3 Best Free Business Chat Solutions
Chat has a bad reputation. So let’s clarify – business chat is not something creepy nor a chatroom full of MLM scumbags. Business chat or group chat is an essential communication tool for your company that’s entirely private. Business chat, enterprise chat and group chat are sometimes used interchangeably – it’s hard to find a person who has not heard of WhatsApp or GroupMe. However, there is a difference – group chats are just about chat, while business chat typically incorporates tools frequently used by businesses like tasks, project management, collaboration, file sharing, HR and so on. So let’s talk about best free business or enterprise chats, meaning communication tools for business with VERY generous free plan.
Bitrix24 is probably the most popular free enterprise chat platform outside Skype and deservedly so. It’s also the one I know best, because I use it for my businesses, so get ready for specifics you probably don’t care about. The free plan includes 12 users and 5 GB of space and you have an option to use cloud service or host it on your own server (the self-hosted version comes with API and the source code so you can modify it and integrate with other tools as you please).
The chat works on iOS and Android devices, any web browser and desktop apps are available for both PCs and Macs. All versions support push notifications, so everything works realtime without any reloading. Business chat options are pretty standard – private, public, group chat, persistent chat (via workgroups). E-mail to chat option is available in the paid self-hosted version only, however. Videochat and videoconferencing are based on WebRTC and are free. Screensharing works one on one only as of Nov 2013, but this will change soon, according to developers.
DocManagement module supports private and shared documents, online document editing with or without MS Office installed, including simultaneous editing by multiple users. Shared calendars (personal/group/company/private/shared) let you schedule your own appointments, group meetings, check your co-worker schedule and even see who’s in office and who’s away on vacation. Task and Project Management module is quite powerful too.
There are also HR tools, mobile CRM and other features I won’t go into. Like I said, Bitrix24 is probably the most popular business chat solution after Skype, so you’ll have to explore it on your own. If you don’t want all these functions and if you don’t need to host business chat on your own server, there are two more solutions worth looking at.
ChatWork.com let you have one on one chats for free with 400 MB of storage, unlimited contacts, up to 14 group chats, 2 video chats and 100 voice chats. Both iOS and Android versions are available.
OfficeChat.Com is under development by a young and ambitious Indian team (which explains spelling mistakes). It’s currently in beta, which is a developer code for ‘buggy as hell’, but OfficeChat is 100% free and will remain 100% free to all users to join the beta. All of the standard chat features are present or announced.