These days, most people prefer communicating using an instant messenger or texting to calling someone over the phone. It is usually much easier to type a message, cheaper and it doesn’t require the other person to answer the text straight away making it much more convenient than using the phone. Due to the rise in popularity in messaging many instant messaging apps have come and gone trying to perfect the art of sending messages. I will be comparing two of the newest contenders on the market, Slack and HipChat.
Firstly, Slack. Slack was created in august 2013 and was, at one point, the app with the biggest market growth on the market. One of Slacks main features is its offering of chat rooms organised by topic called channels, while also having private chat rooms. This means that you can search for a subject and find a room full of knowledgeable people who can help you if you have a problem, or just chat about the subject you want. Slacks channels are, jumbled at best, and chaos at worst. At peak times the public rooms can get very busy so it is hard to get your message noticed at all, however when the rooms aren’t packed to the brim it can be great for talking to new people about a subject that interests you. Another great draw of Slack is its ability to set up private channels. This is great for businesses wanting to communicate with a large number of employees, which is one of the main markets Slack aims for, as each chat room can hold up to an unlimited amount of people. Furthermore Slack has a full fledged search feature, letting you search anything from files, people and messages in your chat room. This makes it very easy to find that file someone pasted in the other week or find the guy that you need to private message. One final great point about Slack is its long list of integrations. Slack offers integration with the likes of Google drive, Dropbox and Github amongst many others, this makes it extremely easy to share documents with Slack and makes file sharing seamless.
But what’s wrong with Slack then?
From what you’ve heard so far, nothing. However, be warned, when I first started using Slack I found myself getting lost a lot of the time. The interface can be very confusing, especially before you’ve had time to look around and figure out what does what. The learning curve is rather steep (considering it’s just a tool for chat rooms), due to Slacks extensive list of settings which can be quite fiddly. Another piece of the puzzle that Slack is missing is organisation features. Slack lacks any built in calendar, reminders or to-do list. The fact that it doesn’t have any of these is a major factor when looking for group chatting software, especially for business this feature is a killer.
What’s the cost?
Slack operates on a freemium structure, meaning it is a great free piece of software but the free version comes with limited functionality (being able to search 10,000 messages, having 5 integration tools and 5gb storage space). If you pay annually you can get a standard account for $6.67 per user per month, coming with unlimited searches and unlimited integrations, which I think is quite reasonably priced. If you want to go all the way, you can snag a plus account for $12.50 when paid annually. The only benefit this offers over a standard account is 99.99% uptime on Slack and 24h support with a maximum of 4 hour wait times, I find this account a bit overkill unless your business completely depends on Slack for all of its communication. Finally Slack have a “Enterprise” package coming soon in 2015 which will be priced at $40 per user per month which there is little information on at the moment apart from it will offer increased security and advanced statistics.
Overall impressions from slack
Overall, I think that slack is a great tool for office communication and file sharing to larger amounts of people. Its instant messaging makes it much better and quicker that e-mails. However, due to its complexity and its lacking of other features such as a calendar or to-do list, I feel that there is still much to be worked on and I would not pay over the standard account for this program despite its many positives. I just think that the Plus account does not offer much extra for the double in price but still a good piece of software when compared to others.
HipChat, very much like Slack is an instant messaging service that offers unlimited chat rooms, primarily used by developers and businesses alike to communicate with others in their office or clientele, it also lets you share files easily with drag and drop sharing. Another powerful feature that HipChat has over most other providers of instant messaging for businesses is its video chatting ability, this goes great with their screen sharing feature, which lets another see and control your screen to help you. A final great point of HipChat is the pricing. HipChat also works on a freemium business model, however I think that HipChat is much more reasonably priced. HipChat has a completly free account which has access to unlimited group chat and instant messaging features. They then offer a paid version that gives its users unlimited access to video calling and screen sharing, another great thing that HipChat offers is a 30-day free trial for all of its new accounts which I think is a great idea to let people decide if they like their software and give them a taste of what you can have. I also think $2 is very well priced especially for smaller businesses that can not afford or don’t want to pay a considerable amount more.
And what’s not so good?
Well, while it all sounds good and seems to work ok, thats all it does, work ok. At times HipChat is very temperamental with crashes and connection issues. Furthermore many have problems with the app being too noisy or crowded with teams as little as 25-30. While I find the UI very easy to use and become accustomed too, the search did not work at times. Another point that I do not like about HipChat is how the HipChat mobile app is sluggish and basically requires a WIFI connection to function, it’s slow and sometimes completely refuses to load, which in comparison with its competitors like Slack is unacceptable and needs to be fixed if they want to compete in the market.
Both are good communication tools but there are one clear winner; Slack. While Slack is a premium product which costs more to use, it is much better offering a wider range of settings, more integration, a search system and overall a more stable piece of software. I personally think that paying the extra couple of dollars per month is definitely worth it for the better experience. While HipChat does work as a communication tool I wouldn’t use it unless your business is quite small, and I would still say that Slack is a better option.