One of the big advantages that small businesses have over large corporations is the ability to adapt on the fly. That nimble nature often translates into a competitive edge, but not every small business can afford to invest in and then maintain the IT infrastructure to support that flexibility. That's where on-demand services, also known as software as a service (SaaS), come into play.
Xythos Software, better known among the Fortune 500 crowd, offers Xythos On Demand, a Web-based document management service that the company says lets small business owners and employees organize, secure and access their documents anytime and anywhere they roam. When it comes to your files, no matter where you go, there they are.
Xythos developed its technology by building document management systems for the U.S. government, large universities and corporations such as Wells Fargo and Chubb, and it now has more than 2.5 million people using those systems, says Xythos Chief Technology Officer, Jim Tell.
"The big companies run the software on their own servers, but we realized there was a market for a hosted service aimed at small businesses," says Tell. "The on-demand service model is based on the same technology and helps small companies avoid a major challenge: downloading, installing and deploying complex systems. Xythos On Demand gives you all the benefits of a managed server, without the costs and challenges of maintaining one."
According to Tell, you don't need anything other than a computer with an Internet connection and a standard browser to use Xythos On Demand no servers, no special software. Xythos stores and protects all your documents and files at its Xythos on Demand network operations center. You access your files over the Internet.
The service provides three main features: secure document management and collaboration, remote access and protected data backup.
Remote Access: You can access your files from any PC with a browser and an Internet connection.
Document Management and Collaboration: The service is designed to let you share files with colleagues, employees or clients. Create contact and group lists and assign access rights to your Xythos on Demand folders or individual files, track changes and monitor projects or grant temporary editing permissions to individuals.
Instead of sending clients confidential or over-sized files as e-mail attachments, you can send e-mail with an encrypted link the recipient clicks on the link to view the document.
Data Backup: The drag and drop feature lets you move your critical data to your Xythos On Demand folder location. If you're away from your office PC, you can add files to your Xythos on Demand folders using the Web interface.
Xythos On Demand in Action
For Louise Korban of Korban Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, Xythos On Demand provides peace of mind, an improved quality of life and the ability to hire the best people, not just the best local people.
Korban's company was originally based in Kennett Square, Penn., but after 12 years, she and her husband were spending more time living and working in Oregon and wanted a more flexible work arrangement. "We had also hired people who lived outside the area, and we needed our files stored in a central location that everyone could access," she says. Korban, along with being one of the company's owners, is also the director of information technology. She maintained the office server, but says she grew tired of administering it and needed to spend her time focused on running the actual business. "We needed a safe way to share candidate resumes, but had no time to run our own servers."
She searched online for storage vendors and found Xythos. "Another important issue for us is that the technology had to be as transparent as possible for our non-technical employees," she says. "We wanted people to be able to use it as if it were a local drive on the PC."
They started using Xythos On Demand in June, 2006 and Korban says she's very pleased with the product. "We can store, retrieve and update files no matter where we're working," she says. "I can limit employee access to various files, I have peace of mind knowing that all of our critical work files are backed up and secure, and the cost is minimal."
She adds that the service helped the company accommodate a geographically diverse staff. "Now we're not limited to hiring within a certain commuting radius. We've got employees in Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland. Xythos gives us the flexibility to hire the best people with the skills we need, who might not otherwise be willing to relocate."
Ultimately, Korban says Xythos On Demand has improved the quality of their work life. "We're able to work and live where we want, and we're able to offer the same benefit to our employees. It strikes a good balance between work and family life."
Pricing varies depending on the number of people using the service and on the amount of storage and bandwidth you use. An individual account with 1GB of storage and 5GB of bandwidth per month (the amount of data you send and receive) starts at $4.95 per month (and tops out at $199.95). Xythos also offers a range of group plans where prices range from $39.95 to $499.95 per month.
A 30-day free trial is available with both individual and group plans. You'll find the complete price list here.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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