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lpallard 06-23-2019 05:29 PM

Free & reliable group exchange solution?
Hi there,

I am searching for recommendations for a free online solution to exchange information & data between multiple people. I am in charge of a small coop, and I know several other people in the same position in my area. One of them had the idea to start a small "association" to promote networking among us and facilitate information sharing.

Right now we're working mainly with emails & word/excel files, and its very heavy... Just maintaining the different databases in excel files is kinda cumbersome.. There's no central storage and if someone modifies a file, they have to resend it to everybody which they don't always, etc...

So basically, the solution I am searching for would be some sort of web service, ideally free (but we can pay a small monthly fee), reliable (we will most definitely store sensitive data such as phone numbers, emails and names) and should:
  • Allow us to maintain a directory of all administrators for each COOP along with their contact information
  • Allow us to maintain a database of different kind of entries (work entries, upcoming contracts) and be searchable, etc
  • Allow each administrator to have their own login credentials
  • Offer possibility to upload & edit files
  • Offer some kind of billboard (for example someone has something to offer/sell or is looking to buy something)...

We thought about using facebook but some of us dont have accounts, and some others dont want to use it. A cloud storage also wont do it (other than offer centralized strorage for our files...)

We dont need an integrated email service. Everybody already has their own emails (Gmail, hotmail, etc) and we just need to add theirs in the admin's database for contact purposes...

I am open to a LAMP solution on a VPS if its necessary.

Any suggestions?

frankbell 06-23-2019 09:34 PM

I think I understand what you are getting at. The management company for my condo association has a similar site; theirs is, natch, enterprise-level. It serves many condos and homeowners' associations, but, if you create an account, you can see only the accounts of residents and owners from your own condo/HOA.

I think you should take a look at Wordpress. You can set up a Wordpress blog so that persons have to log in to view and contribute content. You can also configure Wordpress to have a static front page if you wish. I've been using Wordpress since v. 1.5 and am quite fond of it.

It can also work quite nicely in the LAMPP environment you mentioned in your post. When I first started my blog, I self-hosted it on a computer in my guest room. (As an aside, wanting to self-host my website is why I started using Linux.)

The only item I see in your list that might be problematical is this one:


Offer possibility to upload & edit files
Upload is fine. Editing already uploaded files might be problematical, but there may well be a WP plugin that can make it happen.

As an aside, I recommend using themes and plugins only from the Wordpress site.

lpallard 06-24-2019 02:06 PM

Just out of curiosity, what platform do they use when you say "enterprise level"? Perhaps there's an opensource alternative?

Good idea on the WordPress solution, but a while ago I decided to jump in a Drupal project for a music record collection database & cataloguing, and I ended up bargaining for more than I wanted.... Sure I learnt how basic web design works and got somehow good at Drupal, but that was a project for myself and I could afford the occasional screw-ups or downtime that happened because I did something wrong... Now I am dealing with all kind of people, some of them only use their tablets/phones instead of a computer so we need something as "plug & play" as possible... An existing web service or website would be best (for uptime, costs, and no maintenance required with security, patches, updates, etc).

Other consideration, if I ever leave this side job, the person who will take over may or may not have any computing skills...

Anyway, I will try to setup a Small WP site on my local VPS and see if I can get to a decent place without too much fiddling & coding, we never know!

Cheers and thanks again!

frankbell 06-24-2019 08:17 PM

I don't know what platform they use. For all I know, it's a custom job; our management company is part of a nationwide outfit. I was able to determine that it's hosted on Amazon AWS.

As regard Drupal, I have heard experienced persons say that it is much more complex that WordPress. It also does different things, although there is some overlap.

You might take a look at something like, where you can host a blog on their servers. There's no charge unless you want to use some premium services. I've never used it--I started with Linux because I wanted to self-host, not because I wanted to blog--my blog just sort of happened as part of the self-hosting thing. I have an LQ friend who set up a blog there.

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