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Microsoft Teams Review

Best Inexpensive Video Conference Service

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

After conducting extensive research and analysis of video conference services, we recommend Microsoft Teams as the best inexpensive video conference service.

We chose Microsoft Teams from a pool of dozens of video conference services. To learn more about our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of video conference services, visit our best picks page.

Businesses that want an inexpensive video conference service are looking for something that provides them all of the video conferencing functionality they need for an affordable price. Microsoft Teams offers just that.

Microsoft Teams was unveiled in 2017 and serves as a replacement, in some ways, for Skype for Business. However, much of the functionality of Skype for Business, such as its video conferencing abilities, has been built in to Microsoft Teams. Microsoft is so invested in Teams that in 2018 it announced it would be asking all current Skype for Business users to migrate to Microsoft Teams at some point.

What makes Microsoft Teams such an appealing option is its affordability. It's available in three service tiers, including a free option. What makes this a particularly tempting video conference solution for small businesses, especially those just starting out, is that all of the plans include access to Microsoft's most popular programs: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For those wanting a little more functionality, Teams is also included in a couple Office 365 subscriptions. Those plans are available for a low monthly cost.

While cost is important, businesses looking for an inexpensive video conference solution still want their service to provide all the tools they need to host video conference calls. With Teams, you have access to some of the most important collaborative tools video conferencing offers. Key features include the ability to host an unlimited number of video meetings, screen sharing, whiteboards and the option to join from any device.

Overall, Microsoft Teams is an inexpensive video conference solution that doesn't skimp on important features; the quality is good and the service reliable. Saving you money without sacrificing the most important elements of a video conference system makes this an excellent option for small businesses on a budget.

Editor's note: Looking for a video conferencing solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.

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You have several pricing options for Teams. It's available as both a free and paid service. When it comes to the ability to make video calls, whether they're one-on-one calls or group meetings, both plans offer the same functionality for up to 250 participants.

The free Microsoft Teams plan supports organizations with up to 300 people. It includes 2GB of storage for each user, 10GB of shared storage, screen sharing, channel meetings, and access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote online apps.  

If you are looking for additional features such as the ability to host webinars for thousands of people at one time, record meetings, schedule future meetings, take quick polls and run Q&As, then one of the paid plans may be a better choice for you. The paid plans, which come as part of an Office 365 subscription, also include access to several other Microsoft programs. You purchase these plans for each user.

If you don't already own a license to use Microsoft Office applications, this could be a cost-effective way to bundle those services, which are highly useful in any office environment.

These are the two paid plans that include Microsoft Teams:

  • Cost: $5 per user, per month with an annual commitment, or $6 per user, per month with a monthly commitment
  • Included services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Microsoft Planner, and web versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • Data storage: 1TB
  • Email hosting: 50GB mailbox and custom email domain address
  • Cost: $12.50 per user, per month with an annual commitment, or $15 per user, per month with a monthly commitment
  • Included services: Desktop and web versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint and Microsoft Planner
  • Data storage: 1TB
  • Email hosting: 50GB mailbox and custom email domain address

Microsoft Teams is also included in some of the Microsoft Office 365 enterprise plans. Those plans range from $8 to $35 per user, per month. You can examine the more comprehensive packages here.

The biggest benefit of this video conference service is the low cost and free option. If you are a small business on a tight budget that needs a video conferencing service, the ability to tap into Microsoft Teams for no cost is hard to beat. The service has tons of valuable features, many of which are the same as what its pricier competitors offer.

Another plus with Microsoft Teams is that you aren't just paying for video conferencing services. You'll also have access to Microsoft's popular email, word processing, presentation and spreadsheet programs. If you are a small business that is already planning to buy those services, the upgraded video conferencing service is a great bonus.

We also like that if you are hosting a video meeting, participants can join by phone if they can't connect via webcam. This ensures that everyone can attend your meetings, regardless of where they are.

One downside to Microsoft Teams is that, in order to host and join video meetings, you have to download the desktop or mobile app. While you can use some Teams features on the web version of the software, the video functionality is only available by installing the app on your computer or mobile device.

Another minor negative is that, although Microsoft isn't particularly difficult to use, it's not necessarily intuitive either. It takes some clicking around, especially given its other functions beyond video conferencing. It might take some time to familiarize yourself and your team with the service. Still, this minor learning curve doesn't impact the overall quality of the service. Also, this barrier is significantly lower for users already familiar with Skype.

On the free version of Microsoft Teams, 24/7 support isn't available. This could be a problem if you run into problems during nonworking hours.

In general, we found Microsoft Teams relatively easy to sign up for and use. We were able to sign up for the free version using just our email address. You enter your email address, create a password, and you are in. You can then either access the browser version or download the desktop app. It is important to note that, while you can host and connect to meetings from the browser version, you can only turn your camera on when using the desktop or mobile app.

Once you open the app, you can invite people to join your "team." This can be people within your organization or outside of it. Teams automatically sends them an email invitation. Once the recipient accepts the invite, they can sign up for the service, and you can start messaging them or including them in video calls.

To make calls from the free version, you just start a new chat or room, pick those you want to meet with from your list of contacts, and then click the video call link.

With the free version, you can only host on-demand meetings, while the paid versions allow you to schedule meetings in advance. When you schedule a meeting, the recipient receives a meeting invitation with a link to the meeting room. When it is time for the meeting to start, everyone can just click on the link and enter the room.

In the meeting room, there are a few links at the bottom of the screen that allow you to turn your camera and microphone on or off, share your screen, and hang up. Using the video conferencing tools is rather simple.

However, Microsoft Teams offers much more than just video conferencing services. Getting up to speed with everything else the software offers can be difficult. That being said, getting access to all of these additional services is worth the initial work to master everything.

Microsoft Teams has several uses beyond video conferencing. When you sign up for Teams primarily as a video conference tool, you also get a text chat platform, the ability to make audio calls, and a way to send files quickly and easily (even without setting up a video meeting).

Here are some of the features it includes:

  • Audio calling: Microsoft Teams allows audio calls in addition to video conferences, so if you need to speak with somebody but it doesn't warrant a meeting, you can ring them instead.
  • Chat application: A small window on your desktop allows you to see who is currently online, away or in do-not-disturb mode. You can also organize colleagues into groups for quick reference. From this window, you can invite participants to a video conference or just send them a quick note or documents.
  • Ability to manage participants: The administrator can mute, remove or control participants' access to features. If a participant's microphone is making a lot of background noise, for example, the presenter can mute it easily. Users can also turn off video feeds or invite additional participants as the meeting is going on.
  • Meeting notes: If you'd like to take notes for future reference during a video conference, you can use the built-in notetaking application. Another benefit of this feature is that you can share timestamped notes with fellow participants and other members of your organization who were not on the call.
  • Meeting recordings: Audio and video recordings are available, so you can keep archived meetings for future reference or employee training materials.
  • Polls and surveys: Users can create polls to solicit feedback from participants. Whether you're testing the waters on a new idea or getting your team's opinion on an ongoing project, polls and surveys are useful for breaking down the sentiment and determining what your colleagues are thinking.
  • Scheduling: The paid versions of Microsoft Teams allow you to schedule meetings ahead of time on Outlook or the native web scheduler. You can also send out meeting details, such as the link or dial-in information, to participants.
  • Screen sharing: One of the most important features of video conferencing is the ability to broadcast your screen to other participants. Users can share virtually anything on their screen, whether it's their entire screen or just a specific window.
  • Whiteboards: Whiteboards are a collaborative tool that any user can mark up to communicate ideas or list information in an easily digestible manner for other participants.

Support for Microsoft Teams was satisfactory in our experience. The biggest problem we encountered was reaching the proper representative. Microsoft has a number of support lines, and each time we called, we were greeted by a representative who said they needed to transfer us to another department. It would have been nice to be able to call a direct line, instead of being bounced around to different departments.

However, once we were connected to the proper representatives, our questions were answered. There were times we would have liked a little more detail in their answers, but we felt comfortable with the service overall.

Moreover, Microsoft offers plenty of help documents and tutorials on how to use the system. We never felt as if we'd run into an obstacle with Microsoft Teams that we could not overcome with relatively little effort.

 

Ready to choose a video conference service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Additional reporting by Adam C. Uzialko.

Editor's note: Looking for a video conferencing solution? Fill out the below questionnaire to be connected with vendors that can help.

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.