Slack Alternativesfor Cloud Communications
James W. Crace
01 July 2017
Slack has become one of the most popular cloud communication platforms available, surpassing 4 million daily active users. The company has successfully marketed their platform and is well-integrated with many apps, such as Trello and Todoist. Despite it’s popularity, many users and businesses are interested in other options, and today we’re going to take a look at the best Slack Alternatives. We’ll explore alternatives such as Hipchat, Asana, Yammer, Basecamp, and Flowdock.
Cloud Communications Explained
Slack is a form of SaaS, or Software-as-a-Service. It moves communication infrastructure to the cloud so that users have a simple, central method of communicating and collaborating. Different departments can have separate channels, and users can draft notes or lists to themselves in private. Cloud communications allow users to be more productive by having all their communications in one place and integrating with other tools. It’s easy to integrate cloud communications with tools such as Trello, allowing you easily turn a discussion into a task to be completed. We’ve discussed Trello alternatives in the past, and now we’ll look at Slack alternatives.
What is Slack?
Slack is a modern, elegant interface built to centralize a team’s communications. Almost everything your team could need or want is in one window. Communication takes place in channels, such as #general or #random, as well as private messaging between users. There’s a personal space as well, allowing you to take notes for yourself or draft emails, lists, blog postsIt even supports formatting for code snippets, making it easy for developers to quickly share code.
There are several Slack alternatives available, and now we’ll look at Hipchat, Asana, Yammer, Basecamp, and Flowdock.
Why do we chose Slack "Standard" Plan for price comparison?
For the purpose of comparison, we’ll use Slack’s “Standard” plan as the baseline. At 6.25 per user per month, it’s relatively affordable and includes most features a business or team will need. Here’s a quick look at the pricing of the five Slack alternatives featured here for comparison:
Central archive of messages that is fully searchable.
Unlimited integration with apps, bringing all your tools to one place.
Guest access for inviting clients or others to one or more teams.
Slack “Standard” Plan
Unlimited history, file sharing storage for all members of your team.
Group video chat for your team to collaborate in real-time.
Screen sharing for your team, as well as guest access.
HipChat Plus Plan
Invite customers, vendors, or clients to group conversations.
A “discovery feed” that keeps everyone updated.
Integrates with Office to view, edit, and collaborate on documents.
Track anything and everything, using custom fields and advanced searches.
Custom templates, allowing you to track more and easily add new projects.
Create hidden teams and limit project access for sensitive work items.
Message board for focused discussions, announcements, etc on separate pages.
“Campfires” are real-time chats to share info, ask questions, or get feedback.
Recurring questions, to check on your team’s progress on a regular basis.
Integrated inbox, providing at-a-glance information separate from conversations.
Tagging functionality makes it easy to search and filter your inbox.
Provides an API to integrate custom tools or fine-tune existing apps.
Slack Alternatives: Slack vs other Cloud-based Group Communication Tools
Slack vs HipChat
HipChat is one of the stronger competitors to Slack, and the strongest selling point for HipChat is it’s low price, at $2 per user/month. The features are similar enough that comparison largely comes down to aesthetics. Most HipChat users seem to think Slack feels “busy” in comparison to HipChat, meaning it’s often not clear where to click or how to differentiate between groups and channels.
Unlike Slack, HipChat offers built-in video calling and screen sharing, whereas Slack relies on 3rd party apps for this feature. Both tools let you drag and drop just about any file into a conversation to share it, but HipChat Plus offers unlimited built-in storage. Slack caps your team’s cloud storage at 10GB per team member with the Standard plan.
Security is a concern for most teams, and HipChat and Slack both offer encryption for messages in-transit and at rest, but HipChat has a self-hosted option so you don’t have to rely on a third-party. Self-hosting HipChat gives you more control over your data, removing the concern over a third-party provider getting hacked and having your data leaked.
Overall, HipChat is a strong contender to Slack, offering more control over your data, more storage, and a cleaner interface.
Slack vs Yammer
Yammer is described as “social networking for the enterprise”, and Slack’s tagline is “a messaging app for teams.” Yammer was acquired by Microsoft in 2012, and became another part of Microsoft’s Office division. It’s hard to beat the tight-knit integration of Yammer and Office, something to keep in mind if your business makes heavy use of Office. Yammer is slightly cheaper as well, at $3 per user/month.
Slack is designed more or less for real-time, synchronous communication, and Yammer is more of an asynchronous social platform. Yammer appears more like Facebook than a messaging app. Conversations look like posts and users can comment, like, and share them.
With Yammer, you can make posts to update colleagues about announcements, customers, policy changes and more.
You can create groups for a team and post updates, questions, messages, share files and more. Users discover interesting posts thanks to the “like” and “share” features as they scroll through the company feed. It’s better suited for things that don’t require instant feedback.
Of course, Yammer can complement a tool like Slack as well. Think about the requirements of your business — do you need real-time chat and collaboration, or a central platform for sharing information across your entire company? Yammer is especially suited for medium to large businesses thanks to its social-network design.
Slack vs Asana
As I mentioned previously, Slack is “a messaging app for teams.” Asana is a project management tool with communication features. It’s a bit more expensive than Slack at $9.99 per user per month but offers far more features for working on complex projects or a large number of projects and tasks.
It boasts numerous features to tackle your company’s biggest projects, such as pre-made templates and the ability to turn successful past projects into templates for future use. Custom fields make it easy to track important details to your business and find the information you need quickly.
If a task comes up in a conversation, turn it into a project with Asana’s built-in conversion tool. This is a great feature to have if you find what was originally a little task grew to become a complex project involving other team members. Asana has a “task dependency” feature that lets your team members mark a task as waiting on others and receive notifications when they can get started again.
Asana was designed for projects, but it has communication tools built-in as well. It’s a great Slack alternative if your business needs more project management than real-time chat.
Slack vs Basecamp
Much like Asana, Basecamp was designed with project management in mind. The pricing model is very different from Slack, charging a flat $99 per month for unlimited users and unlimited projects. Basecamp provides real-time chat with its “Campfires” feature, although it’s not quite the same as Slack. Each project has it’s own Campfire room where real-time chat takes place.
All your projects are organized in one place by separate cards, and clicking a card shows you everything pertaining to that project. For Slack-like functionality, you’ll click a project and then click the Campfire window. You can drag and drop images, and get a user’s attention by prefixing their name with the @ symbol as you would in Slack. You can follow specific Campfires to stay current on discussions and see new posts with one click.
That’s where the similarity to Slack ends. Basecamp offers a message board for anything that doesn’t fit in a Campfire or document, and each project has its own message board. This type of functionality and compartmentalization is what sets Basecamp apart from the cluttered, busy interface of Slack.
Your projects are organized in a clean interface as cards, and it’s easy to keep each project on-task, focused, and productive by giving each one it’s own area for chat, messaging, and collaboration.
Slack vs Flowdock
Flowdock starts at $3 for the pro plan and the free tier provides all the features for teams of five or less. This tool is designed around the concept of “flows”, keeping conversations well-organized and navigable.
Conversations are color coded, making it easy to identify topics and navigate the interface. Private discussions are easy with 1-on-1 flows, and with Appear.io integration you can activate video chat or screen sharing by typing “/appear.”
Flowdock has many integrated apps already available, but with their API you can bring in your own tools or customize existing ones to meet your team’s specific needs.
The killer features with Flowdock are tagging, threading, and filtering. It’s much easier to locate data in Flowdock with tagging and threading, whereas Slack always seems a jumbled mess. Flowdock’s design and organization is what differentiates it from Slack — both apps are great cloud communication tools, but I (and many others) find Flowdock to be more pleasant to use and navigate.
Both Flowdock and Slack offer a solid app, but if your team is five users or less, Flowdock makes more sense from the price perspective. Even if your team is over five, at $3 per user per month it still comes out ahead of Slack.
Out of the five Slack alternatives mentioned here, Flowdock is the closest competitor to Slack. It has all the features of Slack and more at a lower price. Slack is a great tool, but as with most software, there are always alternatives to try out.