Small Business Collaboration Tools For Anywhere Workers
Teamwork is crucial in any workplace. But when you have staff working remotely, collaborating can be a catastrophe. More so when they’re using dissimilar technologies to link up online.
Good thing there are new virtual tools that make wired co-operation a breeze. There’s no need for a remote connection to your LAN. These software services are based in the cloud. They’re cost effective (free in many cases), though their levels of security vary.
Collaboration tools are great for your anywhere workers, especially telecommuters and road warriors. Services can be categorized in four functionality levels: private e-mail; document storage; synchronization and version retention; or full online collaboration.
Mobile E-Mail With Privacy Protection
The simplest plank in online collaboration is standard e-mail. A third-party service like Microsoft Outlook or Google Mail is free. Each can process and store large quantities of messages (including all sorts of attachments). The trade-off is lack of privacy: the service provider can read any mail that passes through its servers.
Collaborators can instead use the employer’s e-mail program if it’s fairly secure. But you may worry that this provides a backdoor for hackers to access your system’s confidential data. To prevent this, consider an external, privacy protected e-mail application.
A number of these are now available, such as Hushmail or ZipLip. They work on all mobile devices. Features include spam and virus filtering, and “allow or block” lists. They can be integrated with regular email clients that support POP3/IMAP. E-mails are encrypted using secure technologies such as OpenPGP. In addition, they can mask real IP addresses for even more privacy.
Cloud Storage and Document Sharing
The next aspect of virtual collaboration is to share and edit documents. All the big e-mail providers offer free cloud storage and sharing of files. Microsoft has OneDrive. Google Drive bills itself as “One place for all your files.” Yahoo’s version is teamed with Dropbox.
All of them give you between five to fifteen gigabytes of file storage. Pretty much any document type can be filed and retrieved wherever there’s a wi-fi connection. Files can be shared back and forth with group members. It’s kind of like a back-up hard drive but in the cloud.
Document Synchronization and Version Retention
Business users may want to explore more robust storage and sharing options. A good example is fee-based storage and synchronization from SugarSync or DropBox. Their professional versions start with 1,000 gigabytes of space.
An especially useful feature is that each time a file is revised and saved, every single version is stored online. This way virtual team members can share documents, make changes, yet always have the latest version handy.
Files automatically synchronize with the user’s devices. Strong encryption is used (256-bit AES), and SSL creates a secure tunnel for data transfers. Another safety feature is if a computer is lost or someone leaves your business, you can remotely delete that Dropbox folder.
Full Online Collaboration
Comprehensive solutions are available too for your anywhere work teams. Google and Microsoft compete head to head, with Google Apps for Business versus Microsoft365 for business. There are many other alternatives as well.
All-purpose cloudware collaboration has three main element: document creation and revision, storage, and team communication. Administrator tools are included.
In terms of document creation, Google Apps for Business comes with Docs word processing, Sheets spreadsheets, Slides for presentations, and Sites to produce intranet sites for projects and knowledge sharing. Microsoft 365 gives you Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher, plus Team Sites for group work.
Both Google and Microsoft throw in calendars and meeting planning. Plus task scheduling and prioritization features. Teams can store documents on a private site and use a project-specific mailbox to help everyone get to those documents fast from their email or the project site itself.
Regarding communication, Google has Gmail, as well as Hangouts (where voice and video calls can be exchanged). Microsoft’s equivalents are its Outlook email, also HD video conferencing and screen sharing for online meetings.
Anywhere workers are productive wherever they are. In their cars, homes, coffee shops, or offices away from the office.
Enable your staff with the collaboration tools they need. Don’t overload them with bells and whistles they’ll never use though. An uncluttered solution that gets used often beats bloatware they’ll abandon.
The cloud makes flexible and remote teamwork possible. Free up your employees to contribute as a team without being tied down physically.