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7 Virtual Collaboration Tools I Use Daily

Drop BoxCollaboration, outsourcing and virtual workforces and offices are trends that are here to stay and getting even hotter as companies look for ways to work more efficiently and cut overhead costs.

Low overhead is one of the competitive advantages of small businesses and each new online technology that supports getting work done without employees makes this even more so.

Today I would like to share 7 of these tools that I use every day without fail. Some you may have used some may be new to you. Most are free, some I pay for. (Hint: I would pay for the free ones but they don’t ask me to)

Dropbox – online file storage and sharing. This is simply a high powered FTP site, but the interface and workflow is so great. I use a desktop application from dropbox and simply drag files there and they are stored online automatically. I can share folders with anyone and when they upload files they show up on my desktop. I can even set-up public folders so anyone can send large files without clogging email.

Basecamp – this is an online project management tool that allows you to set-up projects with collaborators and customers and manage all manner of communication, file and document sharing, and chat. I use this with the Duct Tape Marketing Coach network as a form of Intranet.

iLinc – virtual collaboration is great, but sometimes you need to work in real time, face to face (sort of) iLinc is web and video conferencing tool that really shines when it comes to online collaboration. You can work on documents together via the web, video chat, access files and programs off each others desktops and visit web sites together with a live browser – so you can take someone to a page and walk them through a real demo or sign-up process. Disclosure: iLinc sponsors my podcast.

SimpleEvent – this is a free conference call service, but it has a ridiculous amount of features. I love to put together meetings on the fly and have multiple folks join. I also use it to host my large web meetings for the audio portion. I can have up to 96 full talk to talk and 1000 talk to listen on at once. There’s no scheduling, it’s always on and always live.

GMail – this is just big, fat, free, email service, but I love the way it works and takes advantage of being fully online. You can run your own domain through GMail (I use it to send as I don’t have to worry about my local ISP quirks when I travel) and create multiple profiles for all your various rolls in life. I use Google Talk for IM and it’s built right into GMail.

Jott – Jott allows you to record voice memos that get turned into email text. You can set-up boxes for anyone you collaborate with and send notes as you wiz down the freeway. You can create groups for distribution, post appointments to Google Calendar, and even update your twitter feed all with voice messages.

Google Calendar – Another Google tool, I know, but I like setting up calendars and sharing them with collaborators and also tapping the fact that these calendars produce RSS feeds so I can publish them in cool ways to websites and have anyone I give access produce content for those sites. Also sync with desktop and phone calendars over the air.

I know there are lots of great tools out there to do everything I’ve mentioned above. So, what tools do you use for virtual collaboration.

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  • http://www.innerpass.com TJ

    Have you tried InnerPass? It is a Skype Intergrated collaboration extra called “InnerPass Share and Collaborate.” It brings the functionality of Skype’s conference calling and chat to a “virtual” meeting room. Once in the room the host and their guests have the ability to upload and store documents, screen share, and launch conference calls or chats. It is a great way help the efficiency of your business as well as lowering costs.

    https://extras.skype.com/1898/view

  • http://appbeacon.com AppBeacon

    DropBox is great. It works for Mac, Windows, and Linux. I think it is about the most versatile of all the available tools. Also, the first 2GB are free!

    Be careful about going to the website. It is NOT dropbox.com. Instead it is getdropbox.com

  • http://appbeacon.com AppBeacon

    Another great feature of DropBox is the URL feature. If you need to get a file to someone without actually giving them access to your DropBox, you just right click on the file. It creates a URL for you to email to that person. They can then access it from any web browser.

  • http://www.maslawfirm.com Matthew Austin

    Great ideas! I personally use Google Calendars so that my wife and I can keep up with each other’s work/social lives without sending each other e-mails as to what meetings we have or calling each other only to learn that the other is not available, or wondering what time each of us will get home from work that evening, etc.

  • http://www.apokrisis.com Kristen Lindsey

    Nice post. I like the DropBox tool- I have been looking for this, as other options have not been very helpful! I have been using CentralDesktop.com for a small group of collaborators for project and task management and it has been great. It is also scalable up to the enterprise level for various rates. Anyone else using it? Feedback? It also has Skype and conferencing built in, though I haven;t used those tools yet.

  • http://www.ParcEntertainment.com Clint Till

    Great resources. I’ve been using DropBox for a while and love it. I will definitely look into Jott.

  • http://www.more-for-small-business.com Kris Bovay

    Thanks for this tools list. I will definitely check them out; I love the idea of Jott – I have an hour commute each way – I would like to make that lost time more productive!

  • http://www.thedrumming.org Gillian Brouse

    It’s amazing what is available for free or for a small fee nowadays.

    I use Skype for IM, calling, and even three-way calling. Cross platform, ability to whiteboard and share files etc.

    I also use Calliflower for conference calling. It has some cool facebook friendly features and is free for the organizer (you should check it out.)

    I am going to try out a few of the apps you mention. They sound very cool.

  • http://www.stacybrice.com Stacy Brice

    I think the penultimate collaborative tool (for PC only–sorry Mac peeps, truly!) is Groove from Microsoft. So many were tweeting with me about it that I wrote more about it on my Twitwall for my @assistu account: http://snipurl.com/8xvob

  • John Jantsch

    @Stacy – sounds interesting, but no Mac version means it’s not really a collaboration tool at all. That’s what is so great about the SAAS, browser based tools.

  • http://www.launch-marketing.com Christa Tuttle

    Dropbox seems like a great solution to help speed collaboration and workflow, as well as helping to save memory on laptops, the modus operandi of almost anyone these days. I know Google provides some other similar applications to those mentioned above, but it is always nice to know of new and alternate solutions with different features. Two others I recommend as well include:

    Yahoo! Groups: I use this for list serve communication

    digsby: I use it primarily for IM but it is also good for social networking too. digsby is a multiprotocol IM client that lets you chat with all your friends on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, and Jabber with one simple-to-manage buddy list.

  • http://www.stacybrice.com Stacy Brice

    Aw c’mon, John. Saying that Groove’s not a collaborative tool because Mac folks can’t use it/collaborate with it is pretty much like saying OSX isn’t really an operating system because PC users can’t run their PCs with it.

    I think the best collaborative tool is the one that’s best for those who are collaborating. And I believe that for PC users, collaborating with other PC users, that’s Groove.

  • http://beztar.wordpress.com Beztar Johnson

    Dropbox looks very cool!

  • tim

    Hey, happy holidays, from someone laid off due to everyone promoting the idea of outsourcing all your needs to other countries.

    Here’s hoping that “trends … getting even hotter as companies look for ways to work more efficiently and cut overhead costs” continues to add”… competitive advantages of small businesses … that supports getting work done without employees makes this even more so.”

    Yeah, go ahead, keep doing this and there will be no one left in the US who can do anything for you or your small business – like buy any of your products.

  • John Jantsch

    @tim – sorry to hear that, but no one is talking about sending jobs elsewhere, but view this as your wake-up call to start your own business or start doing virtual work for others – now you don’t have to go looking for work in your town, look for and gain employment and opportunity across the world.

  • http://www.stacybrice.com Stacy Brice

    As the person who formalized the Virtual Assistance profession juuuust about 12 years ago, I am, as you may expect, a big fan of outsourcing (not offshoring)–where and when it makes sense to do so, and it doesn’t always.

    I’m sorry you’ve lost your job to that, Tim. Take heart knowing that companies beyond the micro business have a lot to learn about what’s appropriate and what’s actually penny wise and pound foolish. If you were in a job that required critical thinking and/or creativity skills, they’ve probably made an error they’ll regret.

    And although it really sounds from your comment that you’re still terrifically upset about having lost your job and you might not be able to really hear this, John’s advice is smart. There *is* no safety or security in employment. It’s only in what you create for yourself.

    So beat them at their own game. If you’d like some support thinking through that, let me know. I’d love to see if I can help.

    Stacy

    PS — I know this was off topic, John…just couldn’t really leave it alone, and with no way to contact him…you know how it is. :)

  • Susuchi

    Checkout DeskAway! Its got great features & is very simple & easy to use. Checkout its new SSL security & BaseEscape feature. Its simply excellent! You can import all your Basecamp data to DeskAway using. Also you can socialize with your team by uploading your profile & photo. You can also get the overall Project Reporting,get Email reminders, get the complete Export/Backup & much more.
    http://www.deskaway.com

  • Bruce

    I would say to check out Vitalist if you are looking to share your task lists and projects with colleagues and co-workers.

  • http://smrana.blogspot.com/ SM Rana

    I like HyperOffice, since it brings together many of the above functionalities in a single solution – project management, document synchronization and management right from your desktop, mail, and web conferencing. Its advantageous to have all your tools in once place.

  • http://smrana.blogspot.com/ SM Rana

    I like HyperOffice, since it brings together many of the above functionalities in a single solution – project management, document synchronization and management right from your desktop, mail, and web conferencing. Its advantageous to have all your tools in once place.