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Socialtext offers enterprise microblogging in a box

Socialtext has a new service that lets companies run a Twitter-like microblogging service out of their offices using hardware that works behind the firewall.

As a follow-up to its free, 50-user microblogging product, Socialtext is launching a new paid service for large to enterprise-sized companies that lets them run the Twitter-like service behind the firewall, and with many more users.

Companies that want it can pay $1 per user, per month, alongside a monthly fee that pays for Socialtext's server appliance. This hardware runs the microblogging software locally, and can be connected to a company's backup systems for if something goes wrong, although it makes nightly backups of its own. The appliance fee also covers monthly software updates that will fix bugs and add new features.

In a call with CNET News on Monday, Ross Mayfield who is Socialtext's chairman, president, and co-founder, said that the benefits of having a system like this locally can make a big difference when doing a fresh setup on a big company. "You turn it on, and in five minutes you can start posting right away."

Your company 'tweets' would go through this box. Socialtext

To speed things up, the appliance can be connected to local staff directories and pull in employee information to create user accounts that have profile information including phone numbers and e-mail address already filled out. Anytime local directory changes are made, this information gets updated in Socialtext too. Administrative control is also not limited to IT staff, since certain users can be graced with admin privileges of their own that let them moderate both user content and the users themselves.

Companies will still be able to use Socialtext's free 50-user version of the service that lives in the cloud, but this option gives larger companies a bigger user cap and more control over the data. Mayfield also pushed the fact that companies that wanted to tack on additional Socialtext services won't have to get any additional hardware since they'll already have it for this service.

Socialtext is undercutting competitors like Yammer in price, as well as offering an additional way to deliver its service. Yammer has its own Web based service for enterprise power users, however it's a little more pricey at $3-5 per user, per month (depending on what plan they go for). There is, however, no hardware to buy. On the flip side, Socialtext's solution can still be used even if access to the outside world is blocked, which can often be the best time to find out what your employees are up to.