Communications traditionally meant hardware. But increasingly, software solutions have replaced hardware and offer a range of cheap and free solutions, depending on what you’re after.
Below, you’ll find links to our pages on free or low-cost messaging, video calling, screen sharing and conference calling.
Everyone has access to a telephone, so phone conferencing offers a quick, easy and reliable way to talk to remote workers and collaborators.
Microsoft’s Skype is the most popular conference calling software. It also offers video conferencing too but if you just want to use voice, you can disable the video function. Calls to landlines and mobiles have to be made from Skype though, and you’ll need to pre-load your account with credit first. Skype offers conference calling for up to 25 people.
For traditional conference calling using telephones, the following are probably your best bet.
Phone conference calling
If you use a country-based conference calling facility, then there can be call charges for attendees, depending on where they call from and unless their inclusive minutes include calls to that country. So be careful which services you’re using – and if all your attendees reside in your country, it’s best to choose a service based in your country too.
The following services allow phone users to call a single number and it’s the callers who will be billed, allowing you to organise the conference call just for the price of your own call. See the various providers’ websites for call pricing.
In the UK, Powownow is probably the best-known voice/phone conferencing tool. You visit their site to generate a unique PIN then all callers call the powownow phone number, then enter the PIN to join the call. In the US, Free Conference Calling offers a similar service and also the ability to record calls and to dial in with VOIP phones.
Whether you’re managing a project alone, work as part of a remote team or in an office collaborating with a team on a complex project, there are useful and free tools out there to help you keep in control and communicate more effectively with the team.
Trello is a visual way to organise tasks. Think of it as a pin board on your browser but one that updates with live information and that’s accessible to every team member.
Asana is a way to turn email into a project-based, task-driven dashboard that’s accessible to all team members. The free version is limited to 3 project cards.
Evernote is a way to store notes, website cuttings, voice recordings and pictures, tag them with metadata and make them accessible to all your devices. The individual version is free, the team collaboration version has a small monthly charge.
If you’re looking for a team messaging service to replace Skype, Hipchat offers group messaging as well as file sharing and works on all popular platforms and devices. The $2 p/m paid version adds video chat and screen-sharing.
Of course, if collaborating with the wider business world is your thing, then LinkedIn is the place to be. It offers one-to-one messaging, collaboration with business interest groups and an immense and up to date contacts database – and most of this is available with the free version.
Invision offers a fully free version of their wireframing/mockup tool. This allows you not only to quickly mockup products, but is also a collaborative design tool used by lots of larger software companies.