Firstly, it is important to divulge our own allegiances. As a Microsoft Gold Partner we have provided businesses with Microsoft solutions for over 30 years alongside our IT solutions and support services, however, like most people we’ve had experience of both solutions. Some of our suppliers still hold regular meetings using Zoom, but our own choice in-house has been Microsoft Teams.
Our decision was probably less considered than some businesses. As a Microsoft partner we could hardly start using Zoom, could we?! So have we (and have you) picked the right solution? Or, if you’re looking at both options for the first time, which should you go for?
It has been hard to keep track of the total number of users on each platform, especially as some statistics include users on the free versions of each package, whilst other focus on paid users only.
However, it was widely reported in 2020 that Microsoft surpassed the total number of Zoom users for the first time (reference: https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252485100/Microsoft-Teams-usage-growth-surpasses-Zoom). Since then, virtually all reports show that Microsoft Teams is the most widely used option of the two, especially within businesses.
Zoom has always had a big focus on simplicity, aiming to make the software easy to set up, easy use and to be able to create meetings quickly. The solution was built as a video call and meeting tool so, that’s exactly what it does really well. Additional features have been added since of course, but its popularity amongst home users and the not-so-tech savvy has all been driven by how easy it is to use.
Microsoft Teams on the other hand started life as a collaboration tool, aiming to bring teams of people together to work on documents, share files and manage projects (hence the name “Teams”). Although there was always the option for video calls, this was plugged much more as a feature than a huge benefit of the system in the early days. Since March 2020 the functionality related to video and voice calls has been a huge focus from Microsoft, in some case playing catch up to some of the readily available features in Zoom, to the point where the two systems are now very similar if video calling is all you are looking at.
Your Needs and Priorities
Just like the purchase of any IT system or software package, the first thing to consider is what you actually need from it. What will its purpose be? Both companies can bombard you with a list of features, many of which have limited value, no value or novelty value (is everyone bored of customisable backgrounds yet?) but knowing exactly what you want from it is vital if you’re going to cut through the marketing gumph that inevitably fills the webpages of each product.
A few things to consider would be:
Video, voice and chat
If you’re reading this article, then this is probably the driving force behind your decision to compare Teams and Zoom. In reality, both do a great job of this. Zoom has now added both voice calls and chat/instant messaging to their packages and Microsoft Teams has always allowed this.
There are some minor differences to how each package works, but nothing too difficult to learn for any user once they get into the swing of it.
Zoom is certainly a quicker and easy option for business who ONLY want to use this feature because Microsoft Teams, as you’ll see shortly, contains much more than just communication tools and therefore require some more thought and time in its configuration.
Zoom’s collaboration tools barely go past the ability to call people, although basics such as screen sharing, sending files and remote device control are available.
Microsoft Teams is built around collaboration. Because Microsoft Teams is part of Microsoft 365 (previously known as Office 365) it can’t be purchased as a standalone piece of software. As part of your subscription, even at the most basic level, you’ll be provided with personal file storage space via OneDrive, shared company storage via SharePoint, web versions of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, email hosting and additional collaboration tools, such as Yammer and Planner.
In terms of collaboration tools, the two systems simply don’t compare. Microsoft Teams is streets ahead.
As part of all Zoom subscriptions, you will receive 1GB of storage for meeting recordings, but beyond that there is no provision provided for storage of any other documents.
Again, Microsoft Teams trumps this level of functionality easily with 1TB (999 times more!) per user, which can be used to store any files, as well as the shared storage available for the company via SharePoint. If required, additional data can be added and at the top level of subscription (Office 365 E3) personal cloud storage is unlimited.
Internal and External Calls
To manage calls between both internal and external members of your organisation, both Microsoft Teams and Zoom work in similar ways. By default, users in your organisation will be available and external users can be invited to a specific call or meeting via email.
Additional, and slightly more advanced, functionality is also available in Microsoft Teams to allow specific domains additional access and privileges, if required. You can also invite external users to more than just video calls. For example, if you are working on a project with a customer then you can invite users into a group (or a ‘Team’ as it’s known in Teams) where they can access shared files, calendar planning tools and group conversations.
Security is often a tricky one to gauge as both companies put up a strong case about the type of security they have in place. Although Microsoft have not been completely distant from cyber hacks in the past, Zoom has certainly stolen the headlines more recently, eventually settling with the Federal Trade Commission after a series of security claims that were questioned (reference: https://www.itpro.co.uk/security/encryption/358502/ftc-finalizes-settlement-with-zoom).
Whilst Zoom may have had its issues, most of the security criticisms revolve around the security of the video streams and calls themselves which, whilst important, doesn’t necessarily compare with the amount, or sensitivity of data that may be held within Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365.
Microsoft’s security is certainly at a very high level, but they can also be seen as a target by cyber criminals, potentially causing people to be concerned about its safety.
With both solutions, we’d always advise looking at them in context of your overall cyber security strategy. In terms of Microsoft Teams there are certainly enhancements that can be made to the security settings which come “out-of-the-box” and, in particular, we advise businesses to consider Two-Factor Authentication solutions as part of this strategy.
If you’d never used Teams or Zoom before, then Zoom is certainly the easier to get your head around quickly. Because it focuses primarily on video calls, Zoom’s interface is uncluttered and easy to navigate and there’s very little to learn, making it perfect for businesses who only need this level of functionality.
The learning curve on Microsoft Teams is a little steeper and, depending on how far you go with it, there can be a lot of functionality to learn outside of video calling. Whilst it was initially a little difficult to navigate, Teams has certainly improved and in many cases mimics the familiar feel of Zoom and other video calling platforms, so the vast majority of users will pick it up in no time whatsoever.
There is also plenty of help guides available to use other elements of Microsoft Teams. Our advice is to plan the implementation of Microsoft Teams thoroughly and include training as part of that so users aren’t overwhelmed and, ultimately, get the most from the software.
Microsoft Teams vs Zoom Pricing
It is important to point out that everything in this article is referring to the paid versions of Zoom and Teams, however, free versions of each package are available if required. They are of course limited in some respects but will give you a chance to get the basic feel of them.
Considering the vast difference in functionality, you’d be forgiven to think that Zoom was the cheaper option, but in fact Microsoft Teams has a lower subscription cost.
Both software packages are available on tiered packages, but the most basic paid versions of each software, per person, comes in at £119.90 per year for Zoom and £45.60 for Microsoft 365, which include Teams (pricing correct at 10/02/2021). As previously mentioned, Microsoft 365 not only includes Teams but also data storage, email hosting, the web versions of Microsoft Office and numerous other benefits.
Even if you select Microsoft’s second tier (Business Standard) package, it only comes in at £112.80 per year and includes the desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Publisher too.
If you’re already a Microsoft 365 subscriber, then you will already have Teams too – so you won’t even need to add it to your subscription!
Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?
Well… there are some other costs you’ll need to factor in. Unless you feel confident doing it yourself, you’ll probably need some help setting up Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. Zoom would need some configuration too, although there are less options available, so it is simpler and quicker to do.
On top of that you may wish to use some of the more advanced options in Microsoft Teams and 365, again adding some professional services time to your overall costs.
Finally, because Microsoft Teams is part of a bigger picture, especially when using it as a file storage, email and collaboration tool, you may choose to add a level of IT support to the package from an accredited Microsoft partner, such as ourselves.
If your business is just looking at a solution for video calls then the simplicity of Zoom is fantastic. It is easy to use, easy to set up and will do a great job for you.
If you are hoping for more from your solution, then Microsoft Teams is the way to go. Although a bit more time will be needed to successfully roll it out to your business the benefits of it go way beyond video calls, especially if you are already using Microsoft products.