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This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: Evaluate team collaboration tools to increase productivity
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How the top cloud collaboration tools stack up

Team collaboration apps have saturated the UC market. See how the leading products compare on calling features, video conferencing support, pricing and other criteria.

The market for cloud collaboration tools is red-hot, as startups compete with well-established unified communications veterans. The competition should remain fierce for at least another 12 to 18 months, with the potential for mergers and acquisitions. Some vendors may also rework their team collaboration tools to keep up with the competition.

For enterprise customers, the team collaboration tools market is largely broken into two groups. The first segment of products focuses strictly on group messaging and team information sharing. The other segment, in addition to messaging, provides a platform to incorporate UC-as-a-service functions, such as voice and video conferencing.

This article provides an overview of 10 leading cloud collaboration tools. Note that all these products provide private messaging, group messaging, voice over IP (VoIP), video conferencing, file sharing, screen sharing and support for third-party apps. A few team collaboration tools offer additional calling features, such as PSTN conference dial-in, PSTN direct-inward dialing (DID) and online meetings. Also, pricing is pay as you go per user, per month, and most vendors offer a free trial. 

Editor's note

While researching team collaboration products, TechTarget editors focused on 10 leading cloud-based services that have strong messaging components. Our research included data from TechTarget surveys and reports from research firms, including Gartner.

Amazon Chime

Additional calling features: PSTN conference dial-in, online meetings
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: Supports H.323-compatible in-room video systems
Technical support: Knowledge base, web cases
Pricing: Basic plan is free; Plus is $2.50; Pro is $15

While Amazon is well-known in the cloud service provider space, it's a relative newcomer among cloud collaboration tools. Amazon has said Chime simplifies meeting workflows. Users, for example, can create and join meetings with a single click and share information within a virtual group setting. Because Chime is a single, unified platform, you don't need multiple tools, as you might with other products.

Chime includes enterprise-class features, such as Active Directory integration, end-to-end encryption and chat histories that remain stored in the cloud, not on the end device. Chime is hosted in and by Amazon Web Services.

Atlassian Stride

Additional calling features: None
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser, Linux
Phone and video conference hardware support: None
Technical support: Knowledge base, online community
Pricing: Free; Standard is $3

Atlassian has sunset the HipChat messaging platform in favor of its latest communications platform, Stride. In fact, current HipChat customers will eventually be forced to migrate to Stride. While not everyone will be happy about losing HipChat, the move shows Atlassian has confidence in its new product. Stride competes most closely with Slack.

Group collaboration is Stride's strength, as users can escalate chat communication to voice and video calls. Stride also features calendar integration, file sharing and custom emoticons. While Stride may be considered a more modest platform geared toward corporate environments, you can still find some fun and useful features to keep group-messaging content fresh and engaging.

BroadSoft Team-One

Additional calling features: None
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: None
Technical support: Knowledge base, video tutorials, email
Pricing: Premium is $5.99; contact BroadSoft for Enterprise pricing

BroadSoft has been considered a leader in enterprise-class UC products for nearly two decades. Its Team-One business collaboration platform has been available since late 2016. Team-One is a unified application that integrates cloud messaging with traditional UC functions, such as VoIP and video calling.

Recently, Cisco said it will acquire BroadSoft and its entire product portfolio, which makes things interesting and potentially concerning. Most likely, Cisco is acquiring BroadSoft for its cloud-managed contact-center platform, which has little to do with Team-One.

That said, one must wonder about the fate of Team-One, especially because Cisco already has a messaging-centric collaboration platform of its own. The two platforms could merge at some point. But, more likely, current Team-One users will be forced to migrate to Cisco Spark at some point in the future.

Cloud collaboration products

CA Flowdock

Additional calling features: None
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: None
Technical support: Knowledge base, online community, video tutorials
Pricing: Free version for up to five users; Standard is $3; contact CA Technologies for Enterprise pricing

CA Technologies specializes in enterprise software that revolves around application development and infrastructure management. Because of its focus on IT project development, deployment and operations, the company fittingly makes a team-based communications product.

Flowdock helps reduce long and difficult-to-read email threads, disjointed instant messaging platforms and complex content-sharing methods. While it won't replace all your UC needs, Flowdock offers messaging, virtual meetings and file sharing at a low cost. For software developers using Agile software development processes, Flowdock is a product to consider.

Cisco Spark

Additional calling features: PSTN conference dial-in, PSTN DID, online meetings
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: Available with select Cisco IP desk phones, conference phones, telepresence, and conference-room video and collaboration tools
Technical support: Knowledge base, online community, video tutorials, online ticket, email, phone
Pricing: Free; Plus is $12; additional tiers available through Cisco partners

Cisco Spark offers a complete cloud-based UC platform. Having launched in mid-2015, Spark provides a robust, messaging-based platform for team chat, VoIP calling and video conferencing, and it allows for full, enterprise-grade telephony and conference-room telepresence.

Many of the desk phones and video conferencing hardware that Cisco sells in on-premises UC deployments also work with Spark. Many companies are starting to ditch their expensive and difficult-to-manage on-premises PBX systems in favor of Cisco Spark. This includes organizations with strict data security regulation requirements.

While Cisco Spark has its benefits, it is one of the more expensive cloud platforms. Therefore, you probably should not use Spark strictly as a messaging tool in the same way you might use Flowdock or Slack. However, with the acquisition of BroadSoft and its Team-One product, Cisco might have plans to target smaller businesses that only need messaging-centric functionality at a lower price.

But if you're looking for a fully functional communications platform that includes traditional desk phones and conference-room video, Spark will likely be high on your list.

Google Hangouts

Additional calling features: PSTN conference dial-in, PSTN DID
Supported platforms: Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: Video conference systems for Hangouts Meet
Technical support: Knowledge base, online ticket, email, phone
Pricing: Basic is $5; Business and Team are $10; Enterprise is $25

Google Hangouts has gone through an identity crisis up until now. Hangouts was originally marketed as a competitor to social networking platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. When that plan didn't pan out, Google reworked the platform to create a project and team collaboration tool. The result is Hangouts has been split into two distinct products: Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.

Hangouts Chat is the messaging product that enables co-workers to collaborate via messaging, file sharing and in-app search functionality. The biggest differentiator is the product's tight integration with Google's G Suite apps, including Drive, Docs and Calendar. So, for companies that use Google apps instead of Microsoft Office tools, Hangouts is worth a look.

Hangouts Meet is the voice and video conferencing platform. It enables participants both inside and outside the organization to connect and collaborate using streaming video and VoIP without the need for additional software or browser plug-ins.

Google seemingly split Hangouts into two products to let customers choose between Chat or Meet without having the overhead of other features when they're not used. While this may be nice for some users, it adds complexity for companies that want the features of both products.

Microsoft Teams

Additional calling features: PSTN conference dial-in, PSTN DID
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser, Windows Phone
Phone and video conference hardware support: Support for currently certified phones and video conference systems for the Skype for Business platform
Technical support: Knowledge base, online community, email, online ticket, phone
Pricing: Included as part of select Office 365 subscriptions

Microsoft's messaging-centric cloud collaboration tools have sparked some confusion. Most customers are using Skype for Business for messaging, voice and video conferencing. So, when Microsoft Teams was announced, some customers were surprised, because Skype for Business' UC functionality is now offered in Teams. Microsoft has said it will replace Skype for Business with Teams.

Now that the direction of Teams is clearer, current Skype for Business customers will need to migrate to Teams or choose another vendor. In most cases, enterprise customers will migrate to Teams because the product is bundled with most Office 365 subscriptions. The use of Teams adds no monthly or annual subscription costs.

However, Teams is brand-new and unproven. Enterprises that rely heavily on messaging-centric collaboration will have to trust that Teams is the product Microsoft says it is, or look to other platforms to fill the void.

RingCentral Glip and Office

Additional calling features: None
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: Available with the inclusion of RingCentral Office, select Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323-compatible devices
Technical support: Knowledge base, online community, video tutorials, email, online ticket, phone
Pricing per user: Glip Free; Glip Standard is $5; Office Essentials is $20; Standard is $25; Premium is $35; Ultimate is $50

For businesses that want a messaging-centric cloud collaboration platform combined with traditional telephony and conference-room video options, Cisco Spark and Microsoft Teams most likely come to mind. However, RingCentral and its Glip and Office products should also be examined.

RingCentral acquired Glip, a messaging and group collaboration platform, in mid-2015. Since then, RingCentral has integrated the team and task management software with the company's cloud-based business phone system. The combination of the two products helps RingCentral compete with Cisco and Microsoft. Yet, while RingCentral can compete on price and third-party phone and video conferencing hardware support, it lacks the pedigree of Cisco and Microsoft.

Slack

Additional calling features: None
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser, Linux, Windows Phone
Phone and video conference hardware support: None
Technical support: Knowledge base, online ticket
Pricing: Free; Standard is $6.67; Plus is $12.50; contact Slack for Enterprise pricing

As a messaging-centric cloud collaboration platform, Slack is certainly a popular choice. At last tally, the company said it has more than 6 million daily users worldwide. As one of the first cloud collaboration tools to market, Slack excels in usability and third-party app integrations.

Although Slack provides group chat, file sharing and basic voice and video communications, the product does not offer the additional benefits that other vendors provide in terms of a full UC platform replacement. Therefore, Slack should be considered a solid, but limited, collaboration tool in enterprise environments that focus on group communication.

Unify Circuit

Additional calling features: PSTN conference dial-in, PSTN DID
Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, web browser
Phone and video conference hardware support: Select desk phone compatibility with the addition of Unify telephony connector options
Technical support: Knowledge base, video tutorials, online ticket, phone
Pricing: Free; Team is $3.95; Professional is $6.95; Enterprise is $14.95

In early 2016, Unify was acquired by Atos, a European IT service provider. Unify focuses primarily on large enterprises, including many Fortune 500 organizations. The company is often included in conversations about large-scale UC deployments, along with competitors Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft.

A unique feature of Circuit is it can be integrated on top of any SIP phone infrastructure, allowing users to place or take calls directly within Circuit. This provides flexibility for organizations that have invested heavily in their telephony communications platform. This makes Unify Circuit the only messaging-centric collaboration platform that creates a transparent overlay into existing third-party, enterprise-grade communications platforms.

This was last published in January 2018

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