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What is Microsoft Teams Essentials? – UC Today


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Introducing Microsoft Teams Essentials
For the small business, accessing the right tools for collaboration and communication can be challenging. Like all other companies, you need to ensure you’re accessing the right functionality to empower your staff. However, you also need to consider budgeting restrictions carefully. 
Fortunately, companies like Microsoft – the current market leader in UCaaS solutions for the age of hybrid work, are helping to address this issue. Microsoft announced the arrival of a new solution in December 2021, “Microsoft Teams Essentials”. This is the first-ever standalone offering for Microsoft Teams, designed for people who want the functionality of Teams, without the rest of the Microsoft 365 Productivity suite. 
According to the Corporate VP of Modern Work for Microsoft, Jared Spataro, the introduction of Microsoft Teams Essentials comes from Microsoft’s understanding of the challenges companies face today. With budgets stricter than ever, business leaders need to be careful when choosing what to invest in. Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft Teams Essentials.
As the name may suggest, Microsoft Teams Essentials gives companies access to the bare-minimum functionality they need most from Teams. Priced at a tiny $4 per user per month, the solution makes it easier to access all the core functionalities of Teams without the standard app bundling with the Microsoft productivity suite. 
The standalone version of Teams Essentials, though pared down compared to the Microsoft 365 solution, will be an appealing option for many companies. In environments with budget limitations, Microsoft Teams Essentials makes Teams more of a competitor to Zoom and other environments which can flex to suit a smaller selection of needs. 
According to Spataro, Essentials brings together the various must-have tools companies need to serve customers in the SMB landscape, including unlimited video calling for up to 30 hours, calendaring, file sharing, and asynchronous group chat. 
Microsoft Teams Essentials aims to fill the gap for smaller businesses Microsoft has left in its portfolio until now. You’ll find various features in the environment, including:
Microsoft is also introducing a new “small business” group chat template to accompany the Essentials package too. Plus, you get all the standard features you’d expect from Microsoft Teams’ free version. For instance, there’s 5GB of cloud storage per user, support for up to 100 participants per meeting, instant chat, file sharing, and self-help support forums. 
Since Microsoft Teams launched, smaller companies have only had the option to choose between the Teams free plan (with its various limitations), or the Business Basic plan, priced at around $6 per month. The question is, what kind of small business is Essentials trying to serve?
The Business Basic plan is only $1 per user more expensive per month, and it comes with various additional features, like team meeting recordings (with transcription), web and mobile Microsoft productivity applications, and business-class email. You also get an expanded amount of cloud storage per use (1TB) on Business Basic. 
Essentials only offers 10GB of OneDrive storage in comparison, and lacks the meeting recording, transcription, real-time translation, breakout room, and whiteboard integration functionality of Basic. The Essentials package also removes the channels and teams functionalities of Teams, making it more suited to businesses who already rely on other apps for video calling and meetings. 
Rather than targeting all smaller businesses, Microsoft’s Essentials package seems to specifically address smaller companies who have been reliant on competing technology, like Zoom and Google Workspaces in the last couple of years. 
The lack of a standalone version of Teams has made the technology seem somewhat less accessible to some companies during the panic of the pandemic, even if the Business Basic solution for Teams did offer a relatively reliable solution. 
In the press release given for Microsoft Teams Essentials, Microsoft also drew attention to the number of SMB open job postings rising by around 81.9% over 2020-2021. According to the team, this indicates small businesses need tools which allow them to hire from anywhere and connect teams wherever they are. Perhaps Microsoft Essentials is intended to be the go-to solution for companies currently adapting to a new hybrid model.
If you already have a number of tools in your ecosystem, like Zoom for video, Google Workspace for email and calendar, and Slack for chat, then it might make more sense to implement something like Essentials, rather than trying to transform the entire ecosystem into a Microsoft landscape. 
Although it’s been almost two years since the beginning of the pandemic at this point, companies are still struggling to get back on track with their communication and collaboration strategies. We’re only just beginning to see business leaders implementing comprehensive strategies for long-term workplaces enabling hybrid and remote work. 
In this environment, we’re going to see a large number of companies struggling to connect new visions of what technology should look like, with the investments they already have in place. Microsoft’s introduction of Essentials is one of the ways the company is trying to ensure it has everything today’s companies might need – no matter their situation or size. 
If you’re a smaller company weighing the costs of replacing multiple business tools with one new environment, or you just want to add a simple solution into your current tech stack, Essentials could be the tool for you. Essentials is available to access now through Microsoft directly, or via Microsoft’s wide ecosystem of resellers. 
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