Is your business currently affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak? Below are some quick tips to help get your business back up and running online.
As the reality of COVID-19 global pandemic sets in, many small business owners are facing the prospect of having to work from home for the foreseeable future. Staying home does not necessarily mean business has to come grinding to a halt however.
Many of us already use online or remote productivity tools in our daily lives, but in the wake of this unprecedented global event now may be the ideal time to sharpen your remote productivity toolbox.
Every business is different, but many of us can use the same tools to get our jobs done.
- Email & chat
- Video conferencing
- Remote desktop
- Virtual private networks (VPN)
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
Email & chat
Most (if not all?) of you already have email. The good news is that most popular email services like Gmail integrate with many of these popular productivity apps.
If you are looking to take your internal communications to the next level Slack (https://slack.com) is a popular choice. Slack provides a private instant messaging platform designed to replace email for internal communications. The free plan allows you to access the most recent 10,000 messages and up to 5GB of work files.
- Free to use plans
- Streamline communications between employees
- Create private channels
- Search all content quickly and conveniently
- Accessible anywhere
With all of your communications in one place, there is no need for endless replies and keeping track of message threads. Easily add people to the conversation and segment relevant discussions into different channels.
The value of face-to-face meetings can’t be underestimated. While email allows us to quickly provide information and respond when convenient, video conferencing enables us to connect with people on a more personal level.
Using a cellphone, laptop or webcam attached to your computer we can quickly and easily recreate that in-person experience over the internet.
Zoom (https://zoom.us) is a video meeting and collaboration tool that is free to use for meetings lasting up to 45 minutes. In addition to video conferencing, it features phone dial-in, desktop and application sharing, meeting scheduling, whiteboarding and more.
Though it does require a small download on desktop, you can also join the conversation on the go with mobile apps for all major devices.
If you would prefer to not have potential clients have to download an app for desktop use Google Hangouts Meet (https://gsuite.google.com/products/meet/) provides video conferencing directly in the browser.
From now until July 1st, 2020 Google Hangouts Meet is offering free premium features in response to coronavirus for G Suite users. (Read more: https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/g-suite/helping-businesses-and-schools-stay-connected-in-response-to-coronavirus)
Integrating directly with G Suite applications like Gmail and calendar, it is quick and easy to set up meetings and send invites. For users not on G Suite, Google Hangouts (yes, confusingly similar name) offers simple video chat for free.
- Skype – https://www.skype.com/ (free tier)
- GoToMeeting – https://www.gotomeeting.com/
- NewRow – https://www.newrow.com/
Need to access your work computer from home? Remote desktop applications allow you to access your computer from anywhere from (nearly) any device. You can log into your computer from the comfort of your home and use it as if you were sitting in front of it — Run apps, copy files, you name it.
For Windows 10 users you may already have a remote desktop solution and not even know it…. Microsoft Remote Desktop comes pre-installed on every Windows 10 Professional (or higher) operating system. It requires some configuration to work outside your local network, but is a reliable solution that can be found on most Windows-based business computers.
If quick and easy is your bag, (or you’re on iOS) it’s hard to beat the convenience of Teamviewer (https://www.teamviewer.com/). Arguably the most popular remote desktop software, they provide free plans for personal use. Business plans start at $49/mo. Download and register the app and you will be given a special session code to log in from remote devices. No special router or firewall configuration is required. Simply input your code & password to connect to your device.
Finally, if Microsoft Remote Desktop isn’t an option, and you are looking for a free solution TightVNC (https://www.tightvnc.com/) is a lightweight, open-source remote desktop solution worth checking out.
Chrome Desktop: https://remotedesktop.google.com/access/
Virtual Private Networking (VPN)
We’ll save our in-depth discussion of VPN’s for a later date, but it’s worth noting they can be an invaluable tool in remote work. A virtual private network allows you to access your business network resources (think: files) outside of your local business network while providing privacy and security against online threats. Access your work files and drives directly from your home computer without skipping a beat. Perimeter 81 (https://www.perimeter81.com/) is a well-recommended business-class service that provides a fast and reliable encrypted connection at a reasonable rate. For a free solution check out Hotspot Shield Free VPN (https://www.hotspotshield.com/).
Consumer Relationship Management (CRM)
Like VPN’s we’ll dive more into this topic in another article, but we would be remiss to not mention it before we go. CRM platforms allow companies to manage and analyze customer data and provide useful tools and information to increase customer retention and sales. Track clients throughout their customer lifecycle and manage marketing, sales, customer service and support all from one dashboard.
HubSpot CRM (https://www.hubspot.com/) is one of the leading tools in the small business market. It’s easy-to-use drag and drop interface allows you to integrate tracking, marketing, scheduling and email all under one roof.
Streak CRM (https://www.streak.com/) is a lightweight option that can integrate directly into Gmail and G Suite Apps. They also have a free option that provides tools like email tracking that lets you know when and where a client opened your email, as well as the ability to set up sales and support pipelines.
There are a multitude of incredible business productivity services and apps for remote work that will get you up and running quickly and make your life easier. Over the next few weeks we will be going into more depth about each of these important areas of running your business online. If you have any questions please feel free to comment here or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
– The Dig Down Media team