HyperOffice extends collaboration to your outside colleagues

* HyperOffice’s HyperShare for Outlook

I like simple solutions to problems, and I came across an easy way to extend a private portal and other collaboration tools to colleagues who are outside of your network. Since it’s available as a service, there is no investment to make in additional infrastructure or IT resources. With no up front costs and almost no development time, the solution is right for project teams that involve numerous outside contributors such as vendors, partners or consultants.

The solution comes from HyperOffice, a SaaS provider of collaboration and communication applications. HyperOffice’s offerings are primarily geared for small-to-midsized companies that can’t afford or don’t want to make the investment in Microsoft Exchange. But, I can see that larger organizations can benefit from the “quick hit” collaboration tools that allow diverse teams to share calendars and documents without opening up internal resources to outsiders.

Let’s say your own employees use Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office to manage their e-mail and enjoy rights to each other’s calendars. They can share tasks and contacts as well. What happens when you add outside workers to the mix? They are not on your Exchange system, so they have no visibility into what’s happening with the internal members of the team. Nor can your people see their calendars. There are no shared calendars, tasks, contacts or documents. Everyone has to e-mail files around and hope that document versioning doesn’t become a problem. Technologically, the external workers are second class citizens.

HyperOffice’s HyperShare for Outlook is a gateway that sits between your Exchange server and the online HyperOffice software. It lets you share calendars, contacts, documents, tasks and more with partners, customers and vendors without giving them access to your Exchange server. And your own people can use the same tools they’ve always used and not worry about multiple or out-of-sync calendars. It’s an easy way to create a collaborative environment to satisfy your operational requirements while insulating your Exchange servers.

Since the HyperShare software is provided as a service, the external user just needs to download a HyperShare client to his desktop. This garners him access to the gateway and to the shared resources that you specify. Pricing is by the seat per month, and you don’t need to enter into long-term contracts with HyperOffice. It’s easy and cheap enough so that you can put up and take down the access as projects come and go.

Another feature of HyperOffice that can be useful to mixed workgroups is Portal Customization. Call it another quick way to set aside a secure area where you can collaborate with customers, partners, vendors and so on. The participants have access to documents that are relevant, complete with file locking, commenting, versioning, auditing, and file level permissions.

As for administering privileges in HyperShare, you have very granular control over what users can access. Set privileges by the class of user or by the individual user.

I can see HyperOffice being very useful for task groups that form quickly, come together to conduct a project, and then go their separate ways. The group can easily work together for the duration of the project, keeping all necessary work files sharable by all authorized members of the group. There’s no investment in infrastructure, so the task group can be in business in no time.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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