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Some 18 Months ago, Google acquired JotSpot, a little known wiki-type service that was gaining interest among those looking to share information via the Web. Some questioned why Google purchased JotSpot, while others concluded that the move was a brilliant foray into wiki territory for the search giant. Both camps waited to see what the outcome would be, while business users were somewhat oblivious to Google’s plans with JotSpot.

Fast forward to today. JotSpot, now reborn as Google Sites has a clear objective: to take on Microsoft’s SharePoint, a collaboration tool tightly intertwined into many of Microsoft’s products. SharePoint’s aim was to be the "company portal" to business information, offering ad-hoc management, along with predefined rules to group pertinent business information into actionable silos, yet still allow the cross flow of related information across those silos, departments and divisions.

For the companies that put the effort into using SharePoint, the payoff was well worthwhile, users could manage and work with information in new ways and build collaborative relationships with co-workers, vendors, or anyone else that was so inclined.

While medium and large enterprises embraced SharePoint, the small business market was hard pressed to implement the technology, even though Microsoft bundled SharePoint with Small Business Server 2003 at no extra charge. Simply put, small businesses did not have the time or energy to move over to what was perceived as a complex portal. After all, why would a small business want an information portal, when the boss could just yell across the room to one of his workers and ask where a particular document was?

When it comes to taking on Microsoft’s turf, Google Sites has three major advantages—it’s Google, it’s free and plus  it’s easy to use. Sure, it may not have all of the features that SharePoint does, but it has the features that count. Especially for a small business that is not looking to go the Microsoft Small Business Server Route.

When coupled with Google’s other free tools, Google Sites becomes a formidable competitor to most of Microsoft’s small business offerings. On the flip side, one area Google will need to overcome is the typical small business owner’s apprehension of storing their data and applications on servers owned and operated by others.

That seems to be the one of the major advantages Microsoft currently offers. But there is one other advantage Microsoft has—and that is its Channel. If VARs can make more money offering Microsoft products than they can by implementing free tools, Google’s small business market share could be in jeopardy. After all, most small businesses lack technical expertise and rely on that "trusted advisor"—more commonly known as the "VAR." So, it will really be up to the channel before Google can drink Microsoft’s milkshake.