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.