The beauty of the Internet is that it allows small businesses to operate from anywhere—including virtual offices and teams that stay in touch primarily online.
So what's the best way to stay in touch?
Email is obviously a helpful tool for letter-like communication, but there are several other useful web-based tools for constant contact.
Yammer is essentially a version of Twitter for companies and groups to use only to communicate with one other. Employees can update their teams on what they're working on in short bursts, share files and links, and message one other directly. For security purposes, it checks your corporate email address to make sure you're eligible to participate. And free apps for mobile platforms like Apple's iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile mean you can stay in touch from anywhere.
Cost: Free for basic features. $3 per user per month for "silver" features, including security tools and priority support. $5 per user per month for "gold" features, including multiple domains, Microsoft SharePoint integration, and keyword monitoring for bosses.
Think of Campfire as a Web 2.0 version of an Internet chat room. You can chat, upload files, add voice conference calls and read transcripts of old chats. It's made by the same company that makes Basecamp, a popular project management tool, so there is some integration of the two products.
Cost: Free 30-day trial on all subscription levels. The free plan supports four chatters with 10 MB of storage. $12 per month for 12 chatters; $24 per month for 25 chatters and 500 conference call minutes; $49 per month for 60 chatters; and $99 per month for 100 chatters. Each level provides more storage, too.
Here's an interesting new way to keep in touch with your team: via text message. GroupMe lets you set up a text message number for a group of people, so that every message that gets sent to the number goes out to the whole team. It's an interesting way to share alerts, updates and spur-of-the-moment ideas from anywhere. And unlike emails, which can get lost, text messages are not easily ignored.
Cost: Free. Text messages cost extra and vary by carrier.
Skype Video Chat
Want to talk face-to-face with colleagues who are hundreds or thousands of miles away? Skype has long offered high-quality video conferencing, in addition to its Internet phone service.
Cost: Video calls are free.
What do you use to keep in touch with your team?