Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Comparing the Two Giants

Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Comparing the Two Giants

The two made the news earlier in 2020 when Slack filed a competition complaint against Microsoft. The bulk of the report was about how Microsoft was “illegally tying” Teams to Office 365.

The history between these two platforms runs deeper when a few years ago, Microsoft was thinking of buying the SaaS giant for about eight billion USD. But instead of going through, they decided instead to build their own team collaboration chat tool.

Meanwhile, Slack was also busy buying out other competitors. In 2018, Slack acquired Atlassian, which led to the discontinuation of Hipchat and Stride (and provided a migration option to Slack for all their customers).

Now, let’s compare the two and see which one is better…

Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Overview

A few years ago, there was no need for Slack to get worried about the threat that is Microsoft Teams. This new tool came out a bit late, giving Slack the time to cement itself as a standard in the collaboration space.

However, things got shaken up when Teams got past Slack in terms of daily active users, hitting 20 million in November of 2019.

The daily active users of Microsoft Teams got past Slack during the last two quarters of 2019.

This number even grew to 75 million in the first half of 2020. That number alone is a clear threat to Slack’s dominance.

Naturally, that doesn’t mean that Slack is dead. Microsoft Teams may be getting ahead of Slack in the battle for large enterprises and government institutions (largely because of Microsoft’s expanding Office 365 customer base).

Slack has no problem snagging most funded startups, making it (still) the king at startups.

Technology penetration of Slack is still higher compared to Microsoft Teams among funded startups

Looking at the big picture, Microsoft Teams is designed for larger enterprise companies and organizations. Its setup is somewhat more complex compared to that of Slack, though that can be attributed to the tool’s integrations with Office 365 applications.

Slack, on the other hand, is way easier to set up. That must be one of the reasons why startups love it.

Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Key Features

Microsoft Teams and Slack both offer a plethora of features to help you collaborate with your team and increase your productivity level. But since they offer almost the same thing, many of their features overlap with each other.

For example, you will find in both platforms features like private and team messaging, video conference calls, file sharing, screen sharing, and more.

Let’s talk about the specific features you can expect from a chat and collaboration tool and how the two of them compare to each other.

How the messaging feature differs?

In terms of messaging, both tools provide a similar experience, with a few minor differences…

The first one is the advanced formatting options in Microsoft Teams. Aside from the usual options (like bold, italic, lists, etc.), you can even change the color of your font, change the font size, and even insert a heading (or a quote or a table).

But to see all the options, you must expand the compose box first.

Microsoft Teams has more advanced formatting options

By the way, if you have used Yammer before, you may see a lot of similarities between Yammer’s feed and the conversation thread in Microsoft Teams.

In addition, it’s easy to add a GIF in Teams. There’s a button in the compose box that will let you insert GIFs and stickers to your message (kind of similar to how it works on Facebook).

With Slack, you will have to use a quick command first, which basic users may not even know about.

Slack command for inserting a GIF on message

But the cool thing about Slack’s messaging feature is that you can react to messages other than the usual like “like” and “love”. In fact, you can leave any emoji reaction on a message (and even upload your own emoji).

How about voice and video calls?

Microsoft Teams and Slack offer voice and video calls. However, if you’re on Slack’s free plan, you may not enjoy it that much since you can only voice or video call one person at a time.

If you want to hold a voice or video conference with your team, you need to upgrade to a paid plan (which supports voice and video calls for up to 15 people).

Meet more efficiently with video conferencing with Slack

With Teams, it’s a different story. With the free version, you can meet up with up to 300 persons (only until the end of June 2021). Higher paid plans will allow you to meet up with 10,000 participants.

The limit here (for the free plan) is that the meeting can only last up to 60 minutes.

Microsoft Teams is now a complete meeting and calling solution

Since Microsoft is also behind the success of Skype, you will certainly feel Skype’s vibe in Teams. There are also similar advanced features in Teams’ video calls that are not in Slack like background blur, recording meetings, and scheduling meetings (natively).

Is there any difference in their collaboration capabilities?

Microsoft Teams and Slack both offer a wide range of collaboration features.

One is that both allow file sharing in their free plans. Both also have screen sharing capabilities. Though in the case of Slack, it’s only available on the paid plans. No screen sharing for free plan users.

Sharing files with your team in Slack

When uploading a file, Slack has a size limit of 1 GB while it’s 15 GB with Microsoft Teams. Most importantly, you can view (and edit) the document or play the video straight away on Teams without having to download the file first.

Playing videos directly on Microsoft Teams

In terms of storage limits, Slack comes with a 5 GB storage per user in the free plan. You can always extend the limit to 10 and 20 GB per user by upgrading the plan. The enterprise plan has an allocation of 1 TB of space per user.

With Teams, you get 10 GB of free space for the whole team on the free plan. Upgrading the plan will allow you to increase the storage for up to 1 TB.

How about integrations?

Integration with apps is important since it allows you to use the apps without having to open them separately. This makes it perfect to work productivity without disrupting the workflow as well as avoiding potential distractions.

As of the moment, Slack is the clear winner. There are more than 2,000 app integrations with Slack including Microsoft Outlook and OneDrive. Unfortunately, you need to upgrade to a paid plan to enjoy all integrations since the free plan only allows up to ten integrations.

Slack with more than 2,000 app integrations

On the other hand, Microsoft Teams offer unlimited integrations.

The problem here is that Teams only has half of Slack’s app integrations. But Teams works perfectly with any of the Office 365 apps to the point of being able to edit and comment on a document or a slide within Teams.

Communicate and collaborate in one place with Microsoft Teams

Although it’s is behind Slack in the number of app integrations, Teams is catching up really quickly.

In fact, Teams has launched more than 100 new partners including vital productivity apps like Hootsuite, Asana, and even Trello (which is owned by Atlassian that’s owned by Slack).

Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Security and Compliance

In terms of security and compliance, both tools are doing pretty well.

For one, Microsoft Teams and Slack both have data encryption and compliance certification like ISO/IEC 27001 as well as two-factor authentication features.

Security and compliance in Microsoft Teams

Note that in Teams, enforcing the two-factor authentication is only possible with a paid plan.

Although they have an equal standing right now, Teams was really ahead of Slack in the past. But Slack has been catching up the past few years, which is why it’s now compliant with the most basic ISO certifications.

The security program at Slack protects the organization and data at every layer

In addition, you can request specific workspaces that are HIPAA-compliant (though this is only available for enterprise plans).

On the other hand, Microsoft Teams has better administrative controls. But like Slack, the functionality is available only with paid plans.

Aside from admin controls, Teams also has better access control and information management, with additional options for IT managers.

But that doesn’t mean Slack has bad administrative tools — it’s actually quite good. However, they are also reserved for the higher paid plans (plus and enterprise).

Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Pricing Models

As for pricing, Microsoft Teams and Slack offer free plans. However, the offering for the free widely varies, with Slack being a bit restrictive. But make no mistake, their free plan are generous.

Here’s a comparison table between the free plans of Microsoft Teams and Slack:

Microsoft TeamsSlack
Chat messagesUnlimited10,000 message history
Voice and video chatYes1:1 calls
Screen sharingYesNo
Channel meetingsYesNo
App integrationsUnlimited
(500+ options)
Maximum of 10
(2,000+ options)
File storage10 GB shared storage
(2 GB/user)
5 GB of total storage
Maximum users500,000Unlimited
Guest accessYesNo
Two-factor authenticationNoYes

If you want to use both of these tools at their best, you got to upgrade to a paid plan. Once your team grows, you will feel the limitations of the free plan.

For Slack, the next tier from the free plan is the standard plan, which costs $6.67 per user per month. This will remove the constraints on the message history and on the integration options with other apps.

Slack pricing structure

Moreover, the file storage will also increase to 10 GB per team member. External collaboration also becomes possible while voice and video calls can now be up to 15 participants (with screen sharing capabilities).

Your team will also be able to authenticate using Google.

As for Teams, the next plan is the Microsoft 365 Business Basic, which costs $5 per user per month. With extends the meeting duration up to 24 hours, with the capability to record the meetings.

Microsoft Teams pricing structure

The file storage is also increased to 1 TB per organization, with an additional 10 GB per license. You also get additional Microsoft 365 services like SharePoint Online, Stream, Planner, and Yammer.

A side note — if you want to get the desktop versions of the popular Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you need to upgrade to the next plan, Microsoft 365 Business Standard, which costs $12.50 per user per month.

In terms of security, the business basic plan is more than enough as it will provide your organization with more security options like single sign-on to all Microsoft 365 apps and services as well as enforced multi-factor authentication.

So which collaboration app is better?

Admittedly, this Microsoft Teams vs Slack is tough. Both are really good tools to use for your team. Though hat’s off to Microsoft Teams for becoming this good after only a few years since it launched.

Even the free plans of these platforms are such a grab. Imagine being able to enjoy awesome features to help your team work better and faster. Yes, even if there are limits, it’s still worth the try.

But let’s dissect first everything we have learned so far:

  • Over the past year, Microsoft Teams snagged the first place in terms of the most active daily users (especially since Teams is largely being used by large organizations). On the other hand, Slack is still the king of startups.
  • The messaging feature of both tools is more or less equal, with a few unique perks from each one. For Teams, you have more formatting options and accessible buttons for GIFs and stickers while you can freely react with any emoji in Slack.
  • In terms of voice and video calls, Teams may have a bit of an edge here considering all the advanced features it brings like background blur, meeting recordings, and natively scheduling calls. It doesn’t help that Slack’s voice and video call is limited in terms of participants.
  • The collaboration capabilities are more or less the same. Even the potential for file storage is somewhat similar. The integrations, however, are better with Slack as it has more than 2,000 app integrations available.
  • But Teams is perfect for any Office 365 integration. Slack has Office 365 integration but it’s only limited to OneDrive and Outlook.
  • As for security and compliance, Microsoft Teams and Slack are equal. There a few unique advantages to each but the bottom line is, you get a secure channel to communicate with your team.
  • In terms of pricing, both tools have a free plan. For the paid plans, Slack is somewhat more expensive — considering that Microsoft Teams plans are business suites and includes more than one app.

So who’s the clear winner?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but I have to use the “depends on your needs” card. But hear me out for a bit.

As you can see, Microsoft Teams is more suited for large organizations and businesses. They’re basically designed to go with Microsoft Office 365 and discourage its users to look further for any collaboration tools. That’s why if your organization is running on Office 365, look no further than Teams.

On the other hand, if you’re using another ecosystem, Slack is probably the best option. As you know already, Slack has integration with almost any productivity app you can think of (including some of Office 365 services and Google Suite).

But remember, Microsoft Teams isn’t a standalone product. It’s part of a larger ecosystem that is Office 365. This is why going for a paid plan of Teams is certainly more beneficial in terms of value for your money.

About Ryan

As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage the Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments.

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