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Slack Enterprise Grid adds security, compliance tools

More than 150 large companies are already using Slack Enterprise Grid. The vendor views scalability and security as key to winning more customers for its premium product.

Slack has enhanced the scalability and security of Slack Enterprise Grid, its premium platform for large organizations, as the startup initially buoyed by word-of-mouth downloads now looks to boost top-down, enterprise-wide adoption.

Slack owes much of its early success -- gaining 6 million daily active users since its launch in 2013 -- to viral downloads of its freemium product by small teams, often without oversight from IT departments. But with platforms like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Spark growing more sophisticated, Slack has to find new ways to compete in the team collaboration app market it kick-started.

The Slack Enterprise Grid upgrades announced this week include tools for auditing and device management, as well as onboarding features that will make it easier to add new employees to Slack channels. The company says more than 150 large organizations have deployed the enterprise-grade product since its launch last year, including 21st Century Fox, Target, Capital One and IBM.

"I see these announcements as more evolutionary than game-changing," said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. "They continue to improve Slack's ability to support enterprise governance and compliance rules, while also adding features like channel discovery to improve the ability of new employees to find relevant conversations."

Slack Enterprise Grid gives IT more oversight, control

Slack will now let administrators monitor the third-party applications they're using across the organization through a new tab within the IT control panel. The tool will show how each app was installed, as well as which employee installed it. 

Administrators will now also be able to monitor and audit more than 30 everyday events -- including login activity, file downloads and workspace permission changes -- using Enterprise Grid's Audit Log API. Monitoring software like Splunk and Sumo Logic can be used to flag abnormal activity.

Other security and compliance updates for Slack Enterprise Grid include the creation of enterprise-specific terms of service and a tool to restrict the ability of users to copy text and links while using Slack's mobile apps.

Slack has a better user interface than its competitors, and the updates released this week should help it retain that advantage for a bit longer, Lazar said. But to secure success in the long term, Slack will need to beef up its data security, following the lead of Cisco Spark.  

"I still think they need to implement an end-to-end encryption model with customer-held keys to more effectively compete in the large, and especially regulated, market," Lazar said.

Slack looks to make Enterprise Grid easily scalable

In addition to security and compliance, Slack said scalability would be a main focus as it continues to improve Slack Enterprise Grid. The platform currently supports up to 500,000 people per organization (only a handful of companies worldwide are larger than that) and has no limits on the number of people or channels that can be added to a workspace.

Enterprises can now customize the onboarding guidance given to new employees, providing texts or links to explain how the company uses the platform. What's more, those new workers will be able to find the appropriate workspaces to join just by searching for the colleagues with whom they most often collaborate.

Another new feature for enterprise users is the ability to create default channels for company-wide announcements. Administrators can make membership in those channels required while limiting who has the authority to send messages to them.

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