A review of the “free” pricing tiers of leading continuity platforms for remote working.

How to Communicate:  

Slack

Slack, an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge”, is the fastest growing SaaS startup in history. Founded by Stewart Butterfield and his Team, Slack has revolutionised how we communi-cate after setting out to create something original for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Tiny Speck, the company founded by Butterfield which is now operating as Slack, was using Internet Relay Chat (IRC), popular in the late 80s and early 90s, as an online communication tool, enter Slack.

Making work-based communication fun and engaging is what many cite as the reasons for Slack’s success. Based on the idea of conversations happening in dedicated spaces called channels, Slack challenges con-ventional communication patterns of email which it deems to be counter-productive. By providing a com-munication tool which allows its user to interact in real time, it serves as a web-based messaging platform but with many apps and integrations making it more powerful, the guiding principle: “Be Less Busy”.

Many referring to Slack as a chatroom for your whole team, it allows for direct and group communication. The four main categories or descriptors we looked at were:

  1. The name of the Slack instance (or, how we looked at it, the title of the Team/Project): This becomes part of the unique URL which then serves as an independent channel. The person who launches this in-stance is able to invite anyone to become a member who is then able to converse and contribute within the specific channel.
  2. The channels you’re a member of, which can be public or private and whilst direct messages are always private they can contain up to 8 contributors or members.
  3. The list of people you have direct messaged, we used this a lot, speaking true to its chat-like description.
  4. The chat window, where the communication happens and with added on notifications, you’re able to add gifs, see RSS feeds and set reminders.

Us, and the internet, liked the intuitive UI for both group and individual chats but issues of control over data and who can control the creation of channels (all users), ranked as some of the downsides.

Slack replaces email using channels, “projects are given dedicated communication channels instead of end-less email chains” and is easier to set up and administrate than Microsoft Teams which is regarded as better equipped for larger enterprises.

 

How to Collaborate: 

Trello

Released in 2011 by Joel Spolsky, as of March 2019, Trello had reported over 35 million users and six months later, over 50 million users had adopted the web-based project management tool. Lightweight, flexi-ble and fun, as well as being considered rather straight-forward, Trello boasts more value in its free version than its competitors.

Kanban style boards allow for simple project and tasks management offset against some of the gripes with Trello which extend to include its lack of reporting and time management tools. Whilst light on features, we found those included to be valuable; its tools define projects and their requirements according to a digital dashboard in which activities can be created, organised and prioritised using a card system which allows for user interaction and collaboration, in terms of adding comments, links, files and photos.

Trello Integrates with a variety of applications and is available on iOS and Android. It integrates especially well with Slack and with three pricing tiers, the free option includes unlimited boards, cards, members, checklists and attachments allowing its users to access one power-up per board (allowing for the uploading of files of up to 10MB or linking any file from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box or OneDrive accounts).

“To do”, “In Progress” and “Done” are the typical task statuses structured within columns and users are able to move tasks between them easily, as well as input due dates and assign tasks to various team members who have visibility and can add comments.

 

How to Meet:

Skype versus Zoom

Since 2003, Skype has been aiming to “enable the world’s conversations” and since 2011, Zoom has been aiming to bring “teams together in a frictionless environment to get more done”. Zoom is a cloud-based technology platform that offers a full spectrum of conferencing tools aiming to improve productivity. The organiser has full control over the session which includes, for example, controlling access to who is able to present, as well as muting all microphones (a feature which we, as a team, wished for in the past) and ampli-fying the level of collaboration by the option for participants to raise their hands.

Zoom offers more in-depth video conferencing tools which feature breakout sessions (this allows for ses-sions that are split from the main Zoom meeting) and individual meeting URLs, allowing for true customisa-tion of the full video-conferencing experience.

In summary, Zoom allows you to conduct live video chat, access meeting analytics, easily screen-share dur-ing calls, use the recording feature to save and document sessions, hold brainstorming sessions with the on-screen whiteboard feature and host up to one hundred participants in a video call on its free plan. Zoom’s further custom registration URLs allow for professional and archival webinars.

Skype for Business, the paid version, is included in Microsoft Office 365, although the free version is avail-able and includes the necessary functions to meet the daily communication needs of your employees with simple file sharing, one-on-one video chatting and instant messaging. Both screen and document sharing that supports large files, as well as instant messaging, video chats and local, domestic and international calls is what Skype is most well known for.

Both platforms host video calls, chat and host meetings or webinars, so it depends who you are as a Team in terms of size, culture and technical capacity to determine which platform is best suited to use.

 

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