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Personal services get business flavor: Xobni and SugarSync

Useful start-up tools now with IT oversight and controls--and business models to match.

IT pros will often tell you that a lot of consumer technology isn't ready for the enterprise. It's not secure, it's not priced correctly, it can't be administered, yada yada. That doesn't stop businesspeople from using consumer tools in their jobs, though. It just stops the people who make the tools from profiting from their use.

Where there are IT administrators, there are budgets, and where there are budgets, there's market opportunity. And I'm not surprised that two very solid personal productivity tools are getting business versions this week and business models to match.

Xobni provides a heads-up display for e-mail. Xobni

The Outlook add-on maker Xobni on Monday released Xobni Enterprise, a new version of the product with links into traditional business data sources. While the free and Plus levels of Xobni will search Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to give users more information about the people who are e-mailing them, the enterprise version will also tap into Salesforce.com, Sharepoint, and corporate directory services. It can also be extended to work with proprietary business apps. This could be pretty cool: users will be able to see latest internal database info from people they're communicating with them, automatically when they're doing the communicating.

And to help IT teams keep their users in line with whatever (ridiculous and restrictive) policies their companies have on employee access to outside data, Enterprise Xobni admins can also turn off access to the app's Twitter features and other parts of the product.

Admins, of course, can provision employees' computers for access to Xobni data from a central console.

Xobni Enterprise starts at $30 a user a year, with prices going down with volume or up for access to enterprise data sources.

The Business edition of SugarSync lets admins pool storage and control access. SugarSync

On Tuesday, the cloud file synchronization product SugarSync gets a business version design for teams. The Business version of the product features pooled storage and central IT control. Customers pay for each user ($10 a month) and for the storage they want, in 100GB increments. Admins have access to all this storage, too. If an employee leaves the company, they can disable access, and then sign on as that person, and recover data. There's no "remote wipe" feature to remove company data from an employee's computer, but CEO Laura Yecies told me she's thinking about it.

A useful feature lets users send files to other people via the SugarSync service, instead of through e-mail. This could compete with the useful, but single-purpose and somewhat expensive product, YouSendIt, except that SugarSync's single-file transfer function can't password-protect files.

In the cloud sync category, SugarSync lagged its major competitor Dropbox in releasing of a free, limited version of the service. There's one now, and Yecies says, "We're finding that free is a good business." She bases this on "conversion" to the paid product, which she says is 5 percent to 10 percent, depending on the offers presented to users.

I use and pay for my own SugarSync account and highly recommend the service. Compared with geek favorite service Dropbox, it's got more flexible configuration options and better mobile device support. The business version freaks me out, personally--I don't want any IT manager getting access to files my hard drive--but this sounds like a good product for the security-conscious IT exec who wants to provide a team file-sharing product along with off-site backup to users.