Cloud

How to choose a workplace communication and collaboration tool

Different groups communicate in different ways. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all programming language, collaboration services offer a range of features to meet the needs of various organizations.

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Image: iStock/NicoElNino

Since the launch of Slack in August 2013, real-time workplace communication tools have become increasingly popular, displacing email—in part—as the way to get things done. However, organizational, project, or budgetary requirements make it wise to consider the growing list of Slack competitors.

For organizations that have a preexisting subscription to Office 365, Microsoft Teams may be a more logical choice. Naturally, as a Microsoft product, it is more tightly integrated with Office and OneDrive. Teams is also the only communication tool that natively supports the ability to call out to landline and mobile phones in the United States. This feature is inherited from Skype for Business, which Teams is based on. Given the already steep price of Office 365, Teams may be worth considering over other alternatives as the product is already being paid for. Though this feature was not available at launch, Teams has implemented guest access to allow consultants, freelancers, contractors, and others not covered under your organization's Office 365 subscription to collaborate with your in-house staff.

SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration Tools (Tech Pro Research)

Workplaces on a budget may want to consider Workplace by Facebook, which leverages the technology behind the social media giant's video and instant messaging platforms, combined with unlimited team and project groups. Workplace by Facebook has a free tier, though enterprise features such as single-sign on, monitoring tools for IT teams, and third-party integration support are restricted to the Premium tier, at $3 per user per month.

Atlassian's Stride is a partial redesign of its previous HipChat service, which includes embedded voice, video conferencing, and collaboration tools. Like Slack, Stride has a free tier with up to 5 GB of storage, 10 apps or bots, and 25K message history. Stride's paid tier is a flat $3 per user/month, with unlimited storage, apps, and history, with added abilities for screen sharing, remote desktop, and user management. While cloud-hosted HipChat users have been migrated to Stride, Atlassian still offers HipChat Data Center for self-hosted environments.

WATCH: 5 features that make Slack more functional for business (TechRepublic)

Finally, self-hosted options provide a lower-cost and highly controllable collaboration platform. Because of the technical overhead associated with video and audio communication, these platforms lack those features. The open-source Mattermost communication is used by the US Department of Defense, Department of Interior, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and CERN, among others. Similarly, the open-source Rocket.Chat project can be downloaded freely and run on your own servers, though the project also offers a cloud-hosted version which starts at $50/month for 500 users.

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About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.

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