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What is Slack?

Some refer to Slack as a group communication tool. Others call it a messaging app for teams.

Regardless of how it's described, Slack has become nearly every industry's go-to solution for managing team communication and file sharing in one place.

what is slack?

slack.pngAs a company, Slack has been around since 2012. But they didn't start getting global attention until they released their beta in August 2013 (just seven months later). They didn't call it a beta release, for fear of positioning their software as an unreliable newbie.

Just 3.5 years later in April 2016, it was reported that Slack's daily active users reached 2.7 million. And guess how often those users are on Slack? An average of 10 hours a day on the platform. Can you imagine?! 

Developers love Slack because it has a well-documented API that makes it super easy to integrate with other programs and services like Asana, Dropbox, and MailChimp (to name a few).


our need to collaborate

Just for a moment, think about the root of our need to collaborate. Allow yourself to step back a bit and forget all of the daily business requirements for video conferencing, document sharing, cross-organizational education, and online meetings.

Now, ask yourself a simple question: Why do we collaborate?

Studies show that we collaborate for the sake of mindshare, emotional connection, and the productivity of "two heads are better than one."

"By putting our heads together with others, we’re attacking a challenge with greater intellectual firepower. The more perspectives we bring to the table, the more likely we are to eliminate blind spots, unearth creative solutions, and minimize mistakes."

Ron Friedman, writer for 99u.com

Before email there were phone calls, in-office memos, and actual letters going back-and-forth in the physical mail. While those days seem archaic now, the foundation of our need to connect is still the same: to become more effective problem solvers.

Clay Shirky: What Motivates Us To Collaborate?

Jason Fried: Is Too Much Collaboration a Bad Thing?

By collaborating, we leverage our combined skills, talents, experiences, infrastructure, and resources to make our projects, teams, businesses, and selves more successful than ever before. Our reach increases beause we create community, and our customers feel the energy inherent in a collective effort. 

“Somewhere between 20 to 30% of our users — and this is just an estimate — come from some other centralized group-messaging system like HipChat, Campfire, or IRC. When we asked the other 70 to 80% what they were using for internal communication, they said, ‘Nothing.’ But obviously they were using something. They just weren’t thinking of this as a category of software...it’s a lot of ad hoc emails and mailing lists. Some people on the team might use Hangouts, some use SMS. We see groups that use Skype chat, or even private Facebook groups, and Google+ pages.”

Stewart Butterfield, Founder of Slack

Top 7 alternatives to slack

Even if you absolutely love Slack, there's no reason to restrict yourself or your organization to a single group messaging solution. 

1. HipChat — One concern about Slack is that it is cloud-based. This raises concerns about privacy and data security for some companies. With HipChat, there's no need to worry about these issues, because this tool is can be hosted on the premises as well as being leveraged from the cloud. 

What makes HipChat a serious Slack contender is its robust screen sharing and native video chat capabilities. Because while Slack does offer video chat, it's a fairly new feature with some serious limitations. 

Slack and HipChat Webinar

HipChat is developed by Atlassian, an Australian company that offers a range of other highly sought after products. At Prialto, we use Atlassian's Confluence, which allows us to document all of our processes and information in a wiki that is shared with everyone in our company. 

HipChat claims to be more reliable and have better uptimes than Slack. HipChat also offers the previously mentioned native video chat, the ability to track server health with a slash command, customer sentiment monitoring services, and powerful JIRA integrations (like ticket tracking in the chatroom).

 

Price: HipChat does have a free version. For premium features, you'll pay $2 per user, per month.

2. Ryver — Ryver is a free service with unlimited message and file storage. Just like Slack and HipChat above, Ryver is a proprietary product. This means these tools are closed source. Yet, what's amazing about Ryver is that it's completely free even though it's proprietary and cloud-based.

Ryver Tutorial: Basic Overview of Ryver, the All-in-One Team Communications Solution

While the free version of Slack only allows you to integrate 10 apps or services, Ryver does not have such a limit. Ryver doesn't put a cap on the amount of messages you can search, but Slack does. Slack limits your search to the 10,000 most recent messages. This might sound immensely helpful, but if you're a larger company you'll soon find that message number to be strikingly low. 

Look for a paid enterprise version of Ryver in the near future, since the company would obviously like to generate revenue with its competitive tool. But for the time being, Ryver offers unlimited chats, data, guest access, post, search, teams, and users for a grand total of zero dollars and zero cents. 

Price: 100% free

3. IRCCloud — Named after the traditional Internet Relay Chat (IRC) model, IRCCloud is an IRC-based collaboration tool on steroids. It gives companies three choices for use:

  1. Companies can use their own private IRC server in the cloud
  2. Companies can use an on-premise IRC server if they are concerned about cloud-based security or privacy
  3. Companies can connect to public IRC servers

IRCCloud has nary a video to choose from on their website or via YouTube except a few random user-made quickies under 20 seconds, which aren't helpful. So apologies for the video quality and content below. It's all I could find.

Setting up iRCCloud on iOS 8.1

The service is reportedly designed for easy setup and onboarding, but a common complaint about this tool is that it needs to be more user-friendly. That said, IRCCloud makes uploading images super simple, since it lives right on your browser. Embedding content is simple, too. 

The paid version of IRCCloud will keep your connection open while you're away, so you don't miss any messages. Unfortunately, the free service only allows for a permanent connection to these messages during the first seven days of use. After that, you need to pony up some dough if you want more than two hours of connection during the time that users are inactive.

One major downside to IRCCloud is that there aren't as many integrations available as there are with Slack. It also bears mentioning that there are thousands of public channels available via IRCCloud, but the actual backend code for the platform is not open source.

Price: IRCCloud does have a free version. For premium features, you'll pay $5 per user, per month. 

4. Rocket.Chat — Engineers, start your engines! Rocket.Chat is a completely customizable, open source Slack alternative. 

RocketChat - Slack like Open Source Self-hosted Chat Review

Rocket.Chat has an easy "plug-and-play" edge to it, and offers features that free and paid versions of Slack just don’t have, including:

  • Audio and video conference
  • Built-in live chat for websites
  • Federation
  • Screen-sharing
  • Self-registration
  • Theming, branding, and white label installation packages

To make this tool even more of a delightful experience right out of the gate, Rocket Chat can be used on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and...Linux! 

Price: 100% Free

5. Bitrix24 — Bitrix24 has both free and fee-based versions that can be operated in the cloud as well as on-premises. It has a fully functional CRM as well as task management features and a document directory. Additionally, engineers have access to the source code.

Bitrix24 Task And Project Management Overview

Some complain about Bitrix24, because the tool doesn't allow its users to export their chat history. But there's way pros than cons with this project management software. First, its free version allows for unlimited users, and puts no limit on search history. Second, both video conferencing and screen sharing are offered in the free version.

Price: There's a free version. Upgrades start at $39 per month.

6. Glip — Glip gives users access to shared calendars, real-time messaging, video conferencing, shared calendars, and other cloud-based features similar to Slack.

Want a tool with a huge fan base and a loyal following? Then this is your software. There are tons of incredible Glip videos online that are made by end users and Glip employees alike. 

GLIP: How to Use It!

Glip is great for integrations. Here’s a short list of tools you can leverage through Glip:

  • Zendesk
  • Google Drive
  • Evernote
  • Hangouts
  • Trello
  • Zapier
  • BitBucket
  • GitHub
  • Asana
  • Stripe
  • Box
  • DropBox
  • Harvest
  • Jira
  • Mailchimp

Price: There's a free version. You can upgrade to Basic for $5 per user, per month. Or take it to the Pro level for $10 per user, per month. 

7. Jostle — Jostle draws a lot of interest from companies that have multiple locations. Most reviewers would place this tool in the "cloud-based software for human resources" category, since it's designed to maximize employee participation for companies with more than 25 worldwide workers. 

Jostle Product Tour

Jostle is best used across organizations to communicate a broader message. For instance, Jostle UI puts an aesthetic focus on delivering company news throughout the organization. Every employee is kept abreast of the wins and losses of the company. New hires, promotions, department news, changes to healthcare coverage, and more are featured through the use of this tool, which also lets you find people within your organization even when you don't know their name.  

Price: This service has a sliding fee structure depending on the number of users. Pricing starts at $8 per employee, per month for a 25-person company. 

NOTEWORTHY MENTION

This past Monday, an article was published entitled "4 reasons Microsoft Teams will kill Slack… and 4 reasons it won’t." While Microsoft's group communication tool didn't make our list, I added this resource to help you become more aware of the tool and how it stacks up to Slack and others. 


WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ALL THESE APPS?

According to The Pew Research Center, most people use only a small number of their downloaded apps on a consistent basis every week. AppsFlyer reports that barely 3 percent of all apps are actively used 30 days after being downloaded.

Group messaging apps buck this trend. They see high adoption rates and sustained usage over time. 

Did you know that many of our clients chat with their Prialto virtual assistants on Slack, HipChat, Ryver, and other group messaging platforms?

Our virtual assistants are our employees, yet the nature of their work dictates that they become a trusted, dependable part of a client's business operations. 

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