While looking for a cloud based solution for a non-profit organization that is looking for a low-cost, configurable, expandable and manageable solution to set up a social collaboration network for its ever expanding target audience I came across Ning.com:
Ning: Your key to an awesome social community!
Create a perfect social website to bring people together. With your own look and feel, and choice of social integration, Ning opens new doors to revenue and involvement.
for a relatively low monthly cost it offers a click-and-go configurable private social network with profiles, groups, file-, photo- and video sharing, blogs, forums, a facebook like activity stream and the option to support an unlimited number of users.
I’ve been test driving Ning for a few days and I must say I like it! Yes, ok, there are things it doesn’t do like full blown community management (it does have groups that offer a lot of similar options though) and I’m still struggling with some customization limitations but overall it offers a very decent set of social network functionalities with lots of options to either keeping it simple or building it out into a full blown platform.
It opens up a lot of opportunities and at the same time also triggers lots of questions, future reliability of the service provider being one of them (for me), but overall with all its configurable settings and templates, integration with external social networks like Facebook & Twitter and its intuitive administration module that a non-techie could easily maintain, I must say I like it and will definitely be looking into it further!