Fire Engine RED has been a 100% virtual/distributed company since we were founded 15 years ago … meaning everyone on our team works remotely, with no central office. Today, our team members work from 75+ separate locations in five countries.

Our education clients continually marvel at how we’re able to successfully create and manage large-scale, highly customized Student Search campaigns – AND effectively develop complex enterprise (CRM) software – all without the “benefit” of an office!

How do we do it? For one thing, we use a variety of intuitive, easy-to-use collaboration tools to stay in constant communication. Here are a few of the tools we love, and why we love them (best of all, most of them have free versions available!).

What we use it for: Managing passwords.
Why we love it: It’s so easy to use, it’s like magic … Dashlane claims its powerful autofill functionality will save you an average of 50 hours per year, and we believe it!
What it costs: Free (upgrades available)

What we use it for: Instant messaging.
Why we love it: This tool lets us communicate quickly with teammates, and indicate our work statuses, such as “available,” “in a meeting,” “at lunch,” “walking my dog,” and so forth. More than any other tool we use, Trillian helps us feel like we’re all in the same office, even when we’re states (and countries) away.
What it costs: Free (pro upgrade $20 per year)

What we use it for: Voice and video calls; screen sharing.
Why we love it: Nearly all our one-on-one and small group chats are audio only, but it’s great to have Skype’s video capability available if everyone on the call is willing! Plus, Skype also lets us share our screens and collaborate on documents with just a click.
What it costs: Free (upgrades available)

What we use it for: Calendar sharing and collaboration on documents.
Why we love it: We’ve always been fans of the free versions of Google Calendar and Google Drive, and we highly recommend them. As our team grew, we wanted more security and control, so we upgraded to Google Business, which is more secure and allows an administrator to easily transfer ownership of documents (and remove access to them).
What it costs: Free (business upgrade $5 per user per month)

What we use it for: Secure file storage and sharing.
Why we love it: Dropbox makes it a breeze to store and share large, graphics-heavy files (photos, Powerpoint presentations, etc.).
What it costs: Free (business version $15 per user per month)

What we use it for: Our internal social network.
Why we love it: Yammer lets our team members share company and personal information throughout the day – everything from industry news to cute pictures of our kids (and yes, the occasional cat video).
What it costs: Free (upgrades available)

What we use it for: Conference calls.
Why we love it: It allows each team member to have their own conference call number and host up to 10 callers for free. Our company also has a business account that lets us add up to 100 callers; plus, it gives our administrator the ability to see who’s on the call, and to manage and mute callers easily.
What it costs: Free (business version $10 per month)
What we use it for: Screen sharing.
Why we love it: It’s so easy to use; for example, it lets us pass control of the shared screen from one user to another with a click. And our business account allows us to screen-share with up to 50 people at once.
What it costs: Free (business version $15 per month)

What we use it for: Project workflow.
Why we love it: activeCollab allows our world-class project managers to track tasks, create schedules, view key milestones, archive projects, and much more.
What it costs: Starts at $25 per month for up to five users

What we use it for: Project management.
Why we love it: It helps our writers/designers keep track of all the versions of their creative work. It’s also great for letting other team members know that a particular creative piece is ready for review.
What it costs: Free (business version $99 per month for unlimited users)

If you’re interested in learning more about how YOU can use collaborative software tools to help build a productive remote team, feel free to reach out to me anytime!