Team Chat Apps: How to pick the right software for business communication and collaboration
Team chat is swiftly taking over from email in most forward-thinking businesses, as it enables workers to communicate more effectively and efficiently.
Team chat apps such as RingCentral Video are great for communication and collaboration, as well as maintaining a streamlined workflow. And they help keep team members connected and engaged, particularly remote workers scattered across different locations.
What is a team chat?
Team chat is basically a form of instant messaging. You probably already use it in a social context to communicate with friends and family, but it’s just as useful for office chat in a business setting.
It’s a good way to save time at work, because fast, short replies are completely acceptable in a chat. Most workplace team chat apps include plenty of emojis and GIFs to aid communication, and add a dash of fun. Team chat is a little less formal than email, although it’s important to stay professional.
In team conversations, users can create separate groups and threads for different projects or discussions. This means that people need only join the conversations that are relevant to them—enhancing employee productivity and therefore saving the company money.
Can you chat with anyone on teams?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it sort of depends on which app your company uses. In most cases, you can chat with anyone in your organization, but employees are usually divided into teams or groups to keep things relevant. Some apps for teams also let you add guest users from outside the company.
What should I look for in a team chat app?
The team chat software market is increasingly crowded, and choosing the right app for your company is a big decision. Pricing is obviously an important consideration—several apps offer a free plan, but in many cases you’ll have to upgrade for the premium collaborative features.
It makes sense to choose an app that combines messaging with other functions such as:
- voice and video calls
- task management
- file storage and sharing
This way, you won’t have to pay for and manage other team communication tools alongside your messaging app.
This article will guide you through the key features you should be looking for in a team communication app, and which software will give the biggest boost to your teams’ communication and, ultimately, your business.
1. Team chat
You’ve clicked on this article because you’re searching for the best team messaging app, so let’s think about the key attributes and chat features to look for.
The aim is that the entire team will use real-time chat as an essential part of their workday, so the messaging function must be simple to learn and intuitive to use. It should also be robust enough to handle multiple users and store a large volume of messages.
The ability to organize conversations is also vital, as it will enhance productivity, so you’ll need a quick and easy search function to save employees scrolling through hundreds of messages to find the one they want.
One team chat app that ticks all these boxes is RingCentral Video, which is provided by leading cloud communications and collaboration software experts RingCentral—that’s us! Unlike some similar apps, RingCentral Video accommodates unlimited users and unlimited messages even in its free plan, so you can send as many direct messages as you like between groups or individuals.
This includes unlimited guest users from outside your company. You can invite collaborators such as clients, partners, and freelancers to join a group chat, all free of charge. They will also gain access to RingCentral’s other functions like video chat and file sharing.
More users means a lot more messages in the system, but RingCentral Video makes it simple to organize them into channels or groups for different projects or discussions. You can also “favorite” important messages to make them easier to find later.
Where RingCentral Video really scores points is its unlimited message history (most other apps don’t offer this for free). No matter how long ago you sent a particular message, you’ll always be able to retrieve it with a few clicks.
Another important aspect to consider when choosing a team chat app is the question of security. We’ll look at overall security in more detail later in this article, but it’s worth pointing out that RingCentral Video offers a high level of administrative control. Admins can determine whether a team chat is public or invitation only, and decide who can post what, where, and when.
A good chat application provides extra tools to help the team communicate more effectively. Think things such as tagging colleagues to get their attention and make it clear who the message is for. RingCentral Video lets you do this with @mentions, and you can also use the rich text editor to add things like bold formatting and bullet points.
Sometimes it helps to use visual as well as verbal communication, and RingCentral Video offers plenty of emojis, GIFs, and memes, Further customization is available if you use RingCentral’s open-source APIs to develop the app.
2. Video and audio
While team chat is a real boon for remote teams and office communication, there are still times when you’ll need to speak to colleagues via audio and video calls.
You might send a few messages back and forth before realizing that a chat would work better—especially if you’re dealing with visual material, when it can be tricky to describe exactly what you mean.
However, if your company’s team chat software is literally only built for messaging and nothing else, then you’ll have to toggle to a different meeting app in order to launch a voice call or a video meeting. Not only does this waste time and eat into productivity, it also means the business is paying for (or at least managing) separate communication platforms.
The best solution would be to choose an app that has video conferencing built in, so that co-workers can go straight from messaging to video in a single click. If the video call function also comes with features like screen sharing, chat rooms, and admin controls, so much the better.
RingCentral Video has made it super-easy to turn your team chat into a conference with the touch of a button. And once you’re in a meeting, you can even switch between different devices with the desktop or mobile app, which is perfect for employees on the move.
Remote teams will be able to join a meeting from anywhere (well, anywhere with wi-fi) as there’s no download required—video calls can be launched with a click from your browser.
Several all-in-one apps offer video and audio alongside messaging, but not all of them have a free plan. RingCentral Video gives you free video meetings for up to 100 participants over 24 hours, plus 1:1 voice and video calls.
You also get crystal-clear high-definition (HD) as standard, and all calls can be recorded and saved to the cloud for up to seven days, which enables those who couldn’t attend to catch up on anything they missed.
Screen sharing is an incredibly handy function in video conferencing, as anyone who’s used it will testify. It’s a great real-time communication tool, whether you’re holding a brainstorming session, suggesting amendments to a document, or even doing some fun team-building exercises.
RingCentral Video’s free version comes with full screen sharing capability, so users can share files, give presentations, and even add on-screen annotations to help everyone communicate and collaborate more effectively. Screen sharing is only available in the paid plans of many communication apps.
When you’re hosting a virtual meeting, it’s really helpful to have security and admin controls at your fingertips. RingCentral Video allows you to keep important meetings secure with password protection, muting or unmuting attendees, and disabling video if necessary. You can also reduce any distracting background noise and add closed captions and virtual backgrounds.
3. Project management
As well as team messaging and video conferencing, an all-inclusive communication app should also incorporate project management functions. For one thing, it’s good to have these built-in features so that you don’t have to use a separate platform for project work, which would mean employees having to adapt to yet another app and waste time toggling from one to the other.
Combining task management with team messaging and meetings, too, is a sensible way to bring teams together, especially if most people are working remotely. If you can do everything from one app, it’s more likely that everyone will be in the loop and on the same page.
Plus, managers can get a good overview of how things are progressing by keeping an eye on group chats, without having to micromanage by asking for email updates or sending “friendly” reminders (no worker likes to feel they’re not being trusted to get on with the job).
Project management apps should also make life easier, both for the manager and for the team. Look for functions that will help you get organized, so that all members know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, and when. Team calendars are a great way to keep track of tasks, so it’s surprising that not all apps offer them.
RingCentral Video’s integrated task management feature has a ton of free collaboration tools to help your team deliver projects on time, including built-in team calendars. You don’t even have to create multiple calendar entries for recurring tasks, as RingCentral Video saves time by doing it automatically.
It’s simple to create, assign, and manage tasks all in one place, which is kind of the point of an all-in-one app. You can set deadlines for individual team members, upload relevant files and notes, and send and receive messages.
Keeping control of the project is a breeze with time tracking tools and color-coding of tasks for maximum efficiency. The drag-and-drop function lets you shift tasks around, or filter them by various criteria.
Because the task management feature integrates seamlessly with the app’s other functions, you can instantly turn any message into a task, or start a video chat from the same thread.
4. File sharing and storage
If your company handles a lot of files, you’ll be looking for an app that gives you plenty of storage and the ability to share files quickly and easily. Chances are, you’re probably already using some kind of document-sharing software, but if it’s not built into your messaging system, you risk losing track of what you’ve uploaded and to where.
It definitely makes sense to keep all your important stuff in one place, and to be able to upload and access files from within an individual or group chat instead of emailing documents to different team members. It saves a whole lot of time, and also means you can search within the conversation thread to see what’s been shared.
To do all this, however, you need an app that can deal with large files. File storage providers and collaboration apps often charge you for this—even for plans with 10 or 20 GB limits—but RingCentral Video offers unlimited storage for free.
Its messaging system is capable of sharing files of any size and format within the team chat, which is a great collaborative solution and means you no longer have to worry about blowing up someone’s inbox!
Meanwhile, RingCentral Video’s file sharing features are perfect for smooth team collaboration. You can add notes or comments on any document without altering the original version, and that goes for images, too, which is ideal if you need to edit marketing materials. Any notes you make on a project or in a meeting can also be saved to team chats for easy access.
The ability to locate stored items quickly is a hugely important aspect of productivity, and RingCentral Video lets you organize files by project or team to make them easier to find. You can search by keywords and filter results by name, email, or team.
5. Security and support
It goes without saying that your company’s data is precious. So, before you sign up to any new software you should check how it measures up on security and compliance. Most apps perform pretty well on this, but some go the extra mile to keep you protected.
You’re also looking for software with reliable uptime. There’s no point in an app having all the bells and whistles if it’s prone to outages. Downtime is costly to businesses, and it’s frustrating to sit around and wait for an app to come back online.
Good access to customer support is something else to look out for. Of course, there’s going to be some level of customer service with every app, but it’s worth checking the small print here as you might have to pay extra for certain channels or for priority support. And nobody wants to wait 24 hours for a response.
RingCentral is well known for its robust security features, and the RingCentral Video app is no exception. It includes:
- GDPR and SOC-2 compliance
- enterprise-level TLS encryption
- password protection
- meeting host controls
- single sign-on options (in the paid tier).
The app’s carrier-grade infrastructure promises 99.999% uptime, meaning the software has a very low risk of failure. But if there were to be a problem, users can turn to RingCentral Video’s award-winning customer service. Even the free plan includes chatbots, video tutorials, and a knowledge base.
6. App integrations
There’s no doubt that an all-in-one app is a good choice for streamlining workflows and reducing costs. The combination of video conferencing, project management, file storage, and team chat tools will give most companies everything they require.
However, depending on the nature of your organization, you might need to use extra software for specific teams or projects. So it’s a good idea to pick an app that offers unlimited integrations and plays nicely with others.
You also need to check that the app is compatible with a wide range of platforms, so that it’s easy for everyone to use. The bring-your-own-device culture means that employees may be using phones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers, all with different operating systems. And your clients and guest users need to be able to connect, too.
RingCentral Video is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux. And even though it offers a huge number of built-in features, it’s still capable of integrating with hundreds of other communication and collaboration tools if you need them.
For example, it’s handy to integrate your Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace calendar to launch one-click meetings, or pull in updates and notifications from apps like Asana, Jira, or Trello.
Meanwhile, the Zapier network means RingCentral Video can integrate with tools that are not supported natively. And RingCentral’s developer resources enable you to create custom integrations with your company’s own tools.
Pricing is a key factor in deciding which team chat app to choose for your business. Small and medium companies will be keeping a close eye on the budget, while enterprise-level organizations didn’t get where they are by spending money unnecessarily!
We’ve already mentioned the financial benefits of using one app for all your communication and collaboration needs, and it’s even better if that app has a free version. But beware, free plans don’t always give you the features you need.
RingCentral Video’s free plan, however, contains pretty much all the functionality a small or medium business would require. In fact, it offers far more than you’d get with paid versions of some similar apps, which makes it a no-brainer, if you ask us.
Large organizations have the option of upgrading to the paid tier, which still isn’t especially costly at $11.99 per month. And if your company uses RingCentral MVP, RingCentral Video is already included.
What is the best team chat software?
If we were to define “the best team chat software”, it would be something that enhances communication by helping teams chat more effectively. And it would also include the ability to make and receive calls on video and audio, collaborate on projects, and store files.
Basically, it would bring all aspects of communication and teamwork together in one virtual workspace, with easy access from anywhere by any member of the team. It would be highly secure, offer great customer support, and integrate with other apps if needed.
Hang on—we’ve just described RingCentral Video!
If you’re asking us (and you are, since you’ve chosen to click on this article), we think RingCentral Video is the best team chat software on the market. To save you scrolling back through the article, here’s a table to give you an overview of the key features.
|Feature||Free with RingCentral Video|
|Team chat||Unlimited Users
|Video and audio||Built-in video conferencing for up to 100 people for 24 hours
HD sound and vision
|Compatibility||iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux
Hundreds of app integrations
Other popular team chat apps just don’t give you this amount of functionality for free. In a crowded field, we reckon RingCentral Video is the winner, and we’re confident you’ll agree when you give it a try.