It’s been a good week for SMBs. In one day, we saw a new launch of a re-branded BPOS, which now sells under the new name Office365, and an upgraded Docs application from Google. Collaboration suites were also on people’s minds as was security -- information IBM was happy to advise on.

Office365 Pricing Suits SMBs

The SMB event of the week has to be Microsoft’s re-branding of BPOS as Office365, which contains all the same components of BPOS as well as web-based Office services and a subscription version of Office that it hopes will bolster Office Web Apps.

For many SMBs that want to stay with Microsoft (news, site), this is probably a relief, given the rather poor functionality of the version of Web Apps released in May, the same release date as Office 2010.

With Office365, SMBs will be able to access, use and even afford some of the bigger Microsoft products like SharePoint and Lync Online, a service that John Betz, Microsoft’s director of product management for Business Online Services, described as "Facebook for the enterprise" during the launch on Tuesday.

There are two things here that should really pull the SMB market in MS’s direction. The first is price. Microsoft offers a pay-as-you-go pricing to micro enterprises that for US$ 6 per user/month will give full access to the entire package. The other thing that will attract enterprises is that by offering this level of pricing, SMB’s are realistically looking at a more ‘collaborative’ future. If you want to read more about Office356, check it out here.

MangoSpring Offers Cheap Collaboration Tool

Enterprise collaboration seems to be one of largest issues for SMBs, particularly pricing and access. You may recall that last week we cited a survey from the SMB Group entitled Moving Beyond Email – The Era of SMB Online Collaboration Suites, which shows that collaboration is exactly what SMBs are really looking for at the moment. There was a considerable response from readers, who cited the price of enterprise collaboration suites as the major hindrance to deployment. 

In this respect, we would like to thank ‘Mike’, who pointed us in the direction of MangoSpring, a Bellvue, Washington, start-up, now three years old and offering a comprehensive collaboration suite for as little as . . .well for as little as nothing. Although that is the micro-enterprise version, which supports up to 10 users, even the top end version of their suite comes it at only US$ 1500 per month for up to 200 users. The suite offers many features including Skype integrations, folder tagging, the ability to import and export users, out-of-network “guest” accounts for projects and groups and more.

Google Tweaks Docs

So in all the excitement around the re-branding of BPOS, where was Google and what was happening with Google Docs? Google was doing what it has been doing with Docs since the product was released --offering step by step improvements that up until now have been winning over MS customers who were looking for something cheaper than BPOS or Office. In fact, some suggest that it was Google’s steady encroachment into the MS Office market that prompted the Office 365 launch.

Ironically, on the same day that MS launched 365, Google added new functionality to Google Docs. Not a huge addition, but one that will help people in offices struggling to meet deadlines. The new addition is a drag-and-drop option, which will allow users to pull an image directly from the desktop and place it on the page. 

Google documents already have three ways to add images: you can choose them from your hard drive, add them by URL, and you can find them using Google Image Search . . . But sometimes the exact image you need is on your desktop and you just want to add it to your document quickly," Philip Weiss of Google said.

The feature is currently available for those with the latest versions of Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari. If you want to find out more, have a look at the blog post.

IBM Offers New Security Services

Moving away from collaboration and back to the cloud, it is well documented that one of the reasons that SMBs are reluctant to move to the cloud is because of security concerns. For quite some time now, IBM (news, site) has been at pains to point out just how secure its cloud offerings are and how it is possible to secure the cloud within an inch of its life. This week, it has gone even further with the launch of three consultancy services aimed at helping companies get into the cloud securely.

Aimed at companies that are already in the cloud and want added security, or at companies that are thinking about it, the three new services include:

  • IBM's Security Strategy Roadmap for Cloud Computing which helps companies work out their security goals before the IT system is built.
  • Cloud Security Assessment that assesses the cloud security of companies that are already based in the cloud.
  • Application Security Services that assesses security of cloud applications.

IBM is also offering two managed cloud security services that include covering event management and hosted vulnerability management. Visit this link, If you want to know more

SMBs Unsure About Social Networking

In the social networking space, recent RatePoint research shows that small businesses are unsure as to whether social networking is worth the effort and not entirely convinced that social networking actually reaches customers. The survey revealed that while 36% of small businesses agree their customers spend time on social networking sites, 27% are undecided and 20% disagreed that their customers were spending time on social networks. Small businesses who are proactively using social networking to reach customers are finding a strong return. Of the SMBs who indicated they will be using social media as the main tactic to drive new customers to their business in the next 12 months, 70% said they do so because social media is the least expensive option. 

To assist small businesses in beginning a social media presence, RatePoint has released a new eBook,  A Social Media Guide for the Skeptical Small-Business Owner. Small businesses interested in tips for getting started in social media can get it here.

Office 2010 Beta's Final Curtain Call

Finally, and very briefly, we know we warned you before, but just to be on the safe side, we will tell you again. The countdown to the shelving of the Office 2010 beta continues and is due to happen at the end of next week. Given that Microsoft indicates there has been over 9 million downloads since it was launched, this means that a lot of people are going to be left without, or Microsoft is going to get one really big fat cash bonanza for Christmas as users move to upgrade. Users who want to install the released version of Office 2010 will first have to uninstall the beta software then buy it, which Microsoft is asking people to do via download for environmental reasons.

Just to remind you -- there are a number of options. Currently, Home and Student 2010 costs US$ 149, Office Home and Business 2010 US$ 279, and Professional 2010 US$ 499. Don’t say you weren’t warned this time!