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9/30/2010
12:56 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
Commentary
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SMBs Set Sights On Collaboration Suites

The Age of the Suite is nigh. Up to now, point solutions for calendaring, document management, e-mail, and other collaborative tasks probably did the trick for most SMBs, but faced with an increasingly mobile work force and a geographically dispersed base of suppliers, partners, and customers, more and more small and midsize businesses are giving collaboration suites serious consideration.

The Age of the Suite is nigh. Up to now, point solutions for calendaring, document management, e-mail, and other collaborative tasks probably did the trick for most SMBs, but faced with an increasingly mobile work force and a geographically dispersed base of suppliers, partners, and customers, more and more small and midsize businesses are giving collaboration suites serious consideration.A recent report from the SMB Group, an analyst firm based in Northborough, Mass., takes an in-depth look at the collaboration suite space -- the reasons behind its changing landscape and the vendors and products that populate it.

The report cites four changes that are driving the collaboration market: information overload, new collaboration technologies, the mobility "explosion," and generational shifts. (Today's business interfaces with everyone from Millennials to Baby Boomers, and those constituencies don't communicate the same way. Think teens and texting vs. Baby Boomers and phones.)

SMBs seeking an appropriate collaboration suite have plenty of products to choose from -- so many, in fact, that whittling them down could pose quite a challenge. In its report, the SMB Group takes out some of the guesswork. Here's what the firm has to say about a handful of available solutions.

Google leverages its ubiquitous web presence and offers a product with a "refreshed" look, feel, and navigation. The vendor offers web-based files that can be shared and edited at the same time by co-workers.

HyperOffice focuses just on SMBs, allowing customers to keep using their legacy e-mail apps, but with more powerful features. The suite offers strong document management functionality.

IBM LotusLive integrates social media capabilities with traditional document management and collaboration tools.

Microsoft BPOS plays on the benefits and familiarity of the software behemoth's Outlook and Windows look and feel. This online suite includes webconferencing as part of a standard service.

Salesforce Chatter is a social media-oriented suite with a Facebook-like interface and tight integration with Salesforce CRM.

According to the SMB Group, those suites give SMBs some powerful -- and affordable -- options, but each vendor has a different idea about what core functionality an SMB requires. That means it's up to each SMB to assess its needs and objectives so it can determine which product offers the best fit.

SMBs interested in receiving a complimentary copy of the SMB Group's report, "Moving Beyond Email: The Era of SMB Online Collaboration," can click here.

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