7 Best online team collaboration tools and software for small businesses

With remote working on the rise, we pick out seven of the best collaboration tools for business to help your team work better together online.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:
0 out of 0
Software
Best for
Price per user:
When billed annually
Free trial?
Rating (/5)
Verdict

Proofhub

Slack

Creative tools

Freemium version

Progress tracking

Real-time collaboration

Document sharing

A gentle learning curve

Communication

£7 (per seat)

£3.62

£7.10

£9.49

£64.74 (flat rate)

£7.24

£5.25

4.3

4.3

4

4.0

4

3.8

3.8

Monday.com is an innovative platform that’s best-suited for teams in creative industries, and it has some top value plans and deals, too.

Generous features list makes ClickUp great for budget-conscious teams with any size team, and there's a great free tier, too.

Affordable option that's perfect for SMEs of any size that want to focus on project tracking

Good for larger teams with high-pressure deadlines, Asana is a tool that can keep you organised and up to date.

Simple core features and a visual focus on proofreading make Proofhub an excellent solution for file collaboration.

Trello is best for small firms with fewer than ten employees that are new to team-working technology

Slack is best for companies that are working remotely, and need to be able to contact each other quickly and easily

We think the top choice for team collaboration software is Monday.com. It is packed with great features and an attractive interface to make your team working simple and easily customisable. Hot on its heels for team collaboration is Clickup, a powerful tool that's remarkably easy to use and even has a great free plan for small teams.

But there might be other areas of digital collaboration that your firm is looking to prioritise, such as affordability or file sharing. Read on to learn more about the 7 best online collaboration software brands on the market.

As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work. Whether it’s online or in-person, in meetings or during the review process, working together enables more innovative ideas, helping businesses to achieve their goals more effectively.

That’s why collaboration tools are such an effective way to boost productivity and enable success in the workplace. Particularly post-Covid, as the culture of hybrid working becomes normalised, collaborative software has gone from a nice-to-have, to an essential part of your business strategy.

So what makes a good collaboration tool? Should you try a freemium platform, like ClickUp?

We’ve been working with startups for over two decades and we know that researching the right collaboration tool for your business takes time.

That’s why we’ve done the work for you, by picking out what we think are the best options based on seven key considerations, including saving on budget, messaging tools, and ease of learning. These can make all the difference when it comes to defining the best collaboration tool for small businesses.

According to a recent report by Fierce inc., 85% of workers think that the primary reason their projects fail is lack of collaboration and poor communication.

Monday.com

Best for: Creative tools

4.3 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    4.5
  • Integrations
    4

Monday.com screenshot

Because Monday.com is chiefly a project management tool, it puts equal emphasis on communication and planning. That makes it an unparalleled resource for project-led companies, in industries like design or marketing. Its traffic-light structure means you can track where your team members are up to at a glance – also handy for communicating project progress using reports and dashboards. For a full breakdown, read our Monday.com review for small businesses.

The Evergeen Agency

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins is managing director of The Evergreen Agency, a digital marketing agency. Rudman-Hawkins said: “As an SEO agency that is growing rapidly we needed a team collaboration tool that was easy-to-use, intuitive to pick up and, crucially for us, visually appealing. Monday.com ticks all of those boxes. We feel for the value we get from Monday.com, the time saved, the intuitive nature of how it works – it is a no-brainer. I would encourage any business out there that needs to streamline their processes to take the time to look into the tool.”

Is it right for my business?

We think Monday.com’s feature list works best for creative industries and businesses with unique client needs. The platform’s generous inventory of tools is excellent for customisation, and designed to give a first-class visual on projects so that coworkers can easily understand each other’s tasks. This includes Kanban boards and Gantt charts which can be used with real-time collaboration – great for brainstorming sessions.

  • Custom fields
  • Instant messaging
  • 200+ dashboard templates
  • Cloud-based file sharing
  • Custom apps
  • Unlimited users
  • Kanban boards
  • Gantt charts
  • Timelines

Pricing

Monday.com has a distinctive payment structure that is based on a set number of seats, which could be a pain point for teams with fluctuating sizes.

In terms of a freemium option, you can either trial its Pro plan for 14 days, or download the Individual free plan. However, unlike rival software ClickUp, Monday.com is only suitable for single users or teams of two.

For more information, read our Monday.com pricing guide.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Price Per Month (billed monthly)
Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

Monday.com Individual

Monday.com Basic

Monday.com Standard

Monday.com Pro

Monday.com Enterprise

Contact sales

Free

£12 seat/month

£27 seat/month

£42 seat/month

Contact sales

Up to 2

Minimum of 3

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

It's not strictly a collaboration tool, but an attractive interface and admirable customisation capabilities mean Monday.com is an excellent choice for collaborative teams working in client-facing industries like design or marketing.

ClickUp

Best for: Freemium plan

4.3 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    5
  • Integrations
    3.5

ClickUp screenshot

Cost is one of the most important considerations for SMEs. That’s why ClickUp, a relatively new project management platform, has already made a name for itself due to a generous list of features and budget-friendly pricing plan. It is structured using a company hierarchy, meaning different departments can work alongside each other virtually without stepping on each other’s toes.

Collaboration is a key part of ClickUp’s design. When someone else is editing, you can see their live cursor,  as well as who else is viewing a task. ClickUp also allows you to add comments to specific tasks and share files like videos and images, which are stored alongside your projects to help keep your team working smoothly.

Is it right for my business?

If you’re looking for the best free collaboration tool, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more bountiful feature list than ClickUp. Its free plan includes:

  • Custom views
  • Multiple assignees
  • Goals
  • Mind maps
  • Dashboards
  • Gantt charts
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Email
  • 100+ integrations
  • Proofing
  • Cloud-based file sharing

There are drawbacks to this low cost, however, with the majority of ClickUp’s features having monthly limits. It also only allows 5 spaces for your business (which essentially represent a project).

At only £3.62, ClickUp Unlimited is the platform’s lowest paid-for tier and withdraws most of these restrictions, making it a good upgrade option for those wanting a long-term solution.

Pricing

ClickUp’s free tier might be its biggest USP but its higher-tiered payment plans are similarly low-cost and high-value. For more information, read our ClickUp pricing guide.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Price Per Month (billed monthly)
Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

ClickUp Free

ClickUp Unlimited

ClickUp Business

ClickUp Enterprise

Contact sales

Free

£6.51 per member

£13.74 per member

Contact sales

Unlimited – but only 5 spaces

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

Budget-conscious teams will appreciate Clickup’s low cost and generous features list, although freemium users should be aware of the limitations within the plan.

If you’re looking to save money as a small business owner, read our guide to find out more about the best free project management software.

Wrike

Best for: Project progress

4 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    4
  • Integrations
    3.5

Wrike's simple design makes for a smooth and intuitive user experience, and the platform scored highly in our testing for usability. Its interface is clean, with visuals that focus on relaying information at a glance, making it useful for quickly updating stakeholders and guests on the status of tasks and milestones.

Time management is a big concern when it comes to collaborative working, as having multiple assignees to one project can lead to more time spent on admin and quality assurance. Like Asana, Wrike also has excellent real-time collaboration features, including document sharing and editing, and a project message board. This means you're more likely to stick to schedule – saving you both time and money.

Is it right for my business?

Key collaboration tools included in Wrike's two lowest-tiered payment plans include:

  • Cloud storage integration
  • Community forum
  • Kanban boards
  • Spreadsheets
  • Dashboards
  • Preset widgets
  • Milestones
  • Project message board
  • Guest Access
  • Task comments
  • Gantt charts

One area that Wrike did not score well in during our testing was automations – time-saving triggers that mean certain duties are completed automatically, rather than manually. The platform's automation builder isn't easy to access or use, so a member of your team will likely need to take on a specific administrative role for software upkeep.

Wrike dashboard

Wrike pricing

At just £7.20 per user for Wrike Professional, the platform is low-range on the cost spectrum for PM software and will suit most SME budgetary requirements.

The app's freemium tier, Wrike Free, is unusually generous for features and also permits an unlimited number of users, meaning that small businesses of any size can work collaboratively for zero charge. Higher tiers require a minimum of 5 users.

Want to know more about Wrike pricing? Read our full guide to the platform's deals and discounts.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

Wrike Free

Wrike Professional

Wrike Business

Wrike Enterprise

Contact sales

Unlimited

5 to 200

5 to 200

Unlimited

Verdict

Given Wrike's clear emphasis on project progress and tracking – Gantt charts, task dependencies and spreadsheets all feature – we recommend it for businesses with more than five employees that work to lots of tight deadlines, such as PR or marketing agencies.

Asana

Best for: Real-time collaboration

4 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.5
  • Features
    4
  • Integrations
    4.5

Real-time collaboration is important for team working systems, and Asana scores highly for this criterion. As a project management software, it can help teams to improve the organization, tracking, and delegation of projects. Projects can be organised in a variety of different formats including lists, boards, calendars and even gantt charts, which you can use to consolidate your workflow into one easy tracking system.

Because it has more sophisticated features than the other tools in this list, Asana does not have a quick onboarding process and new starters might find themselves confused by the software’s huge number of capabilities.

Oli Bradley - Words+Pixels

Oliver Bradley is client director at Words+Pixels, a tech consultancy firm. Bradley commented: “We recently brought in Asana to support us from a project and account management perspective. So far, it has not only cut back on notification overload and helped teams manage their time more efficiently, but provided perspective and context on how individual tasks ladder up to support the whole team and help them meet their project goals together. As we return to the office two days a week, these boards support cross-team collaboration more efficiently.”

Is it right for my business?

Asana is an excellent collaboration software solution for small businesses, with unlimited assignees permitted to work on every task. It’s good for Kanban boards, which is an agile project management tool that enables you to visualise workflow and iron out any issues. Its timeline view allows you to coordinate your work more easily using dependencies and milestones, helping you to keep an eye on each other’s objectives. Because of this, it is a great choice for sectors that have a lot of high-pressure deadlines, like financial services.

Users can also add automated notifications for immediate team updates. For example, you can automatically get a notification when someone else on your team completes a task.

  • Unlimited comments
  • Unlimited activity logs
  • Unlimited storage (100MB per file)
  • Unlimited assignees
  • Inbox
  • Status updates
  • Video messaging feature
  • Automations
  • Cloud-based file sharing

Pricing

Asana has a good freemium tier but, unlike ClickUp, it’s lacking a lot of the core team collaboration tools. SMEs should use it for a free sample of the platform, before committing to Asana Premium. In terms of affordability, it’s a good solution for small businesses at £9.49 per user, per month when billed annually. Compared to the other tools in this list it is also a bit of a splurge, but in our opinion the benefits are worth the added cost.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Price Per Month (billed monthly)
Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

Asana Basic

Asana Premium

Asana Business

Asana Enterprise

Free

£9.49

£20.99

Contact sales

Free

£11.59

£25.69

Contact sales

Up to 15

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

Asana would work well for larger teams of 15+ that are working on a lot of shared tasks and need a good organisational tool to keep the workflow up to date.

Proofhub

Best for: Document sharing

4 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4
  • Price
    3.5
  • Integrations
    4.5

Proofhub’s user experience aims for simplicity. It has all the essential features offered by project management tools, but avoids complication by helping teams to collaborate through visual document sharing. You can track project changes with file versioning, and share ideas in threads or direct messages using the group chat feature. Growing teams will also appreciate Proofhub’s flat payment option, which accommodates an unlimited number of users.

Less favourably, user reviews have criticised the app for its poor navigation, as its basic design means Proofhub doesn’t have a very intuitive interface.

Is it right for my business?

Proofhub’s unique selling point is an emphasis on document sharing. Its main features are focussed on feedback and proofreading, which makes it well-suited for teams with a lot of documents that need checks and revisions – for example, those working in coding or accounting.

Core features include:

  • Time tracking
  • Task management
  • Gantt charts
  • Proofing and file approval
  • Group chat
  • File sharing
  • Calendar
  • Company announcements
  • Multilingual translation

Pricing

Proofhub charges its users a flat rate, regardless of the number of team members. Its Essential payment plan is the lowest-tiered option and costs £32.68 with no user limit, meaning it could either be very cheap or very expensive depending on your team size. The other payment option available is Proofhub Ultimate Control, a more advanced plan which costs £64.63 per year.

In terms of more budget-friendly options, there is also a free trial available of the Ultimate Control plan. Or, if you’re a non-profit, you can apply for Proofhub’s 40% discount for charity organisations.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Price Per Month (billed monthly)
Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

Proofhub Essential

Proofhub Ultimate control

£32.68

£64.63

£36.31

£71.89

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

If your company relies on proofreading during collaboration – whether for coding or copywriting – then Proofhub is the best option for you. Plus, good core features and a flat payment rate make it an attractive tool for growing your business.

Trello

Best for: A gentle learning curve

3.8 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    5
  • Features
    3.5
  • Integrations
    3

Trello screenshot

Describing its product as “a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards”, Trello is another example of a work management software that has become popular for team working. Thanks to its very simple layout that uses ‘cards’ to represent day-to-day tasks, in one glance, Trello can tell your team what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in your company’s workflow. Trello’s setup time is short and the platform itself is very intuitive, making it an excellent option for SMEs that are new to the technology and want a collaborative tool that they can easily master.

Rob Flannery - Nutshell Creative

Rob Flannery is sales and marketing manager at Nutshell Creative Ltd, a creative agency. Flannery said: “Trello is the perfect tool for the planning stages of our marketing activity. We use it as an ideas board to ‘throw’ all our ideas at before they are later refined into a more traditional marketing plan. The intuitive design of the system means we can drag and drop ideas, set up checklists and easily remove those ideas that don’t quite make the ‘cut’. We would certainly recommend Trello.”

Is it right for my business?

Trello differs from full-featured team collaboration tools as it prioritises stripped-back functionality and accessibility over a long, sophisticated feature list. Because of this, it’s best for small teams of around 10 people, as its performance will suffer the more complicated your project or tasks get.

Trello’s Freemium option includes:

  • Unlimited cards
  • Unlimited members
  • Cloud-based file sharing
  • Unlimited storage (10MB/file)
  • Public board management
  • Integrations with 200+ apps including Slack and Dropbox
  • Assignee and due dates

Pricing

There are two different payment plans available from Trello. Small businesses will be most satisfied with the Business Class plan. It costs £9.05 per user when billed monthly, and £7.24 if billed annually.

However, most of the features available in this tier are sophisticated project management tools. For simple team working, Trello Free covers all of the essentials.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Price Per Month (billed monthly)
Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

Trello Basic

Trello Business

Trello Enterprise

Free

£7.24 per user

Contact sales

Free

£9.05 per user

Contact sales

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

Designed to simplify the team working process, Trello is an excellent choice for small firms with fewer than ten employees that are new to team-working technology, offering a basic tool with a gentle learning curve.

Slack

Best for: Communication

3.8 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4
  • Price
    4
  • Integrations
    3.5

According to a recent report from Intermedia, 57% of SME owners in the US said they plan to continue increasing remote working options for employees following the coronavirus outbreak. So if you’re working entirely online, how can your company ensure teams can continue to communicate with each other easily?

Founded in 2009, Slack is one of the most well-known and trustworthy names in team messaging apps. Like Monday.com, it has admirable customisation tools including colour themes, emojis, clock type, screen formatting, sidebar edits and even different status options for when you don’t want to be disturbed.

Claire Creagh - THPR

Claire Creagh is senior digital strategist at Thinking Hat PR, a communications agency. Creagh commented: “Slack cuts down on email, it gives you a channel to chat, share and ask quick fire questions in a ‘virtual’ office environment. I started my role remotely and Slack gave me a more casual way of getting to know my teammates without pestering them on email! Creating different channels for teams or topics keeps things organised, and keeps work out of personal spaces like WhatsApp, we had a good experience linking our Slack with clients to create a private channel for project updates. It’s so much more professional than a WhatsApp group, and a direct line between the client lead and the agency PM.”

Is it right for my business?

Slack stands out as a messaging tool due to its much simpler layout and scaled-back features list. Slack is focussed purely on communication and consequently, does it very well. It is also channel based, and has 800+ integrations with almost every major work management tool. With the lowest-priced tier, Slack Pro, you get:

  • Access entire message history
  • Unlimited apps & integrations
  • 10 GB storage per member
  • Two-factor authentication settings
  • Group video calls up to 15 people
  • Screen sharing
  • Channel recommendation

Slack is not designed for project management or more complex collaboration needs so things like inventory management or file sharing are a no go. Its built-in calling feature is also not well-reviewed, with a lot of users complaining of poor audio quality. That being said, third-party integrations with Zoom or Google Hangouts easily solve this problem.

Pricing

Slack has a few different payment plans. We think Slack Pro works best for small businesses, costing £5.25 per user, per month when billed annually. This gives you an unlimited number of users as well as 10GB of storage per user – more than enough for most SMEs. The Business plan is still affordable but is built for large firms working on an international scale.

0 out of 0
Price Per Month (billed annually)
You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance
Price Per Month (billed monthly)
Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option
Users
The total number of users for this plan level
Free Trial

Slack Pro

Slack Business +

Slack Enterprise

£5.25 per user

£9.75 per user

Contact

£6.30 per user

£11.70 per user

Contact sales

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

It might lack the project management tools available with other software options on this list, but Slack is best for companies that are working remotely, and need a simple messaging tool to be able to contact each other quickly and easily.

How did we choose the 7 best digital collaboration tools?

As a small business owner, what you want from a collaboration tool depends on a number of factors, such as how new you are to using software, which industry you are based in, and how much you can afford to spend.

Our experts have been working with collaboration tools for over twenty years. In that time we’ve learnt the most common pain points for operations managers when it comes to team working.

With these in mind, we came up with a list of metrics that meet the needs, and ways of working, of today’s SMEs. Then, we picked out the best online digital collaboration tools based on these seven specific requirements:

  • Creative tools
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Freemium option
  • Document sharing
  • A gentle learning curve
  • Communication
  • Tracking project progress

What’s the difference between project management software and collaboration tools?

Project management (PM) software and team collaboration (TC) tools share many similarities, so it’s easy to get confused about how they are different.

Put simply, the main contrast between the two is that good collaboration is an effective method for successful project management.

That’s why many of the software options featured in this list are also PM platforms, as planning, coordinating and managing projects is often dependent on having good team collaboration.

If you’re interested in learning more about PM tools, read our guide to the best project management software for small businesses.

What are some other good collaboration tools for small businesses?

Of course, it’s always a good idea to check out the other options available when it comes to purchasing software. Here are some of the ‘best of the rest’ – the most popular collaboration tool that didn’t make our list.

 MeisterTask

MeisterTask logo
Price per user, billed annually£8.25
What's good about it?Meistertask is focussed on task management. Its most unique selling point is that it uses Kanban-style project boards to organise teams, giving you excellent flexibility and keeping the workforce closely aligned.

 Wrike

Wrike small logo
Price per user, billed annually£7.11
What's good about it?As a powerful work management platform, Wrike creates a digital workspace for teams to organize and store everything you need in the cloud. It serves as a great tool to share updates and cut down on emails.

 Flock

Flock logo small


Price per user, billed annually£3.28
What's good about it?Flock has a generous features list and well-designed messaging tools, making it an outstanding solution for communication and collaboration - at a competitive price.

How do our top 7 team collaboration tools prices' compare?

Pricing chart team collaboration tools

Unsurprisingly, ClickUp ranked as the cheapest tool for businesses at just £3.62 per user, and that’s discounting the platform’s impressive freemium offering. Monday.com also scored well for affordability at just £7 per seat.

Asana is the most expensive tool at £9.59 per user, per month – reflective of its more sophisticated capabilities.

It should be noted that Proofhub’s unique billing cycle is for the entire app, rather than per user. Because of this, we’ve judged its monthly cost per user based on a team of five.

Final review

For the best all-round collaboration software, we recommend Monday.com. It scores highest on our three general metrics: ease-of-use, price, and integrations, and provides users with an attractive interface that can be easily understood and edited by coworkers. Read our expert guide to learn more about Monday.com’s pricing and plans.

For the best creative tools, choose Monday.com

monday-logo
Every one of Monday.com’s features is geared towards team working, with a focus on easy-to-understand, visual feedback on project progress. Its customisable tools are also great for creative reporting and dashboards.
For the best freemium option, choose ClickUp

clickup-logo
ClickUp’s paid-for plans are a generous option for small businesses but it’s the platform’s freemium plan that stands out for those wanting to try out an online collaboration tool without risking their budget.
For real time collaboration, choose Asana

Asana
Asana is a favourite for collaborative team working thanks to its real-time working capabilities. It works best for businesses with 15+ users that are completing shared tasks or have a lot of high-pressure deadlines, like financial services.
For a gentle learning curve, choose Trello

trello-logo
Trello is the best choice for those on the first rung of the team collaboration software ladder looking for a simple, easy-to-use programme.
For document sharing, choose Proofhub

Proofhub logo
One of the key areas of collaboration is file sharing and editing. Proofhub has carved out a space in the market as the expert choice for document management. Plus, its pricing plan is designed for scaling businesses, making it growth-friendly.
For the best communication, choose Slack

Slack logo
Slack scales back the project management and other, more complex features to concentrate on being a first-class messaging app for those businesses that aren’t office based.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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