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Microsoft Teams Free challenges Slack & Co.

Microsoft Teams is currently used by over 200,000 organizations, according to Microsoft, spread over the globe in 180+ markets. Good numbers, although not even close to those of Slack, or even Microsoft’s own Skype for Business. To challenge Slack, WebEx from Cisco and other team collaboration platforms, Microsoft released a free version of Teams earlier this week.

Slack claims it is used by over 800,000 organizations worldwide. Microsoft Teams really has quite a lot to do to get to same place. Personally, having used both Slack and Teams, I have no doubt that Microsoft will get there. Teams just is so much more with less money. Comparing the paid plans from both, there’s no question about which gives more for the same money. At $5 a month per user (O365 Business Essentials), Microsoft offers Exchange mail, SharePoint, one terabyte OneDrive for Business, Office online apps and Teams with online video conferencing and group calls for up to 250 simultaneous users. At $12.50 a month per user (O365 Business Premium), full Office desktop is included, with 5 licenses (devices) per user.

Slack Standard on the other hand costs $6.67 per user, with 10 GB storage and voice / video calls for up to 15 users. Slack Premium at $12.50 per user per month adds storage to 20 GB. Simple math: basically you cannot even compare Teams and Slack.

Now Microsoft Teams Free will tackle Slack Free. Slack Free only offers one to one calls and gives 5 GB file storage. It allows a maximum of 10 apps to added. Teams Free allows groups of up to 300 users, one to one or group chats, calls and video conferencing with desktop sharing, 10 GB team storage and 2 GB personal storage for each user. Users can select from almost 150 apps to be added to Teams.

Testing Teams Free over the past two days, I must say I like it. Not wanting to mess with my “real” Teams setup on two laptops, I installed Teams on a VM, set up a free Teams account using a spare Microsoft account and had my first demo team setup in minutes, with apps like Twitter, News and YouTube added.

When signing in to Teams using a free account, the only difference compared to using an organizational O365 account is that scheduling meetings is not possible. “Meet now” is naturally included. As a free team owner you just have to schedule a meeting by posting on the team wall about what time the meeting will start. Everything else from “real” Teams is there. Users can download the Teams app when joining a team, or use the Teams web UI (Edge, Chrome and Firefox only).

Inviting people to my demo team, I noticed something that I think Microsoft should fix sooner rather than later. Only people with Microsoft accounts can be invited to join a free team as members, and later promoted to admins (owners). Trying to invite myself using an existing organizational O365 account only allowed this account to join as guest, and it could not be promoted to a member or an owner. It would be a useful feature — I would like to say essential even — to allow O365 / Azure AD users to be added as members.

On the positive side, the Teams video conferencing is excellent. Even on slow wireless networks, the audio and video quality are good. I give Teams Free 9 out of 10 points, half a point missing because of the missing scheduled meetings option, the other half from its inability to invite O365 account holders as members.

If your organization is not already using Teams, the free version offers an excellent opportunity to test it without commitment. Of course there’s nothing preventing you from using Teams Free for private purposes, too. If your family is spread all over the country, create a free team and invite them all to join. Who knows, we might even get inspired here at Win10.guru and one of these days ask you geeks to join a free team to talk shop with us!


Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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