One of the UK's e-commerce pioneers is starting a new venture to help small and medium-sized businesses get the most out of web-based ways of working.
By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent
Nick Ogden, who founded net payments giant WorldPay, has now started On Instant which aims to create a club of connected companies based around the tools it provides.
Ogden: Creating a club of connected companies
Through the On Instant software, firms can manage customer contacts and sales leads, recruit staff, find funding, publicise what they do, search for partners and talk to staff and other network members.
For instance, a company wanting to notify others of a new service or product could create a branded release that would be sent to all the relevant On Instant members.
Directory services let On Instant members search for firms that could help with a particular problem or partner on deals.
Behind the web-based portfolio of services is a Voice over IP network that routes calls to other On Instant members. Voice calls to other members are made simply by clicking on their e-mail address.
The system works across the web, via broadband or dial-up net accounts as well as second and third generation mobile phone networks.
Currently voice calls can only be made to other On Instant members but later this year the company will add a gateway to the fixed phone network so anyone can be contacted.
Mr Ogden said On Instant was aimed at smaller businesses keen to use the net to help manage their business but did not have the technical resources to develop all the applications themselves.
On Instant routes calls via the net
The On Instant network will also help firms save money by routing much of their communications with co-workers and customers via the net.
But, said Mr Ogden, firms should realise the benefits that accrue from managing their business online.
"There's more to Voice over IP, instant messaging and broadband telecoms than just saving a bit of money," said Mr Ogden.
On Instant is working with 6700 Chambers of Commerce around the world to offer the system to firms on a free trial basis. Tariffs for the system begin at £4 per user per month.
"We need to get a lot of people on the system to make it work," said Mr Ogden, "but we believe there's functions and services in there that's appropriate to every company."
He said even before the worldwide launch, On Instant had more than 400 customers.
A consumer version of On Instant, called On4, is due to be released by the end of the year.
Running the downloadable On Instant program requires Windows 2000 or XP, a PC or laptop with a headset or USB phone and internal speakers or microphone.