Note: This story has been updated on 3/20/20 and will continue to update.

In the midst of an increasingly challenging environment for small businesses, keeping your team connected is the first step to staying productive. While the number of tools out there might seem overwhelming, the good news is, it doesn't have to be complicated. I've put together this guide to help you choose the collaboration, communication, and productivity tools your remote team can use right now.

Here are the top tools you need to know about:

1. Slack

Slack is a team chat tool that has already long been the lifeblood of many remote organizations. The free version gives you access to up to 10,000 messages in your history and allows one-on-one voice and video calls as well. The paid version gives you group voice and video calls, and full message history. It also allows you to share chat channels with outside guests.

Pricing: $6.67 per month, per user.

2. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is similar to Slack, except its free version allows unlimited message history and more integrations (250) with third-party apps. The paid version, which is included in Office 365 Business subscriptions, allows up to 1TB of storage for attachments, and voice and video meetings for up to 250 people. The Premium ($12.50) plan includes the desktop versions of Office software.

Pricing: $5.00 or $12.50 per month, per user.

3. Google Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet

Like Slack and Microsoft Teams, Google has its own team collaboration tool. Despite the somewhat clunky name, if you're a G Suite user, you already have access to both Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. That means there's no free version, but paid plans allow up to 8,000 people per chat channel, and meetings with up to 150 participants. Higher priced plans include more meeting participants and larger Google Drive storage. 

Pricing: $6 per month, per user.

4. Zoom

Right now, Zoom is where most of us who are social distancing spend the majority of our face-to-face time. The popular videoconferencing tool allows businesses to conduct one-on-one or group meetings, or host webinars. You can sign up for free, and host meetings with up to 100 participants. Paid plans include longer meetings and cloud recording. 

Pricing: Begins at $14.95 per month, per user.

5. Cisco Webex

Webex allows you to host meetings for up to 100 participants on its paid plans, similar to Zoom, except with Webex, there's no time limit for group meetings. The paid plans
include transcriptions and audio recordings, as well as a customizable personal meeting link. That can be great for using the same link for regular team meetings.

Pricing: $13.50 per month, per host; also a $17.95 per month, per host, plan gives you the ability to assign different hosts, and provides 24/7 support.​

6. GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is another videoconferencing and webinar tool that allows teams to connect with one another or their customers. While it doesn't offer a free version, its parent company, LogMeIn, is making all of its services available for three months at no additional cost above your current subscription. With paid plans, your participants can join for free.

Pricing: Starts at $12 per month, per organizer; a $16 per month Business plan gives you unlimited cloud recording, transcription, and keyboard sharing, which can be especially helpful if you plan to meet with customers.

7. Basecamp

Basecamp is one of the most popular project management and collaboration tools. It includes an unlimited number of users and projects, while also giving you up to 500GB of centralized storage. Basecamp also includes chat and message board features to help teams stay in contact, eliminating the need for outside tools like Slack. Basecamp allows you to try all of the features for free for 30 days. 

Pricing: $99 per month.

7. Asana

Asana is another project management tool that is great for teams. The free version allows you to create tasks and view them as a list, a Kanban-style board, or a calendar. You can also designate assignees and add due dates, while collaborating with up to 15 team members. Paid plans include custom fields, rules, a timeline feature, and better admin controls. 

Pricing: Starts at $10.99 per month, per user.

8. Trello

Trello is a tool that makes it easy for teams to manage projects and assign tasks. In fact, I use Trello every day, and it's one of the easiest ways to monitor the progress of projects through a series of states of pipelines. The free version includes unlimited boards (projects). The Business Class plan gives you customization options, storage options, and priority support. It also allows unlimited add-ons known as "power-ups" that add additional functionality and integrations. 

Pricing: Business Class plan is $9.99.

9. Zendesk Chat

Zendesk might be one of the most popular support help desk software tools, but right now, it's Chat tool is a great way to stay connected with your customers. The widget lets you connect with customers while they're on your website to provide support or make a sale. The free version allows one concurrent chat, while the Team plan allows unlimited chats and advanced customization features. 

Pricing: $14 per month, per agent.

10. Facebook Messenger

If you're already connecting with your customers on Facebook, Messenger is a great tool for engaging with them in real time. In fact, beyond answering questions or providing support, Messenger also allows people to purchase directly from chat conversations. Facebook also has a lot of tools to help you get the most of your Facebook Business Page to connect with your customers. 

Pricing: Free with Facebook account.

11. WhatsApp

Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp also allows you to easily connect with your customers, and allow them to purchase your products and services. In fact, while it serves primarily as a messaging app, the features for business are a great way to connect with customers you can't interact with in person right now. You can create a profile, chat with customers, organize and label conversations, and upload your product catalog. It also happens to be a good tool for connecting with your team as they start working from home.

Pricing: Free.

12. Skype

Skype has been around as a communication tool for quite a while. Owned by Microsoft, it's a great tool for both voice or video calls, and you can use it for conference calls or video meetings. It's free to use; you just pay if you want a dedicated phone number or to make calls to mobile phones or landlines. Technically, Skype's business offering is now a part of Microsoft Teams (mentioned above), but the free personal version is still useful for smaller teams.

Pricing: Free, with some cost for calls to non-Skype numbers.

13. RingCentral

RingCentral is a VoIP service that uses the internet to make phone calls instead of a landline with unlimited phone calls in the U.S., and includes either a local or toll-free number. All of the plans also include business SMS messaging, call management, and mobile apps for iOS and Android, allowing you to make and receive calls without special equipment.

Pricing: Starts at $19.99 per month; a $24.99 per month plan includes unlimited audio meetings, videoconferencing for up to 4, and internet fax.

14. Google Voice

Another option for phone and messaging is Google Voice, which is free for personal use. Simply download the Voice App on Android or iOS and you can make and receive calls on your device using a dedicated Google Voice number. For businesses, plans include better integration with calendar and Hangouts Meet, as well as more advanced control over users and features. Maybe the best feature is one that used to be unique to Google Voice--that's the fact that it will email you a transcription of your voice mail, which is great for those of us who don't love talking on the phone.

Pricing: Starts at $10 per month, per user.

15. Dialpad

Dialpad offers a suite of business communication tools including a VoIP phone system, videoconferencing, a call center, and sales tools. The phone system includes unlimited calling and SMS messaging in the U.S. It also gives you controls like transferring and hold, while providing you with voice mail transcription.

The videoconferencing service is free for account users, and includes up to 5 hours per meeting with up to 50 participants. For what it's worth, Dialpad is also offering a free Talk Pro and Conference Business account for two months while your team is disrupted.

Pricing: Starts at $15 per month, per user.

Published on: Mar 18, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.