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Microsoft announces Teams Essentials, a cheaper Teams plan for small businesses

By Glenn Chua - on 2 Dec 2021, 5:26pm

Microsoft announces Teams Essentials, a cheaper Teams plan for small businesses

Teams Essentials targets small businesses with an affordable plan. (Image source: Microsoft)

After a tough 20 months of stay-home and hybrid working, small businesses here have had to navigate a new asynchronous working landscape through the use of software from companies like Zoom and Google.

To that end, Microsoft is announcing Microsoft Teams Essentials, a more affordable, standalone offering for its Microsoft Teams telecommuting software, aimed at small businesses. That means that this comes with some of the Teams perks that you get when you purchase a Microsoft 365 Business pack, without having Microsoft Office apps bundled in.

For context, Microsoft offered three Teams plans for businesses prior to this: a Free plan, Microsoft 365 Business Basic, and Microsoft 365 Business Standard.

The latter two included an annual subscription to Microsoft Office apps like PowerPoint, Excel and 1TB OneDrive cloud storage per person, as well as enhanced Teams functionality like a maximum call time of 30 hours, transcribed recordings for Teams meetings, and for Business Standard, webinar hosting, among other things.

However, as both 365 Business Basic and Standard cost US$5 and US$12.50 per user each month, Teams Essentials steps in to fill the gap between these Business plans and the Free plan, offering:

  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 30 hours
  • Up to 300 call participants
  • 10GB of cloud storage per user
  • Anytime phone and web support

Teams Essentials also keeps the core features of the base Free plan, such as unlimited, always-available chat, invitations that only require an email address and meeting tools like virtual backgrounds, a meeting lobby and closed captions. Some new features are also in the pipeline as well, including Google Calendar integration and a new small business group chat template.

Short Zoom comparison, availability and pricing

In short, Teams Essentials offers an upgrade to meeting call time, cloud storage and raises the cap for participants, all for US$4 (~S$6)/month per user. Though the US$1 difference between the Essentials and Business Basic plans seems small, it can quickly add up depending on how big your business is.

With Teams Essentials, Microsoft is also looking to have a viable competitor to Zoom's lower-tier plans, such as Zoom's Free and Pro licenses. For a short comparison, Zoom's Free license offers up a 100-participant cap with a 40-minute limit for group meetings, while its Pro license ups call time to 30 hours, adding social media streaming and 1GB cloud recording, for US$14.99/month per user.

When taking that comparison into account, Teams Essentials lower price does look attractive. And given that Microsoft Teams has already hit 145 million users earlier this year, this new plan certainly wouldn't hurt.

If you don't have a use for Microsoft Office apps (or if you mostly rely on Google's alternatives), Teams Essentials does seem like an affordable option to have. You can get it through Microsoft's Teams website or through other Microsoft Cloud Partners.

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