Guest Post by Sophie LeBrozec (learn more about Sophie at the end of this post)
In order to make your business a success in this day and age it is vital to be up-to-date with the latest technology, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to learn all the necessary IT skills and not enough money in the pocketbook to pay for dedicated IT help. So what do you do? You can’t afford to fall behind your competitors so you need to find the solutions that work for you, in the world of online collaboration – that is document sharing, project management tools, branded intranet, secure workspaces you can invite people to and some kind of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool to help you stay on top of your competitors.
So here are 10 things to look out for when choosing your online collaboration:
This is a must. An absolutely critical aspect. Whether that’s https:// 128k bit encryption, your own personal subdomain or robust password choices, your contacts, documents, conversations (basically everything) must be secure from everyone.
2. Solid IT systems in the background
OK, you may not be a technical wizard, however do some research and make sure that the technology behind the scenes is going to keep your data backed up, secure and online 99.9999999999% of the time. 100% is nigh on impossible, even if you control the servers, so you need to be sure that if there is ever downtime, it is restored within seconds.
Nobody wants to use something which is complicated and not intuitive – whether that’s you, your team or other contributors. If you want to invite someone in, you need to know that they won’t need training or too much guidance (we all need a little nudge in the right direction). So make sure that everything is clear, usable and simple.
4. Full free trial with no obligation
It makes sense following on from simplicity that you can try before you buy. Whether this is signing up for a free account (make sure it has the full functionality of the other accounts) or a free trial of the account – it just allows you to try it out, taste it for yourself, and even invite people in for a second opinion. Similarly, nobody likes to be tied down to something they need to make a decision on, so being able to exit and close your account at any time is crucial.
5. Storage that suits you
There’s no point in paying for 200gb of storage if all you are looking to do is share some word documents (which, let’s be fair, hardly ever reach 3mb). Similarly you don’t want to be limited to 100mb if you’ve got videos and large images to share. It has to suit you, so just make sure that when you sign up there is a growth option to match your data requirements.
6. A combination of tools which help your business
Some collaboration tools offer more than others. Some offer different things in multiple packages, each of which you have to pay for (and sometimes pay using a different system). Make sure you’re not paying over the odds for features which you simply don’t need. Complex CRM systems come to mind when I think of this.
7. Are you punished for growth?
Most small organizations will grow the number of employees or the number of people they work with. To accommodate this, I would consider their pricing structure. After all, you don’t want to have to pay more because you’ve got more people to collaborate with – otherwise you will be forced to make a decision about whether you want them to collaborate in the tool or not, which is not how it should be.
8. Communication tools
Collaborating is impossible without communication… and that does include email. However, for me an online collaboration tool needs to facilitate easy communication using notifications, reminders, comments, announcements, etc… that way you can conduct your conversations where the action is, and nobody needs to miss out.
9. Facilitate large file sharing
It might be that you want to share documents with people but maybe not collaborate too much. Email is so restrictive in this sense. So make sure you have the facilities to send files as links rather than attachments. Also make sure that you can upload/download large files easily and without interrupting your use. Some collaboration tools have ridiculous 1-3mb limits for file uploads!
10. Version control is vital
You’ve got to make sure you are collaborating on the right version of the document, image, whatever – this will save you time and effort as everybody will be working on the most up to date copy, and know what each person is discussing.
I hope this helps you to make an educated choice about what works best for you. Glasscubes has been set up to make choosing an online collaboration tool that much easier, including a free package and free 28 day trial options for the paying packages. For more information on Glasscubes: www.glasscubes.com. If you would like to know more about Glasscubes and/or online collaboration in general please email me: [email protected] or tweet me: http://twitter.com/GlassCubes.
About the Author
Sophie Le Brozec is British but lives on the French Riviera, she is responsible for PR and Marketing for the Nice Cote d’Azur branch of the not for profit “European Professional Women’s Network”. She is a big fan of small and medium sized businesses having worked for several and run her own over the last 10 years. Sophie currently works for Glasscubes (www.glasscubes.com), offering online collaboration and simple CRM for small and medium businesses, especially those who do not have a dedicated IT department/employee.