FedEx Office, with a new spiffy look, ambitious new printing features and online file storage. The move puts the shipping specialist in competion with Hewlett-Packard's ( HPQ) Creative Studio, Dell's ( DELL) ImageDirect, VistaPrint's ( VPRT) online collateral services and custom printing tools from Moo. FedEx has been expanding its online products to target small businesses trying to cut costs in a weak economy. About 25% of the company's printing sales originated online during the previous year, says FedEx spokeswoman Jenny Robertson. I recently tested the new site. Here's what I found: What you get: The new FedEx Office offers a solid digital pipeline to manage your small business's marketing materials. The company has worked hard to make its upgraded site easy to use. Simply surf over and pick one of its six templates to design, from presentations to brochures. I uploaded my test PowerPoint deck. The service allowed me to tinker with image and printing options, including paper stock, bindings and colors. When finished, I could pick up my project at a local FedEx office or have it shipped. There are even couriers available for rush jobs. Basic presentation packages start at 55 cents a page. More complex, full-color products with bindings and swanky paper cost about $8. FedEx stores files smaller than 100 megabytes for up to six months after every order is placed.
All in all, FedEx Office Online offers a worthwhile shipping option for stressed-out entrepreneurs. What you don't get: FedEx office isn't the cheapest solution, nor is it the most flexible. This is FedEx. You are going to pay. The cost of my test presentation reached $17. And even basic packages ran about 8 cents a page. The online controls, while slick, are basic at best. Give H-P's Creative Studio or Moo a try to see just what's possible with online printing. On a job of any scale, be sure to bid carefully to get the price and features you need. There are cheaper and more robust online imaging options available. Bottom line: Despite the cost, I was impressed. FedEx Office Online is aimed at mid-market small businesses, and successfully so. For road warriors wandering the land with sales presentations, posting important files on FedEx Office makes sense. Not only do you always have them, but how cool is it to have your pitch automatically show up at the client's desk before even you even get there. -- Reported by Jonathan Blum in New York.