Securely create and upload all of your files and folders from any device. Use links to share with others. Box.net can be accessed from any computer with its slick web interface.
Cost: Free for personal use. To use with up to 500 users, $15 per user/month for 1,000 GB of storage.
Your projects are scattered from your work computer, your home computer, your phone, and your mom's desktop. Dropbox makes it easy to put all of these files in one, simple location on the cloud.
Cost: Free 2 GB of storage or $19.99/month ($199/year) for 100 GB.
Great way to stay organized and share information. You may think about using file-sharing as a plan B or as an emergency backup. If a member of your team has a family emergency, it is nice to know their files are all stored in an easy access location for group members to divide up or read through notes. Teams do not have to miss a beat if a member needs to be replaced or flakes on a meeting. This program is unique in that the information is stored on a web account.
Cost: Lifetime free account with a 100 document limit or get a premium account for $49.99 a year and store up to 10,000 documents.
Usability: Seems easy enough to collaborate with anyone from anywhere. See the video tutorial page.
This tool specifically targets research-based collaboration. Citing sources, avoiding copyright infringements, and producing a bibliography your 10th grade English teacher would applaud means your back is covered and you don't have to sift through a card catalog. Zotero actually does the sifting for you. With a free plugin and one click of the mouse, your research is saved and organized.
There are groups in the Zotero network with everything from Agriculture to Urban Studies. Search through documentation tags and forums to join the conversation. Great tool for starting team projects, wondering about current events on a specific topic, and what people are talking about. Save tags, share, and expand upon existing ideas.
Pause: I have a horrible internet connection at my apartment, what is the best way for me to collaborate online?
Play: With so many open source ways to share files and collaborate, be honest with your team early on and let them know your internet connection is not strong and therefore, video conferences might not be the best way to share ideas. Your team will spend more time waiting for your connection to come through than discussing strategy.
If your team insists on video conferencing, let them know you will join via the chat feature. Figure out your most productive times of the day and tackle open-source file sharing and collaboration projects during these times. Do not put them off until after hours.
Pause: How do you maximize productivity?
Play: Some do it through music! Here is a website that uses collaboration in the music world to make connections.
Cost: Free trials for each product, $49.95 for a single license or discounted offers for higher quantities. The website is a bit noisy, but your software ultimately leads to clean, some might argue cute, documents.
Also try PrimoPDF and PDFCreator for alternative free options to creating PDF files.
Welcome to Silicon Valley at its finest. Start-up Orchestra is another to-do list app with a twist. You still have the option to check all of your items off yourself, but you have the additional option to delegate and share tasks with team members. Let's say you have a couple of emails you need printed off and you know your teammate is going to the library. Assign that task. Other Orchestra users log-in and see tasks assigned to them and check them off. Items on your to-do list are being checked off while you might be working on a different side of the project someone assigned to you. You can update your to-do list from your desktop, phone, or by sending an email.
Use when: Your team is mobile and schedules rarely coincide.
Usability: Comfortable navigation for someone familiar with smartphones and applications.
Calendars: Little boxes with tiny numbers that hold insurmountable weight. Any way you slice it, our time is scheduled by these little boxes, so as a collaborative team, it is imperative you get on the same page with deadlines. This calendar allows users to organize time as a group and see the availability of other group members. Block your calendar off for your trip to Reno or keep it open in the mornings to work remotely.
Your collaboration foundation has been laid out in front of you. The only thing for you to do now is introduce these ideas, platforms, and applications to your team and begin testing. Let this be a plea to avoid taking the easy way out. "When do you guys want to meet?" Lead the charge, save some gas money, and begin collaborating online to experience the advantages of virtual teamwork.
To review the other articles in this series about online collaboration tools and resources, use the links provided below.