Startups Use SaaS To Take On SharePoint - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

09:17 AM
Connect Directly

Startups Use SaaS To Take On SharePoint

Microsoft's SharePoint is the T. rex of collaboration products: big, fiercely competitive, and standing atop the social computing food chain. But smaller, nimbler players are using SaaS to compete against the thundering giant.

Microsoft's SharePoint is the T. rex of collaboration products: big, fiercely competitive, and standing atop the social computing food chain. But smaller, nimbler players are using SaaS to compete against the thundering giant.Expresso, a 14-month old startup, does something Microsoft hasn't yet figured out: It brings Office into the SaaS world. Expresso lets users share and edit Excel spreadsheets online. They can upload an Excel file to an Expresso server and then invite other users to collaborate. Multiple users can work on the same file in real time, right in the browser. The file's owner applies viewing and editing rights down to the cell level.

Unlike offerings from Google Docs or Zoho, Expresso isn't trying to recreate Office. "Microsoft won the Office war a decade ago," says CEO George Langan. Expresso plans to support shared Word and PowerPoint files by year's end.

Langan acknowledges users can collaborate via SharePoint, but it's typically deployed behind the firewall, leaving employees with few options besides e-mail to share files with outsiders.

Expresso's SaaS model requires no up-front hardware or software investment, and no long deployments. Because it's a service, it's been able to quickly integrate with third-party platforms, including and Cisco's WebEx Connect.

Expresso has 500 paid subscribers, and another 10,000 who've signed up for a free account, Langan says.

Central Desktop also is succeeding with SaaS-based collaboration. Its online platform was originally aimed at small businesses that need to share documents and files. But the company recently launched a new service aimed at companies with up to 1,000 users.

"The midmarket is dramatically underserved," says CEO Isaac Garcia. "They don't have a budget for collaboration."

The new service has a workflow engine that lets users set up simple rules around common business processes. A company can set a rule to route contracts to a manager for approval whenever a new one is uploaded.

By introducing workflow capability, Central Desktop is evolving toward becoming a robust document management platform, which is essential if it wants to succeed in larger organizations.

SharePoint does a great job with its workflow engine, Garcia says. "But the difference in cost and implementation is substantial," he says. The 3-year-old company boasts enterprise customers including Webcor Builders, Ramada, and Oracle.

But there's a tough road ahead. It's no secret that Microsoft has its eye on the cloud. This November, Microsoft made SharePoint available as an online service. Microsoft Office Live Small Business has Web-based workspaces and document management as part of its Web-hosting offering. And Microsoft is promising more collaborative capabilities around Office 14.

These startups may have gotten to the cloud before Microsoft, but the real trick will be to solidify the gains they've made.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
What Becomes of CFOs During Digital Transformation?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  2/4/2020
Fighting the Coronavirus with Analytics and GIS
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/3/2020
IT Careers: 10 Job Skills in High Demand This Year
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  2/3/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Flash Poll