With a lot of people working from home, communication is going to be more important than ever in keeping businesses and users productive. Whether your team returns to the office partially or not at all, keeping good communication is key to teamwork. This can also become a bit of a moral boast when users are stuck at home without that ability to have casual conversation with co-workers. There are MANY different chat options available and most are free to use. Ease of use, features and security are three things you should consider when selecting your chat option.
Security/Privacy – Keep in mind any chat option that does not involve you hosting your own server at your own location may become a security risk if the chat system does not have the same level of encryption that, or instance, your email has.
Features – Some examples of this are Google Hangouts and Google Voice. While they do have some encryption, there seems to be a lack of end to end encryption, leaving some messages vulnerable. Google Meet (previously Hangouts Meet) is designed just for video chat but does seem to have better encryption. It is also has a paid service for additional features. Google also has a reputation for using user data to continue to build their advertising business. This can become a concern with companies that are focused on privacy and security.
Most chat/communication platforms have the same features. However, the ease of use and reliability may differ. Most will have a text, audio, and even video. Some may feature multiple video platforms to allow teams to see each other and do presentations at the same time. While we continue to be spread out, whether that be because of COVID or just the remote model of your business, video meetings can help teams feel more together.
Microsoft Teams – Most businesses rely on Microsoft Office for Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, etc. With those products already in place it sometimes just makes sense to include Microsoft Teams in their package. Teams allows text chat (individually or in groups/teams), video chat/meetings, audio calls, and users can even invite other users outside their company to join. For extra security it can be self hosted if needed, however, most companies don’t seem to bother.
Skype – Skype is still available for individual/private users but Skype For Business is being retired in July 2021 and businesses will be encouraged to upgrade to Teams. WE don’t really recommend businesses go this route as the users control their own accounts and this can cause a few issues when it comes to lost passwords or regulations.
Zoom – Teams and Zoom have a lot of similarities. Both have chat, video, audio and meetings. However, Teams has a seamless integration into the Office 365 environment. Although Zoom is a much smaller company compared to Microsoft, they tend to deliver a service that can hold it’s own. Typically we have found choosing between these two becomes more of a personal preference than a technical one. Even some businesses that are utilizing Microsoft 365 choose Zoom over other platforms because they enjoy the look and feel over Teams.
Google Hangouts/Meet – Hangouts and Meet are two platforms Google has developed over a number of years providing users with chat, video, audio and meeting services. Like the others Google can be utilized free or through their business account. The two platforms seem to be a little more separated than we would like but they are very user friendly.
As you can see, it would be impossible for us to recommend one specific platform for every company. The decision would be based on the needs, wants, current company setup, and the preferences of the users. Having options is always good and sometimes it is best to select a few employees to test the different options before settling on the one your company will use for good.