Most people who have tried working remotely would agree that sitting within physical office walls doesn’t automatically equate productivity. Fewer and fewer businesses require the physical presence of their workers and switch to working with remote teams experiencing no drops in employee efficiency. This tendency is especially prominent in the tech industry, with companies often seeking remote developers abroad. If you’re planning to build a remote dedicated software development team or hire developers in a remote destination, have a look at our list of free collaboration tools for remote teams that you can use for planning, tracking, storing information, and communicating on a daily basis.
How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote?
Begin your transfer to remote work by identifying what aspects of your day-to-day work are vital for your success. Traditionally, project managers working with remote teams single out:
- Productivity tracking
- File storing and sharing
The next step you should take is to select remote team collaboration software that will fit your business processes. Here are some general tips for how to go about the selection:
- The majority of digital solutions for remote teams have free trials for paid plans which you can use before transferring your remote team to them.
- Make sure that you can easily shift to a suitable paid plan in case you want to scale your remote team in the future.
- Check if the product has security certificates and protocols as well as double verification.
Top 5 Free Remote Team Communication Tools
Business messengers like Slack, Skype, or Chanty get you covered with real-time communication in private, public and one-on-one conversations. Many of these online tools for communication offer free plans that might just be enough for the needs of your remote team.
Skype: The Corporate Classic
Skype is a legendary video chat tool by Microsoft. A small company of up to 50 employees can get limitless communication through video and chat conversations. Skype also has paid plans for large businesses and corporations. The video chat recording feature is particularly handy when you need to do an online interview or simply keep a conversation for future use. The newest feature of Skype allows users to connect to a call with a shared link without installing the program on their devices.
- Video recording and screen sharing
- Background blurring
- File sharing and storing for 1 month
Slack: A Cloud Office for Instant Feedback
In the world of small and middle-sized companies, Slack is known as one of the most customizable messengers. It’s worth mentioning that Slack has a robust built-in bot functionality and allows users to contribute and integrate their own bots. Its main strength, though, is the ability to communicate quickly and get instant feedback.
- Connectivity with other applications and bots
- Personalized notifications
- Easy search through all channels
Zoom: An App for Conference Calls
Zoom is the rock star in the world of video conferencing platforms in 2020. The number one reason for its popularity is that Zoom’s free plan allows you to host up to 100 people at once for 40 minutes. Just like in Skype, you can share your screen and record a call. And background customization is the feature that stole the hearts of many remote teams by allowing them to use a regular video call as a form of self-expression.
- Background customization
- Up to 40 minutes of communication per call
- Up to 100 people at once on a free plan
Microsoft Teams: Secure Video Connection
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration system with a free plan that allows a maximum of 300 members in one organization. Microsoft Teams has all the necessary functions for video conferencing: one-on-one calls, channel meetings, group audio and video calls, and screen sharing.
- 1GB storage per user and 10GB of shared storage
- Background blurring during video calls
- High security of connection
Chanty is a simple AI-powered business messenger and a single notification center. This powerful Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work. The tool has a free plan for teams of up to 10 members and can be used for messaging, video and audio conferencing, and job planning.
- Integration with popular cloud storages
- Searchable history
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3 Best Project Management Remote Team Collaboration Tools
Jira, Basecamp, and Asana make the top three digital solutions for project management. Jira and Asana are the most frequently-used tools among remote team project managers. They’re known for their customizability and visualization capabilities.
Jira: The Perfect Choice for Development Teams
Atlassian’s Jira is the most widely used tool in remote teams that use the Agile development methods. A fair share of project managers prefer it to the rest of remote team collaboration tools because Jira offers highly customizable boards that can be configured to the needs of versatile projects.
- Scrum and Kanban boards for tracking the project status
- A customizable workflow designer for building unique workflows
- About a thousand ready-to-use plugins available on Atlassian Marketplace
Basecamp: A Champ for Projects With Simple Architecture
About 3 million users choose Basecamp to work with their remote teams. For many users, Basecamp is a place where they can create to-do lists, assign them, share ideas, and see the history of changes. One of the greatest pluses of the application is that it has its own storage, so you’ll always have all your documents and materials a few clicks away.
- Message boards to discuss new ideas and projects
- Visualized reporting on project performance
- Separate dashboard for teams and clients
Asana: A One Stop Shop for Planning, Tracking, and Communication
Asana is a great solution for teams that prefer to keep all project-related information in one place. Teams can store files, manage projects, and communicate using nothing else but Asana. Just like Jira, Asana allows you to organize your tasks, assign them to your team members, and keep track of milestones, progress, and timelines.
- Notifications for project updates
- Suitable for projects with a simple architecture
- Free for up to 15 members
Best Remote Team Collaboration Software for Storing and Sharing Files
Cloud data storage is one of the key remote team collaboration software tools that define the security of your data. You probably know that you should pay special attention to such features as double verification and security protocols. However, if you’re new to the topic, take a look at the functions businesses value in cloud storages.
Free Collaboration Tools for Remote Teams (source)
And remember, just like most good things, secure cloud storages do not come for free. At least the big ones don’t. But if you know you can make do with limited free storage, here’s a list of options with both free and paid plans:
Google Drive Cloud Storage
Google Drive Cloud Storage is a good option for users who already have a Google account. Google Drive is one of the most-used remote team collaboration tools which automatically grants 15 GB storage and access to all Google Drive applications including Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets.
- Easy and safe file sharing
- Simple design and superior file search
Dropbox offers a free plan with 2 GB storage and access from computers and mobile devices. Users can also enjoy an easy camera upload and document scanning functions. About 14 million users make use of easy and secure data sharing and storing functions available for both paid and free plans.
- Shared folders and links
- Web comments and previews
Apple iCloud Cloud Storage
Any user with an Apple ID already has free 5 GB storage for keeping media files and backing up iMessages, calendars, reminders, and notes. Apple iCloud Storage is among the top remote team collaboration tools which offers first-class synchronization with productivity applications like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, which are all free for iCloud users.
- Real-time collaboration across devices
- Easy file sharing and simple interface
Remote Team Collaboration Tools for Web Design
Working with a remote graphic or interface designer is much easier than it used to be. These days you won’t see people sending heavy Photoshop files back and forth. Instead, designers choose online remote team collaboration tools with live collaboration features that simplify and speed up the prototyping process.
Figma is an online platform that enables simultaneous collaboration of several stakeholders. One of the major advantages of Figma is that it’s very development-friendly. It has automatic layout padding, spacing, and direction settings that are easily translated into code.
- Multiple plugins for stock imagery, charts, icons, flow diagrams, and color accessibility
- Simplified development of plugins
- Private plugin sharing within a company for customers
InVision is a favorite design platform of both Mac and Windows-operating interface designers all around the world. Besides the basic pack of features, the online platform enables cooperation of several designers. This makes the process of designing, prototyping, and animating extremely fast.
- Robust functionality for design and animation
- Free download
Xtensio is a collaboration platform where users can easily create and share living documents. It allows teams to collaborate on presentations, proposals, reports, sales sheets, or any online documents in real-time.
Xtensio works like a web builder so it's easy to add images, videos, tables, and other interactive modules. Users can drag and drop, resize, change backgrounds, set colors and fonts to match brands. Living "folios" can even be protected as access levels can be controlled.
Sketch is listed among the top three remote team collaboration tools for interface designers worldwide. It gained a great reputation among freelance designers as well as entire design departments within corporations which resulted in one million paid users as of 2020. Last year, the company rolled out prototyping functionality and isn’t planning to stop with new features. The good news is that a small remote team of designers can easily use Sketch’s free plan for daily collaboration.
- Fully functioning 30-day free trial
- Rich library of extensions and plugins
If you’re considering building a remote team and organizing a great working process, you may also need to get some practical insight into managing the work of a remote team.
And if you still have doubts about working with a remote team of developers, spend three minutes reading our cost-based comparison of hiring in-house vs remote developers.
This post was originally written by Nick Kamyshan and revisited by Kateryna Kachkovska in 2020.