Zoho, a provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based business applications, has taken customer relationship management (CRM) and internal business collaboration one step further with the recent launch of its Zoho Discussions application, which allows companies to create internal and external community forums.

Externally, these forums create a web 2.0-optimized extension of CRM by providing customer support forums, and can help guide business development and branding by creating an easy opportunity for customer research and feedback.

Internally, the intranet discussion forums can facilitate team collaboration through real-time discussions.

In both internal and external discussion forums, the company maintains control of branding and topic administration.

"It's a key application that customers can easily include in their website to create a natural spot where customers gather to exchange ideas and experiences, support each other and provide feedback to the company," said Raju Vegesna, Zoho evangelist.

The market for SaaS business productivity applications such as Zoho Discussions continues to grow as businesses shift more of their business strategies online - MSPMentor.com, for example, just reported that SaaS and cloud computing stocks grew by 47 percent so far in 2009, despite the global recession.

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