Netscape vs Internet Explorer, Mac vs PC, iOS vs Android, Ford vs Chevy, Coke vs Pepsi: the world is filled with epic business rivalries. One of the newest is Slack vs Microsoft Teams.
Slack and Microsoft Teams are the two juggernauts of workplace chat, with the two companies trying to one-up each other and poach the other’s customers. The rivalry between the two companies was almost destined from the start, after Microsoft famously considered an $8 billion bid to purchase Slack. Instead, CEO Satya Nadella and founder Bill Gates decided to create an application to go head-to-head with the popular service.
Fast-forward to Microsoft’s FY20 Q3 results, and the company boasts more than 75 million daily Teams users. In contrast, Slack last reported 12 million daily users in October 2019. Although the company has talked about nearly doubling its customers, it has yet to update its daily users number. Meanwhile, the two companies have taken digs at each other in their marketing. Microsoft has unveiled TV spots aimed at taking on its rival, while Slack took out a full-page New York Times ad “welcoming” Microsoft to the market when Teams debuted.
All of this competition means two things: Customers will likely benefit from the two companies trying to out-do each other, and the battle lines will continue to be drawn between the two platforms. If your company is looking to choose a chat platform, which of these two is right for you?
Mac Slack Client
At its heart, Slack is designed to replace email within a company. For large organizations, with thousands or tens of thousands of users, email can simultaneously be an overwhelming and woefully inadequate means of communication.
On the one hand, a single large organization can generate hundreds of thousands of emails per day. Email can leave people siloed, only seeing the emails and information sent directly to them, while missing out on all the other information they need to see.
Even if group emails are sent, they quickly become cumbersome and can be inherently difficult to manage and keep up with. Even worse, if someone is added to the group, there is no way for them to see the emails that have already been sent; they can only see what is sent from that point forward.
Workplaces, Channels and Messages
Slack’s solution is to rely on messages, rather than email, and to organize those messages into channels within workspaces, the digital representation of an organization. Each channel can have the relevant members and, when a message is sent to the channel, each member automatically receives it. Channels can also include files and attachments, further solidifying its role as the central point of all communication and information sharing. As new members join the channel, they can see current and past messages, helping them get up-to-speed.
Whether it be a team, project or topic, you can create a channel to keep conversations and work focused on the task at hand. Slack supports both private and public channels, with an option for shared channels as well. Shared channels are an excellent way to keep in touch with customers, clients, partners and others outside of your organization.
Of course, Slack also offers one-on-one private chat between members for those times when discussions do not need, or should not have, everyone’s input.
Slack also includes voice and video calling to help teams keep in touch even more easily, for those times when typing out a message just doesn’t cut it. Because calling is handled within the app, it helps keep the entire process streamlined. Voice or video calling someone is as simple as clicking on their name and tapping the dial button.
What Makes Slack Unique
One of the biggest things that makes Slack unique is its integrations. Realizing there is virtually no way for a single company to add in all the features, services, extensions and integrations its customers may want, Slack wisely built their product to be extended through integrations with other products and services.
Because integrations have been such an important part of Slack for so long, the messaging service is the undisputed king of third-party integrations, when compared with Microsoft Teams. As of the time of writing, Slack supports over 2,000 apps, products and services.
Not interested in using the built-in video calling? No problem. You can use Zoom, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex, Google Hangouts, even Microsoft Teams. The same is true for virtually every other use case. Whatever you may want to do, there’s likely an integration that can help you do it better, faster and more efficiently.
Slack’s focus on extensibility also makes it popular with companies that want to integrate it with their own, in-house applications or services.
Microsoft Teams Overview
Like Slack, Microsoft is focused on team-based communication that goes beyond email. Instead of messages, Microsoft refers to the communication as “chat,” although the company also uses the channels paradigm like Slack.
And like Slack, Teams supports both public and private channels, organized in “Teams,” Microsoft’s version of Slack’s workspaces. It’s a little confusing that Microsoft chose to name their app Teams, while also calling the high-level organization “Teams” as well—it might have been better to name the organizational group something else.
Teams also provides the option for new channel members to see all of the channel’s chat history to assist in onboarding. Teams also supports private chat between individuals, just as Slack does.
Similar to Slack, Teams offers integrations with other popular apps and services. At the time of writing, Teams supports nearly 500 apps. While an impressive number, it’s still a far cry from the 2,000 apps Slack supports.
What Makes Microsoft Teams Unique
Despite Teams’ similarly to Slack, and its smaller number of integrated apps and services, Teams has one killer feature that is hard to compete with: full integration with Microsoft’s entire ecosystem.
While Slack does offer Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) integration and support, it can’t compete with the depth of integration offered by Microsoft. Users can tap into the full power of Microsoft 365 without switching apps.
For companies who’s activities center on Microsoft’s ecosystem, this is a compelling reason to go with Teams over Slack.
While it’s clear that each program has similar overall approaches, as well as many of the same features, there are differences in pricing, storage, ease-of-use and intended targets.
Both applications support iOS, macOS, Windows, Android and Linux.
Since both programs are working to replace email and become the central hub of communication, it’s safe to say that both programs will use a fair amount of storage as chats, messages, files and attachments start adding up.
Slack offers 5 GB of space per member for free workspaces, upgrading that to 10 GB, 20 GB and 1 TB of storage for the Standard, Plus and Enterprise plans.
Teams, on the other hand, offers 2 GB of storage per user and 10 GB across all teams for the free account, upgrading to 1 TB per user and 1 TB per organization for the Business Basic and Business Standard plans. Office 365 E3 plans get unlimited storage per user, along with 1 TB of storage per organization, with an additional 10 GB per license.
Slack’s free account allows 1-to-1 video calls, while the Standard, Plus and Enterprise plans allow group video calls of up to 15 people.
In contrast, Teams has far more generous video calling. While the free version has basic video calls, much like Slack, all three paid plans allow up to 250 people in video conferences, and up to 10,000 people in online events.
Teams Video Calling
Similarly, all of Microsoft Teams’ plans support screen sharing in videos calls, while only Slack’s paid plans offer this feature.
The free version of Slack provides access to 10,000 past messages, while the paid plans have unlimited message archives.
In contrast, all versions of Teams, both free and paid, provides access to unlimited chat history.
The free version of Slack offers up to 10 third-party app integrations. All of Slack’s paid plans, however, offer unlimited integrations.
Teams, on the other hand, offers unlimited integrations across all of its plans, both free and paid.
Both services support third-party bots via their app integrations. When it comes to included bots, however, Slack is the clear winner. Slackbot greets new users, providing help and answers to common questions.
In contrast, Microsoft retired its similarly purposed T-Bot. Teams still has WhoBot, but it is primarily to search for personnel within your organization.
Because the two programs have so much in common, each will be familiar to users of the other. One substantial difference, however, is account setup and management.
Slack is far more decentralized than Teams, with each workspace requiring its own account and login. This can be a little confusing for individuals, such as freelancers, who may have access to multiple workspaces or organizations.
With Microsoft Teams, you set up a single account and login, and then add Teams, or organizations, to your account. This is much cleaner, and a bit more intuitive.
Once you get past the initial setup, however, Slack is generally easier to use and more intuitive overall, while Teams has slightly more features.
Slack’s paid plans start at $6.67 per user per month for the Standard and $12.50 for the Plus plan. Customers who need the Enterprise plan must contact Slack for pricing.
Microsoft Teams starts at $5.00 per user per month for the Business Basic and $12.50 for the Business Standard plans. The top tier Office 365 E3 plan costs $20.00 per user per month.
While it’s obvious that Slack and Teams share much in common, including purpose, many of their features and, to some extent, their target audience, there’s still enough to differentiate the two services.
Slack is generally more popular with small to medium-sized organizations, while Teams is geared toward enterprise customers. At the same time, Slack has gained its fair share of enterprise customers, including the likes of IBM, demonstrating that Slack has the ability to go head-to-head with Microsoft with even the biggest enterprise customers.
Another factor to consider is what degree of Microsoft integration you or your organization require. While Slack does provide integration with Microsoft’s products, it can’t possibly match Microsoft on this front. On the other hand, if your organization relies on Google Docs, LibreOffice, Apple iWork, or some other office suite, Teams’ deeper integration with Microsoft’s ecosystem may not matter.
Another factor to consider is whether Microsoft competes with your company. This was likely a factor behind IBM, as well as some other large companies, choosing Slack over Microsoft. Many large companies are reluctant to be dependent on a competitor for their internal communication software. Slack is a neutral, third-party company that offers a very specific, targeted service. As a result, some companies are more comfortable trusting it with their sensitive communication.
Which Should You Choose?
Slack and Microsoft Teams are both excellent choices for work chat and communication. Both of them offer a set of features that will probably work for most businesses.
Which is best for you largely depends on what you value as a customer. Slack is a streamlined tool that accomplishes its goals intuitively. Teams, on the other hand, is like many Microsoft tools: it has more features, but loses some ease-of-use along the way.
Microsoft Teams is the obvious choice if your organization is a Microsoft shop that eats, sleeps and breathes software hailing from Redmond, as the integration between Teams and the rest of the ecosystem is unrivaled.
For everyone else, however, Slack is probably the better choice. It will be faster to set up, easier to administer, more intuitive to use, has more third-party integrations and will likely provide a better overall experience.
Writing professionally since 1999, Matt has authored news articles, press releases, marketing copy, technical documentation, website content, novels, and non-fiction books. An avid tech enthusiast, Matt has spent years covering the tech industry and has even done a fair amount of development. This dual background in writing and development gives him a unique perspective and ability to write about highly technical topics for a non-technical audience.