Review: Clearvale Express Free Social Networking For Businesses

Broadvision is providing a free, stripped-down version of its enterprise product for businesses looking for a simple way to offer social networking functionality to employees.
Broadvision's Clearvale Express Offers Free Social Media Capabilities
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In recent months, the Enterprise 2.0 trend has gained momentum, with not only small start-ups offering business-class versions of Twitter and Facebook, but also larger vendors such as Salesforce and Cisco offering such products. Ebusiness veteran Broadvision has joined this trend with their Clearvale product, and it recently released Clearvale Express, a free option for companies looking to provide social networking capabilities to employees and partners.

Like products such as SocialCast, Yammer, and Salesforce Chatter, Clearvale Express makes it possible for a company to provide workers with a Twitter-like activity stream that lets colleagues know what they're working on and where they are, collaborate on files and tasks, and build collaborative communities. Workers can follow other users and view a simple Facebook-like profile wall for each user of the company network within Clearvale Express.

Clearvale Express does not have all of the functionality of the full enterprise version of Broadvision's Clearvale, and there are limitations on storage (1GB) and the number of communities (20) for each free network account. But for small businesses or departments looking for a way to add a social element to business interactions, it can be an effective tool.

One of the biggest potential gotchas in using Clearvale Express comes at sign-up. If one follows the default sign-up options on the main page, they will create an intranet network, and within these types of networks, it is impossible to invite users with different email domains to collaborate with your employees.

So if you want to have a network where you can work with partners, or with contractors who use a public email service like Gmail, you will need to follow the link to create a membership organization here, which allows networks with open domain invitations. This is an important step, since if you create a closed intranet network the only way to switch to an open network is to upgrade to the enterprise version of Clearvale.

I also found this to be somewhat limiting, as I can think of business cases where I want a network that is mostly closed, but has the ability to invite partners and contractors.

Once set-up, Clearvale Express is simple to use. As a user, I could post my status, upload and share files, comment on other status posts, and send messages to other users.

It is also possible to create communities dedicated to specific groups, tasks, or business needs, and centralize files and discussions related to those communities. As an administrator, I could invite other users to work in my network and view basic statistics on the Clearvale Express network.

Clearvale Express also has some integration with Google Apps, making it possible to use its authentication in order to access Gmail and Docs from within Clearvale.

You can find the free Clearvale Express here.