Microsoft Teams vs Zoom: Which video conferencing and collaboration service is best?

Although there are many different video conferencing and collaboration tools on the market, two in particular have gone stratospheric over the past year or so: Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

With many businesses preparing for a transition to a hybrid working model, whereby employees split their time between the office and home, services like Zoom and Teams will continue to play a major role in working life.

Choosing between the two is easier said than done, however, with both Teams and Zoom offering similarly high levels of quality and a comparable suite of features.

In this guide, we've collected all the information you need to decide which service is best for your business, comparing plans and pricing, features, security and more.

Plans and pricing

First, it's worth noting that both Microsoft Teams and Zoom offer generous free tiers. The main difference is that Teams offers video calls, 2GB personal cloud storage and unlimited chat, whereas free Zoom is limited to video conferencing.

The two free versions also differ when it comes to the time-limits placed on calls. Zoom allows participants to meet for up to 40 minutes, while the Microsoft Teams limit has temporarily been boosted to 24 hours (it's unclear when the original 60-minute limit will be reinstated).

Microsoft TeamsIf you're looking to upgrade your Microsoft Teams subscription, there are three options available: Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Microsoft 365 Business Standard and Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

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

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

Lastly, Microsoft 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/£15.10/AU$27.50 per user per month.

ZoomThe Zoom pricing structure is a little more complicated, with multiple product lines that offer different sets of features. The company has three video conferencing-only plans, but the closest point of comparison is the Zoom United range, which includes collaboration facilities similar to those available with Teams.

The most basic paid Zoom United plan costs $250/£200/AU$350 per user when billed annually or $25/£20/AU$35 per month. It offers unlimited video meetings with up to 100 participants, 1GB storage for meeting recordings, unlimited chat and unlimited calling to local phone numbers.

The Business plan (for companies that need 10-99 licenses) offers all the same features, plus meetings with up to 300 participants, custom URLs, company branding, SSO, transcription and more. It costs $300/£159.90/AU$420 per user per year or $30/£15.99/AU$42 per month.

Finally, the Enterprise plan boosts the maximum number of participants to 500. The pricing is identical to the Business plan, but requires businesses to purchase at least 100 licenses.

Quoted prices do not cover additional add-ons - such as webinar facilities, large meetings (up to 1000 participants) and additional cloud recording storage - which will bump up the price.

Features

As you might expect, Zoom and Microsoft Teams share a number of the same core collaboration features, from high quality video conferencing to phone calls, text chat and group messaging.

When it comes to the in-meeting experience, both offer useful options such as custom and blurred backgrounds, a variety of viewing modes, breakout rooms and text chat. Users can also share their screen during presentations, making it easier for audience members to follow along.

Zoom and Teams allow meetings to be recorded, which means people unable to attend can catch up on anything they missed. Since the start of the pandemic, both have also introduced important accessibility features, such as live captions and transcription features.

Where Microsoft Teams shines is in its integrations with the wider Microsoft 365 suite of apps and services. For example, Teams is intertwined closely with OneDrive and Sharepoint, making file-sharing easy and intuitive. An upcoming PowerPoint integration, meanwhile, is set to make managing notes during presentations and engaging with the audience less challenging.

That said, Zoom does boast hundreds of third-party integrations via its App marketplace, which expands the its dramatically. Some people will also prefer Zoom's brighter and less busy UI, which is easy to use for even the least tech-savvy employees.

Anyone that uses Zoom exclusively for conferencing - perhaps in conjunction with another collaboration service (e.g. Slack) - is unlikely to miss the features that set Teams apart.

Security

Cybersecurity is an all-important consideration for modern businesses; even more so with many employees now operating outside the safety of the traditional security perimeter.

When it comes to video conferencing security, end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is considered the holy grail. Under this system, communication between meeting participants is encrypted using cryptographic keys held only on users' devices. This means no third party, including the service provider, has access to the keys to decrypt private meeting data.

At the start of the pandemic, Zoom found itself at the heart of a controversy after claims its calls were protected by E2EE proved to be false.

After making a public apology, the company pledged to spend the following three months focused solely on improving the security of the platform. Now, communications over Zoom are encrypted using 256-bit TLS encryption as standard, and users have the option to enable full E2EE.

Microsoft Teams is a few steps behind where E2EE is concerned. Only very recently have Teams users had access to this extra level of protection, and even then only for 1:1 calls (providing both users remember to activate the feature).

In recent months, both Microsoft and Zoom have also taken steps to prevent a practice known as “Zoombombing”, whereby an uninvited individual invades and disrupts a meeting.

Zoom has introduced mandatory meeting passwords, waiting rooms and easier methods of removing disruptive participants. Teams, for its part, recently unveiled similar meeting controls to protect against gatecrashers, as well as a disable video function that should help limit disruptions.

In terms of compliance and data management, Zoom and Microsoft let customers make choices about the location of the data centers used to process their data in transit.

Support

When it comes to customer service, it's difficult to separate Zoom and Teams, both of which offer pretty much all avenues of support you might expect.

The former offers a great help center, which contains numerous guides and video tutorials, as well as email and live support (over chat or phone).

Microsoft Teams also boasts an extensive knowledge base and users can seek further help via Microsoft 365 support channels, which include an online form, phone support and a dedicated Get Help app. However, there doesn't appear to be a live chat service.

Both services offer native clients for all the major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS. Attendees can also join sessions via web browser in both instances.

Verdict

Microsoft Teams and Zoom have enjoyed massive growth during the pandemic for good reason; they are both high-quality services that are improving constantly. Choosing which of the two is best is about identifying the specific needs of your business.

If price is the main concern, Teams is by far the cheaper option, even if you opt for Zoom's video conferencing-only packages. Teams also benefits from its position in the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem, which could be enough to swing the balance in its favor.

However, Zoom is undeniably excellent at what it does best: video conferencing. The user interface is clear and intuitive and the call quality is almost always excellent.

With Zoom used so widely for personal and business purposes during the pandemic, the platform is also now familiar to almost everyone, which should make adopting the platform a breeze.

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