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I truly believe that effective organization and communication can make the difference between business success and business failure.
Okay, but how do you organize and communicate effectively? As any carpenter would tell you, the right tool for the right job. In this case, the right tool is a shared workspace—an intranet, if you want it in tech-speak—where employees can view, monitor, talk about, and collaborate on company projects.
Bitrix24 offers a free shared workspace for up to 12 users. It's part file-sharing service, part chat client, part CRM tool, part project manager, part employee manager, and so on, all wrapped up in a familiar, Facebook-style interface.
The core of that interface is the Activity Stream, which indeed works much like Facebook in listing all the latest updates, tasks, messages, and the like.
A toolbar on the left affords access to tasks, a calendar, files, photos, and conversations, followed by a Workgroups section with options including Freelance, Marketing and Advertising, and Sales. The toolbar also provides CRM and Company sections with similarly intuitive tools.
Speaking of intuitive, that's how I'd describe Bitrix24 on the whole: It's admirably easy to pick up and use. Anyone familiar with Facebook or LinkedIn won't need a lot of training, if any at all.
I did run into trouble during registration. After receiving my confirmation email and clicking the link therein, I filled out and submitted the sign-up form. Bitrix24 informed me that my "intranet was being created," but after the progress meter hit 100 percent, nothing happened. I tried signing into my account and couldn't. I then tried repeating the entire process in a different browser, and got the same result.
Fortunately, a couple hours later, I was able to sign into my account. The only other anomaly I discovered was the inexplicable addition of a couple Russian-language tasks in my Activity Stream. Sample tasks, no doubt, but why in Russian?
In addition to simplicity, Bitrix24 has two big points in its favor. The first: free companion apps for both Android and iOS. They provide access to most of the same information as the browser-based client. Second: price.
As I noted previously, Bitrix24 is free for up to 12 users. You're limited to 5GB of storage, but otherwise you get a full-featured intranet experience. If you need to include more users and/or need more storage, the $99-per-month Standard plan supports unlimited users and 50GB of space.
If you're looking for other shared-workspace options, check out Kerio Workspace, which also caters to small-business users with a freebie option. And, of course, if you've found a similar service you like better, tell me about it in the comments.