The Microsoft Alternatives Businesses Need to Know

Microsoft

If you’re looking for a business email provider and chat app, there’s a good chance that the first provider you think of is the legacy email client considered the gold standard: Microsoft and Teams. 

However, in today’s day and age of remote working, there’s a wider range of options, including more affordable providers, and those with a far greater range of capabilities than the traditional features offered by Microsoft. 

Here’s a list of more intuitive and advanced options for email providers with built- in chat apps that serve as alternatives for Microsoft Teams.  

Spike 

Today, when businesses regularly use chat apps like Slack and intuitive video meeting apps like Zoom, legacy email providers like Microsoft have seen little change in their interface, and failed to integrate the more modern functionalities that are now critical to a distributed workplace. Microsoft teams, for example, are just not that great of an app. That’s why so many businesses now use various tools such as Slack and Zoom – in addition to traditional email. That’s why the first option on our list is Spike now: a free webmail that offers a lot more than just email. Instead, Spike offers capabilities like video call, chat, calendar, collaborative documents (and of course, email) in one single, streamlined app that’s easy to use, and available for both desktop and email. Another huge advantage? 

Spike is free – unlike providers like Microsoft, Gmail, and other providers that typically charge per user. Other than its attractive cost (or lack thereof), Spike also wins out over Microsoft in usability and technical features like robust spam filters. No longer will you have to filter through long, disorganized mail threads. Spike turns your inbox into an intuitive and user-friendly chat-like experience, creating clean, easy-to-read threads that make sure all the information you need is readily available at your fingertips. 

Gmail and Hangouts

Gmail offers a lot of great features, and along with Microsoft, is amongst the most widely used email providers globally. And of course, it offers “Hangouts”, an alternative to Microsoft teams. However, there’s two key reasons that Gmail is second, not first on this list: firstly, the cost, and second, its “label feature”, which is designed to be an  improvement on the traditional email folders but instead creates a confusing user experience and results in a cluttered inbox.

 Unlike folders, Gmail lets you instead “label” or tag emails as certain categories. However, it does not offer a way that these emails can be easily moved in bulk to a relevant, separate folder, or a way to automate the organization of these “labeled” emails into folders. The end result is a cluttered inbox. For example, you may “label” an email as “not important”. In this case, emails are “labeled” in the main inbox, but you still need to scroll through your inbox to find important messages! 

Despite Gmail’s advantages like advanced spam features, robust search tools, users cite the less than effective organization as a key “con” to Gmail. The other major con is, of course, the cost. Even the lowest tier of Gmail (Business Starter), begins at $7.20 USD per user, per month – or roughly $864 a year for even a small company of just 10 users!

Zoho Mail and Streams

Given how expensive email providers with chat apps can get, we’re including another free (well, freemium) email provider with a built-in chat app: Zoho. Zoho’s main advantage is the cost – it’s free for up to 5 users, and beyond that charges only about a dollar per user per month (for its most basic plan). However, affordability is almost the only advantage Zoho mail offers over Microsoft. 

One of the biggest downsides to Zoho is its lack of inbox organizational tools, similar to the complaints against Google. Zoho unfortunately does not allow users to easily sort of label emails, which is a key concern often cited by users, as well as the fact that Zoho’s email tracking capabilities often do not work reliably. 

Some of the advantages offered by Zoho, meanwhile, include features like email hosting for multiple domains, domain aliases, and email routing. Valuable add-ons in Zoho mail include tasks, notes, a shared calendar, and an “e-widget and developer” space. Zoho also offers a built-in collaboration tool called “Streams”, a cheaper alternative to Microsoft teams. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.