It’s no wonder that the two of the best UCaaS solutions are very similar. But will their differences get you to switch?
Over the last few weeks, we’ve discussed the benefits of integrating office phone services with Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) platforms, and how the most reputable UCaaS solutions are the safest ones.
What do they have in common?
UCaaS tools try to recreate the synergy generated by teammates collaborating face-to-face. So, it’s no wonder that the two of the best UCaaS solutions have near-identical features and functionalities. In both Webex and Microsoft Teams, you can create virtual spaces where a team of people can communicate and collaborate over a specific project or topic. Members of these spaces can share files and links, pin important messages, and create conversation threads. They also have handy ways for collaborators to store and access all the files and links that were shared in the group.
Meetings and videocalls are also quite similar, with both platforms offering a simultaneous group chat, participation actions (like raising a hand and virtual reactions), as well as advanced audiovisual settings like noise cancellation and virtual background (but sadly, no potato filter).
Where do they differ?
In terms of the interface, they’re remarkably similar, but there are some small differences. Webex lists out all instant-message conversations in one place, much like a text-messaging interface on a cellphone. On the other hand, Microsoft Teams users navigate to unread messages via a notification in-box, much like social media, and conversations are grouped under team and channel headings. I’d hesitate to say which one is better – some say it’s easier to hold multiple text conversations efficiently over Webex, while some may prefer the more structured interface in Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams has a slight edge over Webex when it comes to working together on specific files. It benefits from interoperability with SharePoint content services – which is a fancy way of saying that users can work on files in SharePoint without leaving Teams. In fact, when a common space is created, a SharePoint space is created specifically for that space for their files, and users can access those files through a widget on their Microsoft Teams interface. Teammates can check these files out, update them, and check them back in, giving them some level of version control. Since Cisco doesn’t have its own document management and collaboration system, it has enabled Webex to be configured with similar capabilities for both OneDrive and Google Drive, but this requires some intervention at the user and admin level.
Webex really shines when it comes to meetings. Unlike Microsoft Teams, meetings can be scheduled and launched in virtual team spaces. It might not sound like a big deal, but it really is. Any member within a space can schedule a meeting for the group, so the team is not beholden to any one member being available to host. Members can also initiate emergency or impromptu meetings that push a notification to all the other members of that space to jump in. Holding meetings within a space provides the added benefit of having those meetings catalogued (time and duration) in the space’s feed.
What about collaborating with external partners or clients?
Both Webex and Microsoft Teams let users meet with individuals outside their organization, and they also offer ways to include external folks in team spaces for direct collaboration. Obviously, there are considerations in terms of security and data privacy – which both UCaaS platforms do extremely well, albeit with very different approaches.
A company with Microsoft Teams would manage its users’ access and privileges via the Active Directory, hosted in Azure (Microsoft’s own Cloud). External users could be invited to a space, but they’d need to be added to the company’s Active Directory as a “guest user”, if a significant level of collaboration is needed (like working on files together). So, a Teams user might have separate identities in the Cloud, and therefore different capabilities and access to features (like calling, or their calendar), depending on what space they’re operating in. Microsoft Teams does allow for organizations to set up mutual trust relationships with other organizations, where employees from both companies can work together using their home credentials and a shared channel in Teams.
Webex has a different approach: they have a global identity platform for all its registered users, hosted on their Cloud. Webex assigns a single identity to each users’ work email address, letting them work the same way and enjoy the same features in all the Webex spaces they were invited to. The only hiccup here, is that either both organizations must be on Webex, or the external contributor registers for a free Webex account, for this to be a real benefit. But when it happens, it’s pretty sweet!
What’s the verdict? Are you Team Webex, or Team Microsoft Teams?
At Beanfield, we use Webex. Our VoIP solutions run on a Cisco Broadworks platform, which is fully-integrated with Webex, so it was the simplest way to provide our employees with a secure, feature-rich UCaaS that also gave them access to their office phone. Anecdotally, we’ve been really impressed with the little things – like their amazing background noise-cancellation for videocalls, and how easily it integrates with other applications. We’re just getting to know the Webex webinar features, and from what we can tell so far, it rivals platforms created specifically for webinars.
That said, for organizations that are already using Microsoft 365, it’s totally reasonable to conclude that the advantages that Webex offers wouldn’t be enough to switch everyone over from the UCaaS they’ve grown accustomed to. And even though integrating voice calling might present some challenges, there are some very innovative solutions and knowledgeable service providers that can help make that happen.
Are you talking about Beanfield?
Haha, of course I am!
Ash Brar is the Director of Product & Solution Engineering at Beanfield. With over 23 years of experience, he has worked in the service provider space covering a range of infrastructure and customer focused roles.
Do you have a question for Ash? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org