There are many mature options for online collaboration. Services such as Google Docs, Office Live, Hyper Office and WebOffice provide shared document collaboration and other features. Newer tools like Drop.io and Box.net offer file sharing features as well.
Content Circles is a new product, currently in beta, that adds a twist to file sharing. Its premise is that smaller businesses have various circles of users they collaborate with – lawyers, bankers, designers and others. Maybe your lawyer and banker should be in one circle and have access to certain documents. Perhaps your designer and one particular client need access to another set of files. Content Circles helps you share information with separate groups in a controlled way.
A Content Circle is a combination of a specific group of files and a specific group of users who receive those files. Once you create a Content Circle, all members of the circle will receive all of the content in that circle (plus any updates to that content made by any other circle member). The circle owner controls access to the files, but members can make edits which are transmitted to all members of the circle as a new version of that document. Status indicators let you know what’s changed, what’s waiting for you to review, or what’s in the process of being downloaded to your computer, and users can comment on files.
An interesting feature is that you can control your content even after it’s been shared – if you delete a file from a circle, it is removed from the computers of all the circle members.
One major downside is that your files are not backed up on the Content Circles website. Shared files reside on your and your circle members’ computers. Say your computer dies and you lose your files – you get them back from other members of the circle who have those particular files on their computers. There’s no central location where your files are stored, so they’re only as safe as the collective computers of the group. However, the service is still in beta, so perhaps this will change with the official release.
All file types are supported: documents, PDF files, presentations, video, photos, ZIP files, executable files, and even entire folders.
Currently the beta trial is free, and subscription pricing has not yet been set.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com