For years, Slack has been the ultimate collaboration tools for those in search of a quick, simple, and cost-effective way to communicate with their dispersed teams. Now, Microsoft has added a crucial string to its bow in an attempt to define itself as the truest Slack competitor – it’s very own free tier. (read our full Microsoft Teams Free review here)
Although Slack does have other advantages to offer users in the form of simplicity, easy adoption, and countless integrations with third-party apps, it’s safe to say that Teams is quickly catching up. Not only is Teams a natural solution for people already familiar with the Office 365 framework, but Microsoft has its own selection of third-party integrations to offer these days too (even if the number is a little lower than Slack’s)
Following the announcement of the latest “free” tier of Teams, we thought it would be a good idea to dive a little deeper into the potential of both Slack, and Teams for freelancers, small businesses, and companies avoiding premium collaboration.
What Do You Get from Slack’s “Free” Tier?
Generally, software companies offer a “free” tier of a product in an attempt to encourage their customers to eventually sign up for the paid or premium version. That means that they can’t afford to offer all of the same features that a customer would get from the full program in the free option.
As compelling as Slack’s free version has been up to now, it’s also very restrictive compared to what Microsoft Teams is now offering. With Slack’s free tier you get:
- A 10,000-message storage cap
- 1:1 video calling (but no group video conferencing)
- A maximum of up to 10 app integrations
- 5GB of file storage capacity
- Unlimited users
Although Slack might not offer the widest range of features to its free customers, you do get enough to see what the collaboration tool is capable of. At the same time, while Microsoft Teams free users will only be able to add 300 people to their groups, Slack can manage as many users as you like. On top of that, Slack’s IRC-style chatrooms make it very simple, familiar and easy to use.
What Do You Get from Microsoft Teams’ “Free” Tier?
Like with Slack, the free tier offered by Microsoft is designed to be exciting enough to get businesses hooked, but not so useful that you’ll never be tempted to upgrade. For enterprise chat companies, it’s all about treading that fine line between fantastic features and leaving your customer wanting more. Microsoft has chosen a very different set of restrictions and offerings for their free tier than Slack. For instance, on the free version of Teams, you get:
- Free content creation integrations with Office Online apps and up to 140+ third-party apps to choose from.
- 10 Gigabytes of file storage and 2 additional gigabytes of storage per person
- Unlimited chat messages and easy search for great content management
- The ability to communicate and collaborate with anyone inside or outside of your organisation – backed by Microsoft security
- Built-in video conferencing and audio conferencing features for full team meet-ups.
According to the CVP of Microsoft Teams, Ron Markezich, the offering is designed to give freelancers, small businesses, and other organisations everything they need to run their company more smoothly.
Microsoft Teams is More Robust
From an objective perspective, it’s fair to say that Microsoft Teams offers a more robust selection of features – at least for now. The free version of Microsoft Teams has only been around for a short time, which means that Slack still has an opportunity to bounce back and offer more features to boost their competitiveness.
With the free tier of Teams, Microsoft has clearly made an effort to one-up Slack, even if support is limited to only 300 people. Probably the most compelling thing about the free version of Teams is that it comes with a way to access some of the most popular office apps in use today. With Microsoft Teams, you get access to the Office 365 framework through online applications for Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, Excel, and more.
Although the web-based versions of the Office 365 applications might not be quite as powerful as their full versions, they still have a lot of content creation benefits to offer. At the same time, Microsoft is also in the midst of promoting additional features for Teams users -both unpaid and paid. Later this year, you’ll be able to use a background blur feature to support better video chatting, so that you don’t have to show off your untidy bedroom if you’re sitting on your bed during a video call. On top of that, there are the upcoming inline translation features to think about, which are great for connecting people who speak different languages.
Free Slack or Free Teams? Choosing Between Teams and Slack
Ultimately, Slack and Teams both offer a very competitive proposition for freelancers and small businesses. Just like with Slack, Teams doesn’t give everything to its users on the free version. For instance, email hosting through Outlook and Exchange will still come with a monthly bill. However, you don’t necessarily need those things if you can keep track of everything through your Teams chat.
Starting immediately, the Microsoft Teams free version is available in 40 different languages, and Microsoft has also been tweaking its software to include inline message translation for team members that speak different languages. This is a particularly important update for the globalized working community, as it makes communicating with employees around the world much easier.
While the free version of Teams isn’t perfect – and it may not be ideal for everyone, it’s certainly going to put additional pressure on Slack. In fact, Slack has already started to show its hand with full-page newspaper ads demonstrating its clear nerves in the collaboration space. Up until now, Teams has trailed behind Slack with its lack of a free tier and limited third-party integrations, but Microsoft isn’t happy sitting on the sidelines anymore. Teams is here, and it’s ready to compete.
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