Outsourcing file sharing and collaboration…but which provider?

The ability to access files from any computer with an Internet connection has become increasingly important over recent years. So too has the ability to ‘collaborate’ and have different people update documents and spreadsheets while on the move.

Various solutions have popped up, including Windows Live Workspace Beta, Google Docs and some less well known solutions provided by Box.net and Knowledge Tree. So which one is right for you? We thought a quick comparison of some of the key features would be useful.

Instead of looking at storing space, cost and other commonly compared features, we have looked at issues that are equally important but sometimes overlooked.

Windows Live Workspace Beta Google Docs Box.net Knowledge Tree
Online document editing through a browser. No Yes Yes No
Document system can be on your own server. No No No Yes
Support for Office and PDF documents. Yes Yes Yes Yes
Integrated into Office Applications. Yes No No No
Support for workflows and business processes. No No Yes Yes
Third party application integration. No No Yes Yes

 

Online document editing through a browser.

This is important if you want to be able to edit document from any computer with an Internet connection and not have to worry what software the computer has on it. This might also be important for business working on projects because each member of the team will be able to use the same editor.

If you have fixed sites and are looking for more of a central server for your files then online editing might not be a particularly useful feature.

Document system can be on your own server.

Being reliant on a third party server is a business risk that needs to be considered and managed. Some businesses may decide they want a solution which is hosted on their own server so that they have control over back ups and downtime.

Support for Office and PDF documents.

Office documents and PDFs are almost always supported. There may be occasions when you want to upload files that are not supported by the mainstream document management systems. In such cases a more standard file system may be required, but historically they lack collaboration tools.

Integrated into Office Applications.

Being able to save documents to an online location directly from the Office application being used may be more preferable to having to upload files through a browser. This is suited to businesses that have office computers and laptops and so will always have access to Microsoft Office, as opposed to executives that use any computer with an Internet connection.

Support for workflows and business processes.

In some cases it is possible to create workflows to suit your business processes. This could be as simple as someone e-signing a document to say they have checked it before it gets sent out to a client. For businesses that just want access to files via the Internet, this is not such an important feature.

Third party application integration.

Some providers allow the integration of third party applications. Knowledge Tree can be integrated into Drupal websites for example. Businesses should consider whether or not they need the ability to integrate with their existing systems.

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