It doesn’t always have to be Slack messaging tools for better teamwork
Whether in the home office or in global teams, messenger services are more important than ever for development teams. One of the best-known tools is Slack, now part of the Salesforce ecosystem. But there are some interesting alternatives.
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Cross-team communication becomes more important, especially when working remotely, various tools provide good services.
Hardly any software segment experienced such a boost through the corona pandemic as instant messengers, conference software and so-called groupware. The latter combines text, voice and video chat and offers special functions for teams.
Slack is one of the best-known solutions, but not necessarily the best, depending on the purpose. The company was bought by SAP competitor Salesforce at the end of 2020 for as much as 27.7 billion US dollars. This underpins a certain market power, and the solution could also receive a new boost.
Until then, however, it is worth taking a look at the competition. Because there are some functional, simple or even cheaper solutions that are still suitable for collaboration in teams.
Whether team or company: Groupware services such as Slack or Microsoft Teams always have a certain taste in terms of data protection: content leaves the company servers and is entrusted to the respective service. Although a data breach with large providers is unlikely, strictly confidential communication is always tricky with such services. It makes even more sense to rely on a solution that uses existing and open standards – and is hosted on the company’s servers.
Kolab is one such solution: the open source tool developed on the initiative of the BSI enables effective communication by means of technology available in every company. However, the software is primarily an email solution with file manager, address book and calendar – instant messenger and call functions are not on board.
On the other side of the spectrum is Microsoft Teams, which has a clear advantage over other solutions: since Microsoft Office solutions are already running in most companies, teams can be a good choice, because the software connects seamlessly with services such as Office 365. In addition to extensive messaging functions, Teams also offer the possibility to conduct voice and video calls. The powerful Microsoft cloud structure in the background ensures a smooth process.
With Workspace, Google also offers a Slack alternative that is functionally very similar. The advantage here is the widespread use of Google accounts and thus the low hurdle for getting started with employees who already know the integrated tools-office productivity, chat and meeting functions.
Drive and Gmail can also be linked to their own addresses, which distinguishes the workspace from the basal, free Google solutions. Google offers a lot for comparatively small money, especially since Google’s infrastructure is of course very reliable. However, when it comes to handling the data, those responsible should carefully check whether Google is the right solution for the company.
The Groupware rocket is open source.chat: The service is designed as a communication center for teams, but can also be used as an omni-channel support tool. It also centralizes communication with customers via channels such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook messenger, Twitter, Instagram and many more. Voice and video calls are also no problem.
Particularly interesting is also the possibility of rocket.running chat with your own server on your own infrastructure-this ensures that the data stays in the company. The tool can work on a range of servers, from CentOS to Ubuntu to AWS, Docker and Oracle Cloud. Smaller companies and teams also benefit from the free basic tariff of the software.
Some developers will probably still remember the wiki software Tiki Wiki. This has now matured into a full-fledged groupware solution including CMS and – of course – a wiki function. However, communication within the system does not take place via messenger and voice/video chats, but rather classically via mail and forums.
Tiki does not replace a messenger system, but ensures a very orderly and above all searchable communication within teams. The ideal place for the tool is the intranet: thanks to the wiki function, important information can be collected quickly and easily. The technical hurdle is low for small teams, as is the cost: Tiki is available free of charge.
The messenger tool Chanty is committed to communication and collaboration in teams and is a good alternative to Slack as a messenger. In addition to the usual messenger functions, there is a so-called teambook with which tasks, messages and conversations can be pinned. This makes it much easier to find information than it is in other messengers.
Especially interesting for developers is the possibility to pass on snippets of code without the messenger interpreting them. This makes Chanty particularly interesting for developer teams, but can of course also be used elsewhere. Chanty can also be used free of charge for teams with up to ten members, the paid version removes membership restrictions, unlocks audio and video calls and also allows video meetings.
Mattermost is a groupware dedicated to the needs of DevOps teams and developers. The open source solution can be hosted on its own infrastructure and provides real-time collaboration and communication in the form of teams and channels. Both audio and video calls are supported, and team meetings and screen sharing are also possible.
Native apps for all relevant operating systems also help to stay connected on the go; and so that this doesn’t get out of hand, there is also a “Do not disturb”mode. An interesting option is to plug-in third-party services such as Zoom or github that are relevant to developers.
Communication via a simple messenger service is much more basic. The advantage here is that especially small teams have low hurdles, high comfort and no costs to exchange information and files. This is probably why many teams communicate via WhatsApp, which is not necessarily optimal. Communication via signal messenger is much safer.
The software outsourcing works just like WhatsApp including voice and video chat and file sending. In addition, Signal can also be used on the desktop. The WhatsApp alternative is also recommended by celebrities such as Edward Snowden, and not without reason: the software is not only open source, but also safe, as there is solid end-to-end encryption.