Microsoft Teams Plan Comparison: Free vs M365 Business vs Teams Essentials

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The shift to remote work over the last two years has caused companies to realign their digital tools. Now, many meetings default to being via video conference rather than in person, and working from home has become commonplace.

Seventy-seven percent of remote workers say they’re more productive working from home (a big reason is fewer distractions). Plus 85% of surveyed managers expect that having teams with remote workers will be the new normal.

But for remote working to work without employees feeling disconnected and customers feeling you’re hard to reach, you need to use cloud communication tools. One of the most popular, which has skyrocketed in popularity, is Microsoft Teams.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, the Microsoft Teams daily active users count rose from 75 million to 145 million

Teams is an all-in-one communication platform, providing more than just video conferencing or chat. It combines several capabilities into an online work hub for collaboration and communication. 

Some of the key features of MS Teams include:

  • Video and audio calls
  • Webinar registration & attendance reporting
  • Channeled team chat
  • File storage and sharing
  • In-app collaboration in Word, Excel, PPT, and more
  • In-app collaboration in 3rd party applications
  • Tabs that allow teams to link apps and websites inside a channel
  • Status notification and alerts
  • Use on all devices

MS Teams Evolution

Originally, Microsoft Teams was available only through a Microsoft 365 Business subscription. Then, to improve the popularity of Teams and compete with video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft brought out a free version with fewer features in 2018.

This helped the service increase its user base, however, there was a wide gap between the capabilities of the paid version with a Microsoft 365 subscription and the free version. Such as much less support, fewer features, etc.

Microsoft noted that it was missing a vital audience, the small business. Small business owners had a more difficult time fitting into either the free model, with very limited group meeting timing, or the paid model, which required a full M365 subscription.

So, in December of 2021, it brought out the third plan for MS Teams that it is hoping is “just right” for smaller companies that need the same collaboration and communication tools as everyone else. This plan is called Teams Essentials, and you don’t need to sign up for Microsoft 365 to get it.

Comparison of Teams Essentials vs Teams Free vs Teams with an M365 Business Plan

Next, we’ll go through the differences between these three MS Teams plans so you can identify the one that may make the most sense for your company.

Microsoft Teams Free Version

The free version of MS Teams was really brought out to reach the residential and home user crowd. An audience that had been completely missing from the Teams userbase up to that point.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 100 participants per meeting
  • 5GB of cloud storage per user
  • Unlimited chat
  • File sharing, tasks, and polling
  • Data encryption for calls, files, meetings, chats
  • Co-authoring capabilities
  • Ability to add tabs inside group channels

The biggest drawback of using the free version for your business is the 60-minute limit on group video meetings. The 5GB cloud storage also can be limiting for business use of Teams.

Microsoft Teams Essentials

Teams Essentials is $4/user/month and was designed specifically for small businesses that may not want to subscribe to M365, but still need a good cloud collaboration tool to keep their team connected and productive.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the free version, plus:
  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 30 hours
  • Up to 300 participants per meeting
  • 10GB of cloud storage per user
  • Anytime phone and web support

The additional group meeting time (up to 30 hours) is more than enough to fill any type of meeting need, even those that go on all day. Additionally, users get double the cloud storage space, and the phone and web support ensure your staff has help using the app when needed.

Teams with Microsoft 365

The version of Teams with Microsoft 365 is available with any business plan. The lowest cost plan is $6.00/user/month ($2 more than Essentials). However, the Basic package does not come with downloadable Office apps (Word, Excel, etc.), only the web versions.

The next step up would be M365 Business Standard at $12.50/user/month, which is quite a bit more than the price for Teams Essentials. This one does include the downloadable Office apps.

These plans have the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the Essentials version, plus:
  • Office applications (either web or web & downloadable)
  • All the many M365 cloud apps (OneDrive, Forms, SharePoint, OneNote, and many others)
  • 1TB of cloud storage per user
  • Webinar hosting
  • Customer appointment management
  • Premium security features

If you are planning to use Microsoft Office software and other applications, then it makes sense to get Teams along with an M365 subscription. However, if your business already owns the offline version of the Office suite or does not need it, then Teams Essentials offers a lot of capabilities with a lower price tag.

Need Help Getting MS Teams or Other Cloud Tools Set Up?

Today’s hybrid offices and remote teams need robust collaboration tools to compete. Contact us if you need help getting started with MS Teams or another cloud tool. We’ll be happy to facilitate a custom setup to ensure your staff can hit the ground running.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Are the Most Helpful Features of Windows 11?

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Windows 11 has been out for a few months now, beginning rollout in October of 2021. It has been largely well-received and seen as stable with very few bugs noted.

One of the reasons that Windows 11 has been welcomed with open arms for both home and business computer upgrades is that it isn’t a dramatic experience difference from Windows 10. This upgrade is mainly focused on helping users do tasks faster and find things more easily.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to upgrade to Windows 11, we’ll go through several of the most helpful features below that might make you want to upgrade sooner rather than later.

And if you have already upgraded your machine to Windows 11 or purchased a new PC with the OS installed, you’ll want to look over these features to make sure you haven’t been missing out on some productivity enhancers.

Snap Layouts

One challenge that tends to be universal across multiple users is the struggle with trying to work in more than one window at a time on your PC screen. You can end up spending time resizing the windows just right, then need to open a window to full size to reach a scroll bar and end up back at square one.

Many users will app-switch, meaning they switch between one app window that is fully open and another that isn’t. This is also time-consuming.

In a study of user productivity, it was found that 56% of app users said that switching between apps makes it difficult to get essential work done and costs them at least 30 minutes per day.

Enter… snap layouts in Windows 11.

This feature is designed to solve this problem by providing the user with several options for window arrangements that snap windows into place. The view is designed so you can reach all scroll bars and menu items in a particular app window.

This is one of the most time-saving features of the new operating system and it’s very intuitive and easy to use.

Texting & Video Calls from Teams on the Desktop

If you’re one of those people that hates typing out texts on a tiny smartphone screen only to have it altered by a rogue auto-correction, then the new Teams integration in Windows 11 is going to be a welcome change.

Teams is now natively integrated on the taskbar, there is no application you need to install. Setup only takes a few minutes and involves you putting in your name and a mobile phone number.

Using the Microsoft Teams icon from the desktop, you can instantly begin connecting to people via SMS or video/audio chat. You can even share a screen during your meetings.

The To Do Widget

One of the new features in Windows 11 that doesn’t look fully finished is the widgets panel. This feed has a few basic applications in it at the moment, and more are expected to come, which will make it even more useful.

You get to this panel through an icon on the taskbar, and the widget feed can be tailored with local weather, traffic, news, and more.

One of the helpful features you can use right now is the To Do widget. It allows you to quickly create a task list and check off those tasks without having to open another application.

The widget can be added in seconds to your panel and can be quite a time-saver because of the easy access right from your desktop.

Streamlined Start/Search Menu

If you’re still using your file explorer to search for documents, you can save a lot of time by using the Start/Search menu instead. Click the Windows icon on the taskbar (which has now been moved to the middle instead of far left) and type your search keyword at the top.

This is a master search that will bring up documents, settings, applications, and even web pages. Searching using the Start Menu is faster than trying to find a file in the Explorer.

The newly streamlined interface also reduces the clutter of the old Windows Start Menu making it easier to get where you need to go.

Task View

Task view is the virtual desktop feature that had been introduced in Windows 10. This remains a very handy feature for separating the different areas of your work to stay focused.

You can use the task view icon on the taskbar to create a different virtual desktop with different open applications and documents. For example, you could keep your email open on one virtual desktop and then use another when you’re in a video call and sharing screen.

Get Help with a Smooth Upgrade to Windows 11

An upgrade of an entire company to a new OS can be time-consuming. Save time and skip any downtime by working with an IT professional to roll out a smooth upgrade and get users trained on the new features.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.