The term "small office" is becoming more and more inaccurate as businesses find that their employees, associates, clients, and customers don't live in the same city or even the same country. As a result, collaboration software has become a necessity for many companies, even those -- or especially those -- who are official classified as "small."
However, today's collaboration applications require a level of administration effort and hardware infrastructure that few small businesses can support. Microsoft Exchange does offer the type of functionality a small business would like to have -- and a reputation for consuming budget dollars and person-hours that could send you running in the opposite direction. With any luck, you might run right into BlueTie.
BlueTie is a Web-based service designed to compete with server-based solutions like Exchange by delivering a hosted suite of business collaboration tools that require no hardware, software, or IT support.
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BlueTie's suite of applications is built on the software-as-a-service model (SaaS), and includes e-mail, scheduling, to-do lists, contact management, file backup, and file sharing. It wraps these functions into an administrable package and offers them in two versions: free (or almost -- you may eventually notice some advertising), and $4.99 per user per month. The free account allows the owner/administrator to create up to 20 user accounts, each with 5 Gbytes of storage space on BlueTie's servers. The paid service offers more capacity (10 Gbytes per user) and features like an internal instant-messaging application, Outlook integration, support for mobile devices like Treos and BlackBerrys, and toll-free support.