the Internet has given us many great things, and one of  the many impactful things is the ability to work remotely. Groups of all sizes can be spread out across the globe and still collaborate on ideas and projects as efficiently as those working in offices.

While there are many obvious generic tools for these tasks, such as email, wikis and instant messaging, specialized tools really allow teams to kick collaboration into high gear. Here are four of the best tools to manage virtual teams.

1. Basecamp

Basecamp from 37signals is a beautifully simple system for team collaboration and organization. The service provides a base of operations where any team member can see, at a glance, how a project is going and what remains to be done. Anyone can start or join a conversation at any time.

In many instances, Basecamp may be the only tool your team needs. Tasks can be assigned and easily managed. A calendar can be used to manage schedules, milestones or employee time-off and wiki-style “Writeboards” can be set up to keep everyone on message.

37signals lauds that Basecamp is the most popular cloud-based project management solution and it’s easy to see why. The company’s pricing structure is simple — as is its interface. The product itself is beloved by its creators; they rewrote it from scratch in March of this year to be faster and simpler than ever!

2. Campfire

Another product from 37signals is Campfire. Campfire bills itself as “Team collaboration with real-time chat.” It seeks to replace instant messaging (IM) and conference calls with one secure and simple interface. With Campfire, you can share files and chat in real-time. You can also highlight items for follow-up.

Campfire doesn’t just replace IM. You may be able to use it to replace email as well. For example, instead of managing multiple email threads about a design comp, you can share the images in Campfire and discuss the entire project through real-time chats.

3. Yammer

Yammer started out as a Twitter clone designed for closed teams but since its inception it has grown to encompass much more. Yammer focuses on the same common thread of project management as Basecamp. However, Yammer’s tools branch out much further with an interface that looks and functions more like an internal version of Facebook.

Teams can share documents, mark them up with comments and update one another on the status of projects. Yammer adds hooks into other enterprise systems like Salesforce and SAP. For smaller teams in more specialized fields, Yammer’s functionality may be more than they need. But for bigger, Fortune 500 type companies, Yammer is likely to be a welcome tool — both in and out of the office.

4. Sprout Social

Our own social media management tool, Sprout Social, is both powerful and versatile when it comes to managing your team’s social media presence. Sprout Social’s easy to use interface allows teams to assign tasks and monitor your social media presence without redundancy.

For example, if a customer on Twitter has a question that only one of your engineers can solve, you can assign the task to that member to assure it’s followed up quickly and correctly. Every member of the team can be permitted to see each others’ tasks to avoid miscommunication and errors.

Know of any other great tools for managing virtual teams? Let us know in the comments below.

This post discusses Sprout Social, our social media management tool for businesses. To learn about our editorial ethics and our commitment to objective coverage of the social media space, visit our About page.

[Image credits: Rick, 37signals, Yammer, Sprout Social.COM, Nick Webb]