If you look at the numbers for video conferencing and team messaging apps before and after the pandemic began, you’ll see the explosion of the necessity for virtual communications.
For example, Microsoft Teams went from about 32 million daily active users right before the pandemic hit to approximately 115 million by October of 2020. Since October, this number has jumped up to 145 million daily active users on Microsoft Teams.
When many employees began working from home out of necessity, organizations had to swiftly update their communication systems to ensure everyone could stay connected. MS Teams was one of the most popular options for a number of reasons:
- Teams includes more than just video conferencing, it includes secured and channeled messaging, file sharing, in-app collaboration on documents, and more.
- Teams is natively integrated with Microsoft Office apps and many other 3rd party apps.
- Teams offers security controls through the use of things like safe links and private channels.
Initially, Microsoft Teams was only available through a Microsoft 365 subscription, something that all small businesses may not be keen to add to their budgets. While pricing starts as low as $5/user/month for M365 Basic, the Standard option, which has the downloadable versions of the Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) is $12.50/user/month.
So, in an effort to reach more users with MS Teams, as well as open up the residential market for the app Microsoft introduced a free version of Teams in 2018. This version, of course, had fewer options and less file storage than the version with a paid M365 subscription.
While this was great for casual users, many small businesses found the free version lacking in some of the features they needed, including having group meetings that were longer than an hour.
Microsoft noticed this and found it was losing a group of customers – namely SMBs – and just introduced a new subscription plan for MS Teams that it hopes is the perfect fit to price and features for this group.
What Is Microsoft Teams Essentials?
Microsoft Teams Essentials is Microsoft’s answer for a communication solution that fits the needs of small and mid-sized businesses. This subscription plan is $1 less than the M365 Business Basic plan and includes more features than the free version of Microsoft Teams.
Teams Essentials is listed as $4 per user, per month and it is the first standalone Teams offering that was designed specifically for small business users.
Some of the key reasons that businesses use Teams for their video and messaging communications include:
- Rich video conferencing features (emoji reactions, presenter view, etc.) that make meetings more engaging
- Calendar integration for meeting scheduling
- Channeled team chat and team channels that can include tabs to often-used resources
- Fluid mobile capabilities for messaging, video, and audio calls
- Keeps all company communications in one place (rather than different email inboxes) to make searching for information easier
- Offers security for shared data and communications
- Facilitates co-authoring of documents from inside the application
What Does Teams Essentials Have Over the Free Version?
So, what is the paid Teams Essentials providing for small businesses that they can’t get from the free version of Teams?
Unlimited Group Meetings for Up to 30 Hours
The free version of Teams allows companies to have group meetings for up to 60 minutes. Today, we are so dependent upon video conferencing for many meetings that we used to have in person. It’s not unusual for those meetings to go over an hour in length.
The 1-hour time limit in the free version is particularly restrictive for companies and can be embarrassing if you’re on a client call and have to disconnect because your time is up.
MS Teams Essentials increases the time limit for group meetings to 30 hours – much longer than anyone would typically need for a meeting. So, you never have to worry about running out of time before the end of your meeting.
Double the Cloud Storage Space Per User
With the Free version of Teams, each user gets 5 GB of cloud storage space. As we know, this can get used up pretty quickly, especially if you’re sharing large graphics or video files.
Teams Essentials doubles the storage space, giving each user 10 GB of cloud storage space.
Up to 300 Participants Per Meeting
As a small business owner, you might think, “Why would I ever need 300 meeting participants?” Well, Teams gives you the ability to conduct video events and webinars, so you can potentially have a lot of people attending a training or product sales event.
The free version of Teams allows you up to 100 participants per meeting. This number is tripled to 300 per meeting with Microsoft Teams Essentials.
Anytime Phone & Web Support
One more important perk you get with the paid MS Teams Essentials Plan is web and phone support. This can be critical if you need help setting up one of those large virtual customer events.
Improve Your Team’s Collaboration With Each Other & Your Customers
Connect2Geek has a team of cloud application experts that can help your Treasure Valley business improve your communications and collaboration with apps like MS Teams and others.
Schedule your free consultation to learn more today! Call 208-468-4323 or reach out online.