From in-person meetings to online videoconferencing, technology has made communicating with employees and clients easier and more affordable than ever. Whether you connect using a software, mobile app or social media, here are 12 collaboration tools to consider for your small business.
Everyone has their preferred way of attending online meetings. BlueJeans cloud-based video communications gives attendees the flexibility of joining videoconferences using a Web browser, desktop app or mobile phone, all while making meetings more productive with a wide range of collaboration features that are available across platforms. This includes the ability to host meetings in conference rooms and town halls, share screens and record meetings. BlueJeans also makes it easy to combine workflows, such as scheduling meetings using Outlook, chat using Skype and other integrations with popular business apps and services. Users who don't have a video- or audio-capable devices can also phone in to join meetings. BlueJeans starts at $9.95 per meeting host per month.
Meetings aren't just for discussing goals and ideas. Do offers an all-in-one tool that aims to help businesses hold more productive meetings by making sure things are getting done. This collaboration tool helps users create agendas, keep notes, track progress and follow up on tasks to increase productivity. Do is also searchable, making it easy to find meeting items and improve accountability amongst teams and employees. The platform also comes with an Insights feature, which lets businesses track how much time and money are being spent on meetings to make them more efficient. Do costs $10 per month per user. [See Related Story: Best Business Phone Systems]
3. Google Hangouts
Whether you need to make voice calls or video calls, or simply chat and send multimedia messages, Google Hangouts makes all types of group collaboration super easy — regardless of your team members' locations and devices. From desktops to Android and iOS mobile devices, Hangouts lets you connect with up to 10 people from all over the world. You can make voice calls straight from your computer (calls to the US and Canada are free), as well as hold videoconferences and even live-stream meetings and events. The service also lets you keep a history of your Hangouts, so you can always go back to old conversations for reference. Google Hangouts is free. Paid subscriptions are also available to increase the number of people you can connect to in a single session.
Are your employees always on the go? Broadview Networks' OfficeSuite is a cloud-based communications system that's fully accessible anytime, anywhere. In addition to audio, Web and video conferencing, OfficeSuite also offers unlimited nationwide calling, toll-free phone service, digital faxing and the following mobility features: Mobile Twinning, which makes all incoming calls ring your desk and mobile phone simultaneously; Hot Desking to enable incoming and outgoing calls from any phone; and Virtual Voicemail to receive notifications and messages from any phone, online or by email. Contact Broadview Networks for pricing information.
If you need a basic, easy-to-use Web-conferencing solution, Citrix's free GoToMeeting can get you started immediately. Just use its one-click meeting feature to quickly schedule meetings straight from Outlook or Google Calendar. In addition to HD videoconferecing, GoToMeeting also comes with dozens of useful tools to help your meetings be more productive and interactive. This includes screen sharing, Web audio, a dial-in conference line, drawing tools and the ability to record meetings. GoToMeeting starts at $24 per month for up to five people. If you need more participants and features, check out the Pro plan ($39 per month) for 25 attendees and the Plus plan ($49 per month) plans for up to 100 attendees. A free 30-day trial is also available.
6. Unified Meeting 5
Collaborating should be easy. Unified Meeting 5, created by conferencing solutions provider InterCall, is an all-in-one audio, video and Web conferencing platform that makes creating and joining meetings a piece of cake. It provides simplified scheduling tools, offers streamlined audio call management and seamlessly integrates with popular business tools. Attendees join meetings by clicking on a link from a meeting invitation. They can do this on their desktop computer, smartphone or tablet, no matter where they are located. Unified Meeting 5 also operates on the same network as InterCall's enterprise customers, giving small business owners access to the same reliable connection without the enterprise price tag. Unified Meeting 5 plans start at $19 a month, or 17 cents per minute per attendee on the pay-as-you-go plan.
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7. Fuze Meeting
Do you need more flexibility in your meetings? Fuze Meeting comes packed with capabilities that take online and live meetings to the next level. In addition to offering high-definition (HD) audio and video conferencing, Fuze Meeting also lets users present documents, multimedia, animations and other types of rich content. Participants can access Fuze Meeting using any device, whether they are in the same room, down the hall or across the country. Users can easily schedule meetings directly from Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. Fuze Meeting is free for up to 25 participants and includes 12 HD video feeds, unlimited VoIP, screen and content sharing, and 1 GB of cloud storage. Pro plans for start at $8 a month for additional participants.
8. Zoho Meeting
There's more to Web conferencing than staff meetings. Zoho Meeting offers a comprehensive online meeting solution that lets businesses do everything from hold live meetings to share product demonstrations with prospects and provide remote client support. Users simply sign in with their Google, Facebook or Yahoo accounts; via Google Apps; or by entering a meeting session ID from any Windows, Mac or Linux device. You can also embed meetings on webpages, blogs and wikis for easy access. Zoho Meetings is free for up to one host and one participant, but meetings are limited to one hour. Paid plans start $12 a month for additional participants.
Businesses that rely heavily on meetings need a full-featured communications software solution. Cisco's WebEx offers HD video conferences with collaboration and file-sharing capabilities for all types of meetings, including presentations, sales demos, online training sessions, Web-based events, staff meetings, remote tech support and more. WebEx is also fully accessible on mobile devices using the WebEx mobile app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. The basic version of WebEx is free, but is limited to three people per meeting. Premium versions start at $19 a month and include phone call-ins, application sharing, remote control and live 24/7 support.
Sometimes, you just need an old-fashioned instant messaging program. There are several free chat tools available, but they have major security concerns. Campfire, a Web-based group chat platform, lets businesses create secure, password-protected chat rooms using any browser instantly. Its features include image uploads, voice-conference calling, chat transcripts, third-party Windows and Mac OS X app integrations, and other extras. The Campfire iPhone app features image previews and inline file viewing within the mobile chat room itself. Campfire's basic plan costs $12 a month.
A Facebook group for your company makes a great team-building resource, but it's certainly not the place to discuss work-related matters. Try Yammer instead. With this program, businesses can create their own private social networks to unite employees and share internal information. The platform looks a lot like Facebook and offers similar capabilities: profile pages, status updates, likes, comments, groups, private messages, chat and more. Users can also upload photos, documents and other files. Yammer's basic service is free to use. Paid plans come with advanced support, security, administration and other tools, and start at $3 a month per user. Yammer can also integrate with Office 365 and SharePoint for an additional cost.
Remote support has come a long way from relaying issues over the phone. TeamViewer gives anyone complete access to desktops, applications and data so users can skip explaining problems and reduce miscommunication. Available 24/7, this program does not require any installation on the client's part. In addition to remote support, TeamViewer also provides an online collaboration platform for holding meetings, presentations and training sessions. The TeamViewer software costs $749 and is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.
Save employees from drowning in their inboxes. DeskAway is a project management and collaboration software that aims to reduce email clutter by providing team members with a centralized place to communicate and track their work. Instead of sending a chain of emails with a barrage of attachments, DeskAway makes it easy to find what employees need when they need it. The completely Web-based platform makes it easy to get started, as there is nothing to download, install or configure. DeskAway plans start at $25 a month for up to 25 projects, 20 users and 2 GB of storage.