Online collaboration tools your team needs to bring their A-game

Mon Mar 23 2020 - 7 min read

Maybe you caught a cold, the plumber is coming to fix your leaky sink, or you work from home full-time. There’s no reason why your productivity should suffer, and that project your team is working on should be put on hold. Lucky for you, you can use many online tools to help your teammates work together no matter where they are. Let’s check some of them out.

For managing tasks and workload

When it comes to project management, most people think about Asana or Trello. These platforms are quite popular, and teams from various industries use them daily.

Trello allows to integrate more tools, has a larger file upload limit, and offers a comprehensive search system. On the other hand, Asana supports more team members on the freemium plan, has better communication options, and more built-in features. Their structure and premium plans are quite similar, so it often comes down to personal preference, prior experience, and specific needs.

Large projects are one thing, but keeping up with minor jobs and assignments can be just as challenging. Especially if you’re the kind of person who tends to forget that they promised to take a quick look at a proposal email or send out or those conference slides.

Tools like Todoist or Microsoft’s To Do are great for people who always have a million tiny tasks. You can set deadlines and reminders, add notes, rearrange them according to their urgency, etc. And if your teammates sync their accounts, everyone can see each other’s workload and assign tasks accordingly.

For keeping in touch

You can’t have successful collaboration without communication. Not everyone has a perfect talent for writing detailed briefs. Additional information is often needed, and even if everything seems clear, double-checking is not going to hurt. However, leave Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for friends and family. When it comes to communicating with your teammates, there are many dedicated business tools you can use.

If you’re old school, you might immediately think of Skype. It’s free, you can create group chats, send private messages, add your customers, make video calls, and it’s been around for years. It might work for small teams that want a free service without too many limitations and don’t need a lot of features.

Larger businesses, though, should invest in a good communication platform.

Slack is the most popular collaboration tool out there. It supports private and public channels as well as 1:1 chats and small group chats with up to nine people. You can also send large files (up to 1GB) and make video calls with 15 people at a time. The interface is easy to use, and the service allows integrating hundreds of other apps.

One of the main things that make Slack so useful is its powerful search. It makes it easy to find that old link or a message that you need but can’t remember where it was. You can search by date, channel, or person, insert keywords, and easily find what you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if your company is already paying for Microsoft’s Office 365, their Teams platform is the way to go — it doesn’t cost extra. Even though it’s not easy to set up, it’s fully integrated with Office 365 apps. This is great news if your team doesn’t need the boatload of integrations that Slack offers.

Other platforms worth considering are Flock (pros: unlimited message history; cons: confusing UI), Discord (pros: unlimited free voice calls; cons: privacy issues), Flowdock (pros: unlimited message history; cons: no built-in audio/video calls).

For sharing files and ideas

When it comes to sharing files with your team, it can go two ways. Do you want to be able to edit, review, and work together on a file, or do you just need storage space? Maybe a file transfer service is all you’re looking for?

When it comes to sharing files with your team, it can go two ways. Do you want to be able to edit, review, and work together on a file, or do you just need storage space? Maybe a file transfer service is all you’re looking for?

The top three file sharing and cloud storage providers are Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive. Choosing between them is tricky, so here’s a short summary of the three:

  1. Google Drive offers straightforward UX and unlimited storage to Enterprise accounts. It works on Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS and integrates seamlessly with MS Office files. Google Drive’s file sharing and editing features make it stand out from its competition, as well as its 24/7 customer support (available via chat, email, and phone.)

    Unfortunately, to benefit from all its features, businesses will need to buy Google’s other products as well. But the main issue is security. Google can access, scan, and analyze your data. It uses the information for advertising and adjusting your Google search results. The Drive is also linked to a Gmail address, so one compromised account could mean problems for the whole team or even the company.

  2. One Drive is cheaper than Google Drive, with as little as $5 per user, compared to Google’s $10. Much like with Google Drive, you won’t get all the benefits it offers, if you don’t buy other Microsoft products. But if your business already uses Office 365, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Exchange, picking OneDrive is a no-brainer. It will lead to faster, smoother collaboration between your teammates and the whole organization as it integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products. OneDrive is also an excellent standalone cloud storage solution if you’re only looking for that and don’t care for sharing and permission management tools.

    However, there is no unlimited storage option, as every user gets 1TB of storage, and the maximum file size is 15GB. And if offline editing is a must, you might be better off picking another provider, as offline access is only available on the app.

  3. Dropbox offers unlimited storage and allows uploading files as large as 50GB. You can access it online through your browser or use the folder on your device to simply drag-and-drop your files. As the cloud storage pioneer, it offers a lot of features, like remote file wiping, end-to-end encryption, and manual permission management. When it comes to security, Dropbox is also in the lead. It’s open-source, so anyone can work on the code and patch any vulnerabilities they might find.

    However, Dropbox is the most expensive out of the three, starting at $12.50 per user per month. And, unlike Google and Microsoft, it won’t scan your files for viruses, so if one of your teammates uploads an infected file, all devices linked to the account could end up with malware. However, this also means that it will not scan your data and sell it to third parties.

But what if unlimited (and expensive!) terabytes of storage is not what you’re looking for? If you only need a fast and efficient way to share large files with your teammates, and online editing is not a necessity, you can opt for a cheaper service like WeTransfer. It only does one thing, so it’s not as versatile as others, but it gets the job done — fast. With 1TB of space, excellent upload and download speeds, expiry dates, and password-protected files, it might be all you need to finish your project.

For staying safe

Working from home means that you must connect to the office from time to time. But it also means that you send and receive sensitive information and communicate with your coworkers through your home network or public Wi-Fi.

If you don't want anyone listening in, use NordVPN Teams for end-to-end encryption. It will also allow you to securely access systems and servers back at the office. NordVPN Teams works on all devices, so you can collaborate with your teammates and use your company's resources wherever you are.

No matter which communication or file transfer platform you choose, it is also important to protect sensitive files that you send and receive — as well as those that you store online. Use NordLocker to encrypt data in transit and on the cloud. Your teammates will be able to share sensitive information without being scared that someone will steal any of it. Even if someone managed to get their hands on your file, it would be entirely impossible to decrypt.

How do you choose the right service for you and your team?

  • Know what you need. Maybe your startup doesn’t need 30TB of storage space, and every feature Trello has to offer right away? Instead, look for a service that will allow you to upgrade your account to accommodate your needs. This way, you won’t have to look for a different solution and move your whole team from platform to platform as it grows.

  • Think about compatibility. If you use MS Office, it’s easier to save and share files on OneDrive. But if your team prefers Google Docs, it makes sense to use Google Drive. Always look into how new tools will integrate with the ones you’re already using. It will make collaboration and performing daily tasks easier and faster.

  • Pay attention to security. Is the provider known to have privacy issues? Do they have back-ups? You don’t want your years’ worth of work disappearing with no way to recover it. Is two-factor authentication available? With so many people using various online tools and accounts containing sensitive company information, you want it to be safe.

Keep your tools safe

While security is important when choosing a provider, you must secure those accounts on your end as well. Encourage your teammates to use long, complex passwords that are impossible to guess. And use a password manager to store all of them safely. Not to mention, secure password sharing is vital to a team working remotely. You can’t just come to someone’s desk and whisper it to them. And you definitely can’t just send it to them in plain text.

NordPass allows you to share passwords securely by sending them to other users’ vaults. You can grant and revoke access to your passwords whenever you want, and all of them will be stored securely in the cloud. No one will be able to get their hands on them, thanks to our uncrackable XChaCha20 encryption.

Working remotely has never been easier — just remember to stay safe.

Monica Webster
Monica Webster
Verified author
Monica is the spirit of our content team. Her bubbliness and creativity sparkle her articles. She loves to investigate various security related problems and bring useful tips to readers. When she is not writing about technology, she explores art.
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