September 10, 2004
The advent of Web-based services has meant explosive growth in easy-to-use intranets and extranets in the last few months.
From a mere handful of such services last spring, the numbers have jumped into the hundreds.
As this sub-sector of the Web industry has grown, the project management services offered have become more sophisticated. From the Basecamp system I introduced readers to last spring, we have come a long way to the system offered by Intranets.com
This outfit offers a complete collaboration suite for managing your projects and project teams—both internal and external. That means it can function as your company intranet and as a project extranet for however many projects you have on the go.
So you can have a Web-based intranet to cover your office, your branch offices and all your project sites. Staff people working from home can use it. So can sales staff on the road. And you can add outsiders to those project sites: architects, engineers, subcontractors and suppliers. To a general who typically runs, say four projects at one time, that would mean one intranet and four extranets.
This is a system that lets you keep documents up to date and in one place, review changes, keep an up-todate calendar and task manager, provide a central location for assignments, project schedules and the like, keep track of expenses for travelling members of the team, brainstorm ideas—lots of things, including keeping everything synchronized with your Palm hand-held or Microsoft Outlook. There is even a database manager.
There is no software or hardware to buy, no cabling to install. Training is a snap because the system is highly intuitive.
The company pays a lot of attention to security.
For a start, they tell you up front that any data you enter in its system belongs to you, the subscriber. This is important, because in the early days of Web-based systems data ownership was open to question, and some providers were slow to return data to subscribers who had cancelled. Indeed, when RedLadder went belly-up a few years ago, a lot of its users never did get their data back.
Nuts-and-bolts security is important, too, so the company backs up all data every night, with the back-ups stored at a secure, off-site facility.
If you decide to give this system a try, you’ll find that setup takes a matter of minutes.
You would expect all this to be expensive and in the days before Web services, it would have been.
Now, though, you can get a system that accommodates five users for about $60 (U.S.) a month.
The number of seats goes up from there. For example, a workgroup of 25 people can have the service for about $230 (U.S.) per month. There are no contracts; you can cancel any time.
So an extranet set up to manage a project simply comes down when the project ends.
I selected Intranets.com as an example, not because it is the best (I don’t know that) or the cheapest (it’s not). I selected it because it is representative of the project management systems available as Web-based services.
I also selected it because of the Web site it maintains. It is one of the more informative sites around, with plenty of stuff to read as you shop.
So whether you are interested in their product specifically, or in intranets and extranets generally, you’ll find valuable information.
There are also buttons to click to take you to a slick audio-visual presentation that does a good job of outlining the company’s offerings in a series of videos that last perhaps 10 minutes. Another button also takes you to the offer of a free 30-day trial.
You’ll find the company at www.intranets.com
You’re always welcome to comment on anything you see in this column, or suggest topics for discussion. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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