Whether you're a fan of Google Apps or not, the online suite of groupware and productivity software has certainly brought software as a service (SaaS) to the mainstream, both for consumers and businesses. In particular, setting up Google Apps for your domain, regardless of the edition (Standard, Premier, Education, or Team) is fairly straightforward for the average geek. But what if document management is a greater focus for you than collaborative content creation? Or what if an average geek isn't employed by your business?
After all, while Google is going after serious enterprise customers, their greatest value, in my opinion, is to small businesses and schools. Small businesses in particular may balk when instructed to update their MX records or modify other DNS settings when they simply want to create a web-based communications platform. HyperOffice, however, takes the relative simplicity of Google Apps and provides a turnkey SaaS solution for which, as their slogan says, there are "No Geeks Required."
I had the opportunity to speak with Shahab Kaviani, VP of marketing at HyperOffice, at the end of last month and, although Google Apps has considerable traction in many settings, it appears that Google now has competition both from Microsoft and from the "new kid on the block," HyperOffice. New kid is something of a misnomer, though: the company was actually founded in 1998 and claims several hundred thousand users. While its numbers can't match those of Google or Microsoft, it takes a slightly different approach to provide a really compelling system that should, if nothing else, give Google some cues for where to head with components of their Apps suite.
HyperOffice is an
"integrated suite of online tools covers the entire range of productivity needs that exist in every organization - business email, contact management, calendaring, document management, intranet and extranet workspaces, forums, web conferencing, online databases, web forms and much more."
Not all of these features are included in the base price per user of HyperOffice and it can't yet match the online document collaboration features of Google Apps or Microsoft Office Web Apps. But the focus on workflows and a largely turnkey intranet solution alone should put HyperOffice on your short list. Similarly, because the suite isn't focused on replacing your desktop productivity software, if you work within an organization where desktop applications remain of real importance (but users want to be able to share and collaborate at the same time), then the built-in document management features will be especially attractive. Imagine a cloud-based shared drive that tracks versions and checks files in and out for multiple users and you have the idea.
I keep talking about Google Apps, but this gets at the functionality of SharePoint as well, including mobile access to documents and web content within your instance of HyperOffice. As noted on the company's website, the HyperOffice Collaboration Suite allows you to
Equip your team with everything they need to collaborate online - anytime, anywhere using any browser - on any PC, Mac, or handheld device. Tools include shared documents, calendars, contacts, projects, Outlook synch, Intranet/Extranet page builder, push and synch calendars/contacts/tasks across mobile devices and much more. Includes free training and live support.
So if the training and support are free, just how much is this going to cost? HyperOffice employs a tiered or a la carte approach, with organizations saving money per user by either increasing the number of users or paying in advance. That being said, the service isn't cheap. You can find their complete pricing here. If you added every service they offered, you could be looking at somewhere around $18/month/user $9/month/user (apologies to HyperOffice; the original figure of $18/month/user was an error), plus extra costs to the organization for their online meeting software (which is actually very cool and user-friendly). This is certainly more than Google's $50/user/year and isn't that far out of line with Microsoft's SharePoint Online pricing. One thing to note, though, is that their cloud-based database/easy forms-based data collection tool, HyperBase, is being offered to new customers for free.
And yet, it's feature-rich and easy. Can those attributes cut it for post-recessions businesses? For some, it will represent a great value that satisfies their internal and external communication needs very well. For many just exploring the idea of SaaS deployments, HyperOffice's lack of long-term commitments (Google's pricing is for a year, regardless of how long an organization uses it) and monthly prices allow businesses to test the waters easily and at very low costs. Others will be better served evaluating Google's and Microsoft's solutions. Regardless of the chosen platform, though, HyperOffice reminds us that there are many ways to skin a cat and suggests that SaaS has truly come of age, reaching the average user easily as well as addressing the needs of many enterprises.