it’s not too much of a problem. If you go over what’s available, you’ll simply be asked to move into a paid Office 365 subscription, which starts at a rate of around $5 per user per month.

Why Is Microsoft Offering a Free Version?

If you’re wondering why Microsoft would offer a free Teams version in the first place – the simple answer is they want to compete more aggressively against Slack (check out Microsoft Teams versus Slack here). On top of that, there’s always the hope that a free version will work as a catalyst to push more companies into the paid version of Teams, and Office 365. After all, while you do get a lot of features with the free tier of Teams, you’re going to get a whole lot more from an upgrade. Teams in the premium 365 tier will get additional storage, compliance features, enterprise security – and no user limit.

Microsoft is keeping most of the juicier parts of the Teams setup for premium customers. For instance, you’ll only get the full desktop integrations of Excel and Word if you upgrade to a paid office 365 subscription. Additionally, the free Teams solutions aren’t quite as powerful as the services you get in the fully-paid version – but they’re enough to compete against other free solutions like those offered by Slack.

Additional Features to Come Later This Year

If the initial lineup of features for the Microsoft Teams free version wasn’t compelling enough, the company will be adding additional features into the system by the end of 2018. For instance, one of the rumoured developments is the addition of background blurring – which could be a highly useful tool for remote users. The background blurring system intelligently blurs the screen’s background, so if you’re conducting a video call from your messy office, your Teams screen won’t display the piles of documents behind you.

Additionally, before the end of the year, Microsoft will also be introducing in-line messaging translation for up to 36 languages. The technology leader will also be making one final freebie available to Windows 10 users, with the arrival of the Whiteboard inking app. This app will be free to Windows 10 users starting this month, and it comes with some of the features first introduced with OneNote, like machine-generated flow charts created from inked shapes.

Breaking Down the Barriers to Teams

This new free version of Teams puts Microsoft in a very competitive position, particularly when it comes to standing out against solutions like Slack. According to the General Manager of Microsoft 365 Teamwork, Lori Wright, it’s all about breaking down the barriers that stop people from downloading Teams. In a press release, she said that Microsoft doesn’t think users should have to have an Office 365 subscription to enjoy Teams.

Up until now, Slack has had the advantage in reaching smaller businesses, freelancers, and emerging startups, but Microsoft could be homing in on that area. The free version of Teams, certainly makes Microsoft a more competitive option for many different business sizes.

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