Long before computers became ubiquitous, collaboration tools were an essential part of working in teams to achieve a common goal. As technology became more entrenched in the workplace, tools like whiteboards, sticky notes, and flipcharts were replaced by spreadsheets, instant messaging, and email newsgroups.
With the workforce becoming increasingly mobile and requiring access to information anytime and anywhere, even the most commonly used tools, such as email, no longer meet those needs efficiently.
The cloud has changed how organizations collaborate, both internally and externally, in an unprecedented way. In the cloud, collaboration can happen in real time. Documents can be quickly distributed to groups while multiple comments can easily be consolidated. And the exchange of ideas can continue 24/7, without ever needing to bring the team into the same room or log in using a work computer.
In fact, improved collaboration is one of the primary drivers of cloud adoption. Making the workforce more efficient and productive is not the only benefit, however. With the cloud, there’s no longer the need for complex, expensive on-premises applications and file services that were required in the past to support collaboration. With the growth of cloud vendors, there has been an explosion in the types of collaboration tools available.
Top 10 Cloud Tools for Collaboration
Skyhigh analyzed the active user count of hundreds of cloud-based collaboration tools in use by over 30 million business users and ranked them based on user count. In descending order of popularity, the top collaboration tools include:
1. Office 365: Includes the common Office apps such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, plus file storage (OneDrive), collaboration (SharePoint Online), and communication (Exchange Online). Office 365 is one of the most complete suites as far as features and functionality, and it scales from small businesses to large enterprises while integrating with multiple platforms. Microsoft has also been investing heavily in security and has several enterprise-grade security capabilities.
2. Gmail: A leading choice for free email service among consumers, Gmail integrates with various third-party apps as well as other Google apps like the calendar. Gmail’s security features include optional two-factor authentication and device authorization management. However, email content may not be entirely private, as the Gmail terms of service are lumped in with the terms of service for the entire Google Account. Google collects certain types of consumer information for advertising purposes. An enterprise-grade version is available as part of G Suite (formerly called Google Apps for Work).
3. Cisco WebEx: A top online meeting and web conferencing tool that includes features such as screen sharing, file sharing, annotation, and public and private chat. Webex tiers are based on the number of people included in the meeting rather than the number of meetings, with a free version available for meeting with up to three participants. It works on multiple desktop and mobile platforms. Security options include end-to-end data encryption.
4. Yahoo! Mail: Often going neck-in-neck with Gmail for popularity, Yahoo Mail has maintained its strong appeal as a free consumer email application. Yahoo uses spam filters and SSL encryption protocols. However, recent news about a massive breach that compromised 500 million user accounts cast doubts on the security capabilities of the company.
5. Yammer: A social network for the workplace, the Microsoft-owned platform allows users to communicate and collaborate privately by creating groups. External collaborators such as vendors can be easily added as well.
6. Evernote: As a versatile note taking app, Evernote allows users to sync their notes across multiple platforms. The ease of use makes it a popular app at enterprises, even when it’s not sanctioned by the IT department. The free version was recently limited to only two devices (which could be desktop or mobile). The more robust business version includes features such as single workspace collaboration and central user administration.
7. GoToMeeting: An online meeting and web conferencing tool that integrates with apps such as Outlook and Salesforce. GoToMeeting competes directly with WebEx. Features include screen sharing and keyboard/mouse control as well as end-to-end encryption.
8. Skype: Considered a pioneer in consumer video conferencing, the free Skype Meetings version supports up to 10 meeting participants and includes screen sharing and PowerPoint collaboration. The business version, included with Office 365, integrates with other Office apps and includes additional features such as meeting recording, instant messaging, and up to 250 meeting participants.
9. G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work): A collaboration suite from Google that includes Google Docs, Sheets, Hangouts, and Google Drive. G Suite competes directly with Microsoft Office 365.
10. Prezi: An online presentation tool that’s often used as an alternative to PowerPoint. It uses a single canvas instead of slides. Its advantage over PowerPoint is its ability to create free-form, unstructured presentations. However, it’s considered less user-friendly when trying to create slide-based presentations, and only the Pro version includes offline editing.