With business users having a new messaging app to opt for in the near term, that is, Facebook's Work Chat, the rivalry in the business messaging app space is heating up.
Which is the best service suited for enterprises - Facebook Work Chat, Microsoft Skype for Business or Google Hangouts?
Facebook Work Chat
Facebook launched its business messenger dubbed Work Chat on Nov. 19. The business messaging app is specifically aimed at chatting with co-workers.
Work Chat will enable one to compose messages meant for specific co-workers, make voice calls, as well as share videos and photos. One can even use stickers and have group chats.
The advantage of the app is that it will enable business users to send private messages or notes for an important meeting. You can even share the video of the conference you're attending with your boss.
The business messaging app will also show the directory of employees and you can begin a conversation with them easily.
Work Chat for Android can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. However, only people testing Facebook at Work can use it. The iOS version is expected to launch in the near term.
"Right now Facebook at Work and Work Chat are only available to some companies, and you need a work account to use them," notes the Play Store.
Details on whether Work Chat will be free or how many users can group chat are scarce. The app is expected to launch officially in 2016.
Microsoft Skype for Business
Microsoft claims that this app is an amalgamation of all the features one will ever require in a conversation.
"You get everything you need for conversations in one app-IM, audio and video calls, online meetings and sharing," says Microsoft.
So if you're looking to make a video call for that important face-to-face conversation, schedule an online meeting or share documents online securely, then Microsoft Skype is perfect for business users.
An advantage of Skype for Business is that it works in tandem with Office and, therefore, collaborating with one's Office apps is seamless.
Sending IMs or even an email is also easy as one can espy the contact cards of all those who use the same app. One can even check the IM history and begin meetings from apps such as PowerPoint and Word, as well as make the presentation at the same time.
The best feature of Skype for Business is that one can even connect to someone who does not use the messaging service. They simply need to have a landline or Internet connection and they can join meetings. The app allows a maximum of 250 people to be a part of a meeting, which is pretty impressive!
Since the Skype for Business app encrypts all communication and has a stringent authentication process, business users need not fret over security. The employee accounts can be controlled, and one can remove or add their subscriptions. Based on the collaboration requirements, one can also assign specific features.
The Skype for Business plans are not expensive either and start at $5.50 per month for each user and goes up to $15 per month per user for the Premium plan.
A popular messaging app, Google Hangouts says it helps one "connect with the people that make your business run via HD video, voice, or text."
Google Hangouts can host a maximum of 15 people who are a part of the organization or even outsiders. This number pales in front of Skype for Business' 250, giving the Microsoft messaging app the clear edge.
However, what makes Google Hangouts popular is the fact that it is no-fuss and quite easy to use. Joining in the meeting is easy and one can do so from their smartphone, laptop, PC or tablet with the same seamless experience. During voice calls, the screen focuses on the individual speaking and thanks to "intelligent muting" background noise is eliminated.
Another handy feature of Google Hangouts which business users will benefit from is the built-in screen sharing feature, which gives one the ability to review slides or even give a tutorial!
Google Hangouts is also integrated with the Google Calendar so when one creates a meeting date, they have the option of adding Hangouts users automatically. Therefore, when the meeting is scheduled, users simply need to click and join.
While Google Hangouts is free, there is also a paid version which comes bundled with Google Apps for Work. The paid version for business users under the Flexible Plan costs $5 monthly per user for Google Apps for Work and $10 monthly per user for the Google Apps Unlimited.
Admins have the option to limit access to outside participants and can switch off the chat history. They can also remove participants to maintain privacy.
However, a major concern with Google Hangouts is that the conversation logs are retained in Google's servers, which basically means Google can access any conversation whenever it chooses to. Moreover, no end-to-end encryption is used, which is also problematic.
With Facebook's Work Chat still being tested, its performance vis-à-vis the other two business messaging apps is difficult to gauge.
However, when it comes to the better app among Skype for Business or Google Hangout, the former takes the title primarily owing to better privacy and security management features.
Skype for Business would be more suited for a bigger business environment as it can accommodate more users.