Web 2.0: Benefits & Considerations

By Wilkins, Jesse | Information Management, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview

Web 2.0: Benefits & Considerations


Wilkins, Jesse, Information Management


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Organizations will move faster or slower to Web 2.0 depending on their regulatory environment and tolerance for risk. But they are moving toward the technology--for a number of reasons.

1. Tools are simple to provide and maintain.

One of the challenges many organizations experience is maintaining an increasingly complex IT infrastructure. Even smaller organizations still have to provide their employees with e-mail, office productivity tools, and all the other capabilities required by the modern knowledge worker. Those applications require specialized, highly skilled people to provide, operate, and maintain them. For most organizations, something as simple as moving to the most current version of software is not so simple; ask your IT staff what the process is for upgrading to a new version of Microsoft Exchange. Web 2.0 tools are much simpler to provide and require no maintenance from the perspective of the organization.

2. They have little downtime.

The next benefit is a bit counterintuitive and may not be applicable for the largest, most sophisticated organizations. But for the rest, uptime is a major issue. Most Web 2.0 tools simply don't have downtime. Gmail has been in the news lately because it has experienced several outages; then again, it provides more than 7 GB of storage each to some 50 million users worldwide. Even taking those outages into account, Google has provided better than 99.9% uptime over the past 12 months, averaging 10 to 15 minutes downtime per month. That compares pretty favorably to all but the most mature enterprises.

3. They are low-cost.

The previous two points lead to a third, which is perhaps the most important benefit of Web 2.0 tools. These tools are a fraction of the cost to provide and even lower cost to maintain. Granted, they generally include fewer capabilities, but some organizations see that as an additional benefit. Consider a small organization without the budget or technical expertise to implement a massively resilient e-mail system with automated failover and multiple stage-gate deployment capabilities. The cost to implement Web 2.0-based e-mail capabilities is significantly lower, and it requires almost no technical expertise. There are no upgrades, hot fixes, or service packs to apply, and no need to migrate--in fact, Web 2.0 tools have begun to turn the entire concept of software versioning on its head.

Almost all organizations today, regardless of their industry, sector, or size, rely on office productivity suites to get their work done. More than 90% of those organizations use a version of Microsoft Office. The average cost of Office 2007 to an organization is significantly higher, even for upgrades, than the cost of Google Apps, Thinkfree, Zoho, or any of a number of other competitors. These competitors offer much less functionality than Office, but this is not necessarily a bad thing for many users. They are generally compatible with basic Office files. And many of them are free--which is even harder to beat.

4. It takes little effort to make them productive.

Another benefit of Web 2.0 is the ability to fail. What this means is that when an organization selects an enterprise software application, the cost and the effort to implement it generally demand that it be used by everyone in the organization, even when it comes with a steep learning curve and even when it isn't necessarily the right tool for every usage. Web 2.0 tools cost very little and are generally easy enough to provide and use that the time required to be productive with them is short. And if the tool turns out to be the wrong one, it is relatively easy to move on to another tool.

One of the reasons Web 2.0 has found its way into organizations is because of users' frustrations with IT and the difficulty they have encountered in getting access to the tools they need. So far, most organizations haven't deployed wikis because the CEO read about them in a business magazine, or the CIO developed a detailed set of requirements and did a year-long analysis and feasibility study. …

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