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Shireen Qudosi

Small Business Tips: Cool Tools for Smooth Online Collaborations

Jan 19 2012, 03:13 PM by

Telecommuting teams are all the rage. They’re cheaper and more effective workforces. If you don’t have a telecommuting team, you’ve probably got a couple of independent contractors working for you. In this economy, independent or freelance agents save you the time of having to train a team or pay into insurance benefits and premiums.

If you have neither of these, you’re still in the business of collaborating online simply out of sheer necessity in an increasingly mobile and globalized world. And work still needs to get done. Check out these tools to help make that job even more seamless and successful.
Document Collaboration
I’ve talked about Google Docs and Zoho before. While both are great for document collaboration, ThinkFree lets you access both via its host of applications. Through their desktop platform or web apps, you and your clients/team members can sync documents and collaborate on them without messy back and forth emails. The difference between ThinkFree and its competitor apps like Google Docs and Zoho is that the latter two don’t let you create new documents offline with a total file memory of 1 GB. If you’re looking for just a document hosting service, then look up previously discussed Scribd and Dropbox.

Businesses looking to step it up a notch should consider BlueTie’s Smartbins, a cloud-based document management and file sharing system. The installation-free cloud system, accessible anywhere by any authorized person, lets you create a workflow and organize files through tags rather than folders – all of which are securely backed up. Smartbins may sound the same as other document sharing systems but its cloud technology is an attractive feature. It’s a huge and convenient trend that needs to be utilized more while it settles from trend to standard business practice. Another attractive feature, which many other document collaboration systems fail to integrate, is real time notification of file changes.

When it comes to document collaborations, there are a host of companies vying for business. There’s no shortage of competition. Start with Novell if you’re interested in tapping into the “big leagues” in collaboration and file management/sharing.
Messaging Systems
More businesses are using instant messaging systems like Skype and FaceTime. The benefit is instant communication and file sharing that offers the convenience of in-person communication capsulated into a digital package. But what’s better than just an IM system? One that combines the experience of a web meeting with convenience of IM. The combination can be found in Eyejot, which lets users record video messages and deliver it as an emailed link, through iTunes or even iPods. A similar idea is shared by KonoLive. Their idea is a business inspired IM system that lets you also collaborate and share files.

If you need a system that caters to extensive communication needs, including audio/video, directories and logs, then check out Avaya. Ideally suited for at least mid-sized businesses, Avaya’s One-X Communicator is designed to communicate intelligently and efficiently.

If you’re looking for a company that does it all, I think any team would be pretty happy with Huddle. Huddle offers a plethora of features including file sharing/management, collaboration tools with real-time options, project management, controls/security, branding and customization, “people management” and mobile and third-party use, as well as support.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Online Tools and Applications, Growing Your Business

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