There are dozens and dozens of services enabling you to collaborate and communicate with your employees, vendors, partners and others.
Being able to store documents, manage versions, be updated with tasks and other features are all common features of these collaboration tools. The challenge is which one is for you?
As you are looking to see what really differentiates these services, one powerful feature I’ve in one service, Box.net, is search.
Early this week, Box.net, online file storage and collaboration, enabled full text search of documents. While it’s easy to put documents in folders or groups, once you have hundreds (or more) documents on your hosted system, the challenge is finding the document you need to. What about the new person, who is not familiar with your file system? With full document searching built into your collaboration tool, they can more easily find documents without endless searching or asking someone for help.
The reason why desktop search tools from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are so popular is because employees have such difficulty finding documents on their personal hard drives or corporate file servers.
With Box.net’s new full document search feature, finding documents on your network, seconds after their upload, is much easier.
Box faces stiff competition from Microsoft Office Live, HyperOffice, WebEx WebOffice, eGnyte and other services.
As you look for a document collaboration system to help you better manage your documents, and as an alternative or compliment to traditional file server such as Microsoft Small Business Service, it’s important to go beyond the surface of just price and features.
You should take the time to test the service (many have free options), also have a sampling of your staff test the service out, to get their feedback. You’ll never find any solution (heck any human for that matter) that can satisfy you 100% but you can find a solution that meets 80% or so of your needs and wants and this is the solution you want to invest in.
I found Box.net to be very, very user friendly and simple to use. Jen Grant, Vice President of Marketing with Box.net told me that Box.net’s president, Aaron Levie, has instructed his entire programming staff to ensure Box.net is feature rich and simple to use. Although Box.net does not have a usability team, like many companies do, if their management is laser liked focused on making not just a feature rich product, but a product that people LIKE to use, they’ll do just fine.
Box is offered in a variety of packages and editions ranging from the free Lite version which offers basic functionality for people who have simple collaboration needs to the $15/month per user in the Business version which offers better control, additional features, including full-text search, and is scalable for any sized business.