Online collaboration tools are growing in popularity for a number of reasons. Increasingly businesses operate on a global basis, with networks of suppliers and partners spread over a wide geographical area.
Meeting with remote colleagues can prove time-consuming and costly, so replacing business trips with online alternatives is an attractive option. With the added cost-pressures of the global economic downturn and increasing pressure to be “green”, business travel is seen more and more as a financial and environmental burden.
The workplace as we know it is also changing. So-called ‘Generation Y’ employees who are now joining the workforce are already well versed in using web 2.0 technologies to communicate. Whether using Facebook to manage events or uploading videos to YouTube, the use of the web as a communication tool is well established.
In addition, today’s globalised world often sees business communities mirror consumer social networks, with many working relationships defined only on a virtual basis, thanks to geographically dispersed companies and partnerships. Added to this is an increasing demand for flexible working, from employees who want to be able to work from any location, for personal or business reasons.
As working practices evolve and change in this way, finding ways of communicating efficiently with staff is extremely important.
As a result, the use of web 2.0 techniques, such as online meetings, when interacting with colleagues is increasing, with Wainhouse Research forecasting that the market for web conferencing in the UK alone is set to continue to grow from $70.4 million to $154.0 million by 2012, a 17 per cent increase.
But while online meetings and web 2.0 collaboration tools can bring many benefits to a business, care must be taken to ensure all confidential information shared with remote colleagues remains 100 per cent secure.
Business-class Web 2.0
There are a huge number of web 2.0 services, offering many different ways to share information. However, they are not all suitable for business use. For instance, it wouldn’t be advisable to send a confidential report via Facebook, or use Flickr to share company photography.
Business-class applications need to combine the flexibility, scalability and availability of web 2.0 with the attributes of conventional enterprise applications: compliance, security and quality of service.
So before selecting a platform or tool for your business to use to collaborate safely and securely, there are several considerations that must be taken.
Choosing the wrong tool, with the wrong architecture for secure collaboration can put companies at risk. When files need to be shared and discussed, businesses often choose web conferencing services, but even these solutions vary greatly in their approach to security. For instance, some conferencing clients require users to upload any documents that are to be shared onto a central server from where other participants in the meeting can access them.