How to Compare Top Unified Communications Free Plans

Written by: Natalie Stottler

Is Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Slack Right for You? Free Plans Help You Choose

Collaboration and communication platforms have become increasingly essential to the daily operations of most organizations. Especially given current events, with a massive increase in the number of people working from home, we rely on these apps for seamless conferencing, integration, and collaboration. Recently, you’ve probably – and no doubt suddenly – made the overnight switch to complete remote work, most likely through their free plans. You may be facing a difficult choice when it comes to unified communications (UC) and workstream collaboration (WSC) platforms.

You need the best of every world for your team; nobody wants to waste their time figuring out complicated interfaces, fiddling with obscure settings, or fronting technical difficulties. At the same time, maybe you are not quite ready to commit without testing the waters first. Or perhaps you are jumping on an extended free trial offer, because of budget cuts due to COVID -19. If you are like many in IT, you could be trying to find a temporary solution to the influx of remote employees. Lucky for you, we have curated a handy comparison matrix of free plans available to you.

With a myriad of options out there, how do you know which one is the best for your company? Let’s talk about three of the most popular: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack.

Analyzing Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack

Microsoft Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack, launched in 2017. It’s an evolution (and upgrade) of Skype for Business. It incorporates the same chat, and video conferencing, and cloud phone functions with a slew of new features. Channels, teams, document storage and collaboration, and meetings are all available in this one-stop-shop application.

Zoom is a dark horse quickly emerging workhorse of UC. Founded in 2013, Zoom’s use and popularity have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the bulk of work and education online. Zoom has been exceedingly generous in their support of free users, even going so far as to remove paywalls for schools in affected areas. A simple, intuitive interface combined with reliable delivery of excellent quality has made it a favorite for video conferencing. Although Zoom has recently been in the spotlight for security and privacy issues, with the right settings and precautions, the app is safe to use and getting more so every day.

Slack’s great strength is messaging; it stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” You can store team files and search for specific threads of conversation, as necessary. Although they are mainly known as a collaboration platform, they also have some conferencing features.  

What’s the best platform for you — Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or another? See how we stack them against each other.

Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack by Free Plan Features

Since Slack’s focus lies mainly in WSC, its free version has the weakest UC capabilities: only 1:1 calls (audio or video), no screen sharing, and no guest access. You can schedule meetings via an external app plugin, of which a free user is only allowed 10. Slack offers a modest 5 GB of file storage per workspace.

Zoom’s most significant asset, with 200 million daily active users, is a sleek, easily navigated interface. Free 40-minute meetings with up to 100 participants, including options for no log-in, make for seamless user experience. It offers full screen-sharing features, scheduling capabilities, and recording. Zoom’s popular “virtual background” feature is both fun and convenient for at-home workers. Zoom is known to be reliable, consistent, and high quality, appealing to serious business meetings and virtual happy hours alike.

Microsoft Teams is a comprehensive UC and WSC application. It offers a well-rounded collection of conferencing features in their free version. Group video calls can include up to 300 participants with no time limit. A built-in note-taking tool and virtual “whiteboards” lend themselves to efficient and variable communication. Recent updates have introduced virtual background features like that of Zoom. Teams for free includes 2 GB of personal storage for each user and a total of 10 GB of team storage.

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FeaturesFree ZoomFree SlackFree Teams
Participant Limit in Calls 1001:1 (paid only:15) 300
Meeting Time Limit 40 mins (1:1 no limit) None None
Video Conferencing Yes 1:1 only; not available on mobile platforms; can only start via DM, not team/channel Yes
Screen-sharing Yes No Yes
Encryption Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption, AES 256 bits encryption No E2E encryption
Multi-factor Authentication Yes Yes No (paid only: multi-factor authentication, SSO)
Integrations (third party applications) Yes Up to 10 Yes
Guest Access Yes No (paid only: yes) Yes
File Sharing Yes Yes Yes
Calendar Integration Yes Only via external app plugin No (paid only)
Meeting Recording Yes No No (paid only)
Persistent Group Chat Yes Up to 10k messages (paid only: unlimited) Yes


Shortcomings in Features of Unified Communications

Shortcomings of free plans

Compared to their paid plans, there are several missing features across all three platforms for free plans. Paid plans offer more powerful administrative and management capabilities, technical support, and analytics to paying members. Teams and Slack upgrade their security, while Zoom offers full security features to free and paid users alike. Paid Zoom users have more customizing abilities and greater meeting capacity, not to mention a meeting duration limit of 24 hours (we shudder to think of the use case). A Microsoft Teams’ paid plan offers more Office 365 services and integrations (Yammer, SharePoint, Stream) along with usage reporting and other admin tools. An upgraded Slack user can access workflow automation tools, monitor compliance, and implement more robust security and data protection.

If your head has already started hurting just thinking of all the onboarding, configuration, and million other little crises that await you – you’re not alone. That’s why we created PowerSuite; platform administration and collaboration security are critical features for many enterprises. The industry-leading PowerSuite software goes beyond out-of-the-box administration to connect multiple platforms through a single pane of glass (and save you more than a few migraines).

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