- Large number of integrations
- Reliable video calls
- Quick, sharable recordings
- Outstanding browser client
- Free forever version
- No end-to-end encryption
- Not possible to record on mobile
Microsoft Teams is a feature-filled and dependable web conferencing platform that goes much further than simply setting up calls. Teams allows users to create teams of up to 5,000 members and host meetings of up to 250 attendees. While video quality isn’t as high as some of its competitors (like Zoom), Team’s video calls are always reliable. After your call is complete, you’re given a chance to give feedback to Microsoft by grading your experience with one to five stars and reporting any issues.
During calls there are ways to enhance your meeting and add greater interactivity. You’re able to share your screen and use whiteboarding functions to annotate or draw attention to something. There’s the background blur feature, which (as you would expect) blurs the background behind you. This helps get rid of a distracting background, or more importantly hides any sensitive information you may have on your office walls.
Teams has a lot of additional integrations to expand on the features available. For example, polling isn’t a default option provided by Microsoft, but users can install apps like Polly or Forms to do exactly the same thing. So while you may not get all the features you want when you install Teams, you’re able to customize your setup to make it suit you. Using the app store even lets you communicate across different web conferencing applications. Even Teams’ rivals, like GoToMeeting and Zoom, have apps available in the Teams app store. This means you’ll no longer have to download every individual piece of software to attend meetings – you can connect to people regardless of which app they’re using. Being part of Microsoft 365 means Teams works well with other Microsoft apps. For example, collaboration on a document is made much easier when all members have access to it on OneDrive.
We particularly like the way Microsoft Teams handles meeting recordings. Notifications are given when meetings are recorded, ensuring consent from attendees. Once your meeting is finished you just have wait a few minutes for the video to process before it’s available to view. From here, you can open it in Microsoft Stream and share your video with others. Because Teams records your video on a server, it doesn’t matter if you leave the meeting early: the recording will continue regardless. Transcripts can be enabled at the start of the meeting, although like many of its rivals the end results are hit-and-miss, and it struggles depending on the speaker’s accent.
Setting up meetings through Teams is easy to do and can be scheduled through the calendar tab. We particularly like the scheduling assistant which shows you a calendar of all your upcoming meetings – ideal for avoiding double booking yourself. Meetings are given set times, or it’s possible to have them last all day if needed. It’s simple to make a meeting recurrent at any custom time interval. Once you’ve finished scheduling a meeting, email invitations will be sent out, enabling your attendees to RSVP. Handily, RSVP’s can be answered with a single click or with the option to send comments directly back to the host.
The chat feature allows you to easily start video or audio calls on the fly, and during any one-on-one call you’re able to add further participants to transform a small call into a large meeting.
Security is obviously a big concern for businesses, especially when dealing with sensitive information. Microsoft Teams’ security works a little differently from many of its competitors. Instead of having end-to-end local encryption, Teams uses Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP) instead. Although this is still a very secure type of connection, it does mean that in theory Microsoft could access any of your information. Of course, it’s extremely unlikely Microsoft would ever do that, but for the most security-conscious users the lack of end-to-end encryption may be an issue.
Microsoft Teams does have security certification that will reassure potential users. Teams meets ISO 27001 and ISO 27018 security requirements and, while not officially HIPAA-compliant, meets all the related technical specifications.
Microsoft Teams boasts support for all major devices. There are desktop apps for macOS and Windows, which are the best way to experience Teams. The left menu separates your chats, teams, calendar, calls, files, and you’re able to add more apps to this. There’s also the activity tab which gives you a feed of relevant posts and interactions from your groups. There is a Linux version, but currently it’s officially just a “public preview release” – though it’s very close to the polished article. The mobile apps are a much simpler version of their desktop counterparts. Android and iOS users will be able to perform almost all of the same functions they can on desktop, with the exception of recording meetings.
On the face of it, the browser version of Microsoft Teams looks almost identical to the desktop. Despite this, features vary considerably depending on the browser you’re using. Teams works best when using a Chromium-based browser, so Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge users will enjoy the full range of functions. Firefox and Safari users’ features are greatly restricted, and meetings require Public Switched Telephone Network coordinates to work.
Microsoft offers three very different ways of getting Teams. There’s the free version, although this doesn’t have the full range of features, unsurprisingly. The free version allows you to host and attend meetings, but you’re not able to schedule meetings or record them. If you need more than just the basics, the next package up is Microsoft 365 Business Basic, which works out to $5 per month when paid annually. Business Basic gives you some additional Microsoft extras, like Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint, plus access to the web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
The Microsoft Business Standard package goes one step further. Priced at $15 a month or $12.50 a month paid annually, Business Standard gives you access to all the Microsoft Teams features. As well as having everything included in Business Basic, there’s also access to the desktop versions of Access, Publisher, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. All payments for Microsoft Teams can be made with any of the major credit cards or by bank transfer.
Of course, customers can test out Microsoft Teams by using the free version, but you can also take advantage of a one-month free trial to test out the premium features. The trial gives you a month of the Business Basic package, although it does require a credit card and you’ll need to make sure you cancel before the trial is up.
As one of the biggest companies in the world, you would expect Microsoft to have a high standard of customer service. With Teams – like with many other Microsoft products – support is delivered well. They can be contacted by phone from Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Alternatively, there’s the Microsoft Virtual Agent chatbot, and if that doesn’t provide you with an answer you’ll be put in touch with a human instead. If you prefer to get in touch through social media, the Microsoft 365 Facebook and Twitter pages are very active.
The Microsoft Teams support website has a large number of helpful articles. There are short training videos – a great way of guiding you through all the features. On top of all that, the Teams website also hosts an active community, so you’ll be able to get support from other members or read through past posts to find a solution.
Microsoft got into web conferencing software later than many of its rivals, but Microsoft Teams already feels like a veteran. Having been built on a base of the Microsoft 365 package and having so many apps integrated makes Teams feel indispensable. Although there are some concerns about Teams’ security, unless you’re hiding government secrets this is unlikely to be an issue for you. The free forever version is a good way to get up to speed with Teams, and although there are a few key features missing it’s still a great solution. We were particularly impressed by the low price of the premium version, which makes Teams a much cheaper option than many of its rivals. Overall, Microsoft has given us a reliable, feature-filled, high-quality piece of web conferencing software, making Teams a worthy addition to any team.