If your new normal is remote, you’re looking to teleconferencing to help keep your team connected. As long as you have an internet connection, your team can leverage chat and video tools to brainstorm, collaborate, meet for a virtual happy hour, and more. Two of the more common and popular teleconferencing platforms used by small businesses are Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Both tools offer a free version and can be used on any device, such as your phone or computer. So, how do you know which is best for you?
How much does it cost?
Being part of the Office 365 suite (soon to be rebranded as Microsoft 365 on April 21) makes Microsoft Teams an easy choice for small businesses. Starting at $5/user per month with Office 365 Business plans, your users can make online audio and video calls and host online meetings.
Some higher-priced plans include additional features like dial-in audio conferencing and cloud voice (a cloud-based phone system). These features are also available as add-ons (i.e. audio conferencing at $4/user per month).
Microsoft has responded to the drastic shift in office culture due to COVID-19 and made Microsoft Teams free to individuals and businesses.
What do I get with Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is much more than a teleconferencing platform. It’s a collaboration platform designed to combine chat, video and audio.
- The chat feature allows your users to have private discussions or group meetings through specific channels (helpful tips for chatting in Teams – here).
- Video conferencing can host up to 250 users during a meeting and is easily set up in Outlook (instructions on how to schedule a meeting – here).
- During a video conference, you can record the meeting for notes, to save screen sharing material and more. And, you can store video recordings online with Microsoft Stream. It’s like having an internal-use only YouTube channel. In Stream, you can upload recordings, organize them, and archive them as they become dated.
It’s also a central hub for tools your company uses regularly as Microsoft Teams integrates with the Office 365 suite and other apps. So, you can stay on track in between meetings by keeping important files and your team’s task list in one place (with apps like OneDrive and Microsoft Planner).
Reliability and Security
Microsoft offers a high-level of security throughout the Office 365 suite — and Microsoft Teams is no exception. That being said, businesses should still backup all the information they store in Microsoft Teams (and Office 365) with a third-party solution. Microsoft protects against data loss that is a result of their systems. However, they leave you to protect against bad actors (purposeful and malicious data deletion and external malware or ransomware) and accidental deletion. Using a cloud-based Office 365 backup service will guarantee your information is kept safe in case any of the above problems occur.
How much does it cost?
The free version of Zoom makes it easy to start video conferencing. It includes video and voice calls, meetings, and the ability to join by phone. At this level, your conferences will be limited to 40 minutes and 100 participants. Paid plans offer more features including longer meetings and allowing for a greater number of participants. Pricing for small to mid-sized businesses range from $15-20/host per month. And like Microsoft Teams, you can pay for phone system tools to transform Zoom into a unified communications system).
However, due to COVID-19, Zoom has temporarily waived the 40-minute limit on video conferences.
What do I get with Zoom?
Zoom Meetings is most commonly used to hold meetings and webinars. However, it does have tools for chat and audio/video calls.
- Zoom Webinars gives you the tools to host and live-stream webinars (more on how to use Zoom webinars – here).
- In-meeting and webinar chat makes it easy to collaborate in real time (how to start a Zoom chat – here).
- You can schedule meetings in Outlook with an add-on (video demo – here)
- Like Microsoft Teams, Zoom also gives users the option to record videos and download them or store in the Cloud. Cloud storage is available as a paid add-on to the free version or included within subscriptions.
In an effort to offer a similar hub-like experience to Microsoft Teams, Zoom integrates with Slack. With paid accounts for each service, you can manage and run your meetings in the same place you communicate regularly.
Reliability and Security
Zoom has come under increased scrutiny over security concerns and weaknesses as traffic surged recently. CEO Eric Yuan has publicly addressed these concerns and refocused all feature updating toward increasing the security of the service. Despite this, Zoom-bombing continues to occur. Zoom-bombing is when an uninvited occupant enters a Zoom meeting; this can be done through a Google search for a URL with zoom.us if your meeting is not private. To prevent unwanted users from disrupting your meeting you can:
- Use a per-meeting ID
- Enable the “Waiting Room” feature so that you can monitor and approve or reject potential attendees
- Disable options such as Join Before Host
- Lock the meeting after all approved occupants have joined
Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer teleconferencing solutions for businesses that can help employees collaborate while away from the office. The right solution for your business will depend on your needs. Zoom is a great alternative for video and teleconferencing needs, but Microsoft Teams provides more value to small businesses.
- Microsoft Teams and Zoom currently offer more out of their free versions in response to COVID-19
- Microsoft Teams can join with all Office 365 tools to increase collaboration and organization between meetings
- Zoom offers video and phone conferencing and meeting recording features similar to Microsoft Teams
- Zoom has felt increased pressure to make its server more secure since Zoom-bombing incidents have grown