Working together as a team requires that everyone be on the "same page" about tasks, deadlines and milestones. This can be much harder when you're working remotely unless you're aware of the many excellent online virtual collaboration tools available.
Virtual Collaboration Tools for Remote Teams
Whether it's scheduling, tracking tasks or easy group communication, there are a variety of online tools that can make your team's life much easier. Some are free while others are fee-based depending on the number of active team members who use them. All of these options have versions for desktop PC and Mac computers, as well as iOS and Android smartphones.
Slack is a popular communication tool used by remote workers worldwide. You can not only do text-based chat but use it to make phone and video calls to participants. It also can be used for file sharing and storage, although you might not want to use it for storage with the free plan as your messages will eventually drop off without being archived. Slack can also allow you to set up public and private channels to keep discussions between relevant team members only.
- Best For: Instant messaging, group meetings using text-based chat, phone and video calls.
- Price: Free plan has a limit of 10,000 messages, 10 apps and integrations and access to basic features only; Standard plan is $8 per person per month and Plus plan is $15 per person per month although paying annually will provide a discount on these rates. Slack also has plans for nonprofits and schools.
- Integrations: Over 2,000 app integrations including Google Docs, Dropbox, GitHub, Trello, Zapier and Zoom.
Project management is the focus of Asana, whether your team is all in one location or split all around the globe. Asana is one of the premier apps used for tracking projects over time. You can set up Gantt charts for your projects, organized kanban board and list views of tasks and create timelines and calendars for planning and strategy. You can also hold "team conservations" within the app using text-based messaging.
- Best For: Project management for teams or individuals.
- Price: Free plan has basic features and collaboration for up to 15 team members; Premium plan is $13.49 per user per month and Business plan is $30.49 per user per month, with discounts on both rates if purchased annually. Asana has discounts for nonprofits.
- Integrations: Integrates with most of the top productivity apps including Salesforce, Adobe Creative Cloud, Slack, Google Calendar, Google Drive and much more.
Trello is the project management software for people who enjoy a visual representation of their workflow, otherwise known as a "kanban" board. Trello is favored by many because it's easy to use, especially for people put off by looking at spreadsheets. You can use Trello to organize your own projects or collaborate with teams by inviting them to your boards. While Trello is popular because of its ease of use, it does not have as many features as more robust management programs like Asana.
- Best For: Project management for teams or individuals who prefer an easier interface with less complex features.
- Price: Free plan has basic features and a limit of 10 MB per file attachment and 10 team boards; Business Class plan is $9.99 per month per user paid annually and Enterprise plan starts at $20.83 per user for 100 users. Trello also has discounts for nonprofits and schools.
- Integrations: Integrations are called "power-ups" with many widely used apps including Google Drive, Slack, Zapier, Google Hangouts, Evernote, and MailChimp.
Flock is very similar to Slack but has a user interface that some find a bit cleaner and easier to use. It also has its own productivity tools that are built in that you can use rather than relying on integrations with other apps like Slack does. You can also sign in to it with Google, which makes it easier to use for teams that heavily rely on Google products. You can use Flock for text-based chat, video conferencing, file-sharing, and polls.
- Best For: Instant messaging, group meetings using text-based chat, phone and video calls.
- Price: Free plan has basic features and a limit of 10,000 messages, five GB of storage, five third-party integrations and video calls can only be one-to-one; Pro plan is $6.00 per month per user and Enterprise plan starts at $10.00 a month per user. These rates are discounted if you pay for the plans annually. Trello also has discounts for nonprofits and schools.
- Integrations: Has some of its own tools built in, as well as the ability to integrate with popular third-party apps like Trello, Asana, Github, Google Calendar, Jira and Todoist.
ClickUp is an app designed to help teams with an all-in-one solution. The app provides features covering project management, spreadsheets, to do lists, and goal and time tracking. You can also use it for email and chats to keep all of your work-related discussions in one place. It also allows you to capture videos and screenshots of your computer right within the program. ClickUp also allows you to import your data easily from other productivity apps like Asana, Trello, Airtable and your Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. It's designed for the sole user as well as teams.
- Best For: Individuals and teams who want all of their productivity and project management apps in one integrated place.
- Price: Free plan has basic features and a limit of 100 MB of storage with unlimited tasks and users; Unlimited plan is $9 per user per month paid monthly or $5 if paid annually and Business plan is $19 per user per month paid monthly or $9 if paid annually . These rates are discounted if you pay for the plans annually. There are also discounts available for nonprofit organizations.
- Integrations: ClickUp is designed with many "in-house" features making integrations less necessary but there are many third-party integrations you can add with popular software such as Google Calendar, Slack, GitHub, Alexa, and many more.
G Suite is an excellent option for team collaboration. The suite of software allows teams to share a Google Drive and documents that can be worked on by many individuals at once. The software includes Google Docs for writing, Google Sheets for spreadsheets, and Google Slides for presentations. In addition, there are many other features like Google Forms, Google Drawing, a shared Google calendar and Google Hangouts for video meetings.
- Best For: Individuals and teams who want a suite of software options to use for online storage and group collaboration.
- Price: Free plan has basic, but powerful, features and only requires you set up a free Gmail/Google account; G Suite for business starts with Basic at $6 per user per month, Business at $12 per user per month and Enterprise is $25 per user per month. Google also offers a free version of the Basic plan for nonprofit organizations.
- Integrations: You can integrate most of G Suite's products with other apps, such as Zapier, Trello, Asana, ClickUp and more. You can also use Apps Script to code more complex integrations between G Suite software with some coding knowledge.
There are many video chat and conferencing apps available but Zoom has become the "go to" app, especially with the massive rise in online video meeting use in 2020. Zoom's popularity is due to its ease of use, even for the least technically inclined. You can hold video meetings as well as webinars using Zoom's interface and record meetings to a cloud server or right to your computer. Zoom also has specific services for industries like healthcare that can meet additional strict requirements like HIPAA.
- Best For: People who want an easy-to-use video meeting platform, whether it's for business or pleasure.
- Price: Free plan allows up to 100 participants with a 40 minute limit and no limit on one-to-one meetings; Pro plan is $14.99 per month per host, Business plan is $19.99 per month per host, with discounts on both plans if you purchase an annual subscription. Webinar plans start at $40 per month per host for 100 attendees.
- Integrations: Zoom can be integrated into many popular apps like Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, Zapier, and Facebook.
Dropbox is often used for online file storage, but Dropbox Business has many additional features for team collaboration. You can use the Dropbox Paper feature to communicate with team members and edit documents in the Dropbox together. You can also create a central hub for document organization, making it easier for your team members, or just yourself, to find all of your relevant project files.
- Best For: Individuals and teams who want an easy-to-use online storage system.
- Price: Free plan allows you to have 2 GB of storage only; Dropbox Business Standard plan is $12.50 per user per month and Advanced plan is $20 per user per month.
- Integrations: Dropbox works with most popular apps like Zoom, Slack, Trello, Salesforce and more. It can also be integrated into a website, such as a WordPress site.
This app is primarily used by software developers, although you can use it with any type of business or personal use if you're creative. The app uses a kanban style view and scrum boards to help you track your projects' task lists, projects, and allow team members to comment and collaborate on updates. Atlassian Jira provides templates you can easily set up to get going right away, or you can set up your boards on your own.
- Best For: Software developers needing a project management solution, though it can be adapted to any industry.
- Price: Free plan allows you to have up to 10 users and basic features; Standard plan is $7 per user per month and Premium plan is $14 per user per month.
- Integrations: Atlassian Jira can be integrated with over 3,000 third-party apps such as HubSpot, Bitbucket, Microsoft Teams and Slack.
If you love spreadsheets and databases, you'll enjoy Airtable. Though it might seem intimidating at first, it's very easy for new users to pick up and develop interactive spreadsheets and databases. It's also a visually appealing app which makes collaboration easier. You can create databases on your own or use Airtable's set of templates to get started with minimal effort. There are templates for a wide variety of industries, from social media content calendars to event planning to bug trackers for developers. There are even templates for hobby groups and everyday life uses like keeping track of your pets' medical records, grocery lists and more.
- Best For: Individuals and teams who want to create actionable databases and lists for home and business use.
- Price: Free plan lets you have 1,200 records per database and 2 GB of space with limited features; Plus plan is $10 per user per month and Pro plan is $20 per user per month. Both plans are billed annually. Airtable offers discounts for educational and nonprofit organizations.
- Integrations: Airtable can be integrated with over 1,000 apps and websites using tools like Zapier, Automate.io or Workato.
Using Online Collaboration Tools
As more and more people move to a remote work style and companies spread their workforce out over the globe, expect online collaboration software and apps to become more sophisticated. At the same time, developers are rapidly creating features to make them easier to use for even the most tech averse people. Most offer a free version as well as free trials for the paid versions, so give them all a try with your team, or by yourself, to find that one that works best for your needs.