Calendar and file sharing solutions for telecommuting employees?
November 23, 2005 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Any recommendations for shared calendars, files, etc., for small business telecommuting employees on separate networks?

I've just hired my first employee, and she's going to be working from her home, so we need to start looking at things like shared calendars, shared file space, etc. that work across networks.

We're both on PCs, so my first that with calendaring was to use an Exchange server. I tried two separate third-party Exchange hosts, both of which sucked, and we don't have the hardware and/or time to run our own Exchange server. Are there any other good ways that we can have a shared calendar accessible from Outlook?

For file sharing, I tried XDrive, which was (for me anyway) a nightmare. It wouldn't connect half the time, which certainly won't suffice. I tried to contact them to cancel my account but even their contact form is broken.

Basically, we need whatever tips you've got for the real world of tightly-knit, online collaboration. Please, help us!

(Please don't say Basecamp, by the way. Basecamp is a great hammer, but not everything is a nail.) :-)
posted by oissubke to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Groove. Been a while since I looked at it, but if I had a small company that was all-Windows I'd use it.
posted by ldenneau at 8:00 PM on November 23, 2005

Have you considered a web hosting account, and running a calendar application web based? It doesn't necessarily go your Outlook integration, but it is cross-platform should you ever want to jump the Microsoft ship.

There are web hosts out there they can be had very cheaply. For example, Dreamhost has plans that, with coupon codes easily found on the web, can drive the price down to 25-30 dollars for the first year.

That would give you a calendar, e-mail, and FTP for file sharing.
posted by benjh at 8:49 PM on November 23, 2005

For files I'm using FolderShare, which synchronizes your files over the web so you can have actual copies of your files on all your machines but they all stay current.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:30 PM on November 23, 2005

I work for a small tech company 95% from home.

We used to use Groove, but found it much too heavy. File synchronization problems, huge noticable load on the computer, a bunch of extra features that we'll never use. The marketing guys loved it (it's kind of slick and flashy) but after extended use hated it as much as I did.

We've recently started using FolderShare (which crabintheocean mentions) for sharing files and have found it quite good. Makes something that's really hard to do right seem very easy. No need to open up any firewall ports, NAT compatible, super easy to set up. We've found that it only uses around 2-3% of CPU time even when transferring files.

We also use intermedia for a 3rd party exchange provider. I'm not sure who you tried before, but we haven't had any problems with them in the last 2 years or so (I actually host my own domain and pop account with them as well but have no affiliation with them other than that).

We also use IM (I use trillian) to communicate for quick stuff.

For longer stuff, all of us have vonage phone lines so long distance calls are unlimited and free.

I'd also look into getting some sort of desktop sharing app in place so you can collaborate easier. Ultra VNC has worked well for us in this regard. Lots of options.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 10:06 PM on November 23, 2005

Thanks for the tips, guys. I'm not sure if we'll use it forever, but Groove is looking cool so far. We'll give it a shot!
posted by oissubke at 7:02 AM on December 5, 2005

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