Skip to main content

Cloud collaboration services: the top 10 for SMBs

Dropbox for Business

Web: www.dropbox.com/business

Price: US$795 / 5 users / year (about £526, AU$865) (Free for 14 days)

Dropbox for Business

Dropbox for Business is an extension of the company's Dropbox consumer service, with features designed to help companies with five or more employees work together.

Like Dropbox, its business service syncs files across employees' devices, allowing them to continue working on the move (in the presence of an internet connection). Files, which can be password protected and shared internally or externally via links, are stored online in Dropbox's cloud and can be kept in sync by placing them in a sharing folder on users' PCs.

Extra security features have been added in recent months, including configuration for two-step authentication and mobile pass codes to access accounts. In April Dropbox added a new admin console to the service that gives IT managers a quick view of information on matters such as employees' linked devices, sessions and applications.

In May these were joined by single sign-on (SSO), which lets employees sign into Dropbox using an existing central identity provider, such as Active Directory, removing the need to remember one more password.

Trello

Web: https://trello.com/

Price: Free - Business Class is US$25 per month (about £17, or AU$27) / organisation / year

Trello interface

If you're looking for a solution to manage projects and get things done, Trello is a free and straightforward offering with a simple drag and drop interface.

Trello works using boards that list 'cards', or tasks that can be labelled using short descriptions such as 'In Progress' or 'Completed' to let other project collaborators know their status. Features include email notifications to keep users informed of recent project changes, real time updates when tasks are completed, the abilty to assign cards to particular members and a card voting feature that allows board members to set business priorities.

While these features make the standard version of Trello suitable for small businesses, a Business Class package is also available for $25 (£17) per month. This includes advanced features such as integration with Google Apps, bulk export of tasks, a read-only observer role and extra administrative control.

Socialcast

Web: http://www.socialcast.com/

Price: Free for up to 50 users

SocialCast

SocialCast, as the name suggests, is engineered toward social network-style collaboration. The service, which was created by virtualisation giant VMware, has earned inclusion on our list for two reasons.

First, VMware made SocialCast free for up to 50 users last year. This doesn't mean that it's a restricted service; far from it. Socialcast is a full-featured platform that allows businesses to manage projects, share documents and form groups around projects, departments or specific activities.

Users can also create private groups to help employees interact with each other. They can be opened up to the public, and the service can be customised to incorporate a business's specific look or brand.

Moreover, SocialCast offers its entire feature stack on mobile devices, so businesses can download apps in iPhones, iPads, Android and BlackBerry devices.

Office 365

Web: http://www.microsoft.com/hk/smb/cloud/english/office365.aspx

Price (Small Business) £3.90 (about US$5.80, or AU$6.40) plus taxes / user / month, or £39.60 (about US$59, or AU$65) plus taxes / user / year (free for one month)

Price (Small Business Premium) £10.10 (about US$15, or AU$16.60) plus taxes / user / month, or £100.80 (about US$152, AU$166) plus taxes / user / year (free for one month)

Office 365 screenshot

For businesses that have become accustomed to Microsoft's Office productivity suite, Google Apps rival Office365 would make a natural leap from desktop software into the cloud. Businesses that sign up get access to Office web apps, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher and Lync.

Additionally, users get access to hosted email with up to 25GB of storage space per user and the ability to use their business's domain name and set up a public website with no additional hosting fees. That's alongside a web conference function and spam and malware protection.