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Instant messaging and chat applications offer two or more people the ability to communicate in real-time over the internet. Along with text chat, many popular IM apps also offer voice, video chat, and even screen sharing.
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When it comes to collaborating on business-related tasks or projects, efficient communication is a necessity. Instant messaging & chat software connects coworkers in real time and prevents miscommunications by allowing them to share ideas, send progress updates, and discuss details conveniently.
We created this buyers guide to help you select the instant messaging (IM) & chat software that’s right for your business. Here’s what we’ll cover:
IM & chat software allows two or more people to communicate in real time over the internet. Along with text chat, several applications also support file sharing, voice calls, video chat, and screen sharing.
While stand-alone IM & chat applications do exist, they are also often a part of team communication systems.
There are two deployment options for IM & chat software. We’ve listed the characteristics of each option below:
Cloud-based deployment: Cloud-based software (also known as SaaS) is hosted by the vendor on their own or third-party servers; you access the system from a web browser or mobile app. This kind of deployment is usually charged on monthly or annual subscriptions. Some vendors also factor in the number of monthly users when calculating the subscription fee.
On-premise deployment: In this deployment model, you host the software on your own servers and network. This model is often more expensive upfront due to a one-time licensing fee and the cost of the necessary hardware. You’ll also have to pay for maintenance, upgrades, support, and data storage.
Key questions to ask a vendor before you buy:
Do you offer support for on-premise deployments?
What is the total cost of ownership (TCO) including one-time expenses such as setup fees and data migration?
Is your system multi-lingual?
After understanding the deployment options available to you, start building your shortlist based on the features you need most. Common features of IM & chat software include:
Chat: Communicate with one or more users simultaneously via a chat server.
Chatting with Flock
Mobile integration: Receive messages and alerts on your smartphone via native mobile apps.
Communicating with coworkers via the Zoho Cliq mobile app
Third-party integrations: Connect the tool with other systems to facilitate data exchange.
Alerts and previews of information from third-party applications in Slack
Video chat: Connect with coworkers face-to-face from anywhere via the internet.
Coworkers connect with video chat using GoToMeeting
File sharing: Allow users to share files among themselves through the application.
A catalog of shared files in Microsoft Teams
Notifications: Allow users to control how and when they’re alerted of new messages, cutting down on miscommunications and distractions.
Managing notifications in Beekeeper
Key questions to ask a vendor before you buy: IM & chat software features are not limited to the ones listed above. Ask vendors about additional functionalities that would benefit your business:
Can your system integrate with third-party applications?
How many users does your system support?
What data security measures do you have in place?
Does your system offer collaboration features like screen sharing or calendar management?
Can your system support multiple languages?
Does your system allow for the setup of an internal help desk?
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations, obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.