5 Essential Software Tools for Remote Teams

March 27th, 2020

Remote working is not a new trend. Research from Gallup found that the percentage of American employees working from home increased from 39% to 43% between 2012 and 2016. Some even predict that the rapid growth of employees choosing to work from home amid the covid-19 outbreak will be a turning point for the American workforce in favor of remote working. 

Adjusting to a new work environment is rarely easy, but there is a lot that companies can do to make this transition as smooth as possible for their employees. Providing your team with tools that enable them to communicate in real-time, manage their tasks, and schedule and host meetings are critical first steps all organizations can take. 

Below are 5 essential types of software that will help your employees stay productive and navigate their new WFH life:

  1. Web Conferencing Software
  2. Collaboration Tools 
  3. Remote Desktop Software 
  4. Virtual Private Network (VPN) Solutions
  5. VoIP Providers

Remote Work Software Tools Are Booming Right Now 

As someone who recently started working remotely (like so many others), I now rely on Zoom for daily communication and meetings. But I would be equally lost without other tools like Slack, Google Drive, Airtable, Trello, Calendly, and of course—good ole’ email. When used together, these tools allow me to stay on task, keep in touch with my team, and stay positive in the face of a global pandemic.  

Unsurprisingly, there has been an incredible increase in the number of software buyers searching for these tools in the wake of Coronavirus. On TrustRadius alone, there are nearly 5X as many buyers evaluating web conferencing software. Research into collaboration tools, remote desktop, VPNs, and VoIP software is up by over 100%:

Before and during the outbreak: number of buyers researching software on TrustRadius

Below, you’ll find an overview of each of these software categories along with the most popular tools on TrustRadius for each, according to reviewers.  

Web Conferencing Software

Web Conferencing software allows individuals to host and participate in online meetings or webinars. Users can create video and audio calls, share their screens, have group chats, and record meetings. Some products also allow users to share files or conduct post-meeting analytics. Two of the biggest benefits of web conferencing software are that it enables businesses with a distributed workforce to have online meetings and provides a source of real-time communication for employees. 

The 3 most popular web conferencing products on TrustRadius include:

#1 Zoom 

With over 550 reviews on TrustRadius, Zoom is recognized by reviewers for its high-quality audio and video, screen sharing, and meeting recording features. Zoom also has a ‘forever free’ version of the software that allows for up to 100 meeting participants, though it caps meetings at 40 minutes if there are 3 or more participants. For one reviewer, Zoom has allowed them to continue teaching students from home during the Covid-19 global health crisis. Read their review of Zoom here. While all web conferencing products have seen increased traffic due to COVID-19, Zoom currently comes in at #1 with 43% of impressions.

#2 BlueJeans 

BlueJeans has 413 reviews on TrustRadius and is noted for its crisp Dolby Voice audio, screen sharing capabilities, overall ease of use, and user-friendly mobile application. While BlueJeans does not have a free version of the software and can only host up to 50 participants on its lowest-priced plan, it offers users a set of meeting intelligence and analytics features. Recent reviewers have said that BlueJeans has been a smart investment during the Coronavirus outbreak. Read their words here and here

#3 Webex Meetings

From Cisco, Webex Meetings has 188 reviews on TrustRadius. Reviewers value the product’s screen sharing capabilities, calendar integration, and participant roles and permissions controls. Users also have access to features like click-to-join meetings, a mobile application, room for up to 10,000 meeting participants, and integrations with popular third-party tools (Microsoft 365, Gmail, and Slack). Webex Meetings recently upgraded its free plan, which now includes unlimited meeting time for up to 100 participants and a phone dial-in option. 

Collaboration Tools 

Messaging applications, project management tools, and file sharing software all fit under the ‘collaboration’ umbrella. Though these are different types of software, they all help companies achieve the same goal—more efficient collaboration and communication. Collaboration tools may enable users to communicate in real-time, automate workflows, keep track of time spent per task, or allow for document sharing and editing. 

The 3 most popular collaboration tools on TrustRadius include:

#1 Slack 

With 177 reviews on TrustRadius, Slack is a group communication and collaboration platform. It allows teams to engage in instant messaging, set statuses, create specific ‘channels’ for discussion topics, and place video and audio calls. It also has several integrations with other third-party applications, including Google Drive, Microsoft Outlook, and Trello. Slack reviewers frequently highlight its video calling and private messaging capabilities and say that it helps them keep in close communication with their team. 

#2 MS SharePoint

From Microsoft, Sharepoint is a document management, file storage, and collaboration platform that can be used in tandem with Microsoft Office 365. The 166 MS SharePoint reviewers on TrustRadius often use the product as their company intranet or document sharing and storage solution. A number of reviewers highlight SharePoint has excellent integrations with other Microsoft applications, including Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. 

#3 Microsoft Teams

Also from Microsoft, Teams has 123 reviews on TrustRadius and is a collaboration platform with video conferencing capabilities at its core. Along with online meetings, it also allows users to have group chats, make voice calls, and share and edit documents in real-time via other Microsoft applications (e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Many Microsoft Teams reviewers on TrustRadius use it for internal communication, especially when they need a quick answer from coworkers and don’t want to spend time writing an email. Microsoft Teams vs Skype is currently the fastest-growing software comparison TrustRadius, with 1347% growth week-over-week. 

Remote Desktop Software 

Remote desktop software enables IT professionals and administrators or customer support technicians to remotely access a client device (e.g. a computer, tablet, mobile phone), from a server in a different location. This allows IT staff to remain remote while helping provide maintenance, make upgrades, or resolve technical issues for end-users—whether they be employees or customers. Users have access to features like screen capture and the ability to access and manage files. In some cases, remote desktop software can also be used to provide sales demos or other types of online meetings. 

The 3 most popular remote desktop applications on TrustRadius include:

#1 ConnectWise Control

With 600 reviews on TrustRadius, ConnectWise Control (previously ScreenConnect) is a remote desktop access and control application. It also offers users the ability to conduct online meetings, ‘wake up’ devices that are sleeping, and generate remote support reports. ConnectWise Control is recognized by reviewers on TrustRadius for its screen sharing, file transfer, centralized management dashboard, and session recording capabilities. 

#2 TeamViewer

TeamViewer has 197 reviews on TrustRadius and is a secure remote desktop access and support platform. Users can connect to multiple devices, including computers, mobile phones, and other IoT devices. It provides cross-platform access, ability to set up multi-user sessions, file sharing, user access reporting, and customized device information. Reviewers on TrustRadius highlight TeamViewers’ ability to provide fast remote access, password protection and other security features, and stable connection with minimal delay for both server and client devices. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, software buyers are comparing TeamViewer vs Blizz 6X more than usual. 

#3 BeyondTrust Remote Support

With just over 100 reviews on TrustRadius, Remote Support software from BeyondTrust is powered by Bomgar. Users can provide support from either a browser-based or mobile app, and have the ability to do screen sharing and operate a remote support chat. BeyondTrust Remote Support is recognized by reviewers on TrustRadius for its multi-platform remote control and file transfer capabilities, and the ability to provide support from a mobile application. 

Virtual Private Network (VPN) Solutions

A VPN solution enables an individual user to securely connect their computer or device with a remote network while hiding the end-user’s IP address. Traditional Internet Protocol Security Virtual Private Network (IPSec VPN) software requires client software to be installed on the end-users desktop to connect with the remote network. However, Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks (SSL VPN) enables the end-user to connect to applications and services on a remote network via a web browser. This has a few key advantages for end-users and their companies: 

  • End-users can retain their privacy while accessing the network in a secure way
  • Data traveling through the VPN stays encrypted and protected by security protocols
  • Remote employees or clients can connect to an organization’s computer network

The 3 most popular VPN solutions on TrustRadius include:

#1 FortiGate 

From FortiNet, FortiGate has 45 reviews on TrustRadius and is a comprehensive firewall solution that also offers a range of IPSec and SSL VPNs. Many FortiGate reviewers on TrustRadius primarily use the solution as a firewall but also utilize it’s VPN solution for remote access. Reviewers also frequently mention that the FortiGate offering is very high quality for the price. For companies looking for firewall software to protect their business that has a built-in VPN, Fortigate is an ideal solution. 

#2 Cisco AnyConnect

Cisco AnyConnect has 21 reviews on TrustRadius and provides users with an SSL VPN solution. Many reviewers say AnyConnect is being used by their whole company to help connect various devices (iPads, mobile phones, tablets, notebooks, and computers) to their corporate network for remote workers. To help provide support for companies as they transition to having a remote workforce, Cisco has announced that current AnyConnect customers can surpass their user limit in order to add more remote users and new customers can access a free license. Read more here to see which other Cisco products have discounted or free upgrades. 

#3 BIG-IP

With 9 reviews on TrustRadius, F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) provides users with a suite of identity and access management features. This includes access to an SSL VPN that can be customized based on which applications end-users need to access. TrustRadius reviewers using F5’s SSL VPN solution highlight the ease of remotely connecting to their corporate network, the IP address restrictions in place that help increase security, and the ‘always on’ feature that allows users to remain connected to the applications they use daily. 

VoIP Providers

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows users to make voice calls over the internet and acts as the underlying technology for web conferencing and UCaaS platforms. Most VoIP providers offer voice, video, and chat capabilities. Many companies and individuals choose to invest in a VoIP solution rather than traditional phone systems that are plugged into the public switched telephone network (PSTN). 

Since users can use VoIP technology to place calls and host video meetings via the internet, this provides a great way for remote workers to connect with other employees or customers. Purchasing a ‘VoIP line’ also allows the end-user to preserve their privacy by not needing to use their personal phone number. Learn more about key VoIP purchasing considerations here

The 3 most popular VoIP Providers on TrustRadius include:

#1 8×8 X Series

8×8’s X Series, previously Virtual Office, has 116 reviews on TrustRadius and is a unified communication offering with VoIP capabilities at its core. It also includes audio and video meetings, voicemail transcription, team messaging, skills-based call routing, interactive-voice-response (IVR) capabilities, and integrations with G Suite and Office 365. Companies can bundle their X Series subscription and purchase whichever level plan is needed for specific users. 8×8 reviewers on TrustRadius call out X Series’ high-quality audio, call management features like call screening and message alerts, and overall VoIP technology. 

#2 NetFortris

With 107 reviews on TrustRadius, NetFortris offers a hosted VoIP solution for businesses. Along with standard VoIP features (call management, call recording, and auto attendants), NetFortris offers collaboration capabilities like video conferencing, instant messaging, and screen sharing. Reviewers of NetFortris on TrustRadius mention customer support, call management features, and user-friendly interface as key strengths of the product. 

#3 Fuze

Fuze has 78 reviews on TrustRadius and is a communications and collaboration platform that offers robust VoIP capabilities. Along with voice calling, Fuze includes video conferencing, screen sharing, team messaging, contact center, integration via APIs, and advanced security features. Many reviewers use Fuze for VoIP and video communication across their whole business. Reviewers frequently mention Fuze’s overall ease of use, ability to host online meetings, high call quality, and ability to access the platform via mobile application. 

Setting Your Business Up for Remote Success  

While the remote working tools listed above are essential, this list is by no means exhaustive.As your company continues to work from home, you may discover a need for other remote-friendly software solutions. For next steps, we recommend researching tools in the following categories:

Making sure your team has the right tools at their disposal is only half the battle. The other half is making sure there is wide adoption of the tool within your business, which heavily depends on how easy to use the product is.

To accurately assess just how easy to use a product will be, software demos and free trials are a must. Reviews are also a great way to get feedback from real end-users about their experience with the tool. For authentic, in-depth reviews from verified product users, search for your next software tool on TrustRadius