Do you know what tools you need for your virtual office?
From virtual assistants, virtual web designers, virtual graphic designers, virtual desktop publishers, virtual lawyers, to virtual nurses and many, many more. There are tons of different industries taking up the virtual realm now than ever before and this trend is still growing by leaps and bounds.
With virtual offices on the grow it’s uber important to for your virtual office to know and understand the tools and devices needed to succeed in this environment. Thankfully, IT folks are getting it and doing a great job of building wonderful virtual environments for you to work from.
From Office 365, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Dropbox, Copy, SugarSync and so on there are many great tools to help you. Here’s a quick list of some of the tools that I use and a few more you might find useful: Tweet This!
The 3 file sharing apps below are very similar. They each have a free version with limited capacity, each of them looks and appears to function similar to your Windows Explorer (ex: MyDocuments folder), and allows you to store or sync your documents to a cloud but have them available to you via your PC and mobile devices.
Dropbox: 256-bit AES encryption and two-step verification for security, use and share whatever-wherever on any device, for personal or business use, get a limited free account , get 1GB bonus space when a friend joins, and other ways to earn more bonus space. Works with many apps such as Documents to Go, CamScanner for Android, WordPress Backup to Dropbox, HP ePrint, Side by Side, DocuSign, podio, Secure Wallet, iZip, DocScan, and more.
Copy: 256-bit AES encryption backed up and supported by network security and backup company Barracuda (no 3rd parties). 15GB free storage, and Copy for business allows up to 5 users free. One of the other differences with Copy is that it does shared billing. If you are sharing a team or project folder with several other people then copy splits that space between the number of the people so if there is 20GB’s of space being used and 4 people sharing then you will only be accounted for 5 of those GB’s.
SugarSync: 256-bit AES encryption and files transferred using TLS (Transport Layer Security). They offer a 30 day free trial on all plans starting at $7.49 a month for the individual plan. Works with many apps from BoxCryptor, CloudHub Free, Cumulo, iBeam, and many, many more.
Office 365: If you’re a MS Office user and lover, and like to keep updated on the latest software for an affordable price then Office 365 is probably a good way for you to beef up your virtual office. With all the beauty of the standard MS Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher) it’s all there for just $9.99 a month for the home office edition which allows up to 5 devices and you can download the most current version of Office which is presently 2013. It works with Skydrive for online storage so you can access your files anywhere-anytime on any device. (Requires a Windows Live ID → get one here)
SkyDrive: Cloud storage intended for MS Office apps. It does not have to work with Office 365 and it does offer a limited amount of free space. SkyDrive has a desktop sync option that creates a folder via your desktop just like you’re my Documents folder so you can easily drag, drop, and access folders and files from your desktop. (Requires a Windows Live ID → get one here)
Google Drive: A great way to create and share documents within your Google or Google apps account. The documents editors are similar to those in MS Office’s editor’s, but do lack in some of the functionality. It also has a picture editor and a form creator for forms you can use via your website.
Intervals Online: This is just one of many great project management systems that works via online to make managing your projects easier. If you work with a team and several clients on several projects at one time then this solution is great for you. Especially, if you are a small business or entrepreneur and don’t want to pay or cannot afford to pay big bucks to get the robust features Intervals as to offer.
It works with Quickbooks, Basecamp, and few other programs as well as is mobile friendly. From document sharing, time tracking, and full on project management features including budget tracking and more. I love this PM system.
One of my favorite things about it is the time tracking and reporting feature. I can have multiple timers going at once and easily switch between them without losing a beat or charging someone else for the wrong thing because it’s so simple to switch, and the reports are as detailed or undetailed as you want them to be to give to your clients and with a few clicks of a mouse the system will generate it for you. The only thing I miss in the time tracking feature is not being able to have a desktop timer so that I don’t have to log in to start tracking time.
If you don’t need a full on PM system and just want a simple online time tracking system you might want to try one of these. It has been a long time since I’ve used them so I am going to include the names, links, and whether or not they have a free version or not and let you decide for yourself.
Toggl: Free version
Harvest: Forever Free version
myHours: Personal Accounts Free & currently Company Accounts Free, but you should expect to see a charge in the near future for Company Accounts.
Video Conference/Instant Messaging
Skype: Skype is a great tool for online phone calls, video conference, and instant messaging. The basic version is free and Skype to Skype calls are free. If you want to utilize video conferencing or other features they are very reasonably priced.
Google Voice: Get a FREE Google voice # and forward it to any phone of your choice. When I was using it I used it for my business voice number and voicemail and had it forwarded to my cell phone so I didn’t have to give out my private number’s.
RingCentral: Free trial with plans from $19.99 a month. A complete virtual phone, voice, fax, text, and conferencing solution for your business. If you have team working across the globe you can easily give them an extension to your business phone and your customers can call them direct if that’s what you need.
Gmail: Gmail free or Gmail with apps (Google Apps account) which is a paid version. Gmail’s free version is a great solution for email management. You can utilize similar to your desktop email manager. You can send and receive emails via all your email accounts within your gmail account. Set up labels (similar to folders in Outlook, but more like a tagging system in that you can have multiple labels and archive and search for your email in either label). There are also many great apps you can add to this and create a more robust email management system from email tracking, to sales tracking, and more.
Outlook: Utilized via Outlook 365 see above.
Mozy: It’s kind of a set it and forget it backup system. Once you set it up and it will back up the folders you told it to automatically on a daily basis many times a day. It works great, and has a limited free version with plan starting at $13.98 a month.