This week has seen the launch of Huddle, a new network of online workspaces, into the business world.

The service is designed to combined low-cost and organic connectivity of the social networking model with enterprise-class business application functionality, to enable people to work, share, collaborate, manage projects and discuss ideas.

Alastair Mitchell, Huddle co-founder and commercial director said: “We believe that Huddle represents the zone where the best of MySpace meets the best of enterprise. It seemed to us that the benefits of the social networking world had largely been ignored by businesses, as the technology hasn’t been robust enough. But business people are consumers too, they’re well aware of the advantages of a simple connection to your peers and want to take advantage of the best of both worlds”.

Described as a document management, virtual meeting room, brainstorming, office assistance and knowledge manager rolled into one, Huddle allows virtual and disparate teams to work simply and effectively, unclogging email, enabling a better flow of information and speeding decision-making.

Using Huddle enables teams to post and edit documents in the filing cabinet, while retaining full version control; discuss ideas on the whiteboard; post milestones; assign events and tasks to huddle members; provide presence and biography information, and view all of this from a central, intuitive dashboard. Huddle teams can also be expanded at will.

Huddle is primarily aimed at small and medium-sized businesses and is able to grow in line with each company, team or huddle. It has zero footprint and is scalable, flexible and can be branded to an organisation, working across all major operating systems and browser types.

The tool is already being used by a select band of businesses. Firefly Tonics manufactures and sells high quality health drinks across the UK, Europe and the Far East. It started using Huddle in November 2006 to connect their growing network of international suppliers more effectively with each other and with the Firefly team in London. The aim was to use Huddle to distribute marketing materials simultaneously and to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest product news and information. Firefly also wanted to promote an increased sense of community within the network by keeping everyone in contact and allowing them to share information, plan joint projects and discuss ideas.

Based on feedback from Firefly and their distributors, the Huddle team released further improvements to the system in January, enabling users to upload zip files of multiple documents in one step, copy files from one huddle to another and personalise huddle invites. All these improvements were designed to develop usability and reduce the time taken to perform routine tasks – essential for huddle to be taken up within the supplier network.

Firefly have now extended Huddle out into their marketing and public relations (PR) agencies and also use it to manage key communications between their raw-ingredient suppliers, packaging designers and bottlers. Kate Moore, Firefly marketing manager said: “We love using huddle – we can update our marketing materials centrally and our suppliers are automatically notified that files are waiting for them. I wish every system we had was this simple.”