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: Additional noteworthy differentiators

Slack and Teams developers are hard at work, perpetually cooking up new features to set their product apart. Thus, a complete list of notable differentiators would be too long to include. But here are some that impressed us.

Slack’s shared channels feature makes it super-easy to connect your company’s Slack workspaces to an external partner’s Slack workspace for seamless collaboration. Participants from outside your organization are clearly identifiable by their company logo embedded in their profile picture.

With Teams, it’s more complicated to chat with people outside your organization. You can add external access or guest access to outside parties. External access lets you communicate via voice or video chat and set up meetings with other organizations that use Teams, Skype for Business, or Skype. Guest access lets you add an individual outside your domain to channels, as well as communicate with them via calls or files.

Microsoft has announced its own shared channels feature for Teams, called Teams Connect. However, it’s not yet widely available, and has been in a private preview since it was announced in March 2021.

Slack can scale broadly. Slack can support an unlimited number of users per organization and channels per workspace and more than 100,000 users on a channel. (Slack says that no customer has ever reached the limit of users per channel.)

Teams also supports an unlimited number of users per organization; each team can have up to 25,000 participants, with 200 channels per team and 5,000 users on a channel.

Teams offers capabilities designed to help firstline workers who handle service- and task-oriented duties in retail, hospitality, travel, and manufacturing. The features are designed to make it easy for workers to clock in and out on their mobile devices, share their location and perform other tasks specific to their duties. Slack isn’t far behind, offering app integrations for firstline workers such as AttendanceBot, which helps manage time tracking, tracking breaks and lunches, hourly bill syncing, employee shift planning, and so on.

Teams offers an integrated Wiki feature for notes, which is helpful for pooling knowledge from team members. Slack offers team knowledge gathering through app integrations such as Guru, a bot for capturing and sharing information.

Teams offers message translation in 36 languages, so you can more easily communicate with colleagues who speak different languages. Slack takes a different approach, integrating with a number of translation apps, such as the real-time Rozetta Translator bot.   

Top takeaway: In our view, Slack has a few more notable differentiators than Teams, such as shared channels. At whatever point Microsoft releases Microsoft Teams Connect generally, however, that differentiator will no longer exist. At that point, we’ll consider this a tie. Which is better for you will depend on which capabilities your organization needs more.

Slack vs. Teams: Mobile and web apps

Some desktop applications shed features and capabilities in their web and/or mobile OS versions. In our tests, that’s not the case with either Teams or Slack. We found that the web apps looked and performed just like the desktop apps — they work essentially the same. Both Slack and Teams replicate the desktop experience reasonably well in their mobile apps too.

slack vs teams 06 mobile apps 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; Slack and Teams both do an excellent job of maintaining a consistent 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 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 below for more details.)

Slack is upping its game in this area, too, with the Enterprise Key Management 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 has 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 large 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, meetings, and search; support for up to 500 internal and external users; 2GB of file storage per user and 10GB of shared storage; one-to-one audio and video chat; screen sharing; unlimited app integrations; two-factor authentication; and data encryption.

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 Pro plan and $12.50 per user per month for the Business+ 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.

Microsoft offers a head-spinning number of business subscription plans that include Teams: the company’s Microsoft 365 small-business plans and Office 365 enterprise plans cost from $5 per user per month to $35 per user per month and 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 the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. Microsoft 365 enterprise plans, which cost from $32 per user per month to $57 per user per month, add Windows and advanced 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 Microsoft 365 Business Standard subscription, which includes Teams with all its features including meetings and video calls for up to 300 people, plus Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business, plus the Windows-only Publisher and Access apps.
  • From Slack, you get a Business+ subscription, which supports unlimited users and includes more Slack features than the Pro plan but fewer than the Enterprise Grid plan — and no productivity apps.

Top takeaways: Based on pricing, Teams has a significant advantage that could grow even stronger if the economy slows and IT spending contracts. If you’re already getting Teams included in an Office 365 or Microsoft 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 Google Workspace or another office suite instead of Office, however, Teams’ cost advantage disappears. And if your company uses Salesforce, you may want to opt for Slack for the superior integrations — and expect even closer integration as time goes on.

Slack vs. Teams: Feature comparison

Final recommendations

As we 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 our 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 Microsoft 365 world, Teams is a great choice. If nothing else, give Teams a sustained trial before deciding.

That said, a growing subset of Microsoft 365 customers are using Slack. According to data from access management platform Okta, 32% of its customers that use Microsoft 365 also use Slack, up from 32% in 2020, 31% in 2019 and 28% in 2018. And of Slack’s enterprise customers, 76% are also Microsoft 365 customers, according to data from Slack’s analytics team.

If you’re not beholden to Microsoft, you want to avoid vendor lock-in, you’re a Google Workspace shop, or you’re heavily invested in Salesforce, 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.

This article was originally published in December 2019 and updated in February 2022.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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