Slack is a cloud-based instant messaging service originally developed by Slack Technologies for internal communication. It was released to the public in 2013 as a platform for organizational communication but has evolved further to become a community platform. It is available across different platforms and operating systems. It is one of the most popular communication platforms used in small-sized and medium-sized organizations around the world due to its straightforward user interface and expansive integration with other services and productivity apps or platforms from third parties. This article reviews the advantages and disadvantages of Slack as an instant messaging service and communication platform.
Pros: Advantages of Slack and Notable Features
The platform was an internal communication tool used in the software startup Tiny Speck which was headed and co-founded by Steward Butterfield. It was built around the Internet Relay Chat or IRC protocol. Butterfield and his team decided in 2013 to launch the tool as a software-as-a-service. The team also renamed Tiny Speck into Slack Technologies in 2014. Slack has soon become one of the fastest-growing business-to-business SaaS products due to its notable features and benefits. The following are its specific advantages:
1. Available in Mainstream Platforms and Operating Systems
One of the biggest advantages of Slack and the reason behind its success is that it is available across different platforms and operating systems. It can be accessed using a web browser via a web client. There is also a desktop client for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and mobile apps for iOS and Android mobile operating systems, and Apple Watch. This means that messages and files are accessible regardless of the device in use and that organizations are not constrained to a particular platform or operating system when implementing Slack.
2. Freemium Service and Expanded Subscription Options
The instant messaging service is free. The free plan is ideal for a small team of 10 or fewer with less complex workflow. There are also paid plans divided into three categories or subscription options. These are the Pro plan, the Business+ plan, and the Enterprise Grid plan. These paid plans include more advanced functionalities such as app or service integrations and group audio and video conversations. The Business+ plan and the Enterprise Grid plan provide 99.99 percent guaranteed uptime and round-the-clock customer support.
3. Straightforward Platform for Internal Communication
Slack is a well-rounded communication platform for teams and organizations with end-to-end encryption. It includes persistent chat rooms called channels, which are organized by topic, as well as private groups, direct messaging, and file-sharing functionalities. The paid plans allow audio and video conversations with screen sharing with up to 50 people. These features lessen the need for instant messaging services such as Telegram, Rakuten Viber, or WhatsApp and video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.
4. High Customizability and Expansive Third-Party Integration
Another advantage of Slack is that it can be customized to fit the workflow of a particular team or organization. Notifications can be customized across different devices or based on the type of message or user-provided keywords. Customizing further the platform is done through integration with third-party apps or services. The platform is not a one-stop tool. It is meant to be integrated with other tools such as Google Drive, Trello, Salesforce, Google Calendar, Zendesk, ChatGPT, Microsoft Outlook, and Twitter, among others.
Cons: Disadvantages of Slack and Key Limitations
Slack might be a well-rounded communication tool but it is important to reiterate the fact that it is not a one-stop platform for productivity. For example, because it lacks native features for tracking tasks or activities in a collaborative setting, a team or organization that requires more specific tools for project management or keeping tabs on deliverables and processes would need to look for another app or service. Even some of the features used for communication also have problems. The following are its specific disadvantages:
1. High Costs From Subscribing and Third-Party Integrations
The service can get expensive. The free plan is capable but limited. This means that complex communication requirements would necessitate availing of a subscription plan. There are other instant messaging platforms that are ideal for one-on-one and group messaging. The cost of using the service also increases when factoring in its productivity limitations. Apps or services from third parties have additional costs. Alternatives such as Bitrix24 and Asana have more extensive features for organizational communication and collaboration.
2. Quality of Audio and Video Calls Needs Improvement
Another disadvantage of Slack is that the quality of audio and video communication is subpar when compared to true video conferencing apps or platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams or voice-over-internet protocol apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp. The entire user experience while using these features is characterized by inconsistencies and unpredictability. Issues in these features are not present all the time. However, in critical situations, the lack of assurance can impede schedules and workflows.
3. Dependence on Internet Connection and Cloud Services
It is also important to highlight the fact that this communication platform is cloud-based. This means that its usage is dependent on a stable internet connection. The service or its specific app and all of its content and features are inaccessible to a user with no access to the internet. This can be a problem during network outages. The fact that the service runs on the cloud means that its users are also dependent on the network resources of the cloud service provider. AN outage affecting Slack Technologies would also affect its users.
4. Security Issues Arising from Cloud Computing Dependence
The same dependence on the cloud also creates security issues or more specific data and privacy concerns. Data that go through the platform are stored in the servers of the provider. This makes critical data or information such as messages, files, and even trade secrets vulnerable to hacking due to the actions of erring internal employees or as perpetrated by external malicious actors. Slack Technologies provides data encryption at rest and during transit but users have to trust its encryption capabilities and data privacy compliance.
Final Verdict: Advantages and Disadvantages of Slack
The appeal of Slack to enterprise and non-profit organizational users is undeniable. It is a feature-rich communication platform that resembles a social networking site intended for fostering interactions and collaborations within a particular team or organization. The addition of audio and video communication features provides an added value. However, because it remains subpar compared with specialized communication tools and due to the fact that its features a limited to communication and file-sharing, it can also be an expensive tool for teams or organizations with complex requirements and processes.