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Remote working apps for lockdown and beyond

27 April 2020: With the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures continuing to keep workers out of the office, Microsoft MVP David Benaim shares tips on remote working apps, team communication tools and cloud storage options.

You can read David’s full post on the Tech Faculty blog here, but here are some highlights:

Free trials

As demand for remote working and communication channels increases, many of the leading players are offering free or reduced-cost trials of their services. For example, Microsoft is offering free Office 365 Enterprise 1 licenses for six months, and many other services mentioned below have similar deals. If your organisation is looking for a remote collaboration solution, now is a good time to shop around.

Making sense of the available options

In recent years there has been a growth in demand for “channel-based” business chat applications. Similar to WhatsApp, these allow for different groups of colleagues to discuss work in a variety of overlapping groups but outside of the formality of email. 

Microsoft’s own Teams falls into this category, as do competitors such as Slack, Discord, Google Hangouts, and more call-oriented programs such as Zoom or Webex. This is distinct from Yammer, Microsoft’s social media platform for companies, which is more like an internal organisational Facebook.

All of these services offer multiplatform support, including tablet/mobile, easy inviting to calls, and screen sharing, plus the ability to create and talk with your colleagues in various custom channels, but they have different strengths elsewhere.

For example, you can easily create a quick poll in a Teams chat by typing @Forms followed by your question and a list of options, E.G:

  @Forms Which supplier should we go with? A, B or C?

Meanwhile, while all the services have in-call and post-call options, some are more capable than others. For example, Zoom has detailed host controls and allows the creation of breakout “rooms” within a call, while Teams meetings offer automatic transcribing of calls into searchable text and live subtitling and translation.

Storing and sharing

Cloud storage is nothing new, but with remote working the new norm, easy sharing and access to remote files are of more interest than ever. There are a variety of services out there, such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox, which all offer some amount of storage and easy syncing of files between locations in much the same way. But again, they differ in the specifics.

For example, Google Drive and Dropbox allow easy sharing of documents outside of your organisation, or to employees’ personal computers, whereas Microsoft’s OneDrive integrates fully with Teams and SharePoint but can’t yet handle sharing outside of your organisation.

For a full overview of the options out there, and more, visit the Tech Faculty blog.