What Is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a business communication application in Microsoft’s 365 suite. It features group chat conversations, video conference and phone call capabilities, and file sharing. Teams initiated at a Microsoft hackathon and premiered in 2017.

Teams allows businesses to create different channels, either public or private, for their employees to talk about work- or non-work-related topics. All channels can be customized. Teams also permits users who have a personal Microsoft account to easily switch between their business account and their personal one (or create a personal one for family if they already have a business account). Microsoft markets this as an opportunity for people to better manage their personal and business calendars.

Teams helps Microsoft provide an entirely digital workspace to businesses. Because it integrates so well with a variety of other office applications, it reduces the amount of disparate apps that companies would otherwise need to use.

Microsoft Teams features

  • Channels allow entire companies, departments, or individuals to quickly communicate through messages.
  • Users can join video calls and meetings through their Outlook calendar.
  • Users can make business phone calls.
  • File sharing through OneDrive allows users to share documents, sheets, and other files with coworkers through Teams.
  • Users can collaborate on web pages and share them through SharePoint.
  • Though the main standout integrations are with other Microsoft applications, Teams does offer some third-party app integrations.
  • Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant, is available in Teams for mobile devices and for display in the US. Cortana also has Microsoft business-level security and encryption. With Cortana, Teams users can share files, navigate to places within their apps, and manage calls and video conferences by using voice commands.
  • Teams uses some features of the now-defunct Microsoft Classroom. Teachers are able to share Microsoft OneNote‘s Class Notebook with students, as well as files and web pages just as the standard version.

Teams in the business technology market

Teams’ main competitors are Slack and Zoom, two popular business applications. Though Teams is a relatively new app in the former Office 365 suite, it’s already been integrated with Microsoft’s other business apps, making it an advantageous choice for companies that rely heavily on the Office suite and Office 365 products. US businesses use both Slack and Zoom widely, too, even ones that already use Windows products.

Teams vs. Slack

Initially, Teams seemed to be in a slightly different market than Slack because it only served Office 365 customers, who were already paying for the suite anyway. But the year after they released it, Microsoft expanded Teams, offering a limited free plan for non-365 customers to try Teams.

Slack’s advantage is its sheer popularity and easy-to-use mobile interface. It also integrates well with Google Workspace products. Teams’ advantage, other than its membership in the 365 suite and integration therein, is its security; it receives Microsoft business-level encryption and authentication treatment.

Teams vs. Zoom

Another Teams competitor is videoconferencing star Zoom, which rose in popularity during 2020’s COVID-19 push for remote meetings. Again, Microsoft’s strength here is its security features and integration with the company’s other applications. But Zoom is very popular, and it integrates well with Slack, too. Zoom can be easier to implement because it’s just one app to download, while Microsoft has its entire office suite, which takes time to figure out and use effectively. Both have been popular choices as video conferencing skyrocketed.


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Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a contributor for websites such as Webopedia.com and Enterprise Storage Forum. She writes about information technology security, networking, and data storage. Jenna lives in Nashville, TN.

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