My job lives entirely online. Everything I do eventually ends up on this website. But it's not that simple — behind the scenes, there's a lot going on that has to run smoothly and work correctly to make my job easy and streamlined. At the very least, I need a fast internet connection, and I need it to work all the time. Fast, reliable 4G has changed the way that I work, including in the way that I collaborate with my team, and the way that we run our business through the net. These are the tools I use most.
Campbell Simpson is in Berlin this week for IFA — one of the world's largest tech shows. Thanks to Vodafone Business, we're roaming using a Vodafone mobile SIM and the company's $5 International Global Roaming to get access to our Australian data cap, calls and messages just like we were in the office or at home. Vodafone's 4G network covers 22 million Australians.
Of course, to make this all work, you've got to be online. That's not a problem when I'm in the office or working from home, but it's being in between those two places — or working entirely remotely from another state or country — that presents the challenge. In the past few months, I've put Vodafone's network to the challenge across Australia's eastern coast and have found that it's more than up to scratch. I use a lot of data, and I use it in a lot of places, and I've been consistently impressed with the way that Vodafone has performed. It has come a long, long way since I last used it a few years ago, and my experience has won me over as an ongoing customer.
There are a few apps and services that are absolutely invaluable in my day-to-day life as a tech journalist. They mostly have alternatives, but these are the ones that I've become used to. Lots of them have applications for work and leisure, too — and that's what makes it easier to use them regularly, which is half the battle.
Google Drive, Dropbox And Xero: File Storage And Accounting You Can Access Anywhere
Google Drive is my life. Because I'm switching between phones and tablets and laptops every other week, and I'm lucky enough to have access to a fast 4G internet connection pretty much wherever I am, every one of my photos and videos gets automatically uploaded to Drive, so I can drop them into a story or send them to my team later. I keep a complete backup of my photos (work and personal) on a portable hard drive like the Seagate Innov8 every now and then, but I've never actually had to use it. Beyond that, we also use Google Docs for some story templates and Sheets to keep track of other business goings-on. Google Drive makes it very, very simple for me to upload photos — the main part of my job apart from all these words — to a place where I can easily import them into our website's back-end.
Dropbox is the backup for my backup. It's also the place that a lot of the companies I talk to on a regular basis store their files — high-res images of their gadgets, video trailers for new movies, and so on. I use it when I need to share files with people that I don't know that well, as an extra layer of security where I don't feel confident sharing access to a Google Drive folder or files. A big bonus is the fact that I've got a lot of complimentary storage on Dropbox from signing in to a lot of brand new phones, which usually bundle a couple of gigabytes for free. If and when I need it, Dropbox Business is a really affordable upgrade.
When I'm working remotely, there are often a few small costs involved — public transport, taxis for when I'm somewhere that doesn't allow Uber, the occasional guilty trip to Macca's. We keep track of all of our expenses using Xero, a great and straightforward cloud accounting tool. As an employee it lets me throw in my travelling expenses as I go, by snapping a photo of my receipt using my phone's camera and then quickly categorising it into an account and tax unit type. I keep the paper receipt as a backup, but it's a huge step forward from our old system, which was all done on paper. The cloud is much, much easier.
Hipchat, Office 365, And Trello: Group Communication That Lasts As Long As You Need
There's no substitute for real-time talking when you're part of a group that works together on a single project like a website. Because we regularly have part of our team out of the office — and it's probably me, for most of the time anyway — we've started using Hipchat more and more for communication. Hipchat lets us talk to each other as an entire team, 1-on-1 for more intimate meetings or informal "hey, did you do this?" catch-ups, and any users can easily create their own room for chats somewhere in the middle. Because it lives in the cloud, it's persistent, so I can jump on eight hours after the fact and catch up on what has been going on if I've had the day off (unlikely) or if I'm in a different time zone (more likely). It's easy to @-mention someone and have a notification pop up on their Web browser, in their email or on the Hipchat app to gently nudge them to pay attention to you, too.
Email is the cornerstone of my job, and I'd be screwed if I couldn't easily check it wherever I am. We have access to Office 365 at Allure Media, and for me it's all about that access. Every single day, I use our Office 365 mail — and I use email a lot, far more than I pick up the phone to call someone — and calendar to keep track of everything that's happening in my schedule. The great thing about Office 365 is that as well as letting you download Microsoft's suite of Office 2016 programs, it incorporates all the most popular programs into a Web interface If I need to read a Word document that someone has sent to me as an attachment? I can look at it in Outlook's online document viewer without downloading anything to my PC that I'm eventually going to delete anyway.
We've also been experimenting with Trello, a tool that sits somewhere between a calendar, email and pin-up message board — and because it's a different cloud-based product, we use it for different purposes. It's where we keep all our big ideas and the longer stories we're working on, in a freely-accessible space; that openness and persistence means someone else on my team can take a look at the idea behind the long-form feature that I'm working on and leave a comment or some feedback. It functions as a calendar if we need it to, with reminders and deadlines, but it's also just a simple place to share ideas. Because we're a group that works entirely online, we're able to try out new tools regularly, and I'm really liking the way we're using Trello so far. This way, we have different forms of communication that intersect in a way that means one's always appropriate for what we need.