I recently visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. As I walked in the door, my 78 year old father-in-law called my name with long drawn out “Waayynne”. I knew he needed some help with something technology related. Sure enough he had just bought an Amazon Fire Stick in the hopes of being able to share his computer screen onto a TV. We took a look at the Fire Stick and I set him up with Netflix for watching movies and IOS photo sharing but the device doesn’t work well yet with desktop sharing for a Windows computer. Sigh…. If he had a Mac we could use AppleTV or if he had a Chromebook, he could use Chromecast. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to mirror a Windows screen just yet until MiraCast is ready.
In business we often need good tools at a great price. I’ve included several key solutions for small businesses to consider.
1. Audio Conferencing.
There are several large companies that provide great products that are very stable for large businesses but they still charge by the minute and you need significant volume to lower your price. To get start quickly with audio conferencing you can check out FreeConferenceCall (https://www.freeconferencecall.com/). You can have up to 1,000 participants in a call. You can even share your screen for up to 25 people at once. The catch is that your participants will be paying the long distance charges to join the call instead of using a toll free number.
When you grow large enough to upgrade, there are several companies that offer great services. Check out Intercall, Level3, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Telecom, etc.
2. Web conferencing
The number one solution to use for web conferencing is Cisco’s Webex platform. You will even hear people say that are joining a Webex when they are actually joining a competitors solution. However, Webex is not your low cost solution. If you want the top solution, go with Webex. If need an alternative solution, consider JoinMe (https://www.join.me/en/pricing) or GoTo Meeting (http://www.gotomeeting.com/online/entry).
3. Chat and Unified Communications
Unified Communications is a very wide ranging topic that combines many different system into what appears to be a single platform. What most small businesses really want is the ability to quickly communicate with employees within their office or remote locations. There are several tools that you an choose from depending on what computers and tablets you use in your office. If you use all Apple devices with Mac computers, iPads, and iPhones, Apple provides Messenger and FaceTime for free. If you use all Microsoft computers, surface tablets, and Windows phones, you need to purchase the small business version of Microsoft Lync.
For mixed environments, an alternative solution is Google’s suite of products to include Google Hangouts (http://www.google.com/hangouts/). It works with your Gmail account, provides chat, audio calling, and video calling. Going a little further you can use Slack (https://slack.com/is/team-communication). Slack goes further by offering a nice collaboration client for chat, file sharing, and keeping project communication in one location.
4. File Sharing
Apple (iCloud), Microsoft (SkyDrive) and other vendors are all starting to offer file sharing applications and locations. The two best that I have found to date are DropBox (https://www.dropbox.com/) and Google Drive (https://www.google.com/drive/). These applications are fairly easy to use, secure, and offer plenty of storage space to get started.
5. Business Productivity
Microsoft’s Office suite still leads the market. With Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you can handle most any task. Apple has started to gain some market share with their products Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Along with these tools, you need to consider these applications
- Word or Pages. Word processing.
- Excel or Numbers. Spreadsheet for calculations.
- PowerPoint or Keynote. Presentation of material.
- EverNote (https://evernote.com/). Great for file sharing and keeping notes synced across multiple devices
- Nozbe (http://nozbe.com/). Great for task management.
- Zoom (http://zoom.us/). Great for video conference from your computer and mobile device.
I’ll cover these tools in more detail in following posts. Until then, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have.