Ever since the coronavirus pandemic forced a large-scale shift to remote work, Microsoft Teams has evolved by leaps and bounds. But how does it stack up to Zoom?
The impact of Microsoft Teams, especially during the pandemic, is undeniable. Moreover, in the past year, Microsoft has been hard at work improving Teams, adding features such as private channels, support for multiple windows, and live captions. It’s clear that Microsoft wants to position Teams as more than just a collaboration add-on for Office 365 — it intends to take on platforms such as Zoom.
One of the most significant steps in that regard came back in November 2020, when the Redmond, Washington tech giant announced that, until further notice, Teams would offer free all-day voice and video calling, with support for up to 300 participants and up. It also added the ability to create group
chats with up to 250 people and to see up to 49 people simultaneously in a call, either through gallery view or a feature it refers to as Together Mode.
Users can also communicate with people on Teams without needing to have the app installed and through a browser interface, users can join Teams calls without having to create a Microsoft account.
So with all that said, how does Microsoft Teams stack up to the competition? Is it capable of taking on the likes of Zoom? Most importantly, which of the two platforms should your business use?
Launched by Microsoft in 2017 as a competitor to Slack and a replacement for Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams is a digital collaboration tool that’s heavily-integrated into Microsoft’s existing ecosystem. It primarily functions as part of Microsoft’s portfolio, with native integration for Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft SharePoint.
The Microsoft Teams feature set is comprehensive. In addition to all the basics (voice chat, videoconferencing, messages, etc.), it offers:
Although anyone can use Teams, you’ll get the most ouf of it if your organization has already invested into other Microsoft products.Teams also tends to be best-suited for larger businesses, especially those with extensive desktop infrastructure.
In many ways, Zoom began as the anti-Teams. Although it’s significantly better now, Microsoft Teams suffered from the same issue as most early meeting apps, being cumbersome for both IT and end users. Zoom was, at least in part, born out of frustration with Teams and its competitors.
It’s intended to be a less expensive, less complicated tool not just for workplace communication, but communication in general.
Like Teams, Zoom has all the basics you’d expect in a collaboration app, such as breakout rooms and file sharing. Other features include:
Generally, if you don’t plan to discuss sensitive matters in meetings and your business does not operate in a regulated sector, Zoom is a safe choice. Beyond that, Zoom isn’t really marketed or designed for any specific type of user.
The big draw of Teams is that it comes bundled as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription, and is also available for download as a free, standalone app. The Microsoft Teams pricing tiers and related features can be found below. Note that all tiers of Teams include the following unless otherwise stated:
Rather than offering per-user pricing, licenses for Zoom Meetings are provisioned at a single rate, with add-ons like audioconferencing and Large Meetings. Zoom offers separate plans for meetings/chat, phone, meeting rooms, and video webinars. There’s also Zoom United, which combines meetings, chat, and phone functionality into a single package.
The price tiers for Zoom Meetings can be found below. All prices are per license.
Although Zoom and Teams look relatively similar from a security standpoint at first glance, Teams has a significant edge.
Microsoft Teams is secure by design, built on the foundation of the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Security Development Lifecycle. Teams-related cyber incidents are rare, and the platform’s integration with Microsoft Azure adds yet another layer of security. That said, Microsoft did allow a critical security bug in Microsoft Exchange to go unpatched for several months.
Microsoft has, to its credit, always been explicit with how it leverages user data. Anything collected through its products and services is used exclusively to improve those offerings, and not sold to advertisers. Zoom, meanwhile, has been in hot water multiple times for sharing user data with companies like Facebook.
Zoom and Teams also handle meeting security differently. With Teams, you join meetings using either a conference ID number or a URL. Users joining a Microsoft Teams meeting typically must be admitted by the host after entering the lobby.
Zoom exclusively uses conference IDs. Although it’s since fixed the problem, prior to the pandemic it was possible to join a random meeting simply by entering a random ID number. Because there were no PIN codes attached, there was no way to stop people from “Zoom Bombing” meetings.
With Microsoft Teams, users are able to share files, collaborate on those documents in real time, and store them in Microsoft SharePoint. Zoom only allows file sharing. Files are also limited to 512 MB in Zoom, whiile Teams has an upper limit of 100 GB per file.
Although Zoom is technically capable of integrating with Microsoft 365, the integration by nature isn’t as tight as it is with Teams. If document collaboration is non-negotiable, Teams is the better choice.
Teams also features calendar integration, task lists, and a project management tool called Planner. These are all available in Teams out of the box. Zoom, while it can support this functionality, must rely on third-party integrations to do so.
Microsoft Teams provides users with two options for telephony.
Zoom Phone represents Zoom’s telephony option, which as stated earlier is available either as an individual service or as part of Zoom United. It provides everything you’d expect of a telephony solution, including user provisioning/management, call quality metrics, usage data, and voice encryption. Zoom Phone subscribers also have access to call routing, auto attendants, and IVR.
Whether you choose Zoom or Microsoft Teams comes down to a few factors.
First is how heavily you’ve invested into the Microsoft ecosystem. If your business extensively uses Microsoft’s products and services, Teams adds a great deal more value. If you’re a mobile-first business or don’t use many Microsoft products, Teams is somewhat less attractive as an offering.
There’s also the matter of data security. While both Microsoft and Zoom have demonstrated poor judgement before, the issues with Zoom are typically far more egregious. Even if the company has been working hard to get its security practices and controls up to standard, you may not want to trust it with anything sensitive or regulated.
Finally, on the telephony side of things, Zoom tends to offer more calling features out of the box along with a lower total
cost of ownership, while Microsoft Business Voice is geared more towards internal collaboration.
It’s worth noting, too, that Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Business Voice are targeted towards traditional knowledge workers, while Zoom Phone is primarily meant for sales agents and customer support representatives. The real separation, however, is evident with partners. Combining a UcaaS provider or Direct Routing Partner such as G12 allows an SMB-Enterprise customer to gain far more from Teams than Zoom.
If your business needs Direct Routing or the capabilities of another, more established phone system, Microsoft Teams is the clear winner. Although competition between the two solutions is tight, Zoom is ultimately better-suited for personal use, while Teams is geared towards enterprise users, with a more comprehensive feature set to match.
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