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What is Microsoft Teams? How it works, latest features and top alternatives

Microsoft Teams
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ink Drop)

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration and video conferencing service that enables staff to communicate 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, Linux, Android and iOS, 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 three options available: Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business Standard and 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 Standard, 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.

Finally, Office 365 Premium adds advanced security and privacy features, as well as a greater range of device management options. This package will run your business $20.00 per user per month (£15.10/AU$27.50).

(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 businesses’ 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

30/11/2020 - Microsoft Teams will no longer be available to certain users

20/11/2020 - Microsoft Teams is making this power move to topple Zoom

17/11/2020 - Teams calls are about to get a whole lot more interesting

11/11/2020 - Crafty ransomware campaign has Teams users in its crosshairs

06/11/2020 - Teams is getting another feature that may help you ditch Zoom

04/11/2020 - Teams may finally be about to get this super useful feature

02/11/2020 - Microsoft Teams chats will soon house up to 1,000 participants

29/10/2020 - Microsoft Teams now lets you hide from your nagging colleagues

23/10/2020 - Sharing files over Teams is about to become far easier

09/10/2020 - Microsoft Teams now allows you to see up to 49 participants

28/09/2020 - You can now make Microsoft Teams calls over LinkedIn

22/09/2020 - Microsoft Teams will soon let you schedule a 'virtual commute'

04/09/2020 - Microsoft Teams gets useful new Lists app

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.