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Slack vs Teams (by Microsoft): What’s the Difference and How to Choose?

The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the shift towards remote work. Teams of all sizes are moving their workflows to online productivity tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. By comparing Slack vs Teams, you can find out which is the best option for your business.

Both Slack and Teams make it easy to create chat rooms with a broad range of collaboration tools for modern workplaces. Moreover, both platforms offer free plans, and they integrate with multiple third-party services. Since the two services have so much in common at first glance, it’s essential to understand their differences before you choose a platform.

Slack vs Microsoft Teams

In this article, we’ll take both collaboration tools for a test drive to see which one is better. In particular, we’ll look at their features, ease of use, scalability options, and pricing. Let’s dive right in!

An introduction to Slack vs Teams by Microsoft

There’s a lot of backstory between Slack and Microsoft. Back in 2016, Microsoft tried to acquire Slack, but the deal fell through and Microsoft launched its own collaboration tool called Teams.

Fast forward to the present day, and Teams has gathered an impressive 13 million daily active users[1]. In comparison, Slack boasts around 12 million daily active users[2]. As you might imagine, those numbers have risen sharply since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until recently, Teams didn’t have a free plan, putting Slack at a considerable advantage for smaller, budget-conscious companies. Now, both apps offer free plans with limited features that are a good fit for small teams.

Slack

(The Slack homepage)

Microsoft Teams

(The Teams homepage)

At a glimpse, here’s how Slack vs Teams by Microsoft compare:

Feature Microsoft Teams Slack
Channels (or teams) βœ… βœ…
Private messages βœ… βœ…
Users Up to 500k with the free plan Unlimited with paid plans
Unlimited messages βœ… βœ…
Searchable message history βœ… Up to 10,000 messages with the free plan, unlimited with paid plans
File sharing βœ… βœ…
External collaborator access Limited to five per account Unlimited external users with paid plans
Screen sharing βœ… Paid plans only
Video and audio calls Unlimited Unlimited
Video conferencing Up to 1,000 users with paid plans Up to 15 users with paid plans
Web, desktop, and mobile apps βœ… βœ…
Integrations Over 500 apps to choose from Up to 10 for free plans, or over 2,000 with paid plans

One thing to keep in mind is that both Slack and Teams offer integration with the Microsoft Office Suite. Although Teams provides that integration natively, using Microsoft Office doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider Slack for your office communication needs.

Slack vs Teams compared in detail (five key criteria)

Now that we’ve introduced both tools and briefly discussed the main differences between them, let’s compare them in more detail. We will be looking at five key areas:

For each section, we’ll break down which platform is the clear winner and why.

1. Features

At first glance, Slack and Teams may seem nearly identical in terms of features. To illustrate that fact, let’s go over some of the most critical functionality for both platforms:

Features Microsoft Teams Slack
Set new teams or channels βœ… (you can also use templates) βœ…
Private chatrooms βœ… βœ…
File sharing βœ… βœ…
Screen sharing βœ… βœ…
Video and voice calls βœ… βœ…
Message and file browsing βœ… (Teams also enables you to browse team-specific files) βœ…
Integration with third-party tools βœ… βœ… (Slack offers far more integrations)
Dedicated tab for calls and frequent collaborators βœ… ❌
Record calls βœ… ❌
Change the background for video calls βœ… ❌
Generate call transcripts βœ… ❌
Built-in calendar βœ… Only available with third-party integrations
Invite external collaborators to teams or channels βœ… (with limits) βœ…

It’s difficult to decide between Slack vs Teams if you only look at a list of features, however. To make an informed decision, you also need to understand what type of experience both platforms offer, which we’ll cover in the next section.

For now, it’s important to note that while both tools offer comparable feature sets, there are some key differences between Slack and Teams. For instance, Slack enables you to invite unlimited external collaborators on any paid plan. That feature is called Slack Connect:

Using Slack Connect

(Using Slack Connect)

Teams, on the other hand, imposes a limit on the number of external collaborators you can invite. That makes it a poor option if you want to coordinate with third-party vendors or contractors without giving them full access to your team rooms.

On the other hand, if you need robust video conferencing functionality, Teams outshines Slack. It enables you to generate call transcripts, and even change your call background:

An example of a video call in Teams

(An example of a video call in Teams)

With Teams, you can also record calls and set up virtual waiting rooms.

While Slack also offers video and voice call functionality, it’s a much more straightforward affair with less advanced features:

An example of a Slack call

(An example of a Slack call)

πŸ† Winner: If you’re not interested in advanced call functionality, Slack and Teams are evenly matched. However, Teams is the better platform by far if your company hosts a lot of meetings, whether you primarily use audio or video.

2. User experience

Chat is at the core of both Slack and Teams. So it’s not a surprise that both platforms offer a highly intuitive chatting experience. Here’s what the Slack chat looks like:

The Slack chat

(The Slack chatroom experience)

In comparison, here’s what a Teams chatroom looks like:

A Microsoft Teams chatroom

(An example of a Teams chatroom)

As far as basic chatting functionality goes, the two platforms are evenly matched. You can tag other members, start private chats with them, and jump between channels.

If you look to the left in the examples above, you’ll see that both platforms provide you an overview of all the channels that you’re a member of, and you can move between them with a click. If you need to create a new channel, Slack enables you to do so from that same menu:

Adding a new channel in Slack

(Creating a channel in Slack)

When using Teams, you create new “teams” instead of channels. However, the process is roughly similar, as you can decide who has access to each new chatroom:

Creating a new team in Teams

(Creating a new Team for chat in Microsoft’s Teams)

Teams has an edge when it comes to channel or team personalization. The platform enables you to set up new teams using “templates”. In other words, you can copy the settings that you’ve customized for other channels:

Using Team templates

(Using Team templates to create new chatrooms)

Another aspect where Teams has an edge over Slack is that it’s easier to start calls within specific teams or with other users. Teams includes a dedicated Calls tab in its sidebar, which includes frequently-dialed contacts:

Slack vs Teams: Accessing the calls tab from Teams

(Starting a call using the Calls tab in Teams)

Slack does not have a dedicated Calls tab. Moreover, accessing some of its other useful tabs can be complex, as they tend to be hidden. For example, if you want to see an overview of the files you have access to, you can go to the File Browser tab, but to get there, you may need to click the More button under Threads first:

Slack vs Teams: Accessing files using Slack

(Accessing extra options in Slack)

Teams, on the other hand, makes it easy to access files. You have a dedicated Files button in the main menu at the left of the screen, and individual Files tabs for each team:

Accessing files using Teams

(Accessing extra options in Teams)

As a whole, Slack can be easier to pick up for new users because it hides some of its features. Teams, on the other hand, may be a bit overwhelming at first. Once you get used to the platform, however, it’s a very user-friendly tool.

πŸ† Winner: Both platforms are evenly matched in terms of their user experience. Slack has an edge for new users, and Teams offers more options overall.

3. Ease of collaboration

Merely being able to chat with other team members isn’t enough for a collaboration tool. If you want to work together on projects, you need access to features such as:

  • Being able to share files
  • Inviting specific users to channels or teams
  • Sending private messages
  • Being able to launch calls at any time
  • Integration with the third-party tools that your team uses
  • Having access to a shared calendar

On paper, Teams and Slack offer all of those features. When it comes to file-sharing and inviting users into channels, Slack and Teams are evenly matched. With either platform, all you have to do is upload a file or share a link, just as you would with an email.

For example, here’s how Slack enables you to attach files to messages:

Slack vs Teams: Uploading files using Slack

(Attaching files to messages in Slack)

Teams offers a similar interface, and in both cases, the options you see for uploading files depend on the integrations you enable for each platform. We’ll talk more about integrations shortly, but for now, let’s discuss calls.

As we mentioned before, Teams has an overwhelming edge when it comes to calling and meeting functionality. Moreover, it also includes a built-in calendar that you can use to show project deadlines, tag other team members, and more:

An example of a Teams calendar

(Using the built-in Teams calendar for project tracking)

Moreover, you can set up individual calendars for each team. This makes it easier to navigate tasks without getting confused by projects that aren’t yours.

Slack also offers calendar functionality. To use it, however, you’ll need to integrate it with Google Calendar or another option:

Slack vs Teams: Using Google Calendar with Slack

(Using Slack’s Google Calendar integrations to plan a meeting)

Overall, integrating calendar functionality with Slack simply doesn’t feel as intuitive as using Teams’ built-in tool. That gives Teams an edge for project planning.

πŸ† Winner: Better calling and meeting functionality as well as built-in calendars (including team-specific calendars) make Teams a more comprehensive platform for collaboration.

4. Scalability and integrations

For a collaboration tool to be useful, it needs to support as many users and teams or channels as you need. That applies whether you’re running a small business or a multinational company, and both Slack and Teams succeed in this regard.

The primary limitations you’ll face with either tool depend on pricing. Here’s a quick overview of how Slack and Teams compare in terms of scalability and integration:

Microsoft Teams Slack
User limits with free plans Up to 500k users Unlimited
User limits with paid plans Unlimited Unlimited
User limits for meetings with free plans Up to 100 participants One-on-one calls
User limits for meetings with paid plans Limits go up to 10,000 participants Up to 15 participants (with all plans)
Free integrations Free versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 10 free integrations available
Paid integrations Over 900 available integrations Over 2,000 available integrations

When it comes to integrations, you’re very limited with either Slack or Teams if you want to stick with their free plans. Even though Teams offers free versions of parts of the Office Suite, these are very limited when compared to the full software.

If you stick with either platform’s free tier, Microsoft Teams does have a decisive advantage when it comes to meetings. With a free Teams account, you can have up to 100 members join a call. Moreover, Slack limits you to up to 15 meeting participants even on paid plans.

One aspect where Slack does have an edge is that it offers a far broader set of integrations, since the platform has been around for longer:

Slack integrations

(Slack’s wide range of integrations should cover every tool you need)

The Teams apps library is still impressive, however, with other 900 available integrations:

Slack vs Teams: Microsoft Teams integrations

(The growing Teams app integrations)

In practice, you’re unlikely to find a popular third-party platform or service that doesn’t integrate with both platforms. However, if you use very niche software for day-to-day tasks, you may have better luck finding an app for it with Slack.

πŸ† Winner: Slack wins when it comes to the sheer number of integrations available. However, Teams is the more scalable platform by far if meetings are important for your organization.

5. Pricing

Ultimately, your decision between Slack vs Teams will probably come down to pricing. In that regard, both Slack and Teams are evenly matched. Here’s a breakdown of Slack’s premium plans:

  • Standard: $6.67 per user per month, which includes unlimited message archives, unlimited apps, group video calls with screen sharing, and secure collaboration with outside organizations using Slack Connect. You also get 10 GB of storage per member with this plan.
  • Plus: $12.50 per user per month, which includes a 99.9% uptime guarantee, data exports for all messages, and user provisioning options. This plan also gives you 20 GB of storage per member.
  • Enterprise: This solution offers unlimited workspaces, HIPAA compliance, data loss prevention, and a dedicated support team. You also get 1 TB of storage per member with this plan. The price will vary depending on your needs, so you’ll need to contact Slack’s sales team directly for an estimate.

Now let’s compare that with Microsoft Teams premium plans:

  • Business Basic: $5 per user per month, which includes online meetings with up to 300 participants, video recording, and access to additional Microsoft 365 services such as SharePoint Online, Yammer, Planner, and Stream. It also includes 1 TB of storage per user.
  • Business Standard: $12.50 per user per month, which gives you additional productivity services and access to Microsoft Bookings.
  • E3: $20 per user per month, which includes online meetings with up to 10,000 participants, unlimited file attachments, and enterprise-level security and compliance.

πŸ† Winner: As far as price goes, both platforms offer plans at similar levels. That means you can choose whichever platform you prefer based on its features, user experience, scalability, and collaboration tools.

Final thoughts on Slack vs Teams by Microsoft

Choosing between Slack vs Teams will largely depend on your team’s current working environment and needs. To recap, here are the features available with both apps:

Feature Microsoft Teams Slack
Channels (or teams) βœ… βœ…
Private messages βœ… βœ…
Users Up to 500k with the free plan Unlimited with paid plans
Unlimited messages βœ… βœ…
Searchable message history βœ… Up to 10,000 messages with the free plan, unlimited with paid plans
File sharing βœ… βœ…
External collaborator access Limited to five per account Unlimited external users with paid plans
Screen sharing βœ… Paid plans only
Video and audio calls Unlimited Unlimited
Video conferencing Up to 1,000 users with paid plans Up to 15 users with paid plans
Web, desktop, and mobile apps βœ… βœ…
Integrations Over 500 apps to choose from Up to 10 for free plans, or over 2,000 with paid plans

Microsoft Teams is the optimal choice if your company is already paying for Microsoft 365 access for all employees. This can save you a lot of money, since the costs of popular productivity apps quickly add up as your team expands.

What’s more, many medium and large companies depend on virtual events these days. Teams makes video conferencing effortless, enabling you to host meetings for hundreds of participants and even record your events. This functionality is limited in Slack, and it’s not available at all in the free version.

On the other hand, if you manage a small business, Slack might be the better option. It’s the perfect tool for remote working, enabling you to integrate with a multitude of other apps and automate tasks. It’s also a better solution if your team collaborates in real-time using Google Workspace. Plus, agencies will appreciate the ability to invite external collaborators, which is not as straightforward with Teams.

TL;DR: Both platforms are comparable in terms of features and functionality. However, Slack is more suitable for smaller companies and agencies, due to its scalability and external collaboration capabilities. On the other hand, large companies who already use Microsoft 365 might be better off with Microsoft Teams.

A quality productivity tool can boost your company’s operational efficiency. Slack has established itself as the market leader due to its ease of use and unique design, but competitors are quickly catching up!

Do you have any questions about Slack vs Teams? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Layout and presentation by Chris Fitzgerald and Karol K.

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