13 essential business tools for productivity, communications & file sharing
Editor’s note: This article was updated and refreshed on May 13, 2022 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
There is a wealth of tools that businesses can now leverage to improve communication, enable real-time collaboration, share files, and generally make the office a more efficient place to work. A savvy business takes full advantage of these tools, and is constantly on the lookout for new ways to modernise their internal operations.
With such variety available, businesses need to know what each tool can do for them and the benefits they return back to the organisation. Most businesses will usually leverage a mix of the below depending on the nature of your business and the projects that you’re undertaking. These are our top 13 suggestions for communications and file sharing solutions.
The business tools for productivity, communications and file sharing at a glance:
Cloud storage & file sharing
- Google Drive
Communication & video conferencing apps
Project management & customer management tools
Cloud storage & file sharing apps
Google Drive offers a complete business package all within one easy-to-use hub. Basically, it provides raw storage space and a series of productivity applications that allow your entire team to collaborate and work on them together in real-time.
When you sign up for Google Drive, you don’t just get cloud storage. Google Drive also comes paired with the entire Google suite, now known as Google Workspace. It includes:
- And a bunch more to suit just about any kind of business, large or small.
There are many advantages of using Google Drive as your business’s cloud storage and file sharing solution beyond just the added productivity tools. For starters, it’s fairly ubiquitous these days, so the user learning curve is low and you’re not likely to encounter employees who are completely unfamiliar with its functions. The set up is also really simple, so it requires little background knowledge or tech know-how to get up and running.
Google Drive (and Google Workspace) also gives you a lot of bang for your buck. You can access 15GB of cloud storage for free under a personal plan. Upgrading is also reasonably priced, with plans starting at AUD$8.40 per month per user for 30GB of storage per user.
Dropbox is another large file sharing service that’s great for businesses of all sizes.
One key advantage of Dropbox is its ability to synchronise – whenever you save a document, it automatically backs up and saves to Dropbox. That way, if something goes wrong, you’ve got a backup that can be accessed from anywhere. It also means that anyone who also has access to that document will always have the latest version.
Dropbox is great for sharing files too. Your business can set up group folders and share links easily to ensure whole teams have access to all the documents they need. You can also easily share files with external clients, vendors, or agencies, giving them access to just the document, and not your entire network. This is particularly useful in sharing large files that will have continued updates that you either can’t (due to file size) or don’t want to share over email.
The cloud storage application offers single user and team plans to suit your business needs. Plans start at AUD$30.79 per month for single users and offers 3,000GB of secure cloud storage. Team plans for three or more users start at AUD$23.10 per month per user and provides 5,000GB of secure storage.
Box is a cloud storage and file sharing app solution similar to Dropbox but with a few key differences.
Both Box and Dropbox offer similar features and function quite similarly. However Box has the additional security feature of two-factor authentication which makes it much harder for cyber criminals to target. Box is also a more cost-effective file sharing solution than Dropbox, offering more storage and space for less.
Reviews suggest, however, that Box is a little more clunky to use than Dropbox, so choosing between them will depend greatly on your business priorities, budget, and your team.
A free version of Box gets a single user up to 10GB of cloud storage. Business upgrades go for AUD$7 per month per user for a minimum of three users and will give up to 100GB of cloud storage. For even more storage, specialised business plans offer unlimited storage, with limits only placed on the upload file size. These plans start at AUD$21 per month per user for a minimum of three users.
Australia is a huge country, and limited internet infrastructure sometimes makes it extremely difficult for rural and remote businesses to operate, communicate and collaborate. There are still many remote areas in the country where the nbn™ hasn’t reached yet, and anyone travelling long distances or between cities is bound to hit a few areas where their connection dies on them.
SuperBeam allows you to quickly pair devices and encode files in a simple QR code format for later access, so you can keep working on a project even when your internet service fails.
The pro version of this app will only set you back $1.99.
Communication & video conferencing apps
Communicating with your team, colleagues, and even external partners is a critical part of running any business. Whether your employees are in the office full time, hybrid or remote, keeping channels of communication open and accessible helps with collaboration, productivity, and managing tasks.
Slack is more than just an instant messaging app. Although it does do instant messaging in a smart, logical format, the cloud application has expanded to offer businesses a complete communications platform.
Beyond Slack’s usual features of setting up channels that can be open or locked, and its direct messaging function, the platform has added on audio and video calls too. These calls can be with an entire group (known as ‘huddles’) or with an individual. It’s a great solution for quickly getting clarity from team members, or for doing you ongoing WIP meetings.
Businesses can also add external partners to their Slack without inviting them to your entire company. This way you can quickly communicate with agencies, vendors, clients, or any other external partner as part of your Slack platform.
Slack is affordable too, with a free plan that offers many features that smaller operations could get by on. For more features, plans start from USD$6.67 per month per active user when billed annually.
Discord can be seen as an alternative to Slack in the way that it’s designed. And although Discord wasn’t necessarily designed for business, many organisations are using it as a cost-effective way to keep the team connected.
The platform splits work groups by subject, plus you can share files and record discussions like a chat log. It’s also really easy to set up, so within a matter of minutes, your team could be up and running.
Discord puts a stronger emphasis on voice communication, which means your teams can easily chat verbally with one another from within the app. It’s also easy to invite large groups of people to the Discord server, meaning that you can use it for a way of interacting with both your customers and your internal teams.
The key difference between Slack and Discord, however, is that Discord is (essentially) free. You can choose to pay $99.99 a year for more emoji options and bigger file uploads for sharing, but all the core functions are all available on the free version.
Designed for remote work, GoToMeeting has become a widely popular video conferencing platform for businesses large and small. There are a lot of video conferencing solutions on the market today, with Zoom as the go-to for many businesses. But GoToMeeting is an upmarket tool for HD video conferencing when video quality matters.
The platform boasts a range of professional tools and conferencing options, including easy screen sharing, drawing tools so you can draw on your screen, post-meeting cloud recording and transcriptions, encrypted video and audio, and much more. It also integrates with a wide range of third-party apps and software.
GoToMeeting is an extremely versatile and mobile-friendly program that’ll help you liaise with clients and host meetings or even webinars with great service and clear visuals.
Plans for businesses start at AUD$17.33 month per per organiser when billed annually, and that comes with a great set of features.
Out-going communications with customers and clients are just as important as internal comms. Marketing, sales, blogs, advertising, social media, emails, website, product descriptions — these are all critical elements of how businesses reach and keep customers. Yet they also all require written content.
Whether you consider yourself a wordsmith or not, CopyAI is a great tool for businesses who need to communicate with customers. CopyAI uses an advanced AI language model to generate whatever content your business needs.
All you do is choose from a massive list of writing options, such as digital ad copy, follow-up email, blog intro, and dozens more. Then you input into the web app a few words or sentences that relate to what you’re writing about and the app generates a range of options for you to choose from, or mix and match to suit your brand.
Even if your business has a marketing team and/or copywriter on staff, CopyAI is still a useful tool for generating ideas, brainstorming, helping to reword awkward sentences and passive voice, and much more.
CopyAI is available for free with 10 credits per month (and a bonus 100 credits in your first month). For unlimited credits and additional features and tools, you can upgrade for $35 per month when billed annually.
Project management & customer management tools
Wrike is basically the be-all and end-all of work management software for businesses. The software works best in conjunction with some of the other tools in this list. It’s important to have communication tools, but it’s equally important to translate this into project management capabilities – which is exactly what Wrike does.
The program acts through your messaging app, and ties tasks to people as they’re set. It’s handy for translating communication into action, and tying people to specific functions.
Wrike is also highly versatile, so teams and companies can customise it to suit the needs and workflow of what will best serve your processes. It also integrates seamlessly with over 400 third-party apps, making it easy to fold into your existing tech stack.
You can get Wrike as a centralised task management platform on a free plan for up to five users and includes 2GB of storage per user. For additional users and features, plans start at $9.80 per month per user.
Basecamp’s greatest strength is that it allows businesses to interact with their customers online, without one customer seeing the work with another.
It works like this: You set your staff up with Basecamp, and then give each client access to a different workgroup. Clients can upload files, leave comments, and so on, and staff can interact with the client and share files in return, without a different client seeing any of it.
Many workplace productivity tools are focused on storage and file sharing within the organisation. It’s useful to have one that you can use when collaborating with a customer.
Basecamp also has a strong project management function that lets teams better organise their workflows and become more productive.
For businesses, Basecamp offers a flat USD$99 per month fee for unlimited projects and users. They also offer a free version with limited features for personal use and heavy discounts for non-profits.
Every organisation needs a support channel, where customers can leave messages and interact with your team. Some will prefer to get on the phone, of course, but for others, having a web portal where they can have their questions and concerns addressed is essential.
With Freshdesk, a customer opens a “ticket” which a support agent can immediately see and address. It’s possible to set up instant replies for common questions, and share attachments and files if necessary. When finished, the ticket can be closed, and the customer can rate the interaction, giving you an idea of how effective your support system is.
Evernote started out life as a simple note-taking app that allowed people to jot down quick ideas when they occurred to them and access them later. It has since expanded to a full productivity solution, including file sharing and storage, and is now aimed at teams that want to collaborate and share ideas easily.
One of Evernote’s greatest features is that it can save almost everything, whether you’re online or offline. From little notes created on phones through to the ability to take photos of physical documents and instantly store them or create copies of entire webpages for future reference. You can then tag the notes with keywords and sort them so you can easily find your notes and files later.
Evernote’s focus makes it the ideal resource for organisations that do a lot of brainstorming and research.
There’s a free plan that offers 30MB of storage per month and a whole bunch of other great features. Paid plans with extra features and storage start from AUD$10.99 per month.
Front is simple; it synchronises inboxes to simplify and organise company emails. It makes internal and external communications a lot easier to deal with, and can sync not only emails, but also certain social media sites like Twitter.
The service differentiates itself from other chat services in that it syncs with your email rather than relying on its own services. Contrasted against other chat programs like Slack, it’s a bit more formal, but it leaves a corporate paper trail and keeps your work accounts formal and professional. It also helps your customer service and sales teams build relationships with customers.
Plans start at USD$19 per month per user for 2-10 users.
Choosing the right tools for your business
Every productivity, communication, and storage application has its unique focus and intent. Finding the right mix for your organisation will likely improve how your business operates, so it’s worth understanding your options, needs and goals as you build out your tech stack.
Each business will have different approaches, and you may find that as many of the functions of these applications overlap, you may only need a handful of solutions to cover your bases within your budget.
What underpins your business and your access to critical productivity tools is a strong and reliable internet connection. Find a high-speed business internet plan that suits your needs with Aussie Broadband.