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A Few Tools for Successfully Working From Home and Collaborating Remotely

Do you have staff who work offsite? Do you ever work from home - to get some focused work done, if you're not feeling well or if the weather is bad? Do you have multiple offices in different locations? In all of these cases, there's a need to connect with coworkers and access your files and systems remotely.

We just launched GoToMyPC, a tool that allows you to securely connect to your computer remotely. For example, if you install it on your work computer, you could then access your computer when working at home. Especially for organizations who use important programs that are on your desktop, or have files that you can only access through your computer (i.e. not in the cloud), GoToMyPC is a nice quick way to get access remotely.

All of this got me thinking about working remotely and how technology can help, so I put out the call to find out what tools nonprofits use.

Not surprisingly, Skype was a popular favourite - if you don't use it already, it's time to get started. It lets you have conversations with anyone else who has Skype, anywhere in the world with a decent Internet connection, for free. Over the years Skype has been adding new features - two of my favourites are video calls (currently the free version only lets you call one person with video - for group video calls you need to upgrade to the Premium version) and screen sharing (like video, it's free for one to one calls and paid for group sharing). Best of all, it's simple and easy to use, even for people who are hesitant to try new tools (even my grandmother uses it!).

Facebook comment on why Skype and other tools are useful

If you do need the ability to share your screen with multiple people, try out GoToMeeting (available through TechSoup Canada to qualified organizations) - we use it internally and have found it helpful. In our donations program we also offer ReadyTalk, which is similar. If your organization doesn't qualify, there are free screen sharing tools out there such as Mikago.

In general, tools in the cloud make it way easier to work remotely - because you access most cloud tools through your browser, the experience is the same whether you are at your work computer, or on your personal computer at home. Some of them are even set up to be accessed on your smartphone if you have one.

Some of the tools that we used and that others shared include:

Dropbox - a free tool for sharing your files, with the option to pay to get more space. We use this in our office and have been happy with it - once you've got it set up it's easy to use because it looks just like your normal file explorer. Another similar service I've heard good things about is Box.net.

Basecamp and Huddle are both project management tools that are well known and popular. I don't have personal experience with either, but I've found from our own experience and from talking to others that choosing a project management tool is a matter of personal preference/approach - some people like a more formal, Microsoft Project-y type tool and others like something less structured. To find what would work best for you, check out online reviews such as this list of popular project management systems.

Google Apps - email, calendar, Google Docs, simple websites and all your other favourite Google tools. I love that I can work on my documents at work, and then make edits just as easily at home or from my iPhone. We actually had an event and a webinar about Google Apps earlier this year - have a look if you're interested in getting started.

Evernote - a tool for capturing notes, websites, ideas, etc. Given that I haven't used it much myself, I asked some people who love it for their thoughts:

Discussion about Evernote

These are a few popular tools but they certainly aren't the only tools out there. What tools have you found helpful? Share your experience in the comments.

Comments

Project Management Software

LibrePlan is a good free option - http://www.libreplan.com/ If you want more free options, here are a few sites that highlight those:

 

In my experience it pays to look around and try a bunch of stuff before settling. There is a lot out there but it can take awhile to find. Sites like the above help sift through the noise a bit. Basecamp I think is too expensive, there are more options out there.

Another tool

@IT_For_Change shared YuuGuu (http://www.yuuguu.com/home) as a great tool for sharing your desktop online - take a look!