3 tools to improve collaboration in your company

Collaboration is a necessity for businesses to function well, but you always don't need SharePoint to do the trick

I know what you are thinking, but aside from this first paragraph you won't see SharePoint mentioned in this column. It's true that SharePoint has become synonomous with "collaboration" at many organizations, and certainly SharePoint is an impressive product. But there are times when you might reach out for other tools that SharePoint simply doesn't offer. Here are three of them: a file-transfer tool, a live-meeting tool, and an internal IM/microblogging tool.

File transfer: Many companies are seeing the value of a document library in which documents are able to be secured and tracked for easy access and collaboration. But more and more, especially for larger file transfers, I see people using unsecure USB sticks or unsecured FTP servers to pass data from one person in a company to another. Smaller files go through email, while larger ones take the USB or FTP route. To avoid these iffy routes, you might consider a provider like Accellion, which specializes in large file-transfer solutions products; it has both a cloud and an on-premise offering. The goal of this type of product is to increase collaboration through secure, fast transfer tracking. Doing that will certainly make your organization run a bit smoother.

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You may be wondering why you wouldn't just use the Document Library in SharePoint to upload larger file types. (OK, I am mentioning SharePoint again, but this issue merits some explanation.) All documents uploaded to SharePoint are stored as a blob. That in and of itself isn't really a problem; in fact, SQL 2005 blob performance has been "vastly improved," notes Sheetal Jain, founder and principal engineer of Docstree.com.

However, Jain says larger files (anything exceeding 1GB) can cause a problem due to time-outs, running out of memory due to spooling, and Web server performance hits. You might use a NAS or SAN solution and only store links on the SharePoint side to work around this issue, but Jain notes that doing so takes "careful planning, coding and security testing."

Live meetings: It's awkward to use the "live meeting" label, given that Microsoft calls its product for Webinars and Webcast meetings Live Meeting. But there are many other kinds of live-meeting tools that you can rely on for communication and collaboration within your organization, depending on your needs. Especially when working with people in remote locations or alternative branches, you should have a way to share face time or app time with others.

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