Remote work is increasingly replacing office-based jobs, demanding more and more resources to work online. In response to this trend, Microsoft has created an accessible version of one of its best-selling business products: Microsoft Teams.
Small changes to make Microsoft a major competitor
There is a gap where small businesses have limited options when it comes to digital tools for meetings and organizing activities. They have been forced to choose between the basic Microsoft 365 plan or its rivals, such as Zoom, Slack, Google Workspace, etc.
Now, Microsoft aims to address small businesses with an affordable, quality proposition. They are in the development stage of the first standalone version of Microsoft Teams for small businesses.
For $4 per user per month, Microsoft Teams Essentials will give you access to key Teams meeting features without the usual Office suite that requires the more expensive Microsoft 365 plan.
This new version makes Teams a significant competitor to Zoom, as Microsoft ditches its Slack-like channels structure. These changes were made in favour of a more streamlined chat interface focused on meetings and video calls.
Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, explains: “It’s the first standalone offering of Microsoft Teams designed specifically with small businesses in mind. It brings together features small businesses need to serve customers, including unlimited group video calls for up to 30 hours, group chat, file sharing and calendaring.”
Differences between Microsoft Teams Essentials and Microsoft 365 Business Basic
Teams capability and cloud storage are the main differences between Microsoft Teams Essentials and Microsoft 365 Business Basic versions. Essentials only gives you 10GB of OneDrive storage, whereas Business Basic gives you 1TB.
In terms of functionality, meeting recording and transcripts, real-time translation, breakout rooms, and whiteboard integration are also missing from Essentials. These features will remain exclusive to the Business Basic Plan.
The new version also removes the functionality of the teams and channels, making it more suitable for businesses that rely on apps like Teams or Zoom for video calls and meetings. However, private and group chats are still available in Microsoft Teams Essentials.
The Covid-19 pandemic, the latest push for the remote work format
Covid-19 forced all businesses to reformulate their ways of working and move their operations to the online format in order to survive the pandemic. This led digital applications and tools such as Zoom to experience exorbitant growth in just one year.
Smaller businesses who have relied on Zoom throughout the pandemic are being targeted by Microsoft. Given this, a standalone version of Teams seems like a great move to fight Zoom and even Google’s Workspace push. The software maker itself noted this as a “growing threat” last year.
In an interview with The Verge, Nicole Herskowitz, general manager of Microsoft Teams, reveals how “The pandemic and acceleration of using video calling and virtual tools changed overnight.”
She continues the interview by saying “We’re seeing, at this point in time, a lot of small businesses saying ‘What’s my future model?’ They’re almost doing a broader rethink, and many of them kind of raced to pick up tools very quickly to just stay afloat, and now they’re looking at their long-term strategy to engaging better with customers, with employees.”
Microsoft definitely sees a market for small firms who are juggling a variety of products that don’t necessarily work well together. If you work in a small business, you might use Zoom for video conferencing, Slack for group chat, and Google Workspace for email and calendar.
Throughout the pandemic, Google has been consolidating its chat and messaging tools under Gmail and making Google Workspace available to everyone. App integrations in Slack attempt to make the use of these disparate apps easier.
But nobody has the right answer, and Microsoft Teams Essentials lacks the app extensibility required to truly integrate all of these disparate small company solutions.
However, Google Calendar functionality will be added to Teams Essentials soon, which is a crucial step toward making Teams fully autonomous.
What’s your choice?
If you’re a small business looking to compare the costs of Zoom, Google Workspace, Slack, and other applications, Microsoft Teams Essentials at $4 per user per month may seem enticing, especially when compared to the $14.99 per month Zoom Pro subscription.
Microsoft Teams Essentials is now available directly from Microsoft as well as through its normal partners and resellers.