Microsoft Teams is the company’s answer to the need for user-friendly digital collaboration software in the modern workplace. It competes with Slack and will replace Skype for Business as the premier platform for remote telework. Also, there’s a free version!
What Is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a collaborative communications app built for small businesses, large enterprises, and individuals like freelancers, clients, students, and teachers. Anyone who wants to work with others on files, especially those that use Office 365, can use Teams as the platform for getting the job done.
The app features VoIP, text, and video chat, alongside easily configured integration with Office and SharePoint, all inside a user-friendly interface. As a freemium platform, Teams allows workplaces of any size to share, meet, and work on files together in real-time through either a desktop app (for Windows/Mac/Linux), a slightly less functional web-based app, or mobile app (Android/iPhone/iPad).
Teams was first conceptualized in 2016 when the Redmond tech giant chose not to purchase Slack for $8 billion, and instead decided to develop its own app as a replacement for Skype for Business. Independently owned, Slack features native integration with Google applications, much like Teams does with nearly all other Microsoft tools.
Teams will eventually become the built-in workplace communications app for one of the world’s most popular operating systems (Windows) and productivity suites (Office 365). Even if you choose an alternative for your organization, you can expect a tremendous amount of business to happen through Teams. It’s easy to send anyone outside your organization a quick one-time-only invite to a private meeting, so you might just receive a Teams link for your next video call.
Microsoft’s educational initiatives like Microsoft Teams for Education have made it a great solution for classrooms as well. Teachers can create assignments, organize gradebooks, and make interactive quizzes through Microsoft Forms. There’s also a sizable app store that provides connectivity with relevant third-party apps like Flipgrid, Turnitin, and MakeCode.
What Does Microsoft Teams Do?
At its core, Teams simplifies and categorizes all the various interpersonal interactions that need to happen in a business with employees that need to communicate digitally. Beyond the world of business, it can be used by just about any group doing anything that requires digital communication and collaboration.
The basic structure of teams begins when you create an organization. The people you invite to this organization (e.g., “My Classy Business”) are presented with different teams (e.g., Marketing, IT, Classroom #4), depending on how you manage permissions. In these teams, you (or users with admin access) can create public or private channels (e.g., Announcements, Project #21, Pop Quiz). Channels are where you can chat in organized threads, share digital files, and even collaborate on them in real time, depending on the integrations you’ve set up.
Microsoft’s Advisor for Teams simplifies the process of setting up your organization. Once you’re up and running, you can set up virtual meetings and conferences and start creating, editing, and sharing files from Office 365 or any file storage service you want to integrate. The third-party app integrations in Teams make it easy to set up any integration or service you might need.
You can access these apps directly from Teams by clicking the “Apps” button in the bottom-left corner of the desktop application.
What Does Microsoft Teams Cost?
For no cost at all, you can create an organization in Teams and invite up to 300 people (or unlimited users if you’re an accredited academic institution). Members of your Teams organization can be grouped into teams or channels with group audio and video calling and 10 GB of cloud storage (plus 2 GB per person).
Plus, outside of the integration with nearly every Microsoft app, you can also connect Teams to apps from Google, Adobe, Trello, Evernote, and hundreds more.
If you and less than 300 people need to chat over text, voice, and video, while sharing and collaborating through Office 365, you can start using Teams for free right now. If you need access to official support, more storage, better security, more features for meetings, or integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint, Yammer, Planner, and Stream apps, you’re looking at $5 per user per month. Beyond that, access to desktop versions of other Office apps like Outlook and Word, along with higher data caps and a few other features, will cost you $12.50 per user per month.
These prices are slightly higher if you opt for a monthly commitment instead of renewing your subscription annually. You can view a full breakdown of the pricing structure for Teams on the official Microsoft website.
Microsoft Teams versus Slack
IBM chose Slack for all its employees. The NFL chose Teams for its players, coaches, and staff. This competition between the two biggest digital collaboration apps has made the two more similar than ever before as they race to incorporate the features that a wide range of diverse workplaces need to be successful in the modern digital age.
Although it’s quite common to see these two platforms compared, individual advantages like the free file storage limits (Microsoft’s 2 GB vs. Slack’s 5 GB) might change over time as one company moves to compete with the other. Both offer freemium plans, although Microsoft’s first paid tier ($5) is slightly less expensive than Slack’s ($6.67).
For larger enterprises especially, Teams currently has an edge over Slack by providing more features like conference scheduling, detailed meeting recordings, and multi-user screen sharing. Both platforms support bots, have apps on every operating system, and offer deep levels of customization. But overall, any differences will continue to lessen as more features become standardized across platforms.
The biggest differentiator between Slack and Teams is the fact that the latter belongs to Microsoft. This means that Teams has far superior native integration with Office 365, even in the free version. Meanwhile, Slack primarily integrates with Google products, among others (including Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint). Many of these integrations are mutual, but some are not; find out which app integrates with the software and third-party platforms you’ll be using to conduct your business, and decide accordingly. There are always other platforms for digital collaboration and working remotely, like Discord or Google Hangouts.
Choosing Microsoft Teams as your platform for digital communication and collaboration mostly depends on what you’ll be using it for, and whether or not it integrates with the other software you use. For most of today’s digital communications platforms, it all boils down to you, your organization, and how practical or meaningful the various features actually are to you.