Tools to Help You and Your Team Work From Home

Mar 19, 2020, Written by Ashley Tuminello

As quarantines increase and rumors of lockdowns circulate, it seems likely all of America will be working from home for a period in the near future.  Thankfully in this day & age, that doesn’t mean business has to come to a halt. Here’s the rundown on tools to help you and your team continue your work from home.

(This is our independent opinion.  We are not an affiliate or connected to any of these products)

Remote Desktops

These tools allow you to login to your work computer and control it from your smartphone or computer at home.

COST:  Starts at $30/mo for 2 computers with a 14-Day free trial available.  Billed annually.  

Access your computers, files, and applications from any device at any time from any device (phone, tablet, computer).  It’s easy to install, and allows you to login to your work computer using actual username and password. Remote access is gained by downloading a program. 

LogMeIn’s website touts they are the #1 most reliable remote access tool.  Their partnership with Join.Me for digital meetings (more info on Join.Me below) allows you to bundle these services.

Check it out with a 14 day free trial.  Simply enter your email address and create a password to get started.  

BONUS:  In response to the Coronavirus, LogMeIn is providing free 3 months of Emergency Remote Work Kits for certain organizations.

Click here for instructions on how to setup LogMeIn

  • Chrome Remote Desktop

COST:  Free

The Chrome Remote Desktop app/program allows you to use a computer or mobile device (phone or tablet) to access files and applications on another computer over the Internet.  Alternatively, it can be accessed through a Chrome internet window, but we find it functions better if you download the app to your computer. 

This tool is very easy to set up.  You can have your remote access up and running in 5 minutes or less. Login by using google account and a PIN number you setup. All you need to get started is a Google account and Chrome installed on your computer. 

Click here for instructions on how to set up Chrome remote access

  • Remote Desktop Connection – Windows

COST: Free for Windows Users

This program is automatically installed on all Windows computers.  Work with your IT department to sync it to your work computer. It works pretty seamlessly on all Windows computers — you’ll feel like you’re sitting at your desk in the office!

Click here for instructions on how to set up Windows Remote Desktop Connection

Document Storage & Collaboration

Having access to all work files makes working from home a breeze:

From Basecamp:  Basecamp is more than just a project management tool — it’s a better way to work. Teams that switch to Basecamp are more productive and better organized. They communicate better and require fewer meetings. And they’re far more efficient than before.

From Slack:  With all of your communication and tools in one place, remote teams will stay productive no matter where you’re working from.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing allows your team to stay in touch and in sync outside of the office.  Compared to live streams or webinars that stream videos & information without participation, video conferencing allows visual and verbal interaction, as well as the ability to share content on your computer screen with participants.

This tool can be used for anything from company-wide meetings to one-on-one check-ins, all vital to keep work flowing while your team works from home.  Be sure your employees have access to a computer or phone with a camera. We suggest hosting a trial meeting early one evening to test the functionality of your setup and ensure all employees are able to access and participate in the meeting.

In the world of Video Conferencing, you have users and organizers:

  • An organizer is the person presenting the meeting.  In a classroom, they would be the teacher.
  • A user is a meeting attendee or participant.  In a classroom, they would be the students.  Users don’t have the same controls or access as organizers.

Most platforms only charge for the number of organizers you have.  We recommend selecting one or a few at your organization as your ‘admin’ or organizer & invite the rest of your team as users/participants.

We’ll give you the scoop on the top 4 video conferencing options: 

  1. Google (Hangouts) Meet
  2. GoToMeeting
  3. Join.Me
  4. Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype For Business)

Also consider Facebook, FaceTime, Webex & Zoom.

Our top 4 options offer an unlimited number of meetings, and do not put a time limit on meetings.  They all offer the ability for the organizer to share their screen and are compatible with Mac, PC and smartphones.

We’ll compare them in terms of pricing and these major options:

  • Download or app required:  Do employees have to download & install something on their computer in order to join the meeting?  Do they have to open or run something every time they attend a meeting? Is a login required, adding another username & password to keep up with?  Is there an app participants can download to your smartphone that allows them to attend the meeting on their phones?
  • Maximum number of meeting participants
  • Cloud storage:  A virtual ‘file drawer’ that allows you to store documents and files
  • Record meeting:  The ability to record a meeting for future reference or to share with participants that were not able to attend.
  • Trial:  Is a free trial available?  What is the length of the trial?
  • Commitment:  Do you have to commit to the tool for an entire year?  Or is there an option to pay monthly?
  • HIPAA Complaint:  Meets security measures that satisfy the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), ensuring patient privacy
  • Keyboard & Mouse Sharing:  The option to “drive” the participant’s computer, or have a participant “drive” yours.  This is especially handy when troubleshooting or working to locate files.
  • Pass Presenter:  Let someone other than the presenter share their screen
  • Transcription:  Keep everyone engaged and on the same page by not having to take notes 

1. Google (Hangouts) Meet More Info

From Google:  Meet takes the headaches out of joining a video call at work. Just set up a meeting and share a link. No worrying about whether teammates, clients, or customers have the right accounts or plug-ins.

We like Google Meet because it’s a great value, and because no downloads are required to join.  Any employee with an account in your company’s G suite will be able create meetings as an organizer or join meetings as a user.  Click here for a list of features.

Google also has great resources to create, edit, save & manage files remotely/online.  They offer web-based platforms similar to Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc. that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets and work files online.

Google Meet is connected to G Suite.  G Suite is Google’s online software tool for businesses that provides professional email, online storage, shared calendars, video meetings, and more (Plans & Pricing).  Offering features similar to Microsoft Outlook, G Suite pricing ranges from $6 per user a month to $25 per user a month.  The higher your tier, the more attendees can join your meeting. In light of COVID-19, all G Suite members will have access to Google Meet’s top tier (Enterprise) features, including hosting meetings of 250.  This complimentary upgrade is in play until July 1, 2020.  Learn more here.

Google Meet requires you use Google’s internet browser, Chrome on desktop.  They also offer a mobile app.

Don’t have or want to invest in GSuite? You can still organize video calls using a free personal Google account through Google Hangouts. Only the organizer will need a Google account. Participants will simply need Google Chrome or the Google Hangouts mobile app. 

How to setup a Google Hangout Meeting:

Google Meet Rundown —

  • Download or app required:  Desktop: Google Chrome // App available
  • Max # of Participants:  GSuite:  250 | Google Hangouts:  25 Video, 150 Chat
  • Cloud storage:  Yes
  • Record meeting:  Enterprise (top GSuite tier) only
  • Free Trial:  14 days
  • Commitment:  pay by month or use the “flexible” option to pay month to month
  • HIPAA Compliant:  Yes
  • Keyboard & Mouse Sharing:  No
  • Pass Presenter:  Yes
  • Transcription:  There are some plugins that enable this capability

2. GoToMeeting  More Info

From GoToMeeting:  GoToMeeting is a professional online meeting software and makes it easy to connect with people any way you want. Some features include Business Messaging collaboration, Instant and scheduled meetings and an Office 365 plugin.

PRICING:  (full pricing list here)

  • $12/mo for 150 participants
  • $16/mo for 250 participants

All plans have the option to add GoToWebinar Lite for $20/mo (typically $49/mo)  

In response to the Coronavirus, GoToMeeting is providing free 3 months of Emergency Remote Work Kits for certain organizations.

GoToMeeting Rundown —

  • Download or app required:  Plugin download required // App available
  • Max # of Participants:  250 max at top tier
  • Cloud storage:  Recordings are saved on top tier packages
  • Record meeting:  Available with top tier packages
  • Free Trial:  14 days
  • Commitment:  None
  • HIPAA CompliantYes  
  • Keyboard & Mouse Sharing:  Yes
  • Pass Presenter:  Yes
  • Transcription:  Yes

3. Join.Me  More Info

From Join.Me:  We’re a collaboration tool designed to cut through pointless processes, politics and protocols with a single click. We help you, your team and your company by making collaboration simple, instant and continuous.

Join.Me is the most expensive of the four platforms, but it does offer a ton of features and customization options, like an 800 number (with Pro & Business levels), creating a permanent join.me meeting room or adding an image participants see while waiting.  

PRICING:  (full pricing list here)

  • Lite version $10/mo per user | 5 participants
  • Pro version $20/mo per user | 250 participants
  • Business version $30/mo per user | 250 participants

Compare the different tiers here.

Join.Me Rundown —

  • Download or app required:  Plugin download required // App available
  • Max # of Participants:  250
  • Cloud storage:  Available with Pro & Business tiers
  • Record meeting:  Available with Pro & Business tiers
  • Free Trial:  14 Days
  • Commitment:  Annual
  • HIPAA CompliantWith certain configurations
  • Keyboard & Mouse Sharing:  Yes
  • Pass Presenter:  Yes
  • Transcription:  No

4. Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype for Business)  More Info 

From Microsoft:  Microsoft Teams is the hub for team collaboration in Office 365 that integrates the people, content, and tools your team needs to be more engaged and effective.

BIG FEATURE:  Web versions of word, excel & powerpoint are included with this tool.

PRICING: (full pricing list here)

  • There is a free version that allows chat & collaboration with limited extra features and upgrades. 
  • The top tier is $20/mo for each user.  It includes meetings & calling plus lots of other features.  Other plans are available below the $20 per user a month cost.

 Microsoft Teams Rundown —

  • Download or app required:  Plugin download required // App available
  • Max # of Participants:  300 to unlimited
  • Cloud storage:  Available with all paid tiers
  • Record meeting:  Available with all paid tiers
  • Free Trial:  Free option instead of a trial
  • Commitment:  Annual
  • HIPAA Compliant:  Yes
  • Keyboard & Mouse Sharing:  No
  • Pass Presenter:  Sort of — you must assign folks as presenters or attendees before the meeting starts.  
  • Transcription:  Available with recording feature included on all paid tiers

THE RESULTS:

  • Both Microsoft Teams & Google Meet include a ton of features, making them a great value. 
  • Best overall value:  Free version of Microsoft Teams
  • Cheapest paid version:  Microsoft Teams $5 per user a month or G Suite $6 per user a month
  • Maximum number of meeting participants:  Microsoft Teams offers 2 options with unlimited participants.  The other platforms share 2nd place, all offering a tier with a 250 participant maximum.
  • Easiest to use:  Google Meet

WINNER:  Our favorite is Google Meet because of its value and seamless connection to G Suite. With members of our team located throughout the country, we have used it for several years now and especially like the fact that it can be accessed through our browser, Google Chrome, instead of a downloaded plugin.

Try out one or more of these tools to keep your business running and your team connected no matter what the Coronavirus brings.  Hopefully we will find our businesses more flexible, agile and therefore more productive as a result of relying on tools like these during this trying time.  As always, we’re here to help support you and your business, in or out the office, at (225) 341-4147.

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Ashley Tuminello

Ashley recently joined the Crossroads team as the newest Graphic Designer/Marketing Project Manager after 3.5 years as Marketing Director of a favorite Baton Rouge brand, preceded by 5 years as Marketing Coordinator at one of Louisiana’s largest credit unions. Added with her work at both large and small format printers, she has worked in the Design and Marketing field for just over ten years.