Collaboration Articles

Slack vs. Google Hangouts for Business Collaboration

by Ankita Singh
Published on 21 November 2017

We've all experienced the pitfalls of collaborating through email alone, with endless threads where important information gets buried, or even lost. What's more, email does nothing to get us out of our departmental silos, so we miss out on opportunities to collaborate across teams.

In this article, we'll take a look at why businesses should use dedicated collaboration software instead of email, and why it's so important to find the right platform for your business.

Then, we'll compare two popular platforms-Slack and Google Hangouts-around some crucial collaboration functionalities.

Why you need collaboration software for your business

Over a third of employees (39 percent) feel that their organizations don't collaborate well enough, while three out of four employers rate teamwork and collaboration as "very important."

If you're using email as your primary method for collaboration, keep this in mind: A study conducted by the Danwood Group found that it takes and average of 64 seconds to recover from an interruption due to an email and return to their previous rate of work. That's over a minute per email-how many emails do your employees get per day? Think about the impact that's having on productivity.

Here are some of the ways collaboration software can help your business get away from email overload and improve operations, while increasing collaboration:

  • Improved communication: Collaboration tools facilitate quick communication among multiple stakeholders through group chats, videoconferencing, and messages (via web or mobile apps) no matter where they are, or which device they're using.
  • Better accuracy when sharing information: Real-time chats, messaging, and private channels give users immediate and firsthand knowledge sharing, so the chance of losing or diluting information is lower.
  • Strengthens employee relationships: Flexibility in communication channels increases dialogue among workers, leading to stronger relationships among employees. This can cultivate a better company culture. It also allows employees to find more opportunities to collaborate, which ensures better optimization of resources and better output as opposed to a more siloed environment.
  • Boosts productivity and individual performance: Software saves users time and speeds up communication, as people can work directly from the platform with chat rooms and direct messaging or through strategic integrations with the tools they already use. Look for scalable software that integrates well with existing tools, ensuring a better value for the money. A consolidated communications solution also minimizes administration and infrastructure costs.

The importance of finding the right collaboration software

According to a report by Alfresco, 59 percent of workers experience challenges with their collaboration tools. That number jumps to 71 percent when looking at millennials only (adults born after 1980).

These challenges could be due to a number of factors, including a lack of necessary features or difficulty of use.

To ensure success with your team's collaboration tool, look for platforms that offer the following key features:

  1. Audio and video calling/conferencing: Lets users collaborate with more than one colleague at a time across several locations.
  2. Real-time chat functionality and messaging: Allows users to send messages to multiple users at a time, as well as private messages.
  3. File sharing: Users can share PDF, JPEG, Excel, and other types of files with remote colleagues to collaborate from a central location.

Both Slack and Google Hangouts offer these three key functionalities, albeit with some variation between them, Below, we'll compare the two platforms around these three key collaboration functions.

1. Audio and video calling/conferencing

Audio and video calling with Slack

With Slack's free plan, you can open the direct messaging window and click on the phone icon (or camera icon if it's a video call) to start a one-on-one call (group calls are not available with the free version). A "Do Not Disturb" feature silences notifications during calls.

With the paid plan, you can start a group call by opening a Slack channel and clicking on the phone icon. You can also share your screen and invite others to interact on the content that is being shared. Up to 15 members can join the call using Mac, Windows, and Linux by clicking on the link for the call, or you can use the slash command (/call) to start a call instantly.

Slack also allows users to call other apps such as Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx, and appear.in. Users must have one of those apps installed for a Slack user to be able to call them.

Video calling in Slack (Source: slackhq.com)

Audio and video calling with Google Hangouts

In Google Hangouts, voice calls from Hangout to Hangout are free. You start a call by typing the name of the person you want to contact and clicking on the phone receiver icon.

Up to 10 people can participate in a video call for free. Even if recipients don't have a Google account, they can still attend video calls by clicking on the shared URL for the meeting.

Making voice calls from Android and iOS phones is also possible with the Hangouts mobile app, but some charges may apply, depending on the country you're calling. If you want to use Hangouts to call landlines or mobile phones from your computer, you need a Google Voice or Project Fi account. Both are only available in the United States.

Video calling in Google Hangouts (Source: GetApp.com)

2. Real-time chat and text messaging

Chat and text messaging with Slack

Slack lets you to send real-time messages to one person or a group of people (up to 9 people including you). You can also create private channels for direct messaging with another user.

To participate in a group conversation, log in to Slack and choose the colleague you want to chat with, and start typing your message at the bottom of the screen. You can tag specific colleagues within a channel using the @ symbol. You can also add emojis or "react" to other users' messages with an emoji to let them know you've read it.

By integrating Slack with tools such as Zapier's SMS tool, users can send SMS messages directly from Slack to non-Slack users as well. Users can also star messages and send them via SMS.

Instant messaging to a group in a Slack channel (Source: slack.com)

Chat and messaging with Google Hangouts

In Google Hangouts, you can send one-to-one messages or start a group chat with up to 150 participants.

Google Hangouts allows users to continue chats across devices. Sending text messages through Google Hangouts is not free, but you can send and receive SMS with a Google Voice account. Unlike Slack, Google Hangouts does not offer chat rooms or threads for discussions.

Start a Google Hangout chat from your inbox (Source: gsuite.google.com)

3. File sharing and storage

File sharing and storage in Slack

On the desktop version, Slack lets you drag and drop files directly into the chat window to share them. To share images, you can copy and paste them into the message box, or to upload any file type, you can click on the plus icon and select the file from your computer.

In the Android and iOS mobile apps, you can click on the paperclip icon and share files through direct message or chat, or by creating a public link.

Feedback from colleagues can be consolidated in the comments section of a shared file, as a document goes through the internal reviews process, and you can mark files as "important" by starring them to keep them handy for future reference.

Slack offers three pricing plans, each with a different storage capacity. The free plan offers 5 GB in total, while the Standard plan offers 10 GB per team member, and the Plus plans offers 20 GB per team member.

File sharing in Slack (Source: Slack.com)

File sharing and storage in Google Hangouts

Users of Google Hangouts can share share image files directly in a chat window. However, to share Word, Excel, and other file types, users must use Google Drive, which offers 15 GB of cloud storage included in the free version. You can upload files on Google Drive by dragging and dropping them onto your Drive or a specific folder, and share them with selected users or with everyone by creating a shareable link.

You can also allow your colleagues to work on the shared documents by giving them editing permission, or you can limit access to "view only." Drive also offers "suggesting" mode, where anybody with permission can suggest changes to the document.

G Suite offers 30 GB storage space in Google Drive with its Basic pricing plan. With the Business and Enterprise plans, Google Drive offers unlimited cloud storage (or 1 TB per user for fewer than five users).

File sharing and editing in Google Drive (Source: GetApp.com)

Here's a brief snapshot of the three key collaboration functions offered by Slack and Google Hangouts that we've discussed above:

Collaboration function Slack Google Hangouts
Audio and video calling/conferencing
  • Click on the phone icon to start an audio call
  • Turn an audio call into a video call by clicking on the camera icon
  • Turn on "Do Not Disturb" mode during a call to silence notifications
  • Invite up to 15 people to join the call
  • Use the "/call" command to start a call instantly
  • Share your screen with other users
  • Start a call by clicking the phone icon in the chat window
  • Invite up to 10 people to a video call
  • Make free Hangout to Hangout calls
  • Pay for Hangout to phone call based on your location
  • Attend Hangout calls without downloading the tool using a meeting link
Real-time chat or messaging
  • Send real-time chats to groups or one on one
  • Create private channels for longer discussions
  • Tag specific colleagues using the @ function
  • Use emojis to react to messages, files, and more
  • Send SMSs to non-Slack users by integrating Slack with tools such as Zapier SMS tool
  • Send messages one on one, or chat with up to 150 people in group chats
  • Continue a conversation on different devices
  • Send SMSs using Google Voice account
File Sharing and storage
  • Drag and drop PDFs, images, videos, and other files from computer or cloud
  • Centralize feedback from colleagues in comments section on shared files
  • Mark files as important by starring them
  • Store files in the cloud with permissions to access
  • Share image files in chats in real time
  • Use Google Docs to share PDF, Excel, docs, and other files
  • Assign "edit" or "view only" permissions for different users
  • Store files in cloud using Google Drive with limited permissions to access

More about collaboration software

Here, we've gone in depth about two widely used collaboration tools. For more on these platforms, or to learn more about collaborations tools in general, check out the following GetApp resources:

Further reading:


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