Webdesk offers alternative app path

No IT department? No problem. That is the basic catch phrase of Pathway Communications for its latest service to bring intranet and collaboration tools to small- and mid-sized businesses.

Last month the Toronto-based company released Webdesk, designed as an alternative for organizations to install and manage on-site groupware and software. Pathway said Webdesk gives users the ability to access applications including e-mail, file storage and sharing, contact management and polls from any standard Web browser inside or outside the office.

All Webdesk software and hardware is installed and managed in Pathway’s environment and is maintained by Pathway engineers who are responsible for network security and backup of all data, the company said.

“Typically if you are a travelling salesperson or a distributed branch network, they all need to share files and they need to share information in a secure and safe manner without the hassles of network management or data management,” said Pathway President Ashok Kalle. “If you are a large company, you’d go out and buy a tool similar to Microsoft Exchange that allows you to store files and e-mail. We are targeting the small and medium businesses who can’t really afford to buy these expensive collaboration tools.”

Kalle said that users access Webdesk via the Web with a user name and password assigned by Pathway.

He added that all data transfers between Webdesk and the browser is encrypted at all times, and e-mail is automatically virus-scanned by Pathway.

“We have created a system where we have all the servers, data and all the software sitting behind a commercial firewall,” Kalle explained. “All data is backed up everyday. You can upload files and create discussion groups. You have a calendar just as in Outlook, an address book and you can conduct polls. You can also store files. For example, if you are travelling, you don’t even have to bring your laptop with you if your files are all stored online at Webdesk.”

And having access to these fundamental applications was one of the reasons MoneyPower Inc. opted to go the Webdesk route. MoneyPower Inc., a Mississauga, Ont.-based financial services firm, has been relying on Webdesk for the past two months to provide the two- to five-person firm with intranet capabilities.

According to JoAnne Anderson, president of MoneyPower, Webdesk has enabled the company to link together with several small business partners to share information.

“We can at this point access e-mail, scheduling, we can have discussions through a discussion group and we can upload files that would be commonly used that we wouldn’t want to send by e-mail,” Anderson said. “We are in our very busiest time of year and one of the most valuable things for me is that I have been able to put my schedule up on the system -everybody can tell when I am busy and when I am not. It has been invaluable to us.”

Although Anderson said Webdesk took some trial and error to roll out, she said there is a learning curve with any new technology and is pleased with the system.

Webdesk from Pathway is available now and is priced at $14.99 for a five-user licence.