If you have ever worked with a team on a project, you might be familiar with Slack, one of the better-known tools for group communication and collaboration. It’s not the only tool of its kind around, though, so let’s take a look at some alternatives.
What is Slack, and What Makes It So Great?
At its heart, Slack is a chat app. It lets teams chat in different channels, and in private direct messages. It remembers message histories, so it’s easy to go back and find discussions later. Slack is also extensible, offering an app ecosystem that adds everything from productivity and project management tools to analytics, office management, social integration, and more. It’s very easy to use, and you can customize it to do pretty much anything your teams needs.
Slack is free if you just want to chat with your team and don’t need loads of storage. The free version comes with 5 GB total storage—not huge, but it can still hold quite a few documents for team sharing. The free version also lets you search up to 10,000 of your previous messages if you need to reference old material. The free version also lets you use up to 10 third-party apps. You can use the free version for an unlimited amount of time, and with as many users as you want.
Slack also offers two subscription tiers:
- Standard: At $6.67 per user per month (if billed annually), the Standard plan adds unlimited message history, unlimited apps, 10 GB of storage per user, and some enhancements to advanced features like external users, compliance, and group video calls.
- Plus: At $12.50 per user per month (if billed annually), the Plus plan offers 20 GB of storage per user, fast tech support, and more administrative control.
A Slack team can include several thousand members, and in addition to a browser interface, there are dedicated apps for most desktop and mobile platforms.
So, Why Would You Want to Switch?
The main reason you might want to explore alternatives is the cost (if you need the features a paid Slack plan offers). At the per member pricing, the price of a large team can get expensive pretty quick. The fees add up quickly if your chat community is large. (Though it is important to note that you only get billed for the active users under Slack’s Fair Billing Policy.)
And if you want a free option that offers more features than Slack, there are alternatives that do. Some offer free group collaboration for large numbers without restricting your message archive limit. Some free alternatives provide features like screen sharing, increased storage capacity, or AD/LDAP synchronization.
Or, maybe you had a bad experience with Slack (or just don’t like it) and want another option.
Whatever your reason, there are plenty of other great tools out there to meet your needs. We use Slack here at How-To Geek, and we love it. But we get it if you don’t feel the same. So, let’s take a look at your other options.
Try Hosting the Service Yourself
If you’re familiar with server administration, and have the resources available, you could try hosting the service yourself. Hosting your own service gives you complete control over your environment, which means a lot to systems administrators. Of course, hosting your own platform also means you’re responsible for the maintenance, security, and uptime of the server—a daunting task, even to experienced techies.
Two of the more popular open-source options, Rocket.Chat and Mattermost, offer many comparable features to Slack. You can download a server client for both products directly from their website. Rocket.Chat and Mattermost integrate with your current AD/LDAP environments, other applications, and support Windows, Mac OS, and Linux operating systems.
Both offer similar user interfaces to Slack. You can even purchase on-premises support if you need it, but there’s also plenty of support documentation available online. If you’re interested in the architecture of the products, you can find the source code for both on GitHub.
Move to another Hosted Service
There are dozens of great options if you’re not interested in maintaining a server yourself. Stride (also known as HipChat) is a great choice if you use other Atlassian apps and need integration. Stride’s free version gives you an unlimited number of users, allows you to search up to 25K messages in your message history, and provides group video conferencing. You can also pay $3 per user per month to increase your file storage, add group screen sharing, and enable remote desktop control—a powerful feature.
Ryver is another interesting Slack alternative if you’re looking for more structure. Your first six team members are free. After that, you pay $99 a month for as many users as needed. With Ryver, you can manage a Team’s To-Do list more effectively using their task management feature. Ryver also provides you with unlimited chat history retrieval, data storage, and guest user accounts.
There is always Microsoft and Google
Of course Microsoft and Google offer their own solutions for team chat and group collaboration. Microsoft has several tools, including Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync), Skype, and Microsoft Teams. If you’re looking for seamless integration with your Microsoft Office applications, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business are great tools.
Google offers their Hangouts application for free. With diverse integration and a strong name, Google can solve your simple chat needs. If you want more features and powerful tools, Google’s G Suite is another way to go. With reliable file storage, easy file sharing, and reasonable prices for small teams, G Suite is a strong contender.
There are also dozens of other Slack alternatives out there, so we’ve barely scratched the surface here. Hopefully, we’ve given you enough to get you started looking for a good alternative, though. It all boils down to your needs and preferences. If you’re looking into switching, you probably have a feature in mind that means a lot to you. Whether it be message archive retrieval, specific application integration, or more structure and notifications for your team, we’re willing to bet you can find the perfect product to suit your needs.