Collaboration in a Box

By Troy Dreier | Posted March 20, 2006

Small businesses looking for a full-featured collaboration system should consider the Joyent Accelerator, a product that keeps things simple, while delivering big on features, ease, and convenience.

Accelerator, the first product from one-year-old Joyent, Inc, is an installed hardware and software combination that delivers e-mail, calendar, contact and file storage applications to anyone on your team through a convenient browser interface. For businesses that prefer a hosted solution, the company now offers the Joyent Connector.

Because Joyent works through a browser, there's no software to install on your employees' systems, and users can log in from any location, even out of the office. It uses AJAX to deliver a rich-client experience, so this browser app feels as robust as any installed software.

The interface is easy enough for even the least technical people in your organization. The five main areas are listed across the top: Binder (a project management tool), E-mail, Calendar, People and File. Click on one and you'll see that tool's options along the left-hand side, while the content fills the center of the screen.

Each tool includes collaboration features that make it more than a basic program, while still keeping usability easy. The Calendar app lets you see other people's programs along with yours, so that you can find open times for meetings. You can then schedule a meeting for other people; they'll be notified of the request and you'll get a notification back when they accept the calendar addition. You can also subscribe to RSS or ICS feeds, so that you can view calendar information for people outside the company.

The People tool lets you create entries for people or groups, and make them private or public. You can create smart groups so that new people are automatically added to your list when they meet certain criteria, such as being a member of the sales team.

The Files section, likewise, lets you create self-updating smart folders, which add new content automatically. Create some and you'll always have project files in one convenient place. Files are automatically protected with a WebDAV check-in system that prevents you from overwriting a file that someone else is working on. The Mail app lets you quickly scan and browse your messages. It works with any IMAP -compliant program, so that you can check your e-mail with a separate application, if you prefer.

Three useful tools sit on the top-right corner of all Joyent's apps, providing the power behind the system: Tags, Access and Notify. With Tags you can create meta tags for any piece of content to help group related items. Access lets you restrict access for anything on the system (by default everything is public), while Notify tells you about meetings and new information that you need to approve.

When you've tagged items correctly, Joyent's star application, Binder, provides easy project management. With it, you can view all a project's e-mails, files, contacts and calendar items in one place.

The Joyent hardware appliance includes two 300GB hard drives in an array and a Pentium 4-comparable processor. It offers an Ethernet connection and works as a wireless access point. Pricing is $4,950, plus a required $65 per month maintenance fee, which gets you automatic, off-site data backup. If your appliance should crash, Joyent uses the backup to get you a new system in 24 hours.


Joyent.com

Joyent's browser interface.

The hosted version, Joyent Connector, sells for $15 per month for four users, $50 per month for 10 users, and $100 per month for 25 users. To learn more, try Joyent's online tour.

Adapted from intranetjournal.com.

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