When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, a huge chunk of the world had to figure out how to work from home - and what software to use for virtual meetings and conferences.
We've all heard of Zoom, a company that is well on its way to becoming the Kleenex of video conferencing. Zoom has benefited tremendously from the current remote-work situation and is currently worth more than the seven biggest airlines. Zoom has done a lot of things right and is clearly the leader in video conferencing right now, so it may surprise you to learn that we do not use Zoom to host meetings and we do not have any plans to use it in the future. The reason? Price (mostly).
Quick disclaimer: this is not going to be a thorough analysis of the differences between Teams and Zoom. Most people will get what they need from Zoom Pro or the paid version of Microsoft Teams with no add-ons, so those are what I'll be talking about - though I will address a few of the more popular add-ons.
Also, unless I state otherwise, when I list a price (e.g. $14.99/month) I really mean $14.99 per month per user. So if you have 5 users, that would be (5) x ($14.99) per month.
Zoom is expensive and you might already have Teams
Price is, by far, the biggest differentiator between Zoom and Teams. Both Teams and Zoom have free licenses, but even if you're running a small business with one or two employees you'll probably want a paid license. You'll get better support and access to features that you probably need - for example, the free version of Zoom has a maximum meeting time of 40 minutes.
I think the biggest thing that people miss is: if you already have a subscription to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), it probably already includes the paid version of Teams. If you use an up-to-date version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc then this probably applies to you. Microsoft did themselves a huge disservice by not making this more obvious to their customers before Zoom exploded.
Even the $5/month Microsoft 365 Business Basic subscription includes Teams (along with email, web versions of the Office suite, SharePoint and OneDrive, and 1TB of storage). You can upgrade your Microsoft 365 subscription to include whatever other Microsoft products you need and pretty much all of them will include Teams.
Compare this to the lowest-cost Zoom subscription at $14.99/month. If you only need the core of what Zoom and Teams have to offer (i.e. no add-ons), it's either:
- An extra $14.99/month for Zoom
- An extra $0/month for Teams - because it's included in your existing Microsoft subscription (or $5/month if it's not).
How do I know if I already have Teams?
- Go to https://portal.office.com/account (you may have to log in first)
- Click Subscriptions on the left side
This will show you which Microsoft subscription(s) you have and which products are included. If you see Microsoft Teams in that list, you're probably good to go unless you need add-ons (see below).
Additional features and add-ons
The most significant add-ons to Teams are included with an Office 365 E3 license ($20/month) - but if you already have a subscription, upgrading to Office 365 E3 probably costs less than the $14.99/month for a Zoom Pro license.
For example, if you already have Microsoft 365 Business Standard ($12.50/month) it would cost you an extra $7.50/month to get Office 365 E3, compared to $14.99/month for Zoom Pro.
If you don't need to record meetings, Teams is a no-brainer in terms of price. If you do want to record meetings, it is still a no brainer - it's included even with the $5/month Microsoft 365 Business Basic.
Again, you'll need the $14.99/month Zoom Pro subscription to store recordings in the cloud. However, if you can tolerate the 40-minute meeting cap (and other restrictions) you can use the free version of Zoom and record the meeting locally - but if you lose this recording, it's gone.
Live Events / Video Webinars
You may have a need to set up a webinar where only a few people are presenting, but there are many attendees who cannot talk, share video, or present - sort of like a live stream on Facebook or YouTube. This functionality usually includes some sort of Q&A function too.
We do this for our SEM University webinars, which all use Teams Live Events. To get this functionality with Teams you'll need at least a $20/month Office 365 E3 license. Office 365 E3 also comes with a lot of other stuff that I won't dig in to here, but just know that this is the subscription we had for a long time, even before we started using Teams Live Events.
The comparable offering from Zoom is Video Webinars, which is a $40/month add-on.
Join from a telephone
Sometimes it's nice to have the ability for someone to dial-in to a meeting from their telephone. This is especially useful for older folks who might not have a positive relationship with technology.
For Teams, you'll need Office 365 E3 and a $4/month audio conferencing license. If you choose a toll-free (800) number, you'll also pay a nominal fee per minute, but if you use a local number there is no extra cost for usage - just Office 365 E3 + audio conferencing.
With Zoom, this add-on starts at $100/month. Granted, this add-on is not per user (so it starts at $100/month shared across all your Zoom users), but still - that's expensive for a small business.
It may be possible to to add on audio conferencing to a lower-tier Microsoft subscription (e.g. the $5/month Business Basic license), but the documentation from Microsoft is a little muddy on the subject. If you're in this situation and don't need Office 365 E3, the best bet is to contact Microsoft and get the official word from them.
Integration with the rest of Microsoft 365
This may not be as applicable to you depending on what Microsoft products you already use, but it was huge for us. We were already using Teams as an internal chat tool, and Teams integrates very closely with the rest of the Microsoft 365 suite, especially SharePoint and Planner (Teams is more than just a chat and virtual meeting tool). Our learning curve was probably lower too, since we were just using additional features of a product that we were already familiar with.
Despite all of Teams' positives, it does have some shortcomings compared to Zoom. That being said, we are happy with how Microsoft has been implementing features that its customers want. They also have a public forum where you can suggest, vote, and comment on desired features and Microsoft employees will respond: https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/
Nonetheless, Teams does currently have a few noteable shortcomings compared to Zoom (as of June 2020):
- You can have 250 people in a meeting at once, but only a maximum of 9 on screen at the same time. This has not been a huge issue for us because we never have that many people going back-and-forth at the same time, but you can see how this might be an issue for a teacher running a classroom meeting.
- Ease of use for clients/customers/etc. If you invite someone to a Zoom meeting, it can be as simple as going to join.zoom.us and enter the meeting code (which can easily be communicated over the phone). With Teams, you need to go to your calendar invite or email and click the link. For most technically-inclined people this is not a big deal, but when a client is not as good with technology Teams can be a bit rough.
- You can join a meeting in your web browser with no account using both Zoom and Teams, but Teams really pushes you to download the app and this can make things confusing since the app does require you to sign in.
- In Teams meetings (i.e. not Live Events), you can mute participants but they can unmute themselves. Using Teams Live Events solves this problem, but if you have a presenter from outside your company who does not have an Office 365 E3 license it gets muddy very quickly (you have to create a guest account for them in your tenant and invite them to a Team). Thankfully Microsoft is working on this and the feature should be deployed sometime this quarter.