What Is Online Collaboration?

A brief guide to online collaboration tools and programs.

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Online collaboration refers to the tools and platforms people use to work together within a digital environment. In most cases, it refers to how people work together over the internet.

Online collaborators can work together on text documents, PowerPoint presentations, video chats, or detailed brainstorming projects. The idea is that users do not need to be in the same room at the same time to work together.

There are many online collaboration tools available. A web conference allows people to meet online and deliver presentations, but it's not necessarily the same thing as an online collaboration tool. Online collaboration specifically involves a team working together, often at the same time, and on the same projects and documents.

What Are the Features of an Online Collaboration Tool?

A successful online collaboration tool needs to be easy to use and set up. It needs to be secure, with features that allow users to share information through both visual and textual means—whatever is necessary for the task at hand. If you want to hold an online brainstorming session, for example, it helps to have mind-mapping and flow chart tools, sort of like a whiteboard. You may also want to be able to quickly share notes or files, adjust calendars, or send notifications regarding changes to the project.

Is Online Collaboration Secure?

Most online collaboration tools have security features that control and prohibit access to projects. Most tools also offer encryption, an additional layer of security that renders documents unreadable to anyone without the credentials. Some programs allow users to adjust authorization levels for each participant. This means that while some people will only be able to view or read a document, others can make changes or even delete them.

How Can Online Collaboration Help Businesses?

Virtual collaboration is good for organizations of any size, as long as there is mutual interest in working remotely. Clients as well as colleagues stand to benefit from the tools provided by online collaboration tools.

More and more employers are going digital and enabling partially or completely remote workforces. Online collaboration effectively allows employees to shrink the distances between each other. They can work together on the same projects at the same time, as if they were all in the same room. This means that projects can be done much faster, as there is no need to send documents back and forth between offices.