Intranets.com is giving U.S. troops serving overseas a holiday present—free access to its hosted communications tools.
The Woburn, Mass.-based company provides Web-based collaboration tools such as file and document sharing, e-mail, calendaring and discussion forums on a subscription basis, mostly to small-to-medium businesses and departments of larger organizations. Now those services are available free to members of the armed forces stationed overseas.
Troops can register for their own Intranets.com site at www.intranets.com.
Where businesses share project files, members of the armed forces and their families can share letters, photos, even sound and video clips. Where businesses schedule meetings and conference rooms, troops can keep track of upcoming events in the lives of their families back home.
Ken Dilg, an Army Reserve captain stationed with the 4-31 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, whos been in Iraq since mid-October training Iraqi police officers, has found his Intranets.com site to be an indispensable tool for staying in touch with friends and family back home, including his wife, Lisa, in South Lyon, Mich., a PR agency representative for Intranets.com, who was instrumental in launching the program.
Ken Dilg said his Intranets.com site has filled in the gaps left by the Armys own e-mail service and Army Knowledge Online (AKO) portal, giving him connectivity that he otherwise wouldnt have.
"I have found that the intranet is available from wherever I am at, be it Iraq or Kuwait," said Dilg by e-mail from Forward Operating Base Justice outside Baghdad. "I often have to move here within Iraq and the Internet services are always different. Where at one place you may be able to access Yahoo, or AOL, you may not at another. The intranet gives me a location that I can reach from any place."
Dilg can use e-mail through Intranets.com and reach everyone on his contact list with one message. E-mail through AKO is less reliable, he said.
"The problem is that the system is very slow to load, locks up way too often, and at times you cant get it to work at all for a day or two at a time," he said. "The Internet systems they have here are not built to handle it. AKO was built around high-speed Internet access back in the States and is not ideal for our needs here."
On his Intranets.com site, Dilg shares pictures with nearly 60 friends and family members back home. He posts pictures that hes taken in Iraq, while his wife Lisa posts pictures of their two children, 4-year-old twins Robert and Elizabeth.
Hes also shared video and audio clips and Word documents at the password-protected site. Hell be stationed in Iraq until at least November 2005.
"I enjoy being able to go to one place, produce documents or photos, and have it sent to everyone at once," said Dilg. "It also has been a place where people from different aspects of my life have met now that they have one common area to access and access to everyones e-mail."
Soldiers in Iraq have Internet access via satellite. But the service is often spotty, according to Dilg, and armed forces members generally dont get access for more than 15 minutes at a time.
"Since my Internet time is often limited I can go to one place to see things people have posted and send one message to 58 friends and family in a short amount of time," Dilg said. "I try to get on the site at least once a day and then usually once a week or so post new pictures or Word documents with pictures embedded in them."
Dilg has helped some of his fellow soldiers in Iraq set up their own Intranets.com sites and thinks the service could have wider use in the military.
"Army/military units could use Intranets.com pages to send information to their soldiers that are forward deployed, to back home family support groups, to their home bases in the States," he said. "I think setting up an intranet site for each deployed units family support group—wives, husbands, and children back home—would be a great way for those groups to have a central place to communicate, plan, and organize themselves and their activities."
Intranets.com previously donated free services to the 9/11 United Service Group and to Boston-area businesses whose employees had to telecommute during the Democratic National Convention in July.