Central Desktop Offers Free Microsoft Outlook Plug-In

By Lauren Simonds | Posted April 01, 2009

Document sharing and workspace collaboration is a hot trend in the small business market. It’s driven by small businesses that need an affordable way for employees, clients, customers and vendors to communicate and work together across varied geographical locations.

Central Desktop, a Web-based (SaaS) collaboration platform that allows companies to schedule and manage daily work activities, today announced a plug-in that provides integration with Microsoft Outlook. The plug-in, which is available for free, is designed to provide Outlook users with what Central Desktop calls a “pure SaaS-based approach to collaboration” that aligns with their existing work tools and practices. 

The company added the Outlook plug-in to its list of must-have items based on customer demand. “Seventy percent of our customers use Outlook, and the plug-in was their biggest demand,” said Isaac Garcia, Central Desktop co-founder and CEO.

The plug-in provides two-way task and calendar synchronization between Outlook and Central Desktop. “People live in Outlook at work. Integrating Outlook into Central Desktop cuts out double entry, and that saves time,” said Garcia. “It’s easier to connect, and because Central Desktop is SaaS-based, you can access your calendar while you’re on the road.”

Garcia added that the Outlook integration also makes sending e-mail to employees within Central Desktop easier. You can send one e-mail and store it in a specific workspace within Central Desktop rather than having 10 people with individual copies. “Now the conversation about the e-mail topic is happening in Central Desktop in the right work group,” said Garcia.

Collaboration doesn’t just happen within a company, Garcia said. Often times you need to work with vendors or customers, and it can be difficult because they aren’t part of your IT network. Central Desktop lets you create a workspace and give customers or vendors access to that space. Outlook’s prevalence in the workplace is a key factor. “The plug-in bridges the gap,” said Garcia. “People can see what they need, and they can access it through Outlook.”

The integration with Outlook also lets Central Desktop stake a claim as a viable alternative to SharePoint, Microsoft’s collaboration and document-management platform. Garcia claims that, compared to SharePoint, Central Desktop’s Web-based solution is less expensive, easier to use, requires less maintenance and can be up and running in a day versus weeks or months.

“SharePoint is expensive and IT-resource intensive,” said Garcia. “Small businesses don’t have the time or the money to deal with it.”

He added that Central Desktop is the first SaaS company to offer this level of Outlook integration. He referred to other SaaS-based collaboration services as wiki-centric, as opposed to Central Desktop, which he said is both workspace-centric and a true SharePoint alternative.

“You can't do an apples-to-apples comparison to SharePoint if you don’t have integration with Outlook,” said Garcia.

You’ll find pricing information on Central Desktop here. The plug-in is available to all Central Desktop customers as a free download. Garcia noted that it installs in less than one minute.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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