Web-Based Collaboration Tools That Save You Money - Page 3

By Gerry Blackwell
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Huddle Up

If you’re looking for something that provides project management and file sharing capabilities rather than Web conferencing, check out Huddle, an online service from a British-based company.

Like others of its kind, Huddle lets you set up shared “workspaces” to which you can invite team members, setting permissions for them to indicate what they can do in the work space (view only or edit content.)

Then you can upload files to share. Team members with the appropriate permissions can download and edit documents, then upload them again after editing. The system preserves and keeps track of earlier versions and provides an audit trail so you can see who made changes when. It can also notify team members automatically when changes are made.

Huddle offers the capability to collaboratively create Microsoft Office Word and Excel documents online right within the Huddle interface. And it provides a whiteboard function that lets you create an instantly visible space for displaying text, graphics and links.

The project management features let you create tasks, assign them to team members and track progress. You can also set milestones and deadlines. Huddle will automatically send reminders of approaching deadlines, and it lets you quickly display all past-due deadlines.

Rounding out the service’s main features is the Forum function, which allows you to set up multiple discussion forums for each workspace in which team members can exchange messages either in real time or offline.

Huddle is free for one workspace, suitable for one team or project, and 1GB of online storage. Prices for paid packages start at $20 a month for five workspaces and 2.5GB of storage and go up to $99 for 20 workspaces and 20GB of storage.

Zoho Projects, part of the comprehensive suite of Zoho SaaS products, provides very similar functionality, but provides just 100MB of free storage with the free one-project service.

Other project management/collaboration services include GroupSwim, a wiki-style tool with functionality similar to the software behind Wikipedia. One of the best and best established products of this type is Central Desktop, which we wrote about earlier here.


Finally, there is Octopz, a highly regarded, award-winning SaaS offering that was developed primarily for creative professionals. One of its key differentiators is that it allows team members in a workspace to collaboratively mark up a large number of different types of documents, including images and video.

Octopz is also unusual among file-sharing-type collaboration tools in providing integrated text, voice and video chat. It’s a little more expensive, however – $99 per month with only 1GB of storage.

Which service you choose ultimately comes down to what you need most. There is a fairly clear distinction between collaboration tools based on Web conferencing – like Fuze – and those based on shared workspaces and project management, like Huddle. Some share features of both, such as Octopz and LotusLive. And some providers, such as Microsoft, provide a range of  not-always-tightly-integrated capabilities that span both types.

And there are more products out there. Search “online collaboration” in Google. Try them out – it’s usually free.

Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s.

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This article was originally published on February 18, 2009
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