This year I have written about several low-cost, even no-cost, collaboration solutions that might be used by businesses in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry (eg: Glasscubes, e-Grou, Incite Toolbox, ShowDocument, drop.io, Clouds UK, Woobius, Colaab). Even the deepest recession that most AEC professionals can remember has not deterred people from launching new solutions. Maybe people believe that the recession is the ideal time to launch tools aimed at improving efficiency and cutting costs, and undercut many of the well-established but more expensive solutions? However, with some of the latter (eg: Asite) also offering low-price solutions, this is becoming a very competitive market.
Any way, the latest is a Manchester, UK-based online application, Collabor8online, described as a “A Project Extranet specifically aimed at the contracting and construction industries” (online, I have also seen it promoted as “developed to help M&E contractors and specifiers work smarter and more productively” – a reflection perhaps of the founder’s previous involvement in IT companies in the building services sector, see below).
The Collabor8 online product line-up has three strands: a low-cost hosted model, a premium hosted model and a self-hosted model.
The low-cost hosted model is priced at £25 (+VAT, reduced from £49 for a limited period) and allows up to 25 users and 2Gb storage of files (including Word, Excel, pdf, dwg formats, plus photos and video). The service also includes version control, multiple uploads, online file management, RSS feeds, Google-style searches, and security configurable to company, project or document level. There is no document mark-up or commenting at this level.
The premium hosted model starts from £49 per month (reduced from £99), and offers five times the storage space and allows twice as many registered users. As well as all the features of the basic product, the premium package includes task management, calendaring, automatic workflow and approvals processes and red-lining and document mark-up.
For the self-hosted solution, Collabor8 say they can include more significant elements of customisation and configuration to suit each individual client’s requirements and falling in-line with existing company-wide login and security issues. “As a bespoke service pricing details are available on request following a review of your requirements”.
According to its website, Collabor8 online is part of XBC – “formed in 2005 by the founders of Barnes Computing a business that was subsequently acquired by Estimation ltd (which in turn is now part of Amtech group)” – both Estimation and Amtech are well-known names in the building services IT sector; presumably XBC equals ex-Barnes Computing. XBC Ltd was incorporated in 2005, but was dormant at least up to 31 July this year. Colin Barnes is XBC’s sole director and is also owner of a Liverpool-based telecoms business, Host Telecom Ltd. (You can hear his introduction to the Collabor8 online offering in a YouTube video).
Another company is also involved. The Collabor8online.com domain name was registered to Collabor8 Ltd, a company based in Newcastle, Staffordshire, of which the majority share-holder is director Nicholas Mark Jellyman. Update (26 January 2010): I have received a helpful email from Paul Haddlesey, who handles marketing for XBC’s Collabor8, saying that they have no connection to Collabor8 Ltd. I’m glad to make that clarification – the names are certainly similar and likely to cause confusion should the Staffordshire business ever launch a website (it’s currently dormant).
[PS: thanks to Mel Starrs for the tip. ]