Microsoft Teams - For Remote Working
Microsoft Teams is a communications application, that creates an ecosystem for conferencing and business messaging. Microsoft’s business offering is made for small and large enterprises and lets companies conduct online meetings, with all the features needs to make an environment conducive to productivity. Microsoft Teams can be accessed for free as a personal account or through the paid subscription under Microsoft Office 365 Business.
How does one use Microsoft Teams?
One needs to get an online Microsoft account to be logged into Teams' work environment. Using the software, one can hold meetings for up to 300 people or can invite 299 more people to join. Some of the key features include text-based messages, file sharing, video conferences, 2GB cloud storage, and 10GB storage to share with the team. A number of other Microsoft apps are integrated into Teams and it is quickly becoming the go-to platform for online collaboration, work meetings, and even online learning in schools and universities. Integration with Microsoft Office allows for a work environment that seamlessly collates meetings and productivity, with real-time screen sharing and feedback. One can make one-on-one calls, as well as group calls.
What are the noteworthy features of Microsoft Teams?
The ease of business calls and video conferences is one of the most important features of Microsoft Teams. It is easy to schedule meetings, invite attendees, share files and data, conduct group meetings, and chat with individuals or groups. Unlike many other video-calling apps, with MS Teams, you can also send voice messages or voice-mail in case there is no reply on the call.
Seamless integration with Microsoft Office is also a big plus for Microsoft Teams, as the work-flow loop can be closed through real-time collaboration on the app itself. The app is highly customizable and allows users to integrate a number of apps and social media programs, making it easy to access different functionalities from a single app. Microsoft Teams acts as a work environment—almost like a physical office—where everything is available for highly efficient output. Users can also use screen-sharing for real-time interaction and simulate an offline work environment.
The MS Teams interface has 3 default tabs for every channel: Conversation, Files, and Wiki. You can also add more tabs, including Excel, OneNote, PDFs, Youtube, Trello, etc. The tabs are for enhanced productivity but the more the number of tabs there is, the more cumbersome it becomes to navigate through the channel interface. Still, this is a great feature to have, which is different from other video-conferencing programs.
Where can Microsoft Teams be problematic?
Just like many other Microsoft products, including Microsoft Office, the interface and navigation of MS Teams are clunky and cumbersome. One needs to go through many layers to reach the desired file or stored information. It is not an intuitive interface that makes navigation and searches easy but needs some getting used to.
Microsoft Teams allows users to connect only with a Microsoft account, which is not the case for some of its competitors like Zoom. So there is an extra barrier to entry, making people wary of using the software. This also makes it difficult to hold meetings with an external client because there are too many requirements to enter, and the signing up process itself is not easy.
Many of the more enhanced features like scheduled calls, unique in-app integration with MS Office apps, and comprehensive security features, are all missing from the free version of Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams needs you to create separate teams—and while there is no limit to the number of teams you can create, this is just an added layer that can be difficult for some to navigate through.
What are the payment plans?
The basic MS Teams is free and one simply needs to sign in with a Microsoft or Outlook account. With this, you can conduct meetings for up to 300 people, so most people do not have a requirement for more. Other plans include Office 365 Business Essentials, Office Business Premium, and Office 365 E3 (enterprise), annual plans which offer enhanced features like better integration, call schedule, more storage space, recording facility, and more.
What are the alternatives to MS Teams?
Microsoft Teams has a number of direct competitors like Slack, Zoom, Skype, Webex, Sharepoint, Google Classroom, etc. Zoom and Microsoft Teams compete closely on video conferencing, with more and more people working remotely relying on these programs for meetings and collaboration. Zoom is better for scheduling conferencing and does not require external users to have a specific Zoom account which they need to log into. So meetings with clients become as easy as clicking on a link and starting the browser applications for Zoom. Meanwhile, Teams excel with in-app integration of other apps and functions, so it’s not just a video conferencing app but a complete work-environment.
Comparing to Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams loses out on the accessibility factor mostly—as Google is very well integrated into most Android or Desktop computers, and the chances of people using Google as their primary email account is also higher than that of Microsoft. On MS Teams, swapping between teams and collaborating with the use of in-app integration becomes easy to do, which is lacking from Google Classrooms. In terms of interface and navigation, however, Google Classrooms has an edge over MS Teams.
Other competitors like Slack, Skype (also a Microsoft product), and Webex have features that are comparable to MS Teams, but the sheer functionality and clarity of MS Teams video conferencing makes it win over the others.
What’s the verdict on MS Teams?
MS Teams is truly a state-of-the-art online collaboration platform, that makes it so easy to work remotely and still stay highly productive. The program offers a complete work environment that is conducive to real-time collaboration, integration of other applications for higher efficiency, and higher productivity while with other team members. While the navigation does seem heavy and chunky, with a number of layers necessary to get to the desired designation, Microsoft Teams is still one of the best programs for remote work.