Microsoft just announced ‘Team Essentials’, a new standalone version of Microsoft Teams for small businesses. Will this new offering present any advantages for small and medium sized enterprises? From Microsoft’s perspective, the new standalone version of Teams is designed very much along the lines as a Zoom competitor (as well as seeking to take on Slack and Google Workspace).
The new version offers many of the features of regular Teams, albeit scaled down. For example, there are “unlimited group video calls for up to 30 hours, group chat, file sharing, and calendaring.” Here the word ‘unlimited’ cannot be taken literally, since Microsoft have a block of 300 users attending a meeting all at the same time.
According to Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, speaking with The Verge: “It’s the first standalone offering of Microsoft Teams designed specifically with small businesses in mind…It brings together features small businesses need to serve customers, including unlimited group video calls for up to 30 hours, group chat, file sharing and calendaring.”
The cost of the new service is $4 per user each month, which presents a relatively low price for smaller companies. However, Essentials has far lower storage capabilities and it also lacks meeting recording and transcripts functionality, real-time translation, breakout rooms, and whiteboard integration.
Despite these limitations, some the business world are enthusiastic. According to Shawn Herring, the VP of Marketing at PandaDoc, this is a useful development for the sector – a sector that has become increasingly reliant upon video communications since the advent of the pandemic.
Herring tells Digital Journal that the development represents “a huge win for small businesses owners”.
In weighing in on why this is so important, Herring says: “There is a very big gap in the market right now when it comes to collaborative tools that specifically fit the needs of small businesses.”
The situation is not helped by the multifaceted challenges that business owners face. According to Herring: “Small business owners wear many hats, and tools to help simplify day-to-day business operations are becoming an absolute necessity.”
He adds that: “When the pandemic caused most businesses to go virtual, small businesses fell behind as they didn’t have the proper resources or platforms that would fit their company size or needs.”
This has now changed, as Herring explains: “With offerings like Microsoft Teams Essentials, small businesses can begin to gain competitive advantage by implementing systems that alleviate pain points.”