The folks over at 37 signals talk often on their blog posts about working virtually. In working virtually for about a year now, I thought I would comment on this as well.
Dave and I are in different states, he is in Milwaukee, WI, I am in Minneapolis, MN. I use various tools to make it all work logistically. For phone calls, I have an iphone as my cell phone, but it’s real value is the browser. I use a MacBook Pro as my laptop, and when plugged in at home, I have a Samsung 22 inch monitor, and a logitech wireless bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
When I am at my Mac, I use Skype for phone calls and find this a true money saver. While the admin interface is a nightmare, once you get it set up, Skype is incredibly easy to use. For IM, it depends with whom I’m chatting. Skype of course has it’s own chat, but many people I know are on MSN, so I use Adium on my Mac for Yahoo and MSN, and ichat for Apple users, and for gtalk (Google’s IM). I really prefer iChat, I find it easier to use and more flexible, but using multiple IM’s really isn’t that big of a deal.
For collaborating remotely, Dave and I leverage what the 37 signals guys have put together. I’m not using Campfire yet, that is the group chat room. But Basecamp and Backpack are both actively used. We use Basecamp for projects, posting files, displaying key dates, general communication with clients, etc. We use Backpack more internally for simple to do lists. And since TaDa List has such a terrific iphone version, we are moving towards that more too. We also use their Writeboard tool, which is essentially a simple wiki, when we need to collaborate on a doc.
For calendars, I am the biggest fan in the world of 30boxes. They have a dead-simple tool with RSS feeds, tagging, color codes, and my favorite iphone interface of any application. And it is easy to share your schedule, or pieces of it, with the public or with a chose few.
While I have a copy of Quickbooks on a PC at home, we use Freshbooks and find it very easy to use. This allows us both to see information online for invoicing.
All that aside, the biggest thing we’ve realized is that as long as we talk several times a week, we’re good. If we get lax about that rule, it is easy for things to slip, not so much projects, but just the keeping up on things, and the ‘hallway’ talk you don’t get when not face to face.