Collaboration: What you get for nothing

back to page 1Several online services offer basic intranet functionality discussion boards, shared calendars, and disk storagespace for little or no cost. The catch is that they're advertiser- supported, so users will view ad messages asthey work.

back to page 1

Several online services offer basic intranet functionality discussion boards, shared calendars, and disk storage space for little or no cost. The catch is that they're advertiser- supported, so users will view ad messages as they work.

Yahoo Calendar and eGroups offer browser-based calendar services, e-mail, document sharing, private chat, and instant messaging. Sharing any type of document is a matter of a few mouse clicks. Although Yahoo Calendar is geared toward individuals, eGroups is intended for groups within an organization. EGroups lets you send broadcast messages to subscribers and view histories of messages on a Web bulletin board. Its powerful calendar lets you list members, schedule online meetings, send reminders, and overlay personal and group calendars simultaneously.

For easy file synchronization or access to small documents from remote locations, check out X:drive. This free service provides 25MB of storage space accessible from a Web browser.

The site's user-friendly interface lets you upload and download any file type, and an optional Windows applet lets you integrate X:drive with Windows Explorer. The additional drive letter permits dragging and dropping of files directly to X:drive. Files are password- protected, but if the service's site is hacked, your data is at risk. So while X:drive is fine for convenient, temporary storage of noncritical data, it's not a complete storage solution.

A more secure solution, although far from free, is Xerox DocuShare. Using a Java-compatible browser, you can post, search for, and retrieve information; set permissions for data access; and annotate files with descriptive phrases for easier scanning. A revision-tracking feature smoothes workflow; another feature notifies users of changes to a series of documents. DocuShare is scalable and supports multiple operating-system platforms, but it requires a dedicated Web server. It also lacks calendaring and contact management, so it may not be a complete solution for all small businesses.

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