Microsoft Teams is a program to facilitate team conversations—essentially Microsoft’s own take on Slack. The company had previously offered the service to companies that can afford to pay for the higher tiers of Microsoft 365, but a free version has been offered since.
The thing is it’s not so easy getting started with Microsoft Teams. For a noob, it can really get confusing. For one thing, “free” doesn’t exactly mean totally free or user-friendly. Microsoft has a way of reminding you that Teams is built for organizations with a company-wide Microsoft 365 subscription and an IT staff responsible for rolling things out. So, if you’re getting the free version, things can get really confusing.
That being said, everything below should help you get started with the free version of Microsoft Teams. But first…
What is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a collection of online services that you can access through a web browser or the Teams app that is available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. There’s a new Linux client, too.
This mix of software and services offers you the flexibility to invite people to join your organization and build teams with various groups; anyone in your company can chat through Slack-like channels within each group for group conversations; and private chat features allow 1:1 and group chats, with the choice of incorporating audio and video and sharing screens.
Teams does well with online meetings, with functionality that match those of Zoom, WebEx, and other common video conferencing platforms. Video meetings can have up to 250 members and live activities of up to 10,000 participants. Your company has a shared mailbox and calendar and a shared OneNote notebook, as well as a SharePoint Online portal and a document library where staff members and visitors can work together on shared documents.
The Teams app also incorporates third-party applications, including Adobe Creative Cloud and Slack, as well as third-party online storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox. An amazing array of third-party applications enables you to tailor the Teams experience to integrate with the existing workflow.
The good news, at a time when we really need good news, is that it’s not going to cost you money.
Use Microsoft Teams Freemium
If you are not part of an existing organization and you do not have an Office 365 Business membership, you can install the Teams app and use it in the “freemium” mode. This version, which never expires, gives you unlimited chat, built-in group, and audio or video calls, 10GB of team file storage, and 2GB of personal file storage per user. You’ll also get real-time connectivity with Office web applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote).
Go to this link to sign up then sign in with your personal email address, and choose the For Work option. You don’t need a credit card, and all you need to do is respond to a verification email to complete the setup.
After this is complete, you can sign in and click the Manage Org connection on this menu to start inviting additional people. You can use a Microsoft account, but this is not a prerequisite.
You can add up to 500,000 team members, which is quite generous of Microsoft. Your management resources are minimal relative to the premium version, but you can access all the functionality of the Teams without restrictions.
Use Microsoft Teams for Business for Free
If you already have an Office 365 subscription, you don’t need to purchase Office 365 licenses for everyone on your team. Instead, you can create free accounts in Azure AD and grant up to 100 no-cost licenses for Microsoft Teams.
To make the most of this deal, you need to be the administrator of the Office 365 Business or Enterprise subscription and manage the administration tools. This deal would not apply if you have an Office 365 Home or Personal Subscription. And if you’re currently a member of a company that has an Office 365 subscription, you’ll need to speak to your IT department about whether Microsoft Teams can be used.
But if you already have a single Office 365 Business or Premium license, you have the ability to create a pretty amazing team right now.
Teams is built on the Office 365 infrastructure, which uses the Azure Active Directory for Identity and Office 365 for collaboration. That means you’re going to want to bookmark these two tools to manage administrative tasks:
The Microsoft Teams Admin Center is where you customize the global Teams configuration and view the status of the service and implementation.
The Microsoft 365 Admin Center is where you handle user accounts and license settings as well as general Office 365 settings.
In both, you need to sign 365 administrative credentials with your Office. If you are the owner of the subscription, that’s the email address given to you as the global administrator.
Enable Access To Guest if Needed
Guest access is off by default. To give guests access, go to the Teams Admin Center, select Org-wide Settings, and then click Guest Access. The explanatory text at the top of the page has a link to a checklist with full instructions.
It could take a couple of hours for the setup to kick in, but when it does, you can add guests to the team by entering their full email address.
Create New User Accounts as Necessary
You don’t need to add anything extra to the members of your organization who already have Office 365 licenses. All they need to do is open the Teams app and sign in.
But if you have team members or partners who you wish to include as full-fledged team members rather than guests, you need to take an extra step. Sign in to Office 365 Admin Center, click Users > Active Users, and then click Add Users.
Follow the instructions to enter your organization’s own username for the new user; let Office 365 auto-generate your password and send it to your existing email address. Then grant them a free Microsoft Teams Exploratory license.
This step can be repeated for up to 100 users.
Make Each New Team Member Sign in To Teams To Get Started
You’re going to want to get the ball rolling on some ready-made teams and channels, and you may even recommend passing around some of Microsoft’s training materials.
But after the short setup, you should be able to start collaborating remotely.