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Ajax-based wiki gets down to business

Startup delivers Ajax-based wiki collaboration applications to small and medium size businesses via Web services.

Isaac Garcia, co-founder and CEO of Central Desktop Inc., says he smiles wryly when people put the Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 label on the hosted Ajax-based collaboration software his startup company delivers to businesses via Web services.

From a security perspective I no longer have to have the outside consultants accessing my internal network and using internal tools.
Mike Meltz
Director of IT Infrastructure and AlliedBarton Security ServicesAllied Security LLC.

"Sometimes those definitions are a little bit nebulous," he said of the Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 buzzwords that some vendors in the service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Software as a Service (SaaS) space use to market their products. But he is quick to agree that the SaaS business tools for project management and collaboration, which his company hosts, would not have been possible in the pre-Ajax world.

"We've leveraged Web and Internet technology that is only recently become available to do these things," he said of the business he launched several years ago just as Ajax was coming on the scene. "Only in the past three to five years has the browser been mature enough to handle heavy use of Ajax and JavaScript and DHTML to provide that desktop-like feel to whatever you want to do on the Web."

What Garcia's company has done is build business productivity applications on a wiki, which began as a Web-based way for a people to collaborate on a document and has been made famous by the success of Wikipedia.

"Central Desktop in its fundamental form is based on a wiki," Garcia said. "We are a wiki platform, wiki technology, which is why we get classified as a Web 2.0 company."

While wiki technology is popular in consumer applications for social networking, Garcia is focused on harnessing it for business.

"On top of the wiki we've built lots of traditional collaboration tools like task lists, document management and ways to manage files," he explained. "The tools we have created use Ajax to get that desktop like feel."

The majority of Central Desktop's 75,000 users are small and medium sized businesses, he said, although some departments within Fortune 500 companies are using it. The subscription-based SaaS offering only requires that the customer have an Internet connection and a Web browser.

"When we founded the company we wanted to build easy to use, affordable, collaboration tools for teams without the IT hassle," Garcia said.

"It was incredibly easy," Mike Meltz, director of IT Infrastructure and AlliedBarton Security Services at Allied Security LLC., an early adopter of Central Desktop, said of the implementation at his company, which provides onsite security guards for businesses. He is using the wiki-based software for project management internally and with outside vendors.

"We had a project running the first week we were using it," Meltz said. "It is very intuitive. You can add additional sections as need be. We were up and running fairly quickly with an external vendor, giving them an ID right into the system within the first couple of days."

From an IT security standpoint, using Web-based collaboration software to manage projects with outside vendors is one of the advantages of the SaaS delivery model, Meltz said, because he doesn't have to grant them access to AlliedBarton's internal network and databases.

"From a security perspective I no longer have to have the outside consultants accessing my internal network and using internal tools," he said. "They can access Central Desktop from anywhere with an ID and a password. Then they only have access to workspaces that we allow them. Even within a workspace, we can mark different things as private, so they can't see it. They can only access the data we want them to see. So there's flexibility with setting up security."

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One of the projects, Meltz is currently working on is a server hardware installation project involving two outside vendors working at 100 of AlliedBarton's field offices around the U.S.

"We have our internal team," he explained. "We have a third party hardware vendor. We have a third party installer coming on site to install the equipment. To keep everybody on the same page, we published a project plan. We publish any files, any documentation on the site. We use the discussion section for communications. So instead of using email, all communications go through a discussion database, so we have a history of that. We use the calendar for scheduling events, so we know what site is being installed on what day. And we use the tasks and milestones to track projects."

Meltz said he doesn't have hard ROI numbers, but anecdotally he sees savings areas such as working with auditors for the company's Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance. The wiki-based tools help manage the auditing project and help provide IT testing data required for compliance.

"There are tons of hours of savings when we have to do audits," the IT director said. "We're using Central Desktop to manage our SOX rollout. So we have our auditors logging in and they can actually see the testing we post."

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