Choosing the right online collaboration for your business can be tricky, especially with the vast number of available solutions on the market. Many companies flock to Google for these tools, but for those looking to explore more tailored services, here's a guide to choosing the best fit for your business.
Benefits Of Collaboration Tools
Thanks to the internet, companies of all sizes can now take advantage of collaborative tools proposed through various online platforms and services. These solutions specialize in project management needs, allowing businesses to share documents, agendas, and projects all on one platform, easing workflow, and ultimately saving vast amounts of time and resources.
Collaborative Work: What Are the Challenges for a Company?
Collaborative tools can meet the requirements of professionals and employees who are on the move. They offer easy access to data and information, as well as backup and synchronization features. There are several online services proposing access to such tools. Some are available for free, others are paid and are dedicated to businesses. With a wide range of online collaborative tools (i.e. shared documents, mail addresses, online office suites), Google Apps is an attractive offer to small and medium enterprises. Nevertheless, several points must be considered:
With Google Apps, data is guarded through a basic password protection system. As any information saved through Google Apps is not hosted on the company's own server, any event that results in a loss of data can be extremely costly for a company. (Google Apps for Business does offer a custom system for businesses who would like to pay extra to backup data on a parallel server.)
Google Apps stores all documents on their online servers. While this is great for facilitating access to documents from anywhere in the world, in the event that there is a lost connection to Google servers, access to any shared documents could be tricky.
Finally, as Google often makes adjustments to its online tools, familiarizing oneself with each of its modifications can result in a loss of efficiency.
Choosing an Alternative Collaboration Solution
Before deploying a collaborative solution, several concerns must be addressed: which solution will meet the needs of employees and the company? To what extent will it guarantee security and data backup?
Once you have an understanding of your core needs, you must establish a budget. Keep in mind that the initial costs of the program may not include the deployment and yearly maintenance of the service.
Online platforms offer a slew of tools that can help companies streamline their data and workflow. Companies tend to lean towards programs that offer a common agenda, an office suite, synchronization of documents, as well as IM or video conferencing.
What Alternative Group Solutions Exist?
There are several free collaborative services which can be customized to meet a company's needs. Many of these solutions also offer a "professional" version, which offers additional security and storage space.
Storage: DropBox, iCloud, Box, Wuala, OneDrive
Video Conferencing: AnyMeeting, Join.me, Skype
Calendar Sharing: iCloud
Unified Collaborative Solutions
These "all-in-one" solutions offer companies a streamlined platform for all online collaboration. Some popular platforms include Cisco, Office 365, SharePoint, and Yammer.
Private Solutions for an Enterprise
Many times, companies choose to create their own "cloud" or intranet by hosting all data on a private server. These solutions are often extremely expensive, and require collaboration with outside IT vendors. Doing custom developer work allows a company to completely custom-fit their solution to their immediate needs. However, the high costs associated with custom work is often a deterrent for companies in the early stages of their exploratory work.