Starting up a business, what tools I used for email, calendar and file sync?

Before anyone at CSC panics, no this is not me!!!  Mrs Downes gave up traditional employment recently to become self employed.  I thought it would be good to share the architecture and "how-to" articles I used.  Mrs D is a chartered marketer and in terms of workstyle here are her basic requirements:

  • Email, synchronised read marks on 2 machines and a mobile device, accessible from the internet
  • Calendar, synchronised between 2 machines and a mobile device, accessible from the internet
  • Files, synchronised between 2 machines, accessible from the internet and an internet connected mobile device
  • Files, ability to share files in a restricted and public fashion.

Email and calendar:

Basic Arrangement:  All messages are collected from various POP3 mailboxes into an IMAP enabled googlemail.com account.  All end clients then maintain unread marks, folder structure etc. through the IMAP capability.  Messages can be read and responded to from any device.  On all devices apart from the mobile device responses can be made from any email address.  At present the googlemail mobile client we are using doesn’t allow for responses from addresses other than the googlemail.com address.  The PC based mail clients all run on windows vista.  One client is Outlook 2007 and the other due to me being too stingy to pay for a licence runs on Thunderbird.  The mobile client is the googlemail application for a blackberry smartphone.

Calendar is slightly more complicated due to the mix of mail clients, the core element to this is a google calendar. On the outlook client I’m using google’s synchronisation plugin which can be downloaded here.  On the thunderbird client I’m using the lightening plugin to enable calendar functionality, then this additional provider add-on to allow calendar synchronisation.  The excellent instructions I used are here.

 

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File synchronisation:

I must first thank Steve for pointing me to sugarsync.com.  What an excellent service.  Immediate backup to the cloud, synchronisation of files between multiple PC’s, availability of files via the internet and from internet connected mobile devices.  I’m not going to draw a diagram but this webpage describes things much better than I can.  It is just superb in the fact that if offers both backup, sync, web access, mobile access in a single service.

File sharing:

Whilst I haven’t settled on a final solution here I think it will be Microsoft’s skydrive.  Although in true modern day style please leave a comment if you have a better solution.

The next steps for Mrs Downes’ IT organisation

Well I think the next steps will be an internet presence, a content management tool etc.  She has no need at present for web meeting, audio or video bridging services, but if she ever does I’ll share those here also.

And then in our enterprises?

This work has made me reflect on how many of these services are available.  How much of this can you do today?  The tools today in the consumer space far surpass those in most enterprises – and the smaller the scale, the less change control, the less application integration etc etc.  It is easier than in the enterprise.  The challenge going forward will be "mashing" all these tools into more homogenous "organisational" blobs as more people work in the consumer space.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Stu,

    I work for Sharpcast, the company that makes SugarSync. Thanks for the kind words about our service.

    Since you are trying to figure out how to share files, you might be happy to know that we just added the capability to share any file, regardless of size limitations, to SugarSync. We’ll also be adding the ability to share entire folders shortly.

    Hope this helps.

    Dave

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  2. Hey Stu — I may biased, but you may like Syncplicity as well. You get the full sync, backup, and sharing experience, plus neat OS integration, sync with popular web apps, access to previous revisions and deleted files, and the ability to edit documents and photos in Scribd, Zoho, and Picnik.

    Contact me if you want to know more. (By the way, I couldn’t get the Contact form to work in IE).

    Hope to see you around,
    Ondrej

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  3. Thanks Dave, I saw that but what she’ll need longer term is a mechanism to allow permanent downloads and access, or permenantly available but restricted access. Hopefully you’ll have something on your roadmap because that functionality without any requirement to “upload” files elsewhere would be excellent. Thanks again for you comment, Stu

    Like

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