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7/11/2012
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Content Sharing For The Web-Centric Enterprise

CaptureToCloud snags snapshots of Web content to share and discuss with friends and colleagues.

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How do you capture a snapshot of Web content that's always changing? How do you share the prototype of a Web app or site that only exists on a secure server your collaborator doesn't have access to?

The common but imperfect solution is to take a screen shot, copy and paste into Word, or create a PDF that's like a digital printout of the Web content, and then share that file. File sharing is a great thing, but maybe it's time to move beyond files in the age of the Web-centric enterprise.

"Content is not all files anymore," CaptureToCloud CEO Ramon Nunez pointed out in an interview announcing the launch of his company's product. "For a lot of people, files are the lesser part of what they work with every day."

[ Time to close the loop? See JIRA Pipes User Feedback Straight To Developers. ]

Offered through the Google Apps Marketplace, CaptureToCloud is a utility for capturing snapshots of Web content that you can share, comment on, annotate, or simply categorize and keep for your own reference. For example, the snapshot of the BrainYard home page I posted to Facebook is now stored in the cloud service, including all the relevant HTML, JavaScript, and image files. Unlike a screen capture, it can still be browsed like a Web page, with all the headline links and the rollover effects embedded in the advertisements still active. The major exception to the content the service captures and stores is video, because of the large file sizes.

CaptureToCloud does offer the option of storing the URL (Web address) for the content, rather than the content itself--in which case, it functions more like a bookmarking service--and the original URL is also stored along with full-page captures. But if you wanted to capture the embarrassing mistake on a competitor's website in all its glory--before the site owner had a chance to fix it--this would be the perfect tool.


Web content with an associated stream of comments in CaptureToCloud.

My first thought was that this appeared to be a little utility for someone like me, but I wasn't sure it sounded like an enterprise collaboration tool worthy of coverage on The BrainYard. I could easily see myself using it to capture clippings from blogs, Web publications, and vendor websites and file them away for future reference. But as Nunez observed, every day employees at big enterprises spend more of their time working with Web-based documents and applications rather than desktop files. This would also be a terrific tool for Web designers and app developers who want to share prototypes of new designs, prior to making them available on any publicly-accessible server.

Oscar Garcia, CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, became an early user because of his friendship with Garcia and has found the tool useful for sharing content related to events such as the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival with collaborators inside and outside his organization who might need to approve a particular Web promotion. When the event is over, he will also be able to go back and look at snapshots of the site as it existed in the weeks leading up to the event--content that might no longer be available on the live website. "It's almost like having a virtual notebook you can always reference," Garcia said.

The capture function works with extensions to the Chrome and Firefox browsers, adding a "capture to cloud" menu bar button and a right mouse click option for capturing a whole page, just the url, just selected text on the page, or just a particular image. The items you capture can then be organized into "collections" within the CaptureToCloud library.

CaptureToCloud's initial target market is existing Google Docs/Google Drive and Google Apps users. The same dashboard that provides access to your captured Web content also lets you access your Google Drive content. With a drag-and-drop action, you can copy a reference to a Google document into one of your CaptureToCloud library collections. It's also possible to convert a captured Web page into a Google document (just don't expect formatting to be perfectly preserved from a complex Web layout).

CaptureToCloud includes its own social-style commenting function for discussions about the content in the repository. Since this is also available for the Google Docs content, it actually adds some social collaboration functionality that is so far not available from Google. CaptureToCloud also makes it easy to share links on Facebook and Twitter but not Google+ (like a lot of other developers, CaptureToCloud is still waiting for a more complete Google+ API to materialize). Links can also be shared by email and other methods. Since what you share through any of these methods is a link rather than a file, you always have the option to revoke sharing by disabling the link.

The utility does allow sharing of content from behind the firewall, from a password-protected account accessed via an encrypted Web connection. In that case, CaptureToCloud uses the browser extension to siphon off content and relay it to the cloud service. For example, you could use this method to capture a report from a web-based business-intelligence app and share it by email or post it to Facebook. Security hazard? No more so than any of the other copy-and-paste or screenshot-based methods that careless or malicious employees might use to share content inappropriately, or so say the CaptureToCloud folks.

When accessing public website content, CaptureToCloud uses a server-to-server method for faster downloads, rather than relying on the browser extension.

CaptureToCloud is offered on a freemium model, with the free version with storage and bandwidth limits and a premium version available for $47.50 per year. Google Apps administrators can enable either free or paid accounts for multiple users from the administration dashboard.

CaptureToCloud also announced $4.7 million in new venture funding led by Acero Capital on Wednesday.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)

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