Slack vs. Teams: Which is best for your business?

We compare the top two collaboration platforms in six categories, from usability to enterprise management.

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Slack vs. Teams: Mobile apps

Some desktop applications shed features and capabilities in their mobile OS versions. In my tests, that’s not the case with either Teams or Slack. Both replicate the desktop experience reasonably well, though Slack does a better job maintaining the desktop client’s visual pizzazz.

06 slack teams apps ios IDG

Slack on iOS (left) maintains much of the desktop app’s look and feel, while Teams on iOS (right) offers a more streamlined interface compared to the desktop client. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Most importantly, you shouldn’t have to learn a different way to do things in the mobile versions of Slack or Teams, and you don’t — unlike the experience you get with, say, Microsoft Word’s desktop client vs. its mobile app.

There are some interface differences that are designed to accommodate a smaller, touch-enabled mobile device screen, of course. If you mouse over a message in Slack’s desktop client, for instance, you can add a reaction, start a thread, share the message and so on. On mobile, you tap and hold down a message to perform those same actions.

Top takeaway: This category is a tie, with a slight nod to Slack for maintaining a more consistent look and feel across devices.

Slack vs. Teams: Security, compliance and enterprise management

In terms of security, compliance and enterprise management, there are lingering assumptions that Teams is the stronger choice given Microsoft’s much longer tenure in the enterprise. And if you’re an enterprise user of Office 365 apps, you are getting top-notch security, compliance and enterprise management controls with Teams — especially if you’re a Microsoft 365 subscriber.

But these days, Slack and Teams both cover many of the expected security and compliance basics, though in some cases the features are native to the platform and in others, they’re through integrations. For example, both apps encrypt data in transit and at rest and support region-based data residency; data loss prevention; eDiscovery and legal hold; mobile application management; single sign-on; and the ability to require two-factor authentication — although some of those features are available only with higher-tier plans. (See the “Slack vs. Teams feature comparison” table for more details.)

Slack is upping its game in this area, too. Earlier this year, the company introduced its Enterprise Key Management, an add-on tool for its top-tier Slack Enterprise Grid plan. EKM enables organizations to use their own keys for encrypting messages and files shared within Slack. Also for Enterprise Grid, Slack recently added mobile security features that let admins configure Slack to require additional layers of security after single sign-on, such as Face ID and Touch ID on iOS.

Top takeaway: Slack offers what most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) may need in terms of security, compliance and admin controls and is continually bolstering its security posture. But Microsoft Teams — by virtue of its integration with Office 365 and Microsoft 365 — may be the best bet for enterprises.

Slack vs. Teams: Plans and pricing

Slack and Teams both offer free plans. Teams’ plan, which requires a free Microsoft account but not a paid Microsoft subscription, provides a fairly generous number of features: unlimited messages and search; support for up to 300 users; 2GB of file storage per user and 10GB of shared storage; one-to-one audio and video chat; screen sharing; unlimited app integrations; and two-factor authentication.

Slack’s free plan is more restrictive, allowing you to have up to 10,000 messages; 10 apps and integrations; one-to-one video calls; and two-factor authentication.

Beyond that, Slack plans start at $6.67 per user per month for the Standard plan and $12.50 per user per month for the Plus plan (both are billed annually). Pricing for the Enterprise Grid plan, which is meant for large organizations that want to support multiple interconnected workspaces, is available only by contacting Slack sales. Paid plans offer unlimited messages and integrations; screen sharing; guest access; shared channels; advanced search; and a range of security, compliance, support and administrative capabilities that expand with each tier.

Office 365 plans for small businesses and enterprises, which cost from $5 per user per month to $35 per user per month, add several capabilities to Teams itself — such as scheduled meetings; meeting recording; single sign-on and other security, compliance and administration features — along with the rest of the apps and services in Microsoft’s Office 365 ecosystem. (Microsoft 365 plans add Windows 10 and security management into the mix.)

The differences in what you get with each company’s plans make an apples-to-apples comparison difficult. One way to look at pricing differences between the two is to consider what $12.50 per user per month gets you:

  • From Microsoft, you get the Office 365 Business Premium subscription, which includes Teams with all its features plus Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business plus the Windows-only Publisher and Access apps for up to 300 users.
  • From Slack, you get a Slack Plus subscription, which supports unlimited users and includes more Slack features than the Standard plan but less than the Enterprise Grid plan — and no productivity apps.

Top takeaways: Based on pricing, Teams has a significant advantage that could grow even stronger when the economy slows and IT spending contracts. If you’re already getting Teams included in an Office 365 subscription, you may find it difficult to justify to your bosses why the company should also pay for Slack, despite its many great features. If your organization has settled on G Suite instead of Office, however, Teams’ cost advantage disappears.

Slack vs. Teams: Feature comparison

Final recommendations

As I mentioned earlier, some companies use both Slack and Teams. But that approach adds complexity and cost and isn’t a viable option for most organizations. If that’s true for you, here are my recommendations:

When it comes down to it, Slack and Teams are more alike than they differ. In many cases, both offer some version of the same features, either natively or through an app integration. And if one is missing a feature you need, chances are it will be added sooner than later, given the heated rivalry. The one thing you should pay attention to is: how much will an integrated service add to your total cost?

If you’re already deep in the Office 365 world, Teams is a great choice. If nothing else, give Teams a sustained trial before deciding.

That said, a growing subset of Office 365 customers are using Slack. According to data from access management platform Okta, 31% of its customers that use Office 365 also use Slack, up from 28% in October 2018 and 19% in 2017. And of Slack’s top 50 customers, 74% are also Office 365 customers, according to data from Slack’s analytics team.

If you’re not beholden to Microsoft, you want to avoid vendor lock-in, or you’re a G Suite shop, Slack is the way to go. It’s an excellent choice for those who prefer a ‘best-in-breed’ technology stack, and it’s particularly popular among SMBs and tech companies.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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