- Remote work has pushed companies to adopt online communication and collaboration software quickly.
- These cloud-based tools allow colleagues to work together easily, regardless of where they are.
- Some, such as Zoom and Slack, are household names, but there are many other options available as well.
- This article is for any small business owner who wants to implement more collaborative tools in their company’s daily operations.
From in-person meetings to online video conferencing, technology has made communicating with employees and clients easier and more affordable than ever. Whether you connect through software, a mobile app or social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, there are various collaboration tools to consider for your small business. This guide offers a look at 12 useful tools you can use to keep your teams connected.
- BlueJeans by Verizon
- Windstream Enterprise OfficeSuite UC
- Cisco Webex
- Google Meet
- Microsoft Teams
- Zoho Meeting
These 12 collaboration and communication tools should be at the front of any small business owner’s mind as they seek a proper solution to get the team to work together.
Top internal communication and collaboration tools
From text-only chat to live video calls, these programs stand out as powerful and affordable solutions for any small business looking to ensure employees and managers can keep in touch with one another easily.
1. BlueJeans by Verizon
Everyone has a preferred way of attending online meetings. BlueJeans, a cloud-based video communications platform, gives attendees the flexibility of joining video conferences 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. These include the ability to host meetings in conference rooms and town halls, share screens and record meetings.
BlueJeans makes it easy to combine workflows. For instance, you can schedule meetings with Outlook and Google Calendar and integrate the software with other popular business apps and services. All content is transmitted with AES-GCM 256-bit encryption and conversations can benefit from BlueJeans’ real-time closed captioning for hearing-impaired users. Users who don’t have video- or audio-capable devices can phone in to join meetings.
Plans for BlueJeans Meetings start at $9.99 per host, per month, if billed annually. The Pro version, which supports up to 75 meeting participants and 5 hours of recording, starts at $13.99 per host, per month, if billed annually and expands meetings to 150 participants and 25 hours of recording. The Enterprise plan is priced at $16.66 per host, per month, when billed annually and supports up to 200 participants and unlimited recording. [Could your business benefit from video conferencing? If so, check out the video conference services we recommend for small businesses.]
2. Windstream Enterprise OfficeSuite UC
Are your employees always on the go? OfficeSuite UC is a 100% cloud-based UCaaS (unified communications as a service) system that’s fully accessible anytime, anywhere. In addition to audio, web and video conferencing, OfficeSuite offers unlimited nationwide calling, toll-free phone service and digital faxing. It also has useful 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, allowing you to receive notifications and messages from any phone, online or by email.
Built into OfficeSuite UC are integrations with third-party applications like Salesforce, Skype, Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), Slack and Microsoft Teams. UC also features contact center services to help users create queues for calls and chats, as well as live and historical agent activity and the ability to record calls. Contact Windstream Enterprise for pricing information.
3. Cisco Webex
Businesses that rely heavily on meetings need full-featured communications software. Cisco’s Webex offers high-definition (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 and remote tech support.
Webex is fully accessible on mobile devices with the Webex mobile app for iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry. The basic version of Webex is free and supports up to 100 meeting participants, but it’s limited to a single user and meetings can only last up to 50 minutes. Premium versions start at $25 per month and include phone call-ins, file transfers, 5GB of cloud recording storage and live 24/7 support.
For businesses that host lots of webinars, ClickMeeting has dozens of tools to help you set up and run a smooth presentation. You can plan out your webinar beforehand with your branding, slideshows and screen sharing. You can make custom invitations and registration pages to get everyone you need into your webinar room.
During the presentation, you can add polls, use a Q&A chat tool and create calls to action. The webinar can be saved for later viewing as well. ClickMeeting starts at $25 per month if billed annually, with support for up to 25 participants in meetings and up to six hours of recording storage. There is also a $40 per month plan that includes useful webinar automations and a custom plan for companies in need of a bespoke solution.
Do you need more flexibility in your meetings? Fuze (now an 8×8 company) is packed with capabilities to take online and live meetings to the next level. In addition to offering HD audio and video conferencing for up to 1,000 participants, Fuze lets users present documents, multimedia, animations and other types of rich content.
Participants can access Fuze on any device, whether they are in the same room as the meeting, down the hall or across the country. You can easily schedule meetings directly from Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. Fuze starts at $15 per user, per month, with the option to upgrade to tiers with more features and support for more users.
Our 8×8 review found the company to be the best business phone system for basic services. Consider them if your business needs an effective phone system that won’t break the bank.
6. Google Meet
Whether you need to make voice calls or video calls or chat and send multimedia messages, Google Meet is the kind of group collaboration tool that makes all types of communication among employees super-easy, regardless of your team members’ locations and devices.
Like other components of the Google Workspace, Meet features improvements from Google’s previous flagship team communication tool, Hangouts. Through Meet, you can make voice calls straight from your computer (calls to the United States and Canada are free), hold video conferences and livestream meetings and events. Users who don’t have access to a computer or an internet connection can dial in with a unique meeting phone number.
The Business Starter tier starts at $6 per user, per month, and includes a custom business email address, 100-participant video meetings, 30GB of cloud storage per user and standard support. Higher service tiers are also available, including plans at $12 per user, per month, $18 per user, per month and custom plans with upgraded features to support the larger price tags.
If you need a basic, easy-to-use web conferencing solution, LogMeIn’s GoToMeeting can get you started immediately. You can use its one-click meeting feature to schedule meetings through integrations with Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Google Calendar and Microsoft Teams.
In addition to HD video conferencing, GoToMeeting offers dozens of useful tools to make your meetings more productive and interactive. These include screen sharing, web audio, a dial-in conference line, drawing tools and the ability to record meetings.
GoToMeeting starts at $12 per month, per user, if billed annually and supports up to 150 participants. If you need more participants and features, check out the Business plan ($16 per user, per month, if billed annually) for 250 attendees. There’s also the Enterprise plan for up to 3,000 participants, although that will require a custom quote from LogMeIn’s sales department. A free 14-day trial is available. [Want to learn more? Check out our full review of GoToMeeting.]
8. Microsoft Teams
Businesses with Office 365 subscriptions have access to Microsoft’s robust video conferencing and chat tools. Having effectively replaced Skype for Business as the company’s main business communication platform, Microsoft Teams is a quintessential video chat platform full of powerful features like screen and file sharing, shared apps and workflows and a visual style called Together Mode that makes it look like everyone participating in the meeting is in the same room.
The free version has plenty of features, including collaboration tools and screen sharing, custom backgrounds, unlimited chat messages, real-time collaboration in Microsoft Office and scheduling tools through Outlook. Microsoft Teams is also included in existing Microsoft 365 subscription plans. Paid plans include Essentials, Basic and Standard, which cost $4, $6 and $12.50 per user, per month, respectively.
Slack is a multipurpose platform for project management, instant messaging and video conferencing. It allows you to create several channels for different teams and makes it easy to add new members to multiple channels. From here, team members can instant-message each other, share and store files with up to 1TB of storage per member in the Enterprise service tier and start video calls.
Slack has a free version for an unlimited number of users. The paid versions Pro and Business Plus, which cost $8.75 and $15 per user, per month, keep an unlimited searchable history of your messages and let you host video meetings with up to 15 participants. Screen sharing, custom user groups, two-factor authentication settings and unlimited apps and integrations are all available in the paid versions. Slack also offers a custom Enterprise plan for companies that need tailor-made solutions.
Remote support has come a long way from users relaying their 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 your business’s part. In addition to remote support, it provides an online collaboration platform for holding meetings, presentations and training sessions.
TeamViewer starts at $6.95 per month for one licensed user, while a multiuser option is available for $38.90 per month and a team-oriented option is available for $112.90 per month.
Are you interested in the best remote PC access software? Consider our review of Splashtop for an alternative option.
11. Zoho Meeting
There’s more to web conferencing than staff meetings. Zoho Meeting is a comprehensive online meeting solution that lets businesses hold live meetings to share product demonstrations with prospects, provide remote client support and more. Users 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 offers a free version that enables 60-minute meetings. Paid versions include $1 per host per month and $3 per host per month Meetings plans, which offer extended meeting time limits, custom backgrounds, remote screen control and recording. Zoho Meetings also offers two Webinar tiers at $8 per host per month and $16 per host per month. These plans include multiple organizers and tools like email invitations and screen sharing for hosting large conferences, panels and webinars.
Zoom is an enterprise-level, all-in-one collaboration tool with a small business price tag. Zoom came into its own following the COVID-19 shutdowns that swept the U.S. As a tool, it was primed to meet the occasion with video and web conferencing solutions as well as cross-platform instant messaging and file-sharing features.
Zoom lets users hold all types of online meetings, such as one-on-one video conferences, town-hall meetings, training, webinars and marketing events. The service can be used on desktops, mobile devices and your company’s video and conference room systems. A developer platform is available to integrate Zoom features, such as video, voice and screen sharing, with apps your business already uses.
Zoom offers a free, basic plan that allows time-limited one-on-one meetings and group meetings for up to 100 participants. Paid plans include the Pro plan at $149.90 per year, the Business plan at $199.90 per year and the Business Plus plan at $250 per year. Zoom’s paid tiers include features like meetings ranging in length from 30 hours to unlimited, cloud storage, whiteboard and collaboration tools and more.
Check out our side-by-side comparison of Zoom vs. RingCentral to determine which system might be best for you.
The benefits of using collaboration tools
Using these collaboration tools (or any other that suit your team’s needs) can provide key benefits for any business. Hybrid and remote teams will find these tools invaluable, but even in-person teams can enjoy some of the following benefits when they implement these solutions.
Contact with remote teams
For companies with remote workers that aren’t always on-site, communication and collaboration tools are essential. They help connect remote workers during meetings and provide managers with an easy way to ensure these employees are staying on task. It also means that team members that need to work closely together don’t need to be physically close to one another. Whether it’s a quick Slack message or Zoom call, they can share all the information and files they need to do their jobs effectively.
Seamless connection between multiple locations
Even if your employees all work on-site, you may have multiple locations that need to communicate with one another. The more connectivity between your locations, the better, as you can optimize each location’s workflow and help crowdsource solutions to problems. Rather than leaving your locations in isolated silos, communications and collaboration tools help you bridge the gap to become more efficient and build a stronger company-wide culture.
Even if some team members have clocked out, those that are still working can leave useful messages or clue them in on updates that they’ll see when they return to work. This means fewer things will be forgotten that would have had to wait until a morning meeting. If the employee that’s sending these updates is off the clock when the recipient returns, they won’t have to wait for them to get started on the next task.
Encourage your employees to unplug from communication apps when they’re off the clock or taking paid time off. A downside to collaboration tools is an “always-on” culture that can lead to harmful side effects like employee burnout, which ultimately reduce morale and productivity.
Integrations with other business software
Most of the collaboration tools above integrate with other software, which can enhance their capabilities to improve the way businesses manage their work. For example, integrating Slack with project management platforms like monday.com or Asana enables teams to track tasks as they’re completed and receive notifications when something new needs their attention. Using communication and collaboration tools as an additional channel for notifications and alerts ensures nothing will get missed just because an employee didn’t check the project management app. Similarly, these solutions can integrate with cloud storage tools like Google Drive, providing direct access to the files your team needs most.
Collaboration tools and software keep your team connected
By incorporating the right blend of communication and collaboration tools for your team, you can keep them connected and productive, no matter where they’re located. Whether you have multiple workplaces situated around the country or the world or you have a sizable remote workforce, these software solutions can help you ensure you get the job done as if everyone were on-site together.
Tejas Vemparala contributed to the writing and research of this article.