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Remote work is not always easy. Some people struggle with staying productive in their home office, others have difficulties with the communication between their team members.

Luckily, there are plenty of free remote work applications and software out there today, that help you keep track of your tasks and make your online job easier. 

This is a work in progress, applications and technology change rapidly, we revise this page often. 


Please note that ECI does not control or provide anything besides "best effort" support for any of these applications and programs unless otherwise mentioned. All listed programs have their own tech support people and unless otherwise mentioned, are in no way associated with the University of California Santa Barbara

Getting Started Securely

Security Checklist

EVERYONE should do this, at least once a quarter, to avoid problems in the future, such as needing to scramble to get a computer up to date or needing to replace something at the last minute with little or no notice. If you cannot remember the last time you viewed these pages, now is a good time to start


IT Security is EVERYONE'S responsibility on campus.

ECI can only provide IT Security on computers that they manage.

Students and Faculty are responsible for their servers and computers under their control (IE: Admin Rights to)



Campus Pulse Secure VPN

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. A VPN is an alternative to a truly private network, where someone completely owns the infrastructure (i.e., wires) between locations and no one else can use it. Typically a VPN is used when some part of the network path crosses a public network such as the Internet or, in the case of wireless, "airspace." A VPN may also be used to provide additional security on private networks. The VPN builds an encrypted "tunnel" through a public/private network which provides the necessary confidentiality (this prevents snooping), sender authentication (this prevents identity spoofing), and data integrity for secure access to private resources.

A VPN client allows you to "tunnel" all of your traffic to UCSB over an encrypted, authenticated link which terminates on campus at our VPN server. The VPN server decrypts your traffic and forwards it to whatever its original destination was, but it changes the source address of your traffic from your ISP-assigned address to a UCSB-assigned address. This way, all of your traffic appears to be coming from on campus and may not be limited by internal Internet firewall rules.

What You Need

Password Managers

As mentioned on UCSB's Information Security Website here, Password Managers are ideally a helpful way to store passwords for many services that you use both on campus and off-campus.

We strongly recommend users to consider using a Password Manager for the following reasons:

  • Book/paper password keeping is not secure and can get lost/destroyed
  • Document on the computer can be lost if the computer breaks down or is stolen
  • Passwords left 'not encrypted' can be easily copied and exploited.

UCSB is paying for KeePass and Lastpass has a free version that anyone with a .edu email address can sign up for. 


Google G Suite for Education Tools

Google is getting their own heading separate from all others since the University Does have a contract with them in regards to our G Suite for Education and our email system. Primary support is ETS. -Enterprise Technology Service Center (http://etsc.ucsb.edu/ | 805-893-5000)

Google is not just email, it features a whole suite of tools that can make your life easier. We also have lots of documentation on the most common features

Mail - UCSB Connect

UCSB’s email and calendaring service powered by Google’s G Suite for Education. G Suite for Education is a collection of cloud computing productivity and collaboration software from Google. It includes Google's popular web applications such as Google GMail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts, Docs and Sheets. G Suite provides a complete package of communication and collaboration tools suitable for any device.

Google Shared Drive 

Google Shared Drive is meant to be a group Cloud Sharing Experience, where someone can create a Shared Drive to share with a group of members.

Normally, when something is shared from Google Drive, it is often just a specific folder, which is associated with the user who created the share.

But with GSuite, if the user were to leave and their GSuite account gets closed down, any shares made from their Google Drive will no longer be available for people to work from, even though other people contributed to that share.

So Google Shared Drive comes into play for GSuite.

Google Shared Drive allows the creation of a Cloud Share Drive with members having access to it.

No one member 'owns' the Shared Drive, so if one of the members leaves, the Shared Drive members still have access to the data in the Shared Drive.

With UCSB Connect, any Connect user can create a Shared Drive to act as a Group Share Drive.

Google Hangouts

Looking for an alternative to Skype? Google Hangouts is actually a great and well-performing option for audio and video meetings. In case you use Slack, it can easily be integrated and simplify your working life.

Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome Remote Desktop allows you to access your computer securely from your phone, tablet or another computer. Essentially, this means you can access your machine from anywhere, at any time. You can access your computer by typing in an access URL into a web browser or download the mobile app for iOS and Andriod.

There’s also a Chrome extension available that gives you faster access to your office/home computer from portable devices.

The other key function of Chrome Remote Desktop is to connect your device with fellow teammates. This means you can provide access to your computer and receive remote support, allowing colleagues to see your screen and control your computer – perfect for getting technical issues resolved.

However, you can also use this feature in reverse to access your teammates’ computers and provide support or collaborate. You can simply use the feature to screen share, allowing everyone to see the same screen and collaborate more effectively.


Communication

Communication is one of the most important but also most challenging parts of working remotely. Not being in the same office as your team members or clients can be a true issue. The following remote work tools help you stay connected efficiently.

Zoom

Zoom is a cloud-based platform for video and audio conferencing, mobile collaboration, and simple online meetings. Zoom's web-based conferencing uses high-quality video and audio and is accessible on MacOS, Windows, iOS and Android mobile devices.

Anyone in the world can join a Zoom meeting, but only a host can start/schedule meetings. Use your UCSBnetID and password to sign in to your host account. https://ucsb.zoom.us/

Primary support is provided by ETS - Enterprise Technology Service Center (http://etsc.ucsb.edu/ | 805-893-5000)

Key features

  • Video meetings: Remote teams can run video meetings and one-to-one video calls.
  • Voice calls: You can also run group or one-to-one voice calls when face-to-face meetings aren’t necessary.
  • Webinars: You can also use Zoom to host webinars.
  • Messaging: Team members can send messages using Zoom.
  • File sharing: Share files during and outside of video/voice chats for collaboration between members.
  • Remote desktop: Share your screen, either in view only mode or allow others to control your mouse and keyboard

Slack

Slack is one of the most popular remote work apps out there. Some people who use it would probably refer to it as a religion rather than anything else. The real-time chat allows you to stay in touch with your team members. You will also find hilarious gifs, handy chatbots and countless of integrations to cut down on your emails.

Slack is provided on computers ECI manages under Managed Software Center's Option Installs. 

NOTE: while several departments do have contracts with Slack, most UCSB community members are not covered by said contracts and will be using the free version unless they choose to buy in. 

Key features

  • Instant messaging: Live communication between every team member for seamless collaboration.
  • Statuses: Users can set availability statuses to focus on individual tasks as needed.
  • File sharing: Drag-and-drop file sharing for PDFs, images, videos and other common files types.
  • Voice & video calls: Voice and video calls directly from within Slack.
  • Screen sharing: Allows team members to show their work to others in real-time for stronger collaboration.

Jing

When you want to explain a task to a coworker who is not right next to you, it can get tricky. Jing is a lightweight solution that allows you to create screencasts of up to five minutes. You can then upload it and get a shareable link. Less time consuming and confusing than emails or screenshots.

NOTE: Jing is actually a suite of tools, some are free, some are not, most have free base features but require payment to use everything. Be sure to check out their read-me page first before using. 


Feedback

When you manage a remote team, having great communication tools sometimes isn’t enough. In case you need a quick feedback or want to check out the current team’s sentiment, here are some tools for you. 

Note: Please be aware that GoogleGauchospace and Gradescope have poll and survey functionality built in.  The below are just additional options with no extra support provided. 

Doodle

Want to find the perfect time for the next team meeting or the opinion about a new decision? Doodle is a great tool to send out short polls of any kind and get a quick response. 

OfficeVibe

OfficeVibe is a great way to monitor everyone’s satisfaction and happiness. The team members get regular direct messages with questions to answer about their overall mood, feelings towards the team and so on. The answers are then sent anonymously to the team leader (or whoever you put in charge).


Time Tracking

If you are working fro multiple departments or need to bill to several accounts, you need a way to track your time so you can invoice properly.

Please note that almost all the apps here are competitors to Google and Kronos Timekeeping, which are sponsored by UCSB. If you would like support, please use a sponsored application. 

Time Doctor

Time Doctor is a time tracking app. It lets you track the tasks you are doing and also reminds you to stay focused in case you get distracted by things like Facebook, YouTube or such. It integrates with many popular project management tools. A great way to stay productive!

Hours

Hours is a simple and clean tool to log all of your hours in one place. It gives you a visual timeline, reminders and reports. That’s it. No unnecessary features to distract you. Only focus on your hours.

Harvest

With Harvest you can track your team’s progress and run reports for tasks, team members or clients. 

Teamweek

Teamweek lets you plan your time visually. The entire team can then view the activities in an open calendar. Nice design and intuitive to handle.


Project Management

There are hundreds of project management apps out there. You have to test and see what has all the functions your team needs and a user experience that you like the most. Most of the ones listed below are free or have a free trial in the Microsoft or Apple stores and thus have been verified to have at least minimal levels of security. 

Asana

Asana is very popular amongst bigger businesses. It is a professional and very powerful project management app with impressive layouts to organize projects between a large number of team members.

Trello

If you have heard of only one project management app, then chances are pretty good it’s Trello. This powerful tool helps you organize to-dos and projects while using different boards. Easy to share with team members. Several departments at UCSB use the paid version of this app. 

Basecamp

If you are a single person and are looking for a smart project management app, Basecamp is the tool to go to. You can easily share your projects with guests.

Float

Float is a great option for smaller teams that lets you handle resources and track projects. You can easily customize and use it.

JIRA

JIRA is another great alternative for project management and issue tracking. It is a fairly robust app which is perfect for managing work sprints.

MeisterTask

MeisterTask uses colorful layouts to organize and structure tasks and projects. You can also monitor the activities inside of your team with your dashboard.

Pivotal Tracker

Pivotal Tracker is yet another remote work app to track agile sprints and manage projects with clients. It is very popular with developers around the world.

TaskWorld

TaskWorld is similar to Trello or Asana. What makes it different is the added feature of the chat function. Stay in touch with the rest of the team while organizing your tasks.

10,000ft

10,000ft is great for distributed workforce or teams in general. The visual interface, helps you keep an overview. In addition, it allows you to track your time and create reports.


Productivity

Staying productive might be one of the biggest struggles of remote workers. Too many potential distractions in your home office, too many things to keep track of. Here are some applications that help you stay on task through the day. Most of the ones listed below are free or have a free trial in the Microsoft or Apple stores and thus have been verified to have at least minimal levels of security. 

Note: Please be aware that Google and most modern operating systems have similar functionality built in.  These are just additional options with no extra support provided. 

TomatoTimer

You have probably heard of the Pomodoro Technique before. You split your work in 25-minute sprints and take a break of 3-5 minutes in between every working period. This helps your brain to relax and to get new energy. The TomatoTimer does exactly that: It stops your time and reminds you to take your necessary breaks.

Serene

Serene is a free app for Mac that helps you achieve maximum productivity every day. There are three key principles behind the app, both of which are backed by a series of scientific studies. First, Serene encourages you to set a single daily goal and stay focused on achieving that throughout the day. This is based on studies that show multitasking drastically reduces productivity while others point ongoing distractions and/or multitasking can even damage your brain.

The second key role Serene plays is blocking access to distracting websites and apps during work sessions while also silencing your phone. Separate studies find it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after being distracted. 

The third feature is basically the Pomodoro Technique, splitting your day into chunks. 

Key features

  • Website blocker: Block websites that distract you, such as social media and news websites.
  • App blocker: You can also block apps that take your attention away from work – social apps, your email app and anything else getting in the way.
  • Distraction-free sessions: Work in 20-60 minute sessions with regular breaks to maximise productivity.
  • Session timer: Shows you how much time you have left to complete tasks, giving you a motivation boost towards the end of each session.
  • To-do lists: Manage tasks and make sure everything gets done by the right team member.
  • Day planner: Define your goal for the day, set your tasks and get stuff done.
  • Focus music: Play background music to help you keep your focus.
  • Phone silencer: Automatically put your phone on silent mobile while working to avoid unnecessary distractions.

iDoneThis

Daily check-in meetings are hard when it comes to distributed teams and several time zones. The app iDoneThis lets you track your daily tasks without an actual meeting. At the end of the day, the team members report their daily results and the next morning everyone gets the info and the chance to comment on the tasks.

NowDoThis

In case all of those project management tools and to-do lists are too complex for your needs and you are looking for a basic app, NowDoThis might be the right thing for you. List your tasks and tick them off when they are done. Easy.

Nozbe

Nozbe is somewhere between a project management and productivity app. You can organize your incoming tasks, prioritize and manage them to get your work done quickly and effectively.

RescueTime

Ever wondered how much time a day you spend on Facebook or just checking your emails? RescueTime tracks all web use and helps you analyze productivity. If you want to reduce the time you spend on certain websites or tasks, the app lets you limit their usage.

Perdoo

Perdoo is a remote work tool that lets you set, update and monitor your own goals, your team’s and Department’s goals. The aim is to achieve your key results, so that you can then reach your objective.

Todoist

Todoist is a remote work app that helps you keep track of all of your to-do lists and items. It is also responsive, works offline and you can use it for team collaborations.


Health

When you work from home, you naturally don’t move around as much as if you would in an office. You don’t need to leave the house, go to the office, run between meeting rooms, or go to a cafe for lunch. lack of movement is a killer.

Another important factor is mental wellbeing. Trying to stay focused when you work from home with all the potential distractions, can be very hard sometimes. The following apps might help you with it.

Mindfulness

Meditation is good for you, only a few minutes a day are enough to refresh your brain, energize and be able to focus again. Mindfulness is a very easy app that provides you with tones and guided meditations.

Seven

Seven is a very handy exercise app that challenges you to do a quick but very intense 7-minute workout. Exercises switch between cardio and strength and can easily be done in a quick break from work.

Take a Break Please

When you work from home and don’t have to pay attention to breaks or office closing hours, it can be very tempting to work all day. A painful hunchback, dry eyes and a stiff neck are often the result. Take a Break Please is an app that forces you to take breaks throughout the day. 

Tide

Similar to Mindfulness, Tide is a meditation app, that gives you relaxing melodies, peaceful backgrounds and motivating quotes.

Noisli

Human brains are fascinating. While some can only work when it’s super quiet in the room, others need a busy surrounding to get them going. Noisli generates artificial sounds, like the wind in the trees or a busy coffee shop. In case you want to cover unwanted sounds, you have a wide range of white noise to choose from. Please note that this app costs $2, it is still far cheaper than buying a 8 hour white noise track from iTunes.