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What is Microsoft Teams? Best features, latest updates and alternative options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration offering from Microsoft that enables staff to communicate effectively from any location - via text chat, voice call or video conference.

The free version of Microsoft Teams offers a handsome feature set that will be sufficient for many businesses, while a paid version is available for firms after a more comprehensive solution.

Unlike other similar offerings, the Microsoft Teams app combines rich HD video conferencing with extensive text chat facilities - think of it as a cross between Slack and Zoom.

The Microsoft Teams app is available on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS - and a Linux version was also announced last year - so employees can connect to their colleagues from almost any device.

Free version or paid?

The free version of Microsoft Teams boasts all the features employees will need to collaborate remotely.

Unlimited text chat and search, group video conferences, one-on-one video calls, 2GB of cloud storage per person (or 10GB across the entire team) and access to web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote all come free of charge.

However, the free version of Microsoft Teams lacks a few important security and administration facilities - such as enforced multi-factor authentication, single sign-on and user management - that most businesses are likely to need.

If you’re looking to upgrade your Microsoft Teams subscription, there are two options available: Office 365 Business Essentials or Office 365 Business Premium.

Office 365 Business Essentials is available for $5.00 per user per month (£3.80/AU$6.90), and includes the ability to schedule and record Microsoft Teams meetings, boosts the file storage capacity to 1TB per user and includes the additional security features mentioned above.

Office 365 Business Premium, meanwhile, costs $12.50 per user per month (£9.40/AU$17.20). It features all the benefits of the cheaper package, but also includes desktop versions of Microsoft’s famous productivity applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) and business apps such as Bookings, Invoicing and MileIQ.

Note: In a bid to help businesses support newly remote employees working under quarantine restrictions, Microsoft is currently offering a six-month free trial of the paid version of Microsoft Teams - so you can try before you buy.

(Image credit: Shutterstock / dennizn)

Download Microsoft Teams

To download Microsoft Teams to your laptop or PC, simply follow this link to the Microsoft Teams download page.

From here, you can download the Microsoft Teams app for desktop and mobile, or you can enter your email address in the relevant field and Microsoft will deliver a download link directly.

Those looking to download Microsoft Teams mobile app can also navigate to the relevant app store on their device -  be that Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Microsoft Teams alternatives

Although Microsoft Teams will likely provide for most business’ every need, there are plenty of excellent Microsoft Teams alternatives on the market.

Here are a few alternatives to Microsoft Teams that make an equally good choice for businesses looking for the best video conferencing and collaboration solutions around:

- Google Meet
- RingCentral
- Skype for Business
- Cisco WebEx
- Zoom

Microsoft Teams - latest news

26/08/2020 - Teams integration makes for elaborate video conferencing

05/08/2020 - You can now make calls through Microsoft Teams

04/08/2020 - You can now host a 20,000-person Microsoft Teams meeting

29/07/2020 - Microsoft Teams might be about to make you more productive

28/07/2020 - Video conferencing gets less painful with Microsoft Teams Rooms

25/07/2020 - New Windows 10 tool could make video calls much less awkward

24/07/2020 - Slack is taking Microsoft Teams to court

23/07/2020 - Microsoft Teams is making some big changes

09/07/2020 - Microsoft Teams update launches avatars, camera filters

24/06/2020 - Microsoft Teams update makes Android and iOS apps easier to use

16/06/2020 - Watch out Zoom, Microsoft Teams is finally catching up

10/06/2020 - You no longer need to hack Windows to install Teams backgrounds

21/05/2020 - 20 best Zoom and Teams background resources

21/05/2020 - Microsoft Teams update set to make life easier for these workers

04/05/2020 - That Microsoft Teams alert might be a phishing scam

01/05/2020 - Microsoft Teams passes major milestone

27/04/2020 - Malicious GIFs could hijack your Microsoft Teams account

14/04/2020 - Microsoft Teams update means more participants per call

09/04/2020 - Major Microsoft Teams update brings host of new features

07/04/2020 - Microsoft Teams doubles down on security advice

02/04/2020 - You can now join Microsoft Teams calls from Slack

30/03/2020 - Microsoft teams not working again - here’s what you need to know

23/03/2020 - Microsoft Teams hits major milestone, unveils raft of new features

19/03/2020 - NHS staff get free Microsoft Teams access

17/03/2020 - Microsoft Teams struggles as remote working adds strain

05/03/2020 - Google and Microsoft offer free teleconferencing tools

04/02/2020 - Microsoft Teams outage was caused by an embarrassing oversight

11/12/2019 - Microsoft Teams is now available for Linux

19/11/2019 - Microsoft Teams hits 20 million daily active users

The best webcams

If you’re after a new webcam for Microsoft Teams video conferencing - or indeed any other kind of video conferencing - these are our top recommendations right now.