This week, the SMB space has produced a mixed bag of goodies including the addition of document discussions to Google Docs, email archiving from HyperOffice and email security from M86 Security, while Microsoft could end up competing with itself in the cloud office space through SMB Suite.

SMB Suite Offers MS Functionality

In recent months we’ve been talking about a lot about the different office application suites both on-premise and in the cloud, so you will know that, first, there is considerable competition between Microsoft and the rest for one of the most lucrative markets for these products: The SMB market.

It has also become clear that, with the Office 365 launch fast approaching, the space is becoming more competitive daily, with companies fighting in their rush to make the price bottom.

That SMB Suite has announced a massive upgrade of its presence on social media networks is not really surprising, then, in this context, especially as its product offering, at least superficially, appears to offer much of what Office 365 will offer later in the year.

According to the company when it announced its social media expansion, its suite currently offers an integrated Microsoft cloud solution for SMBs, offering the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics ERP, CRM, Office, SharePoint, Live Meeting, email and web-based eCommerce in one subscription-based solution.

And it can make the MS offerings because it is a member of the Microsoft Partnership Network, which raises the interesting possibility, in this case, that Microsoft may actually be competing against its own products when Office 365 is launched.

It has also been shown previously that SMBs are actively using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn not only to find customers, but also to source its other business needs, so social media expansion makes sense. Might be worth a look if you don’t want Office 365, but would like the functionality.

HyperOffice’s Email Archiving

HyperOffice (news, site), which also spent a lot of time playing in the SMB space, this week added email archiving that promises easier email retrieval without the expense of investing in on-premise software such as Exchange 2010.

Given the interest in cloud-based office suites and the fact that HyperOffice, with the launch of its cloud-based collaboration suite last year, is looking to challenge players such as Google Apps and Zoho, the addition of email archiving is going to give them added fire.

The email offering basically does what it says with no surprises. It offers enterprises the ability to store, index and back up all email passing through multiple user accounts in the company and place them in a centralized repository for as long as needed.

HyperOffice says the idea behind the email offering, which just about completes its suite of business applications -- at least for now -- is to provide one solution for business needs rather than having to go to third-party vendors and working with multiple add-ons. Interested in more?

Google Docs Adds Discussions

In the office space, Google has updated Docs again, this time with a discussion feature. Discussion about a document is as important, Google says on the Docs blog, as the document itself, but until now, there hasn’t been a great medium for this discussion to happen.

The result is discussions in Google Docs. With this feature, Google is encouraging rapid and seamless discussions, to help the right people participate, as well as integrate discussions with email in an intuitive way.

Users with this will now be able to tell who made a comment and when -- with timestamps and profile pictures -- as well as keep track of the conversation with email notifications and reply to comments from email.

Discussions are rolling out now to everyone with personal Google Accounts as well as to Google Apps customers on the Rapid Release track. For more on this, check out the blog.

SMBs Love Virtual Offices

Meanwhile, if anyone is in any doubt about the market potential of virtual offices in the SMB space, Virtual PBX has released research that showed SMBs really like them, and not just for the price.

Representatives from more than 600 SMBs -- including CEOs, owners and partners -- who responded to a survey cited employee flexibility (61%), cost savings (54%) and geographic distance of staff (42%) as the top reasons for adopting virtual offices.

More than 60% of respondents work from a virtual office almost all the time, while another 27% work 2 to 10 days a month outside the office, while 57% of survey takers indicated that half or more of their workforce uses a virtual office during a typical month.

On the cost-savings front, 43% of the SMB leaders reported they save US$ 1,000 or more each month on items such as rent, IT equipment, phone service and supplies by using a virtual office, with 8% saving more than US$ 10,000/month

The survey also asked what people in virtual offices wore to work. We won’t go into this in detail but thankfully only 3% admitted that they wear nothing at all. Kind of puts video conferencing in perspective. The mind boggles! More on this (serious) survey on the website.

M86 Offers Email Security

Finally, some more email security this week, this time from M86 Security. The solution from M86 Security includes M86 MailMarshal Secure Email Gateway (SEG), M86 WebMarshal, M86 Filter List and M86 Marshal Reporting Console (MRC), with a choice of antivirus modules.

The M86 SMB Security Suite is designed for organizations of up to 500 users and offers SMBs Web and email security software.

The M86 SMB Security Suite enables organizations to deploy and manage security and content where they want and in the same manner as larger enterprise organizations. The suite also has controls to help small businesses manage their social networking protection. SMB Security Suite will be available on March 22, 2011.