Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the market for video conferencing and collaboration tools has exploded. With this creating such a competitive environment, these digital tools have had to carve out particular niches for themselves. Some have focused on improving productivity, for example, others have looked to prioritize ease-of-use. In this climate, two of the most popular communication platforms are Microsoft Teams and Slack.
With many organizations looking to adopt a hybrid working model that would allow employees to split their time between the office and home, remote communication tools like Slack and Teams could continue to play a major role in working life for years to come - their developers will certainly be hoping so.
But how should businesses choose between Teams and Slack, particularly with both platforms offering a high-level service. While the two programs may look and feel similar on the surface, a closer comparison reveals some key differences.
In this guide, we’ve collected all the information you need to decide whether Teams or Slack is best for your business, comparing plans and pricing, features, security and more.
Plans and pricing
For many businesses, price will be a deciding factor concerning which digital tools they use. The good news is both Teams and Slack offer free plans - although each comes with slightly different features thrown in.
With Slack’s free plan, for example, businesses can add an unlimited number of users and messages. Microsoft Teams, on the other hand only allows up to 500,000 users with its free plan - although this is effectively unlimited for all but the largest enterprises. One major difference is the fact that users of the free Slack plan can only search up to 10,000 archived messages. While this may seem like a lot, losing access to important messages feels like a significant drawback.
Generally, the free version of Teams comes with fewer limitations. With users able to access screen sharing and small-scale video conferencing. These features are restricted for free users of Slack.
The way Microsoft Teams structures its pricing plans is a little different from most video conferencing tools. Rather than having set pricing for Teams alone, there are Microsoft 365 plans that each come with different versions of Teams.
Microsoft 365 Business Basic is priced at $5.00/£3.80/AU$6.90 per user per month and comes with 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage as well as access to Teams. Unfortunately, desktop versions of Word and PowerPoint aren’t included.
Microsoft 365 Business Standard, meanwhile, is priced at $12.50/£9.40/AU$17.20 per user per month and doesn’t actually affect your available Teams features. Instead, desktop versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are now thrown in.
Finally, Microsoft 365 Premium adds extra security and privacy features, as well as a greater range of device management options. This package will set your business back $20.00/£15.10/AU$27.50 per user per month. For that, you also get the premium version of Teams.
Slack’s Standard plan starts at $6.67/£5.25/AU$8.00 per user per month. This version gets rid of the searchable limit for archived messages and comes with 10GB of storage per user - which is a significant increase on the 5GB for the entire workplace that comes with the free plan.
Standard users can also add guests and external collaborators, set compliance rules for messages and files, as well as create custom user groups. The Plus plan comes in at $12.50/£9.75/AU$15.00 per user per month and boasts 20GB of storage for each user, as well as additional security features.
Both Microsoft Teams and Slack offer users a sizable number of features. The main advantage of Slack is the way that it allows for collaboration with an unlimited number of external teams - a feature that is significantly limited when using Teams.
A major advantage for users of Microsoft’s solution, however, comes in terms of its video conferencing functionality. Video conferences with up to 250 users or live events with up to 10,000 participants are available. This may only really be useful for larger organizations but, even so, the past 18 months have demonstrated the benefits of such features. Slack does come with channels, private messages and workflow tools, but it can’t compete with Teams’ Office integration.
The rise in popularity of collaboration tools like Teams and Slack may have benefits, but it has undoubtedly introduced new vulnerabilities too. Fortunately, both Teams and Slack definitely take security seriously, offering users two-factor authentication to help keep their accounts secure.
Slack also offers compliance with most basic ISO certifications and can be configured to be HIPAA-compliant if necessary. However, Teams does provide better access control and has more advanced administration features, so probably comes out on top if security is a major dealbreaker for your organization.
Both Teams and Slack promise 24/7 support, but so do most tech firms. In practice, of course, things are a little different. With Teams, T-Bot is always on hand to offer assistance, while Slack’s help center provides an easy way to seach for common troubleshooting problems. If you want more bespoke support, Slack offers a four-hour response time with its pricier packages.
One benefit of Teams in terms of support that is too easily overlooked is the robust community of users that is always willing to offer a helping hand via forums and other informal chat platforms. They will mean that it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be stuck dealing with a Teams problem for long.
Both Teams and Slack, as well as a number of other digital workplace tools, have witnessed significant growth in popularity over the past 18 months. If your business has adopted either program, you’ll be enjoying a great range of collaboration and productivity features.
In terms of which one is better, that will largely depend on your specific needs. Teams definitely has the edge in terms of its video options (particularly for free users) but Slack has a solid range of features and offers more functionality if you collaborate with a lot of external teams. Ultimately, your choice may come down to whether you use Office programs frequently. If so, Teams may be the way to go.
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Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services. After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.