5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using


Five Top (Free) Virtual Collaboration Tools

  1. PROJECT ORGANIZATION: Trello.
    Trello is a very easy way to organize what needs to be done, by when, and who is responsible. You organize cards onto lists. You can label the lists any way you choose: they could be different projects, days or months of a calendar, events or locations, for example. The cards have an easily viewable front and back. The front provides a quick overview of the task, while the back contains all the details you might need: checklist, links, photos, sketches, attachments, dates, comments, etc. You can color-code card labels and filter by keywords or person. Trello keeps a record of everything that has happened, and any changes or additions that were made. To help prevent you from missing deadlines, cards change color as task due-dates approach. Trello can cut down on a lot of scrambling for files or information, as everything is available to everyone all in one place.
    Pricing: Free, though of course there is a “Gold” level for US$5/month, and a “Business Class” for US$25/month, both with enhanced features.
  2. PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Podio.
    Incredibly highly reviewed tool to communicate, organize and track a group’s work. Workspaces, tasks, chat, and unlimited access to their very cool free apps.
    Pricing: Up to 5 people who share the same email domain are free. Paid plans start at US$9/employee/month.
  3. CHAT: HipChat
    I’d call HipChat the Skype for teams. HipChat has persistent group chat rooms where team members can text ideas to one another, as well as drag-and-drop files to share and get immediate feedback. HipChat maintains an SSL-encrypted complete history of files and chat, so that if you’re away for a few days you can easily catch up with what the team has been doing in your absence. Team members can hop to a 1:1 private chat anytime, or call team members into a meeting to make decisions. HipChat has push notifications to keep you up-to-date even if you’re out of the office. It claims to be usable on any device, has desktop, mobile and web apps for quicker and easier access, and integrates with customer service apps and social media.
    Pricing: Free for teams of up to five. Above that number it costs US$2/user/month. They offer a free 30-day trial.
  4. GROUP BRAINSTORMING: Scribblar
    Scribblar is an online whiteboard, usable by multiple people simultaneously. What better way to share ideas? Whether you’re brainstorming a campaign, visualizing a graphic, or mindmapping a project, Scribblar would work well. It also has audio, text chat, and document upload.
    Pricing: Free for up to two users/room. Paid plans start at US$9/month.
  5. SCREEN SHARING: Join.me
    Do you need to show colleagues a work-in-progress? Do you need to demo a new software? We have been using Join.me in our office for quite some time. It’s a great, quick, easy way to share what you see on your screen with others. Users can talk, swap files, share their screens with each other or trade control of one another’s computers to diagnose and fix problems. You can obtain a dedicated url and desktop app, so that you can log in quickly and easily, or you can visit the site and get a url on-the-fly. Also works on mobile devices.
    Pricing: Up to 10 users for free.

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8 thoughts on “5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using

  1. Hi Dianne,
    a past business partner pointed me to your article.
    I turned my company 10 years ago into a virtual one and since then work 100% virtual with people all over the place with a focus on software development. My experience with working virtual is very positive and I would suffer giving up this work style.

    Based on my experience, I regard the research you put forward good but also very conventional with more than obvious results. Of course, that does not affect the truth you put forward.

    Concepts like “same place” or “same time” might be helpful to sort out research data and come up with a first understanding what virtual collaboration is all about, but apart from that, I don’t see those dimensions relevant in practice. In fact, I have not seen anybody I collaborate with virtually being concerned about space or time.

    More important to virtual collaborators are aspects like that they need to make a living from collaboration or investors paying for the collaboration need to make a profit.

    And that raises questions like how does the tool help me to claim my efforts to be paid via the collaboration tool used? Can I record work time? Does it write my invoices? How do I find new collaborators willing to pay my efforts? How does the tool help me so that I do not get charged for nothing and how does the tool help me to control this?

    Most tools I know fail to help with those questions, take Skype for example.

    Do you see my point? I expect to get answers to those questions gets every more important for a collaboration tool to be useful, because I see more and more people making a living via online collaboration. In short, I collaborate to make a living and I expect a tool to help me on that.

    A good collaboration tool “understands my need to make a living” and if that is not the case, then those tools not helping me specifically to “make money effectively and efficiently” are just utilities and not collaboration “tools” platforms.

    Also, we found a good collaboration platform/tool has to be as useful to my car mechanic as to my dry cleaner because I collaborate with those people as well. A good tool would help them in turn with their clients/supplier. Additionally a good tool allows me to exclusively build a long term data asset where I have full ownership and I’m free to share this data with anybody. For example, I want to share my files with my lawyer as long as I see fit and then share those files with a new lawyer by the press of a button. I want also to be able to sell or inherit this data asset.

    We use Skype a lot but based on our above experience that most tools do not help us to make money, we developed our own tool to meet this requirement.

    I would be glad to hear your opinion on the above.

    Regards,
    Peter

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    • Peter, what you’ve described does sound like a dream for a small business person/entrepreneur. Maybe now that you have “planted” the idea in public on the internet, some developer will take it seriously. We can hope! Thank you for reading and joining us here! Best of luck with your ventures.

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  2. Pingback: Best Wishes for 2014 | Cultural Detective Blog

  3. Interesting post, and nicely written. I think companies should embrace the benefits to remote and distributed working as geography is mattering less and less to business. We have begun and remain a distributed team across Hong Kong, San Francisco, Amsterdam and London. With the right tools and the right attitude, everything has been going well (apart from some occasional late nights to meet at the same time)! We write quite a bit about this as well since we are building a tool to solve the issues of online collaboration. If you like, check us out here: Nice post! It does require a certain frame of mind to be able to work effectively in a remote team, especially from all the decades of traditional office work. But social tools are changing that, and the right tools go a long way to adjusting people to the culture of remote. We write about it a lot: http://product.twoodo.com/849/overcoming-the-pains-of-team-collaboration-tools/

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  4. Web Conferencing is truly an emerging solution for almost all types of businesses. Collaboration is becoming much more important in the workplace and web conferences undoubtedly enable better and richer collaboration. Various tools like webex, gotomeeting, R-HUB web conferencing servers etc. are used by businesses to conduct a web conference.

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