Slack Alternatives: Comparing Team Communication Platforms

Slack launched in 2013 and stunned the team communication software world with its rapid growth. The service received 8,000 sign-ups the first day and has a current user base of 1.7 million daily active users. Slack's success has helped spur innovation from other team communication platforms seeking their part of the market share. These platforms can be especially beneficial to fast growing companies, businesses with multiple offices and organizations working with offshore vendors.

Ryver is a free team communications tool tailored to businesses looking for a way to effectively communicate with internal and external staff. It decentralizes administrative control so you can add people to a chat without waiting for a single administrator to approve the request. If your company works extensively with offshore vendors or outsourced professionals, Ryver's free model means you don't juggle limited guest slots or pay for each external person.
Ryver offers both a live chat environment and something called the Posts feature. You use the live chat for your day-to-day discussions as you would on any other platform. You can even put team files right into the chat, so you don't lose them in an overrun email inbox. The Posts feature uses a Facebook-style update to address topical issues in an organized and in-depth fashion. Ryver supports iOS, Android, Windows and Mac environments.

Atlassian's HipChat focuses on delivering powerful team communication features designed for fast growing companies and other similarly demanding business environments. If you need to collaborate with a supplier, vendor or another third-party, HipChat gives you granular control over each person's visibility. You don't need to create a new chat to stop an external contractor from viewing sensitive team files, so it's easy to add them to an ongoing conversation.

Integrated screen sharing and video calling allow teams to get their ideas across quickly through visual or voice channels. Your chat logs support full search capabilities, so you don't lose vital information when you need it the most.

HipChat uses 256-bit SSL encryption to maintain security across all your conversations. One-hundred-fifty services, including JIRA, Google Hangouts and Zendesk, integrate seamlessly with this solution. The cross-platform capabilities support Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android devices to empower your teams with full mobility. HipChat offers a free and paid-per-user tier, as well as an on-premise server solution.

Bitrix24 positions itself as a social enterprise platform with a broad range of collaboration tools. You get a comprehensive set of team communication options, including video, voice, HD teleconferencing, screen sharing, group chat, mobile messaging and instant messaging. Teams have the flexibility to choose the right channels for effectively communicating important information and updates.

This platform functions as your business intranet, with integrated management features for customer relationships, human resources, documents, collaboration, workflow, records, calendar, mail, tasks and projects. You can also handle help desk duties, analyze platform usage data, create web forms, offer training courses and support multiple departments or offices. Bitrix24 is suitable for companies looking for an all-in-one team communications, collaboration and intranet tool. You also avoid time spent integrating these systems together, as this social enterprise platform works out of the box. Bitrix offers four cloud hosted tiers, starting with a free option, and also provides an on-premise option.

Skype for Business combines Skype's business-grade application functionality with Microsoft Lync, a unified communications application. This platform puts great emphasis on video conferencing, video chats and VoIP calling. Skype Meetings focus on a seamless teleconferencing experience that makes it easy for remote offices, teams and vendors to collaborate with each other. You have support for 250 people in a meeting, with features such a screen sharing facilitating the conversation. Team members join the rooms through Windows, iOS, Android or by calling in on their phones.

Chat rooms on Skype allow authorized users to create group chats for their teams. Third-party add-ins let you add custom functionality to each room, so that you can leverage the tools best suited for that particular conversation. You can also create open chat rooms anyone can join, as well as private and secret rooms that require membership. End-to-end security protects your communications when you use this service. You pay a per user price for Skype Basic, Skype for Business online meetings or the Office 365 bundle.

Google Hangouts
A business version of Google Hangouts comes with Google Apps for Work suite. Hangouts' primary advantage comes from its deep integration with other Google products. For instance, you can create and join meeting rooms seamlessly from the event in Google Calendar, and you have easy access to your chats in Gmail. Hangouts defaults to one-on-one chats, but you can create group chats of up to 25 people. Video and VoIP calling Chat logs save to your Hangouts email address and are searchable via Gmail's search function. Hangouts on Air, a Youtube and Google+ hosted live stream, supports unlimited participants. Google Apps for Work offers two paid-per-user tiers and supports Android, iOS, ChromeOS, Mac, Windows and Linux.

Slack gets a lot of attention, but the right team communication platform for your company depends on many factors. These Slack alternatives can help you find the best solution for your business needs, whether you need a cost-effective solution for talking with global vendors, a robust video meeting tool or a comprehensive collaboration suite.

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June 28, 2016