The commute is killing you. You sit in endless boring meetings. Phones are ringing and your colleague is moving his table for the fifth time today. Someone is looking over your shoulder. The suit that you’re wearing is uncomfortable.
Isn’t the nine-to-five day great? Thankfully, today we have a contender: working remotely.
When working remotely you get all the benefits that you’ve heard and imagined before — work in your sweatshirt, no more commuting, save money on lunch by eating cheap and healthy food, attend only meetings that you absolutely have to, be more productive and, of course, manage your time the way you see fit.
More and more people are switching to remote work — as you can see in our remote work statistics article — but it would be pointless for your employer or your career if working from a hammock on a remote beach caused productivity to suffer. Fortunately, there are plenty of software tools to make the transition easier, all you need is WiFi or some form of internet access. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of those tools that make remote work easy.
Small Teams and Freelancers
First and foremost, when you have a distributed team you need a secure and reliable way to share files among members. Transferring files using email or flash drive is just asking for data theft, as emails can be hacked and drives stolen. To combat cybercrime, cloud storage comes in handy. One of the most popular ones, with 800 million users, is How to Make Remote Work Easy.
Google Drive targets home users and provides good productivity. There are lots of third-party apps (most of them free) in the library. Google’s own app, Google Docs, is one of the best apps for productivity and collaboration and integrates naturally with Google Drive.
With Docs office suite you get apps for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. You can suggest edits and make comments, all in near real-time thanks to quick file sync speeds. There’s also an option to roll back to previous versions and see which changes were made.
Of course, sharing those files is essential and Google doesn’t disappoint. You can use email to give access or set an access link. Whether you do one or the other, you can set permissions for both.
Google secures those files using AES 128-bit encryption. There are discussions on whether it’s been cracked, but conventional wisdom says it would take a supercomputer a billion years to do it, so there’s that. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is available to protect against stolen passwords.
A good option for freelancers is that as a free user you get a nice 15GB of free storage. For those who’d like cheap options, there’s a couple of paying plans: 100GB for $2 a month is a good deal, after that you get 1TB for $9.99. Discounts are available if you pay for the whole year. Read our Google Drive review for the details.
Working Remotely for Medium-Sized Businesses
If you’re running a business and need more security, there’s Box. It claims many Fortune 500 companies and small business as clients.
There’s one native application called Box Notes, which is among our best note-taking apps. To make up for the lack of native collaboration apps, Box integrates with both Google Docs and Office Online. You can integrate with more third-party apps that come in the library. Categories include collaboration, project management, content management and security.
Managing large, remote teams — or many teams — is easy with Box; when you add a new user to your account you can set various permissions. You can pick which folders users have access to. And you can set seven different levels of permissions while doing so. If you need to invite dozens of employees at once, you can perform a bulk invite. When you do so, you can assign them to a group to avoid setting permissions one by one.
When it comes to security, Box does great; it protects your content by AES 256-bit encryption, in-transit and on the servers. It even encrypts your key (which you use to decrypt your files) with the same level of AES encryption.
File sync speeds are comparable to other services. Sharing files is simple; you click on a “share” button and you can generate a link or send an invite by email. With those links, Box gives you the capability to use password protection and set expiry dates.
Since it’s geared more toward businesses, it’s more expensive; Box gives you a 100GB starter plan for a minimum of three users, and it’s $5 a month, per user. Business and Business plus plans offer unlimited storage, for $15 and $25 respectively. There’s a free individual plan and a How to Make Remote Work Easy for business plans, which you can read more about in our Box review.
Remote Work for Large Businesses
Enterprises that would like to go remote would fare better with our best EFFS pick, Egnyte Connect. It has native applications as well as both Google Docs and Office Online integrations. If you want to use the desktop version of office — Office 365 — there’s an integration for that, too.
It’s a bit slow when it comes to initial uploads, but for collaboration purposes, sync speed is more important with already uploaded files. Egnyte really shines there since it uses block-level sync which uploads only parts of the file that have changed and not the whole file.
Whatever you need when sharing with remote members, has it. You can share files or folders easily and give four types of access — owner, full, editor and viewer. Your links can have password protection, expiry dates and you even get a notification whenever the link is used. You can even set whether users can download or just preview files.
You don’t have to worry about your business files, they are protected with AES-256 encryption, you can set minimum length and strength for passwords, 2FA is there to help if your password has been cracked and if someone steals your device you can just cut it from sync.
Egnyte doesn’t offer individual plans. The least expensive one is $40 per month for five users, but it gives 5TB of storage. If you need more space and more users, there’s the Business plan. It provides 10TB of shared space to a maximum of 100 users for $15 a month (per user). Read the details in our Egnyte review.
Other Remote Working Tools
When you need to communicate with your team remotely there’s one popular app that comes to mind — Slack. It was launched in 2013 and has grown rapidly ever since. That’s no surprise, the app is fun and easy to use and it integrates with a lot of third-party applications that boost productivity (we also would like to note that all the above services are among the best cloud storage for Slack).
Your workspace owner creates a Slack workspace and, together with admins, invites and manages the team members. The team can then share the Slack workspace and communicate through it. Similar to old chat rooms, everything revolves around messaging; different channels are part of your workspace and they are the primary means of communication. You can organize channels according to specific departments, projects or offices.
When you’re frequently communicating with your team members, information can be all over the place. Slack allows you to search for messages easily, as well as send you notifications whenever anybody says anything important. You can even look for files that you sent to your colleague.
Slack doesn’t really let you keep an agenda, however: when it comes to task management with a remote team, Trello really shines. It’s a visual way to organize your projects and see what you need to do at a glance through the use of a kanban board.
Everything that you do will involve the Trello board. The board is a list of lists, which is basically all your tasks in various stages, from ideas to completion. Trello uses cards to represent those tasks. While cards seem simple at first, you can add comments, labels, upload attachments, give due dates, etc. You can invite as many people as you need to your board and then simply drag-and-drop them to cards to assign them tasks.
Of course, Trello has a library, with a lot of third-party apps (called power-ups), which can improve your remote workflow. With them, you can integrate Trello with various cloud storage services, communication apps, CVS platforms, etc. If you don’t see anything that fits your needs, there’s an API which you can use to build your own app.
Today, with internet and globalization it’s no surprise to have groups or individuals from different countries or continents work together; of course, new situations bring their own set of problems. However, there’s lots of applications to help with that. We’ve mentioned some of the best cloud storage services that are great for collaboration and some of the most popular apps that enable good communication and organization.
There are many others, so do you have a favorite that we missed? Do you have a comment on some that we’ve chosen? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.