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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    I am a small business owner in Salem, Oregon (USA). I need some help finding the right direction to go in to solve my current problems. I currently have company running through gmail, our hosting with host monster, a sharepoint shared server through FPweb.com and I just signed up for Comcast's business class including sharepoint (hoping to consolidate everything).

    The problem is, all of these services have limitations or are too complicated for my employees to jump in and use. Here is what I need:

    1) A simple, CSM or WYSIWYG website that has an event calendar for customers, links to FaceBook and Twitter and has email marketing that our customers can opt into.

    2) An web accessible secured file storage/ back up service.

    3) Shared task lists, project calendars and discussions for our staff. Also, an easy way to track progress.

    4) A centralized protected online site for policies and proceedures that is permission based.

    5) A dashboard that ties most of these things together and an easy way to manage my employees/ users through it.

    6) Ideally a way to sych with MS outlook and mobile devices. Also, if there is an easy way to set up an Outlook exchange server that be great.

    Anyrate, my needs are complicated enough that I have not easily found a one (or two) fits all answer. I like to keep it affordable and simple to use.

    I am hoping the community here might be able to point me in the right direction. Whatever help you can offer is appreciated

    Thanks

    Nate

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  3. #2
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    Anyrate, my needs are complicated enough that I have not easily found a one (or two) fits all answer. I like to keep it affordable and simple to use.
    How affordable is a hard to use kludge of disjointed apps? I guarantee you can go from having a difficult time to a genuine business disaster focusing on cheap.

    Want a zero learning curve? Stick with what you've got. And you have given no reason for a change. What are the limitations costing you in terms of inefficiencies or ineffectiveness?

    ...For that matter, what are the limitations? You don't say.

    ...Why sync to mobile devices? Sync what? You don't say.

    I see a purely technological laundry list, not a problem or business goal. Or is it simply a matter of replacing last year's kludges with this year's trendier kludges -- and nothing changes?

    Aside from being trendy, what do you want to accomplish? Problems and missed opportunities first. Then solutions. Anyone even hoping to help you will also need to know what business you are in, and what the workflow patterns are.

    Otherwise you are apt to get politically correct opinions on Google apps, basecamp, open whatever, and the shop's fave all-in-one CMS they've decided solves every problem they've ever seen. (Only because they don't want to learn to code for anything else)

    First, our techniques of estimating are poorly developed. More seriously, they reflect an unvoiced assumption which is quite untrue, i.e., that all will go well.
    Second, our estimatiing techniqes fallaciously confuse effort with progress, hiding the assumption that men and months are interchangeable.
    —The Mythical Man–Month Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., p14. (1995 Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.)
    The main goal of almost all users of group calendaring software is to avoid needless, unproductive meetings, yet the number–one task performed by almost all of that software is to create meetings. This contradiction, where the user’s goals and the program’s tasks are in direct opposition is symptomatic of the failure of our current design methods to work effectively. What’s more, this contradiction is found almost universally in our software, regardless of its type.
    —Goal–Directed Design by Alan Cooper
    What's the makeup of a discussion? What constitutes "progress?" You have given just about zero information. And, most probably, the focus on slap dash technology solutions in a vacuum free of problems is what brought you to your current situation.

    There are a dozen blind alleys you could go down, all of which start by taking the path of technology as solution ...without a problem in sight.


    Related:

    Visual Display of Process Information "The dashboard is the CEO’s killer app, making the gritty details of a business that are often buried deep within a large organization accessible at a glance to senior executives. So powerful are the programs that they’re beginning to change the nature of management"

  4. #3
    WDF Staff MikeB's Avatar
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    Agreed, I think we need some more info on exactly what your trying to accomplish with all this.
    Because one thing that occurred to me is that while it's ok asking for all this stuff, the apps out there may not provide it and if they did then it may not fit with how you and your business / business process works.

    One potential option is getting an app custom coded for your business. It may or may not be worthwhile but it would (providing all the right info is given to the developer(s)) be EXACTLY what you need, which is something you may have to spend hours upon hours trying to achieve with existing stuff.
    From what you've listed you're going to be looking at a paid app anyway so would not be worth shooting of some emails to local web design / development firms and talk to them about it and potentially get some quotes.
    Mike Barlow
    WDF Co-Owner

    Need help? PM Me!

  5. #4
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    To help clear things up:

    1) The website stuff I can likely handle with Joomla or Drupul. I like to know a good hosting company that allows for cloud file storage along with hosting. If there is not a good answer for that, then just what is a good cloud file server that is inexpensive but reliable (for back ups and archiving).

    2) The collaboration I need is a way to easily manage employee schedules, tasks and project files, as well as have a place for our policies and proceedures. I like the features of basecamp, goplan and box. I also would like to synch the calendar and tasks with outlook.

    3) I do have a sharepoint account. What I don't like about it is the learning curve is high for my employees. I prefer something more basic and intuitive sine my employees are teens and college students with little work experience. I need to create infrastructure to help guide them.

    4) For my managers, I like to have microsoft exchange working with our outlook. I didn't know if a company offers exchange as a service like they do with sharepoint.

    I am ok with having 2 or 3 programs or services solve this, I just like to make sure they can intregrate easily with each other. I am trying to keep things simple and seemless as possible.

    Anyrate, what other specifics would help you understand what I am looking for?

  6. #5
    WDF Staff Wired's Avatar
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    Online backup: MozyPro | Mozy or Carbonite Pro | Secure, Affordable Backup Online for Small Businesses

    Outsourced company email:

    You can get gmail for your business: Gmail for business

    You can also rent / outsource Exchange from a 3rd party just like you're doing with Sharepoint. More than likely your Sharepoint provider does Exchange as well.


    Depending on various factors (cost, time, resources, etc.) renting an SBS server in the cloud may be an option assuming you have an IT specialist / professional that can maintain it or the host or a 3rd party company can maintain it for you.

    DO NOT HIRE your cousin / nephew, etc to maintain a server of any kind. Never ends well!
    The Rules
    Was another WDF member's post helpful? Click the like button below the post.

    Admin at houseofhelp.com

  7. #6
    Senior Member
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    Anyrate, what other specifics would help you understand what I am looking for?
    Answering the very simple questions I asked would be a starter.

    Frankly, you seem to have made up your mind and are simply looking for a (patsy) um ....I mean an installer who takes code dictation -- and all the blame when you're exactly where you were when you started.

    I would suggest you do this round of installs. And perhaps two more over the next two years. Then, when you're good and tired, you'll be ready to talk with someone who can help you accomplish more than the successful Drupal or Joomla install.

    You need a business analyst and interaction designer who solves (known, well-explained) business problems with technology. Not a code monkey who only installs the solutions ...and could care less what the problems were.

    That you are not answering any question not directly about technology smells fishy.

  8. #7
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    DC856, I don't understand your hostility. I am not asking for free labor. I was hoping to just get some pointers where to head to find a solution to a small business needing online file storage and project/ task colloboration that is simple enough for non-techs to use but complete enough that it has most of the features I need.

    1) I am not looking for the next trendy thing.

    2) Our budgets are limited, especially since the recession.

    3) We have a young web 2.0 saavy staff but none of us is IT saavy. We have enough divergent schedules and myself and my partner work remote from our homes when the other one is on site.

    So I do not understand what I said or did that gave the wrong impression to you. Please remain respectful and if you have something constructive to share I am willing to listen.

  9. #8
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    Our budgets are limited, especially since the recession.
    Not what I asked about.

    Budgets are amazing things. There is a huge and seemingly unlimited budget for doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results.

    And the word budget seems, with all due respect, to be too oft used like an incantation. (And just FYI: All Budgets are LIMITED Because a Budget is a LIMIT A company can have a "limited" budget of fifty million dollars.)

    All reciting the incantation does is waste a huge amount of time. But since you insist, let's say your mystery, imaginary budget of fifty million dollars is what we're talking about.

    I'm not fishing for billable. Nobody suggested anything expensive. Nobody made an expensive bid.

    Now, how's about setting aside your shopping list and explaining something about why what you have isn't working as it should ...and what you imagine Drupal, Joomla or an Exchange server will do that isn't getting done? After all, you've got fifty million to spend.

  10. #9
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    I gotcha, your asking for our problems/ issues:

    1) We do not have any IT people on staff. We need to outsource it. This means that overly technical website, data storage and collaboration solutions are hard for us to implement and upkeep.

    2) We have communication breakdown occuring from employees and managers not having a centeralized place for tasks, calendars and files. It is causing file verisons to get misplaced, for employees to use emails and flash drives to move files around (instead of saving it in a central place). It has caused work to accidently get lost or saved over before too.

    3) Sharepoint is complicated enough that we are having learning curve issues with some of our staff. In turn, those people aren't using it because they can't find their way around it or know how to use its features.

    4) Our website needs to be easily updated by nontechnical staff.

    I like a solution that solves these problems and allows all of us to work together more easily.

  11. #10
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    First off, now we're getting just a bit closer to finding out what the technology is actually for -- what it has to accomplish to be considered a success.

    Second, most collaboration software is going to have some learning curve. And, part of the cause of most of these problems is integration. Any separate messaging system is going to put you right back where you were.

    I've worked with Drupal. I've instructed users on Drupal. The Drupal "what's a node" CMS is not going to be a hit with nontechnical staff. Drupal is a big hit with highly technical Drupal programmers who don't enjoy seeing endusers interacting with their stuff.

    I still don't have a firm grasp (or any grasp) of what you're really doing, but you might want to check out eGroupware. I would either sync to outlook or banish outlook completely as a source problem.

    What you don't want is an outlook email on some parts of a project, and collaboration system messaging on other parts, creating disjointed communications. That is probably part of the problem.

    Study up on something called a Plog -- or blogging for program management.

    I don't have enough information to rule in anything else such as Joomla, or perhaps Cushy. You may have to go the trial-and-error route until you find out what fits.

    What I also suggest is working on communications skills within the company. When it's all about technology, like this thread has been, there's a problem which won't be solved by technology. Trust in this: Nobody has the communications skills they think they do.

    Companies without dedicated, respected, IT staff can have similar problems. Often upper management fixates on something, like outlook, then sabotages the collaboration software by feeling exempt from having to use it. They fire off a hodge-podge from within the system, and outside it.

    When employees see they get better results using the management favorite -- usually the old stuff you were trying to replace -- then the new system becomes irrelevant.

    Often the management with go so far as to reinstall old versions or "lead" by refusal to use the new systems. And employees follow.

    One effective way, in the absence of IT policy and procedure, is to leave no alternatives but the new system for everyone to use.

    Rest assured, when you can't sabotage via 'net, start sending emails and then using the phone to mess things up.

    If firing off barrages of short, inarticulate, incomplete emails is part of the problem, technology won't help. Working on better communications skills will.


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