The 9 Best Communication Tools for Remote Teams in 2019

As remote work evolves, the friction that comes with distributed work becomes more painful.

Team members get 20+ Slack messages a day, and only get to answer a few.

You walk away from your computer to get coffee and find you missed a Google Hangouts call.

You take 20 minutes trying to find a conversation you had with a co-worker a few weeks ago in one of 50 channels.

For remote teams, this is pretty par for the course. And as remote work becomes the standard for many companies, communication is becoming more and more fractured.

Since members of our team work remotely, we’ve experimented with many of the most popular communication tools out there. While there’s a few that can actually make remote work more challenging, we’ve used a few tools successfully and find that they can make distributed work easier.

These Are The 9 Best Communication Tools for Remote Teams in 2019

The best collaboration tools for remote teams are fresh, innovative, and support simple but meaningful communication. They offer advanced virtual and audio capabilities. With these tools, you can seriously limit friction that comes with remote work, such as messaging fatigue, communication lag, and virtual clutter.



1. Zoom

Zoom is a web video conferencing platform that a lot of teams use to hold meetings. It’s one of the better substitutes for face-to-face interactions, and it’s free to get started. You can also record and store meetings.


  • Video conferencing + in-conference chat
  • Screen-sharing
  • Call recording

Best For: Zoom is ideal for distributed and in-house teams that require larger conferences, webinars, or meetings.

Pros: With Zoom, you can create custom meeting links, host webinars, and hold larger conferences.

Cons: Users say that there are notable glitches in recording and playback, as well as occasional low video and audio quality.

Cost: $14.99 – $19.99 monthly



2. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, which is similar to Slack, is a collaborative communication tool where you can chat, create channels, and run your day-to-day correspondence.


  • Integrations with other Microsoft tools
  • Chat and messaging
  • Audio calling
  • Meeting scheduling (links to Outlook)

Best For: Microsoft Teams works well for companies and startups that primarily use Microsoft products and need one central messaging app.

Pros: Users love that Microsoft Teams integrates with MS 360, making it easy to keep everything connected.

Cons: However, Microsoft Teams is difficult to use alongside any tool that isn’t by Microsoft, such as Google Docs.

Cost: Free to sign-up



3. Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a popular platform for communication. It’s easy to start using, especially if you’re already using Gmail and other Google Apps.


  • Messaging and video calls
  • Google application integrations

Best For: Google Hangouts is a good instant messaging tool for all team sizes, in-house or remote.

Pros: Since Hangouts integrates with most Google apps, you can access it right in your Gmail inbox. Many users have it for professional and personal use, installing it as a plug-in on desktop and downloading the app to their phone.

Cons: Hangouts is too similar to instant messaging or texting and is only designed for casual conversations.

Cost: Free to sign-up



4. Slack

Slack, one of the best communication tools out there, is known for its intuitive UX. Many teams use it as a virtual HQ, and where they primarily share files and integrate tools.


  • One-line messaging
  • Ability to use integrations and plug-ins
  • File-sharing
  • Create separate channels

Best For: Slack is a great tool for all team sizes, whether they are working in-house or remote.

Pros: Slack has a sleek, modern interface that users love. It’s easy to install and get started with. You can add apps and integrations such as Zoom, Github, and Google Drive. Teams can also create channels for everything from marketing communication to somewhere to share memes.

Cons: Slack is designed for one-line-at-a time communications, so users get overloaded with messages, experience notification fatigue, and important context is lost.

Cost: Free to sign-up



5. GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is a web conferencing tool specifically built for business. Users can collaborate effectively with clear audio, visual, and on-screen drawing tools, then later, use automatic transcripts for meeting notes.


  • Video conferencing with 25 high-definition video feeds per session
  • Chat
  • Toll-free calling
  • Personal meeting rooms

Best For: GoToMeeting works for all team sizes, in-house or remote.

Pros: GoToMeeting is designed for companies, so it’s great for meetings. One of their newest features, Smart Meeting Assistant, also transcribes calls automatically.

Cons: Users report sporadic issues with audio and inconsistencies between using GoToMeeting on Macs versus PCs that can add complications for users.

Cost: $14 – custom pricing



6. Basecamp 3

Basecamp (version three), is a massively popular project management tool. It’s great for large teams with a lot of ongoing projects and tasks.


  • Task management
  • Chat and messaging
  • File sharing
  • Document management
  • Milestone tracking

Best For: Basecamp 3 is a good fit for medium to large teams working in-house or remotely.

Pros: If you need to improve your team’s ability to organize projects and provide updates on deliverables, Basecamp is great for managing milestones and tracking timelines.

Cons: Users report challenges with transferring and maintaining documents.

Cost: $99/month



7. UberConference

UberConference is a free, minimal video conferencing tool for teams that need a no-frills, easy to use platform.


  • Conference calling
  • Screen-sharing
  • Record and playback
  • Mobile access
  • No pins required to join calls

Best For: UberConference is good for both mid-size to large in-house and remote teams.

Pros: The UberConference platform is intuitive to use. You can easily to log on and start a meeting right away.

Cons: A lot of users report that there can be connectivity issues, such as screen-sharing not working properly. You also must use Chrome to screen-share.

Cost: $15/month



8. FreeConference

Similar to UberConference, FreeConference is a pretty straight-forward web conferencing tool. You can get a link and join a meeting immediately, which makes it an ideal tool for people looking for something simple.


  • Conference and video calls
  • No hidden charges

Best For: FreeConference is a useful resource for small teams and freelancers.

Pros: For users that want a no fuss web conferencing tool, FreeConference is a good fit. You can log in and launch a meeting for free.

Cons: If your team needs something more robust, FreeConference will be too limited with features.

Cost: Free



9. is another straight-forward web conferencing tools with minimal features. You don’t need to download any software — log in from your web browser and get started.


  • Easy conference and video calling
  • Screen-sharing
  • Customizable URL and background

Best For: For small to mid-sized teams, is a decent option.

Pros: is simple to use and has an intuitive interface, so no training or onboarding is needed.

Cons: Users report that there are issues with video and audio, and the tool is difficult to integrate with Google Calendar.

Cost: $12/month for lite

Adopting The Best Communication Tools For 2019 And The Future

All of these communication tools are fine for remote teams that want to stay connected, although none are a substitute for the kind of fluid conversations that happen in an office. Imagine if you could virtually tap someone on the shoulder or approach a co-worker from anywhere in the world. It would make remote work so much more collaborative.

Thankfully, as remote work evolves — even more technology will emerge that makes your team feel like they’re in the same room.


The 9 best online collaboration tools for remote workers

If you read the InVision Blog, chances are you already know that designers and developers prefer to work from home. Thankfully, many companies are now comfortable allowing their employees to work remotely, as the research continually points to remote employees being more productive and engaged (not to mention the cost savings for the company).

Beyond hiring self-motivated and experienced employees who have strong communication skills and are comfortable working independently, it’s important to recruit tech-savvy team members who understand the importance of collaboration.

Related: 50 things only remote workers understand

The thing is, design is often a team sport.Twitter Logo From whiteboarding to critiques, distributed design teams must be able to collaborate in real-time—something they can’t do without the aid of technology.

With this in mind, we asked remote workers from companies like Treehouse, Help Scout, Zapier, Buffer, and Zest to share their favorite online collaboration tools. Here’s what they said.

1. Slack: The best team communication app

Slack is one of the most widely used tools by remote teams. Remote-first companies like Zapier, Buffer, and Help Scout consider Slack their “virtual office”—a place where employees can get instant feedback and connect with their colleagues, both one-on-one and in groups.

Read about how InVision’s remote team uses Slack

One feature that stands out is the ability to install apps that automatically report on business activity, like new email subscribers or product reviews, and bots that help keep employees engaged.

When asked about Buffer’s remote team technology stack, loyalty marketer Bonnie Porter had this to say:

“At Buffer, we use a lot of tools to communicate and collaborate. The ones I use most frequently are Slack, Zoom, Buffer, Dropbox Paper, and Trello. One fun thing the marketing team has been using in Slack is the HeyTaco! Integration—it makes it fun to celebrate each other’s accomplishments (big or small) throughout the day. Who doesn’t love a taco party?!”

online collaboration tools

Zapier, on the other hand, uses Slack to communicate important status updates:

“In the age of open floor plans and constant collaboration, there is something that is rarely mentioned in today’s design world: the creative process needs quiet.Twitter Logo Remote work is ideal for the creative process, because it easily allows for designers and researchers to have the solitude they need [….] We leverage Slack’s status+emoji feature to communicate to our teammates when we are ‘heads down’ in the creative process,” explained Julia Elman, the company’s Director of Design.

Related: How Zapier is building a remote design culture

They also use Slack to facilitate design critiques:

“Design Club is an inclusive space where anyone in the company can come to present their work for critique and provide feedback for others. This could be anything from research plans to visual designs from your product teams. We have both a Design Club Slack channel and a weekly Design Club video call where folks can sign up to receive asynchronous or real-time critique from their peers and stakeholders from around Zapier.”

online collaboration tools

If you’re looking for something different, check out this detailed review of Slack alternatives.

2. Zoom: The best video conferencing app

If you’ve worked remotely at any point, you likely have the not-so-fond memory of using unreliable video conferencing tools. Frustrating technical glitches, like frozen video and no sound, were commonplace as recently as one year ago.

Thankfully, Zoom is a world away from all that, which explains the company’s rapid growth from 30,000 users in 2014 to 700,000 users in 2017—an increase of 2233% over just 3 years.

online collaboration tools

“We love using Zoom for our company all-hands meetings,” shared Leah Knobler, who manages people ops at Help Scout.

“It consistently works well for conducting virtual meetings with 65 people.”

“We also use Zoom for our informal ‘hangouts,’ which we call Troop Talks. Each talk has a different theme or question. Everyone who is free shows up, and we take turns sharing stories.”

online collaboration tools

“One fun feature is gallery view, which allows you to view everyone on the chat at once (like the Brady Bunch intro) and makes it feel, for a moment, like our remote team is close together!”

The Help Scout team isn’t alone. Hotjar uses Zoom to connect with colleagues, too.  

“We have a lot of tools (as you can imagine!) but one that absolutely everyone uses is Zoom,” explained Content Marketer and Editor Dr. Fio Dossetto.

“Being a 100% remote company, it’s crucial that we have reliable ways to communicate with each other—and actually see one another as we do that—so ‘jumping on a Zoom call’ is something we do all the time. From quick one-on-one check-ins with a teammate to discuss the details of something we’re working on, to our company-wide Friday demo, where we share the work we’ve shipped throughout the week, Zoom is probably one of the tools we rely on the most.”

online collaboration tools

As the world’s go-to video conferencing tool, it’s no surprise that Zoom is pulling in top ratings. With a 4.9 out of 5 rating on G2 Crowd, a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Capterra, and an 8.9 out of 10 rating on TrustRadius, the tool is light-years ahead of the competition.

That said, Google Meet’s performance has improved dramatically in the last 12 months, and I’d argue that deserves an honorable mention for its ease of use.

3. InVision: The best design collaboration app

InVision is undoubtedly the most comprehensive suite of design software on the market. With a 4.5 out of 5 rating on both G2 Crowd and Capterra, and an 8.5 out of 10 rating on TrustRadius, it’s no wonder remote teams like Treehouse, Help Scout, and Trello love using it.

“InVision is one of my favorite products,” shared Nick Francis, Co-Founder and CEO, Help Scout. “The experience is flawless, little details are executed beautifully, and it keeps our remote team in sync throughout the design process.”

“InVision helps our distributed design team stay in sync,” agreed Jeremy Jantz, Product Designer, Treehouse. “We can facilitate design discussions asynchronously, track feedback from everyone on the team, and demonstrate interactions easily and efficiently. It’s the best rapid prototyping tool we’ve found.”

Some of the InVision—and Studio—team at a recent event in San Francisco

Real-time collaboration is an essential part of the design process. InVision Freehand is like a whiteboard that allows you to wireframe, plan, design presentations, and give and receive feedback, between designers but also in conjunction with other stakeholders.

For example, Trello relies heavily on InVision for communicating with developers. “The comments are extremely valuable when it comes to feedback and questions. InVision has really become an integral part of how we work,” explained the company’s Product Designer, Adam Simms.

4. GitHub: The best software development tool

Designers and developers may be different breeds, but it’s essential that they work together to produce quality digital products.

From hosting and reviewing code to managing projects to building software, GitHub is ideal for remote team collaboration. It’s also the highest rated platform for developers, with a 4.7 out of 5 G2 crowd rating, 5 out of 5 Capterra rating, and 9 out of 10 TrustRadius rating.

online collaboration tools

That said, using Atlassian JIRA has a major benefit: It integrates with InVision. 😉

Related: 4 ways remote designers and developers can collaborate better together

5. Trello: The best project management software

With so many project management tools to choose from, it was hard to pick just one. However, Trello stood out to us for its style, simplicity, and performance.

By visualizing what needs to get done and aggregating feedback from the whole team, Trello helps remote teams increase their productivity.

InVision + Trello: Power up your productivity

One secret to its success might be the fact that Trello doesn’t require so much information that it becomes a time suck. In other words, it’s ideal for fast-paced startups.

Trello’s simplicity makes it extremely flexible, resulting in hundreds of unique ways to use the software. For example, Help Scout’s support team uses it to keep track of product issues, updates, and requests.

“It can be hard to scroll through tons of notifications and get the gist of any new bugs or updates, so we use Trello to log bugs or anything that needs a fix, and to manage all feature requests,” explained Customer Champion Kelly Herring.

online collaboration tools

With a 4.4 out of 5 rating on G2 Crowd, a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Capterra, and an 8.2 out of 10 rating on TrustRadius, customers agree that Trello is the best project management software available.

That said, Airtable deserves an honorable mention. Airtable is a highly customizable tool for collaborative teams who love to stay organized.

online collaboration tools

“Airtable is a go-to on our team,” revealed Kim Kadiyala, Partner Manager at Zapier.

“It’s a tool that makes it easy for anyone to spin up a relational database. We use it for editorial calendars, project management, to catalog stories from our customers, and more. We joke that everything is prettier in an Airtable, but it’s also easier to store, organize, and collaborate on pretty much anything.”

6. Dashlane: The best password manager

Remote team collaboration often requires sharing access to the same tools. It’s no longer safe to manually store your passwords in a spreadsheet on your computer, which is where password managers like Dashlane come in. Not only do they keep you safe, but they also make it easier for team members to log into essential tools.

online collaboration tools

While LastPass was the most commonly used password manager used by the remote workers we talked to, Dashlane has the best reviews, with 4.7 out of 5 on G2 Crowd, 4.5 out of 5 on Capterra, and 8.7 out of 10 on TrustRadius.

7. Google Drive: The best file management app

Digital file management is essential for the smooth operation of any business.  For remote-first companies, it’s often more important because geographically dispersed employees access files during times when their colleagues can’t be reached.

With a 4.6 out of 5 rating on G2 Crowd, 4.5 out of 5 rating on Capterra, and 8.6 out of 10 rating on TrustRadius, Google Drive takes the cake, which isn’t surprising considering that Drive integrates seamlessly with other apps within G Suite.

online collaboration tools

“At Zest, our core team spans three continents, so keeping everyone on the same page (if not the same time zone) is very important for day-to-day operations. Our challenge is not just communicating with each other internally, but also with our 14,000 (and counting) weekly active members,” explains Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, the company’s team member responsible for community growth.

“Google Drive helps us communicate and collaborate with our Member Advisory Board of 78 members, who are currently getting more involved in our product roadmap and creation of internal web pages. It also helps us keep up with their feedback regardless of the time-zone difference. This is how we co-created Content Boost.”

Other team collaboration tools we love

8. Zapier: Workflow automation for business

Every modern company should have workflow automation software. Remote teams simply have a stronger need for the functionality. They rely heavily on technology and must over-communicate to work effectively. Plus, they’re often geographically dispersed, which increases the importance of having up-to-date documentation about ongoing projects that keeps everyone on the same page.

By connecting your favorite apps together and moving data between them automatically, Zapier helps facilitate a strong remote work culture.

online collaboration tools

Without this technology, managing a remote team would require a ton of manual effort. Just ask Alex Minchin, Managing Partner at Zest Digital: “Zapier is the extra team member at our agency, linking our systems together and managing the push and pull of data.”

With 1,000 apps to choose from and a user-friendly interface, you can eliminate hours of tedious labor in just a few clicks. Zapier has a 4.5 rating on both G2 Crowd and Capterra, which suggests that the company stays true to its promise: Zapier makes you happier.

Bonus: You can now share your workflows with your teammates. 🙂

9. World Time Buddy: Time converter for distributed teams

Geographically distributed teams often find it difficult to schedule meetings that work for everyone. World Time Buddy does the work for you. Simply add the locations of your teammates and then drag and drop the slider to find a good time to meet.

The only downfall? The free version only allows you to coordinate between 4 locations. That said, the annual plan is super affordable. For unlimited locations, it costs just $60 per year.

online collaboration tools


Track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline

It is very difficult time for the entire World! The deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading very fast across the Globe. All countries are taking various precautions including lock-down and curfew and trying their best to control this infectious disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) website provides many resources, current situation reports, travel advice, protective measures & awareness and answers for all questions related to the Coronavirus disease outbreak. Besides WHO, many NGOs, individuals and volunteers are doing their part by developing tools and apps to track the Novel Coronavirus statistics. This guide explains how to track Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) statistics from Commandline using Corona-cliCoronavirus-tracker-cli and COVID-19 Tracker CLI on Linux.

1. Corona-cli

Corona-cli is a command line application written in NodeJS. The corona-cli gets you the following details from commandline:

  • Worldwide Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) report,
  • Active daily report of your country’s COVID-19 statistics,
  • Track Coronavirus statistics of US states,
  • Displays the report by country-wise, cases, deaths, active, recovered, critical, no of cases per-million.

Install Corona-cli on Linux

Make sure you have installed Nodejs on your Linux system as described in the following guide.

After installing Nodejs, run the following command to install Corona-cli on your Linux system:

$ npm install -g corona-cli

Track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline Using Corona-cli

When you run Corona-cli without any options, it displays the world-wide Coronavirus statistics in a neat tabular-column format as shown below.

$ corona

Sample output:

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline

As you can see, each column in the above output contains the following details:

  • Country – Name of the country.
  • Cases – Total number of cases in a country.
  • Cases (today) – Cases in 24 hours GMT/UTC.
  • Deaths – Total number of deaths in a country.
  • Deaths (today) – Deaths in 24 hours GMT/UTC.
  • Recovered – Total number of recovered people.
  • Active – Total number of active patients.
  • Critical – Total number of critical patients.
  • Per Million – Affected patients per million.

It is possible to display Coronavirus statistics by country-wise. For instance, to display the Coronavirus statistics data for India, run:

$ corona India
Coronavirus statistics data for India

We can also sort Coronavirus statistics by various types as given below.

$ corona -s country
$ corona -s cases
$ corona -s cases-today
$ corona -s deaths
$ corona -s deaths-today
$ corona -s recovered
$ corona -s active
$ corona -s critical
$ corona -s per-million

If you’re live in United States, you can display the Coronavirus data by states-wise.

$ corona states
Coronavirus data by states-wise in US

To display states data sorted by active cases, run:

$ corona states --sort active

To display states data sorted by Cases today:

$ corona states -s cases-today

To get help, run:

$ corona --help
  Track the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    corona <command> [--option]

    country-name         Get data for a given country
    states               Get data for all USA states

    --xcolor, -x         Single colored output
    --sort, -s           Sort data by type

    corona china
    corona states
    corona -x
    corona --sort cases-today
    corona -s critical

  ❯ You can also run command + option at once:
    corona china -x -s cases

For more details, refer the project’s GitHub page given at the end.

2. Coronavirus-tracker-cli

Coronavirus-tracker-cli tracks the Coronavirus (COVID-19) statistics from command line using curl program. It gets the Coronavirus data from the following two sources:

By default, it uses Worldometers API if the source is not explicitly mentioned.

Track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline Using Coronavirus-tracker-cli

Unlike the previous tool, coronavirus-tracker-cli requires no installation! All you have to do is to use curl command which comes pre-installed with many Linux distributions.

To track the Coronavirus stats globally, simply run:

$ curl

Sample output:

Track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline Using Coronavirus-tracker-cli

As I mentioned already, if no source mentioned, It gets the Cornavirus data from Wordometer API by default.

You can also specify source explicitly like below:

$ curl
$ curl

Filter Cornavirus stats by country-wise:

To display COVID-19 data for a specific country, mention the country name like below.

$ curl 
$ curl

Filter Cornavirus stats by country-wise from specific source:

$ curl
$ curl

Display top affected countries

To display top ten affected countries by COVID-19, run:

$ curl
Track Top ten affected countries by COVID-19 Using Coronavirus-tracker-cli

Besides using Curl command, it is possible to install it using npm package manager.

Please note that coronavirus-tracker-cli will conflict with the corona-cli tool. Because both uses the same executable name i.e. corona. So it is recommended to remove the previous one if it is already installed and then install coronavirus-tracker-cli.

$ npm uninstall -g corona-cli

Make sure you have installed NodeJS. After installing Nodejs, run the folllowing command to install Coronavirus-tracker-cli:

$ npm install coronavirus-tracker-cli -g

Now track the Coronavirus stats globally using command:

$ corona

Get Coronavirus data from specific source:

$ corona --source=1


corona -s=1

Get Coronavirus data country-wise:

$ corona India

Display top N countries afftected by Coronavirus:

$ corona --top=10


corona -t=10

For more details, refer the project’s GitHub page given at the end.

3. COVID-19 Tracker CLI

COVID-19 Tracker CLI is yet another command line program to track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases around the world. It is also written in NodeJS. It uses Worldometer API to collect the COVID-19 data.

Concerning about the features, we can list the following:

  • Real-Time updates.
  • Optimized application.
  • Fast response time (~< 100ms).
  • Simple layout and easy to understand.
  • By country query.
    • e.g. (/country).
  • Windows CMD support.
    • e.g. (/cmd or /cmd/country).
  • Plain or Basic version.
    • e.g. (/plain or /plain/country) or (/basic, /basic/country).
  • Random health saying on footer.
  • No installation required!
  • Free and Open source!!

Track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline Using COVID-19 Tracker CLI

As I already mentioned, COVID-19 Tracker CLI doesn’t require any installation. All you need to do is Curl or Wget commands. Both are comes pre-installed in most Linux distributions.

To track COVID-19 data worldwide, simply run:

$ curl


$ wget -i && cat index.html

Sample output:

Track Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Statistics From Commandline Using COVID-19 Tracker CLI

As you can see in the above outputs, COVID-19 Tracker CLI program displays the COVID-19 global cases in a simple tabular-column format with the following details:

  • Total number COVID-19 cases,
  • Total number of deaths,
  • Total number of recovered cases,
  • Mortality rate in %.
  • Recovered rate in %.

There is also a random health saying or precaution message at the bottom. Very cool!

You can also track the COVID-19 cases by country-wise by mentioning the country name like below.

$ curl
Track the COVID-19 cases by country-wise Using COVID-19 Tracker CLI

To me tracking COVID-19 cases with curl command is much better than wget method. Anyway, you can use any method that suits for you.

For more details, look at the project’s GitHub page given at the end.

Useful online resources that provides live Coronavirus statistics

If you don’t want to install anything, use the following online resources to track the Coronavirus data from an Internet-connected desktop/mobile/tablet:

Stay informed about Coronavirus:

Protect yourself from Coronavirus

There is a popular proverb – “Prevention is better than cure.”. I fully concur with it. Since there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease, follow all advises suggested by the WHO, Doctors and local healthcare authorities to protect yourself and your family from Coronavirus:

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based solution.
  2. Maintain social-distancing (at least 1 metre from others).
  3. Cover your mouth/nose with your elbow while coughing and sneezing.
  4. Avoid touching your face, particularly eyes, nose and mouth.
  5. Stay in your HOME as much as possible.


  1. Corona-cli GitHub Repository
  2. Coronavirus-tracker-cli GitHub Repository
  3. COVID-19 Tracker CLI GitHub Repository


Top 7 Configuration Management Tools

A common trait across both virtual infrastructure as well as software is that there are always configuration options. In an increasingly distributed IT landscape with deployments that can be short lived, in the data center or in the cloud, there is a real need to manage configurations at scale.

Configuration management software is a broad category of tools and services that enable administrators to manage configuration at scale in a policy driven, repeatable and automated approach. Key factors like infrastructure monitoring come into play.

Software Configuration Management (SCM) was originally a category of software specifically about application and server software. In recent years, configuration management has evolved to become even more expansive. With infrastructure increasingly used as a virtual service in the cloud and on-premises, there has been a movement to define infrastructure-as-code, which is a place where configuration management tooling is played a staring role.

Configuration Management Tools: Key Features

There are a number of key capabilities that the top configuration management tools support.

  • Configuration: By definition, configuration management tools all enable users to configure the options needed for deployment and operations.
  • Automated deployment: The ability to automatically deploy software and virtual infrastructure, in a policy driven approach with defined configuration is a key attribute.
  • Policy compliance: Keeping infrastructure and software inline with policy is a valuable feature for most organizations.

How to Choose a Configuration Management Tool

When choosing a configuration management service, there are several key considerations:

  • Scope: Identify what type of software or infrastructure that needs to be managed and make sure it’s supported by the tool
  • Complexity: Some tools are easier than others to manage both in terms of onboarding and ongoing control. Be sure to try out a tool in limited deployment before committing.
  • Cost: Is the solution something that scales to cover different use-cases while remaining cost-effective?

Top Configuration Management Solutions

In this Datamation top companies list, we spotlight the vendors that offer the top configuration management tools.


Value proposition for potential buyers: Chef now has a suite of configuration management and automation tools that can help to enable an organization of any size embrace a policy driven approach to deployments.

Key values/differentiators

  • At the core of Chef are cookbooks and recipes that provide guides on how software should be configured and deployed.
  • Visibility into running systems with Chef Automate is very useful for administrators to figure out what needs to be configured.
  • Helps to accelerate deployment of software and infrastructure in a consistent, repeatable manner.


Value proposition for potential buyers: CFengine provides a powerful open source approach that is well suited for developers that need rapid configuration management across both large and small scale deployments.

Key values/differentiators

  • CFEngine is one of the longest standing open source configuration management projects, dating back to 1993.
  • Speed is a key differentiator for CFEngine, thanks to the fact that its written in the C programming language and has a small memory footprint.
  • Configuration is done via “promises’ which are written in a declarative language to define policies.
  • There are open source and Enterprise editions, with the enterprise edition available for free for up to 25 connected hosts.

Hashicorp Terraformhashicorp

Value proposition for potential buyers: Hashicorp has a full suite of infrastructure management tools including Terraform which can help organization to define infrastructure as code.

Key values/differentiators

  • Hashicorp is one of the leaders in the space and just announced on March 16 that it raised $175 million in a Series E round of funding, valuing the company at $5.1 billion
  • Terraform enables organization to write declarative configuration files for how infrastructure should be configured as well as providing automated provisioning capabilities.
  • A key differentiator for Hashicorp is the Terraform Cloud service that brings collaboration and a SaaS model to configuration management activities.


Value proposition for potential buyers: Puppet is an open source based configuration management vendor with tools that can help enable configuration management as well as continuous compliance for regulatory requirements.

Key values/differentiators

  • The company’s flagship Puppet Enterprise platform enables automation and configuration management across both on-premises and multi-cloud infrastructure.
  • A key differentiator for Puppet is the emphasis on enabling a policy-as-code mode that can identify potential drift and then provide automated remdiation.
  • Auditability and visibility is another area of strength for Puppet with well integrated dashboards to manage status.
  • Change management and the ability to understand and assess the impact of a potential change is strong feature in Puppet.

Red Hat Ansibleredhat

Value proposition for potential buyers: Open source based DevOps automation and configuration management technology that works well with Linux, container and cloud deployments.

Key values/differentiators

  • Red Hat acquired Ansible back in October 2015, while Red Hat itself was acquired by IBM in 2019.
  • Ansible Engine provides the core technology for configuration management while Ansible Tower brings broader enterprise management and control capabilities.
  • Ansible’s core approach for enabling automation and configuration management is encapsulated in the concept of Playbooks, that define actions that need to occur.
  • A key differentiator for Ansible is the integration of networking automation and configuration.


Value proposition for potential buyers: SaltStack’s configuration management tooling is well suited for both infrastructure automation as well as security operations use-cases.

Key values/differentiators

  • SaltStack is based on the Salt open source project, which is written in the Python programming language.
  • SaltStack Enterprise can be used to help enforce configuration management and infrastructure automation across both on-premises and cloud environments.
  • A key differentiator for SaltStack is its integration with security operations to help provide continuous compliance.
  • Integrations with ServiceNow for IT Service Management (ITSM) and Tenable for vulnerability scanning are powerful additions for mid to large size organizations.

Vendor Comparison Chart

FeaturesKey Differentiator
ChefCookbooks and Recipes for configuration policy definitionsAutomated deployment capabilitiesVisibility into running system configuration
CFEngineConfiguration handled via “Promises” written in a declarative language.Developer focused configuration managementConfiguration update speed
Hashicorp TerraformAutomated provisioning across on-premises and cloud providers.Declarative configuration for infrastructure configurationFull suite of infrastructure-as-code capabilities
PuppetChange management impact analysisPolicy-as-code configuration managementContinuous compliance capabilities
Red Hat AnsibleEnterprise-wide configuration management with Ansible TowerApplication and infrastructure configuration controlNetwork automation and configuration
SaltStackInfrastructure automation for deploymentConfiguration management definition and enforcementIntegration with security operations


Understanding Windows Server Client Access Licenses (CALs)

Whether you are a customer or a reseller, it is important to understand the ins and outs of Windows Server Client Access Licenses (CALs) to ensure license compliance is met.

Today, we will explain CALs: what they are, the different types, and why they are important!

Windows Server 2016 Core-Based Licensing
First, let’s start with some basic Windows Server licensing information, we’ll call it ‘Windows Server licensing 101’. Starting with Windows Server 2016 Standard edition and Datacenter edition, Microsoft introduced a new licensing model. This new model is based on the cores in the server, (where as previous Windows Server licensing models were based on processors). Although the licensing model has changed, one thing has stayed consistent… the need for CALs! 
It is important to note that CALs are only required for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter editions. For Windows Server 2016 Essentials edition, CALs are not required.

Want to learn more about Core-Based Licensing? We’ve got the perfect video and blog for you! Check it out: Windows Server 2016 Core Based Licensing Explained

Microsoft Windows Server Operating System (OS) Licenses
When a customer purchases a Windows Server OS license (Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition for example), they receive a license that allows them to install the operating system onto the server. However, the Windows Server OS license does not give them the legal right for users or devices to connect to the server… that is where CALs come in!

Microsoft Windows Server Client Access Licenses (CALs)
A Windows Server CAL is a license that allows customers to access Windows Server. CALs are used in conjunction with Microsoft Windows Server OS licenses to allow Users and/or Devices to access and utilize the services of that server OS.

If your customers are wanting to run Windows Server 2016 on their new HPE Gen10 server, they would acquire a Windows Server 2016 OS license in order to run the Windows Server software on the physical server AND they would need to acquire CALs for the Users or Devices who will access the server.

This two-component license models provides a low entry price and a way to pay for capacity used: the more devices or users accessing the server software, the greater the license fees or price. This model therefore offers license affordability to organizations of all sizes.

What are the different types of CALs?
HPE offers several different types of Windows Server CALs.

  • User CALs allow a single user access to Windows Server from an unlimited number of devices
  • Device CALs allow an unlimited number of users to access Windows Server from a single device

Does the organization have roaming employees who need to access the corporate network from several devices? In this case, User CALs make the most economical and administrative sense.

Does the organization have multiple users for one device, such as shift workers using a kiosk-style workstation? In this case, Device CALs make the most economical and administrative sense.

CAL types.jpg

There is a third type of CAL that we must talk about, Remote Desktop Service (RDS) CALs. RDS CALS are required for users or devices that want to utilize Remote Desktop Service functionality on Windows Server. Regular User or Device CALs are required in addition to the RDS User or RDS Device CALs.

More Fun Facts about CALs!
Windows Server CALs can be purchased from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, or an authorized partner, at any time and do not require a new HPE server purchase. HPE currently offers User CALs and Device CALs in packs of 1, 5, 10, and 50 CALs. RDS User and RDS Device CALs are available in packs of 5 CALs.

Windows Server CALs must be the same version as—or higher than—the server software they are accessing. In other words, users or devices accessing a server running Windows Server 2016 must have Windows Server 2016 CALs. Additionally, Windows Server 2016 CALs may be used to access Windows Server 2012 (but Windows Server 2012 CALs cannot be used to access Windows Server 2016).

It is imperative that businesses stay up to date with their CAL compliance requirements so they don’t fall behind or find themselves in error!

Adding new users? More User CALs may be required!

Adding new devices? More Device CALs may be required!

If you are a reseller, now is a great time to check in with your clients to ensure their CAL needs are filled! If you’re a customer, now is a great time to check your server environments to ensure you’re in compliance!

Have questions about HPE OEM Microsoft products/solutions, Windows Server 2016, or HPE Servers? Join the Coffee Coaching community to keep up with the latest HPE OEM Microsoft news and interact with HPE and Microsoft experts.