Equipping your Virtual Office with a Multiuser Backpack

Backpack, 37signals lightweight online information organizer has just morphed into a very handy intranet for web worker online businesses with the addition of multiuser page, calendar, messaging and reminder functions.

Multiuser Backpack

“The concept of an intranet has been perverted over the years to be a bunch of different things,” said Jason Fried, CEO of Chicago-based 37signals.” Our idea of what an intranet needs is what we have encountered over and over and over when we used to do client work. People just need a place to share common information. They need a place to keep track of very simple calendar items – when a meeting is, when something is going on. And they need a way to share documents. So we see Backpack as a new breed of intranet – returning to the original promise of the intranet: a closed system for people within an company to share information.”

“Backpack is perfect for distributed companies. We have 10 people at 37signals. Five of those people are in Chicago, and five of those people are in five other cities around the country. So we’re a very distributed company – that’s how we work. In fact the five people in Chicago don’t usually work together, we work from home,” he added.

Three things got my attention in the new, somewhat lower priced multiuser Backpack:

Backpack pages are dirt-easy collaborative workspaces. You – or anyone you let into a page – can add lists, notes, whiteboards, files and pictures as quickly as you could arrange this information in a desktop spreadsheet, for example moving items from your to-do list on a page to their to-do list on that page, just like what people do in physical offices. “That’s the whole concept of Backpack pages: they let you put together whatever sort of information you want. What people want to do is share information that the entire organization needs.” Fried added.

typical Backpack pages

Backpack will make sure everyone gets the word. Whether you want to spot changes via the new Newsroom feature online, or want to get a steady RSS feed to your iGoogle home page or want email updates or text to your cell phone, Backpack accommodates your web working style.

River of Intranet News

Offices – even virtual offices – need a supporting web of reminders (“Expenses due Friday or else.”) to make sure things run smoothly. Emailing gets old very quickly as a way of communicating non-urgent information and is a terrible medium for organizing the kinds of multi-person projects distributed companies thrive on. Backpack’s reminders make it easy to get the word out without belaboring the point.

Fans – and there are over 350,000 users presently of Backpack – of the old single user Backpack don’t need to pay for multiuserness they don’t need: The Solo plan for a single user provides up to a hundred pages, calendar, 1 GB file storage and SSL for $7 a month down from $9. Other plans range from free to $149 a month depending on users, pages and storage.

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