In recent years, the professional environment has evolved into an always connected, increasingly mobile place. This shift paved the way for freelancers and remote workers to thrive, and for some, to even become the lifeblood of business.
A Gallup poll says around 37% of workers in the U.S. have at least tried telecommuting, while staying as productive as other employees. The research also revealed that the average worker telecommutes at least two days in a month. Nowadays, work-from-home setups and distributed global offices can be as successful as your regular Wall Street conglomerate.
In order for your business to stay afloat even in the absence of a physical workplace, you need to harness the power of communication tools that places great emphasis on collaboration capabilities. Your usual devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets count as your main tools. Your broadband internet connection and your internet-powered communications provider serve as your actual gateway to your workplace.
If you’re on the lookout for a cloud platform that lets you collaborate with other team members within a virtual office environment, consider the following tools as your options.
Hubbion is by far the only completely free collaboration tool that offers unlimited collaboration among an unlimited number of users with no restriction whatsoever on the file sizes. Also, unlike a number of other collaboration tools in the market today, Hubbion does not restrict communication to one team of users. Instead, users may interact with multiple teams simultaneously and all projects that they are involved as a project creator, assignee or just as a participant are aggregated and may be viewed over one dashboard.
Acquired in 2015 by cloud communications leader RingCentral to complement its already powerful platform, Glip has made it easier for people to participate in team conversations via simple text chat and through typical collaboration capabilities such as instant file sharing, task management, calendars, and more. This online tool offers a free version, but existing subscribers of the RingCentral Office suite can also extend their phone system’s capabilities through click-to-call and quick directory controls that can be used in conjunction with Glip. It earns plus points for its intuitive, dedicated app that runs on virtually everything – on a desktop app, on Android or iOS devices, and yes, even on browsers (for those who hate installing stuff).
This tool is particularly geared towards users of Atlassian products (especially JIRA). However, it can also be enjoyed by most collaborative teams since it offers simpler, cheaper pricing than most of its competitors. Users also praise it for its numerous integrations not normally found on other tools and the seemingly unlimited cap on file uploads. The UI also feels pretty much straightforward, and some have noticed how the tool keeps its “web-based” look and feel regardless of the client used. For simple team chats, HipChat could be a top contender.
On other team collaboration tools, users have to log out and log in each time they want to switch teams. Slack has found a way to address this so it’s become very ideal for freelancers who work on multiple projects or companies at a time using the same email address. Slack also gained the nod of several teams for its powerful search capabilities that even extends to file attachments. To top it off, Slack has a ton of investors behind it. Although this isn’t a product feature, you’re assured that the company behind it has the money for research and development – which usually translates to more features.
Zoho offers an array of business productivity tools claiming that it’s your “operating system for business.” It delivers sales and marketing apps and business process apps, but its strength lies in its modular email and collaboration offering that makes project monitoring a whole lot easier. Although its features may sound too high-level, they’re pretty simple to use. You can plan projects with milestones, task lists, recurring tasks, subtasks, and the like. It can be very ideal for complex projects because the tool allows you to break them down into subtasks to make them more manageable. There’s also a dedicated bug tracker so you can tag and fix issues faster, making it more ideal for developers.
As with any other paid business solution, the perfect cloud collaboration tool for your team can’t just be based on what’s popular in the market right now or the cheapest among the lot. Some of the products mentioned above have certain advantages over another, so you have to carefully examine your options and find one that will work well with your existing workflow.
Ronald is a digital marketing specialist for RingCentral, a leading cloud phone system solution. Over the years, he has developed a keen interest on small business trends because of the nature of his work. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.