If you’re looking for a rundown of powerful yet free Discord alternatives, you’ve come to the right blog.
With teams of all sizes adopting a work from anywhere approach to business, keeping in touch has never been more important, or more confusing, when it comes to picking the best communication tools for your needs.
The market is crowded with options for team messaging and video conferencing, and it can be hard to tell what software will work best for your specific business setup. For example, there’s Discord: a platform that rose to popularity thanks to the gamer community. Conversations are organized into channels by topic, with options for voice, text, and even video chatting. It turns out, the gamers were onto something, and now businesses are looking into this tool for their own teams.
But every small business is different, and no team communication app is one-size-fits-all. It’s possible Discord isn’t the right fit for your business; after all, it was built for gaming, not professional use. The interface might not be as intuitive as you need for non-gamer team members, and file sharing is pretty limited, depending on the pricing tier you choose. Plus, you might find some other platforms offer a more professional look and feel for clients and other external guests on calls and messaging threads.
So, how do you know which team messaging software is right for your small business? That’s easy. We’ve done the research for you!
Today, we’ll talk about:
- Why team messaging tools are so important
- How to choose the right team messaging for your business
- The top 6 Discord alternatives for small businesses
🛒 In the market for free team messaging software? 🛒
Skip the long read and download our checklist of the most critical features you’ll want for your business.
Have you ever gotten lost in a never-ending reply-all email chain? Or had a day so full of back-to-back meetings you weren’t able to get any work done?
You’re not alone. How many hours do we lose every day digging through our inboxes and wasting time in unnecessary meetings that could’ve been a quick message or email?
While online communications tools probably won’t eliminate all emails or meetings, they can help you work with other people more efficiently. For example, group messaging and chat tools let you fire off quick messages, while project management tools help employers monitor projects and quickly prioritize tasks without calling meetings.
Team messaging has become doubly important as small businesses have needed to pivot their operations online and away from in-person communication. In the age of distributed teams, instant messaging is the new “stopping by so-and-so’s desk.”
With these facts in mind, it’s understandable why there are so many apps out there designed to help us communicate faster, collaborate better, and ultimately get more work done in less time.
It can be overwhelming to find the right communication tool for your unique business, but we have a few tips to help you in your search:
Look for an all-in-one solution
There are some powerful, multifunctional options on the list below, and they’re worth a second look. Why? Having all of your communication needs in one place—file sharing, team messaging, and video chats, for example—cuts down on toggling between different apps.
According to recent research, employees jump between different applications over 1,000 times a day. This kind of inefficiency might seem small at first, but it adds up to time lost, tasks missed, and mistakes made.
In short: the more features in one place, the better.
Find tools the whole team will love
Chances are good that your team members range in age and tech savviness. When shopping for your new communication tool, consider everyone’s abilities. Clean, simple platforms that offer truly intuitive functionality can go a long way toward enthusiastic adoption by employees of all abilities.
A gentler learning curve is good for your team and your business. It means less time spent on training and frustrations, and more time spent doing the work that matters. It might be a good idea to involve your less tech-happy team members in the test drives to ensure you find a product that makes their lives easier, not more stressful.
Security is key
Ever heard of “Zoombombing”? Remote teams of all sizes have learned the importance of a secure connection this year. This goes double if your business handles sensitive information: think finance, education, healthcare, insurance, and high tech.
If confidentiality is important to your team and customers, find out how many layers of security are offered by the communication tools you research. (For example, RingCentral offers seven layers of security, which seems hard to beat.)
Think (and ask) about scalability
We wager a main goal for your business is growth. More customers means more tasks for your team, and maybe even the need to expand your ranks. This could mean growing pains for your communication tool of choice if you don’t think far enough into the future as you shop.
It’s a good idea to find a communication tool that will grow with you, instead of capping out. That way you can carry the platform into the next phases of your business for greater continuity, with no need to retrain everyone on a new tool as you scale up.
1. Glip by RingCentral: Powerful, feature rich, and free
Glip® is a unified communications platform that offers team chats, file sharing, and task management—all in the same app. Plus, Glip Pro is totally free!
Along with unlimited one-to-one and group messaging, Glip Pro comes with file sharing and task management capabilities. Task tracking is included in-app, making it easy to check up on who’s doing what without toggling away:
You can also share and collaborate on files within the app, sparing you from having to switch between windows or email files back and forth. You can even invite external guests into the groups you create, for greater collaboration with your stakeholders.
There’s also a team calendar available so you can assign tasks and create events that are visible to different teams.
In addition to all of the powerful team collaboration and messaging features, RingCentral Glip includes high-def video conferencing at the free and paid levels—one-on-one and for teams (up to 100 participants on the free plan!). There’s even text chat available right in the video call, so you can drop questions for presenters without interrupting:
At the Pro+ level (the paid tier), Glip integrates seamlessly with Outlook and Google calendars. That means you’re automatically marked as “Busy” during meetings, with the option to turn on Do Not Disturb to silence chats that come through. (Trust us: this comes in handy if you’re sharing your screen in an important meeting!)
And of course, Glip Pro is totally free and easy to start using on both desktop and mobile. But if you are looking for more advanced features like Single Sign-on (SSO), APIs, and analytics, you can upgrade to Glip Pro+.
See more about Glip vs Discord.
TL;DR: Glip Pro has the most complete feature capabilities out of any free app on this list, making it an excellent choice for small businesses. Between the unlimited users and chats, integrations, task management, team calendar, and file sharing, it’s hard to find a better all-in-one free app than this one.
🤯 You could save up to $400 an hour in IT costs.
Explore the RingCentral Advantage for small businesses:
2. Slack: Fun like Discord, with a free option included
Slack is probably the messaging tool on this list that’s most similar to Discord. So if you like the setup of Discord—conversation channels organized by topic—Slack might be worth checking out.
Slack is wildly popular with tech startups and other fast-paced, collaborative teams. It even played a huge role in certain presidential candidates’ volunteer coordination. That’s because Slack allows for both public and private channels and ways to keep folks on task while having fun.
If you’re looking to have all of your communication tools in one place, Slack might fall short for you on the voice and video front. Unlike Glip, Slack only allows one-to-one voice and video calls at this time. You’ll need to set up integrations with more powerful video conferencing solutions to have group meetings.
Another huge restriction is that Slack’s free version only stores 10,000 messages at once, forcing users to manually or automatically delete messages once the limit is reached. Even a small team could hit 5,000 fairly fast, so this limit makes it too easy for information to get lost.
3. Zoho Cliq: Powerful free communication tool for smaller teams
Cliq is the messaging app from Zoho, a web-based office suite competing with Microsoft’s Office 365.
For a free messaging app, Cliq has a lot to offer: individual and team chats, channels, and a whopping 100 GB of storage per company. You can set up reminders in-app, as well as integrate most types of calendars.
Cliq comes with one-on-one and group audio or video calls, which is a great perk for a free messaging platform—and the limit is a very generous 100 people per call. Their free version even comes with Single Sign-on for added security.
Cliq’s free version only lets users search through the most recent 10,000 messages, which can be limiting, especially for bigger teams. It also won’t let you create private chats, which can be very necessary at times, depending on how big your company is.
Also, if you aren’t a huge fan of the Discord and Slack layout and functionality, Cliq might look familiar, and not in a good way.
4. Google Chat: Good for Google Workspace users
Google Chat has some pretty unique features, including Smart Replies, which—just like Gmail—automatically gives you suggested responses. You also get a Do Not Disturb mode and the ability to view files stored in your Google Drive or Google Docs directly in Chat. Google Chat is also available in a whopping 28 languages. Plus, it’s another tool with a free option!
Google Chat is also one of the most secure instant messaging platforms available, with enterprise-grade security and features like two-factor authentication, admin settings, mobile device management, and Single Sign-on. Plus, you’ll get great file storage and organization courtesy of Google Drive.
Google Chat is really best for teams that are using Google for just about everything. Otherwise, this option falls short of the all-in-one ideal. All users will need to create a free Google account in order to join or host a meeting, which could present a barrier to seamless use, especially if your teams collaborate often with external partners.
(On the other hand, Glip Pro allows direct browser access to any meetings or messaging teams without having to create an account or download anything.)
You might also feel the pinch when it comes to scalability if you’re on a tight budget. Smaller companies could get away with using Google Chat’s free tier but may find it doesn’t have enough advanced features or integrations as the business grows.
5. Microsoft Teams: Good for businesses on Windows
Microsoft Teams is another free option that has a good amount of bells and whistles on par with Glip Pro. In addition to their video conferencing tool, Teams (like Glip Pro) boasts a lot of third-party integrations, especially in the realm of project management. These tools allow project teams to collaborate on documents and check off tasks toward their goals, so everyone is on the same page.
Some people might find a few of the Teams features less than ideal from a business perspective, though. For instance, the interface can be clunky for users and guests. TechRadar said the file collaboration portal, OneDrive, lacks the polish of other similar services and doesn’t always feel intuitive or easy to navigate.
As for working with external clients and stakeholders on video conferencing, there is a browser-based option, but only on Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. There’s also no video calling at all if you’re using the free version on iOS. Requiring your guests to download a new browser or the Windows app before a meeting can create snags in the seamlessness of your brand.
6. Cisco Webex Teams: A solid choice for Cisco users
Webex is a well-known player in the business communications field. The free version of Webex Teams comes with voice and video calls for up to 100 participants, with file sharing, unlimited messaging and message searching, and message threads for more segmented discussions.
Webex Teams also supports various calendar integrations. Its mobile app supports mobile screen sharing, a relatively rare feature, and it is supported on every major device type.
The free version of Webex Teams, while full of good features, suffers from one major drawback: meeting length is capped at 50 minutes. Since hour-long meetings are fairly standard, this hobbles the free version, as nobody’s going to choose this app when so many other free apps don’t put time restrictions on video calls.
In addition, Webex Teams is heavily integrated with other Cisco technology. If your business has already invested in Cisco legacy hardware, it could be a good choice, but otherwise, its integrations are limited compared to other apps we discuss in this article.
Which Discord alternative is best for your business?
After doing the research and writing up this rundown, it’s clear that the team-communication space has been hurting for an app like Glip Pro. Hardly anyone else provides the same quality video and audio for free, and our feature-rich team messaging tool is a real asset to businesses looking to streamline internal and external communications.
Whether you go with Glip Pro or another communication tool on this list, here’s our biggest piece of advice: keep your clients in mind while you decide. Be sure to choose a product that offers the professional, reliable experience you hope to provide them in every interaction, with as few hiccups as possible. Reading product reviews is a great way to get a feel for how these tools work in the real world.
The best news: Because all of the platforms we reviewed offer a solid free option, there’s zero risk involved in trying them. Give them a whirl and upgrade your team’s communication.
Originally published Feb 01, 2021, updated Mar 03, 2021