iglooWhile at the Enterprise 2.0 event in Boston last month, I met up with Dan Latendre, the CEO of a hot startup called IGLOO Software in Kitchener Canada. Founded in 2004, the company has accumulated 800 communities and over 200,000 users in that short time. Based on the [[Software as a service]] model, the company offers a comprehensive approach to Wikis Blogs and Forums (WBF) that is optimized for smaller budgets and private communities. 

To me, the greatest concern for a community or an inter-enterprise collaboration is security and cost. Both of these issues are handled particularly well by IGLOO.

Security: Control of who gets into the community to see anything other than the public pages, who can edit what documents or entries, and who administrates the platform is a challenge for most community management environments (we use joomla here on Brockmann.com). The IGLOO service enables administrator definition of groups and their privileges so that multiple clients or multiple ecosystems/collaboration networks can be served without sharing all information with all members (a limitation of Joomla's CommunityBuilder extension). These enterprise-strength features assures that the use of the comment features, for example, aren't useful in a spam-attack on the site. 

IGLOO supports an activity audit function which is useful too since it shows what any user is doing or has done. It can also filter the activities log by downloads, add, copy, move, edit or rename content. As well, the service offers comprehensive statistics using Google's site management services, but more importantly, offers customer reports based on queries of the SQL database, enabling download tracking by user, by document, by area or by group for example.

Key aspects of the site are also backed up every 4 hours, daily and weekly.

There are three packages available:

  • Lite = Content Management System + Social Networking for $4,999/year 
  • Professional = Content Management + Social Networking + WBF for $9,999/year 
  • and an Enterprise edition. 

Enhancing the value of the package is that IGLOO is a hosted service, so the concerns about owning a computer to store the site, a dedicated IP address to point the DNS entry at and important reliability services such as backup, uninterrupted power supply and the like are completely off the table. 

Some might argue that this is a corporate edition of an open source application and therefore was a waste of time developing. I disagree. There is always a market for taking the open source functionality and event the open source code and implementing it as a hosted service. People will pay for this because it takes an important part of the pain out of the equation, and delivers a more complete solution to the user.

With IGLOO, the UI is clean since it supports breadcrumbs and uses FlashPaper to convert .ppt, .doc and .pdf documents into viewable elements.

In terms of improvement, I would recommend that the service work on search optimization urls. With Joomla, several extensions support the conversion of the cryptic database-driven url from http://demo.igloocommunities.com/library/featurespa/versioncon to something like http://demo.igloocommunities.com/content-management/version-control.html which is far more valuable in a search engine than the former url. Google argues that if it's an important search term, it will appear in the url, in the page header and several times on the page.

The company's heritage has been in non-profit and in government-enterprise R&D communities where external private and controlled collaboration is expected and desirable, and where the open source applications and hosted offerings aren't simple enough, private enough or professional enough to enable implementations that meet these needs.

It would seem to me that for external-facing workgroup decision makers such as managers responsible for reseller communities or supply chains, this platform offers a big leg up on the classic one-to-many broadcast portals. Generally, these outward-facing functions get little or no support from IT, and where the partner portal model (we type you read) really doesn't work all that well.

From my experience, many of the users of these sites would jump at the chance to offer their own ideas, comment on the stuffy content stored there and otherwise argue that community-generated and moderated content is the way to go. Frankly, I see the 'we know everything portals' paid for by IT and run by IT with arcane security rules and the like are facing their nemesis in these community-based services. It's not that they'll wipe them out, but that these services enable an inexpensive and private method for providing access to content shared between participants of an ecosystem that share a common goal – sell more – for example.

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