Opening enterprise collaboration to the world

UK-headquartered cloud collaboration platform Huddle is targeting enterprise customers with an unlimited user edition and a generous uptime guarantee.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

Cloud collaboration platform Huddle is seeking to cement its enterprise appeal with the launch today of a new unlimited user edition and a 99.9% total uptime guarantee. The UK-headquartered, venture-backed start-up is less well known than US rivals such as Box, Dropbox, Jive and Yammer but it believes it has a unique market opportunity because of its focus on external enterprise collaboration.

"Traditional collaboration was very inward-looking," CEO Alastair Mitchell told me when we met last week in Huddle's offices overlooking London's 'Silicon Roundabout' (see pic). "Jive, Yammer, are very much of that paradigm," he went on. "What's driving our growth at the moment is that organizations are demanding collaboration that goes beyond the firewall — that allows the whole ecosystem to operate."

Huddle says the 93% of its customers that use its platform to connect beyond the enterprise firewall work with an average of 25 other companies (sounds like a great demonstration of frictionless enterprise in action). The new Unlimited Enterprise edition supports collaboration across that entire business ecosystem, with the ability to freely add 'lite' users who can view or download content, or contribute to document comments, task whiteboards and discussions.

Unlike its more consumer-focused competitors such as Box and Dropbox (though Box in particular has recently sought to target larger enterprise accounts), Huddle already has a heavy focus on the enterprise market — implementations typically start at a hundred users and many run into thousands of seats, Mitchell told me. Its 'True Uptime' guarantee should enhance its appeal to that market. Whereas all cloud uptime guarantees cover unexpected failures, most explicitly exclude 'planned' uptime, when systems are taken down to make infrastructure improvements or upgrade to a new release. In contrast, Huddle is including these events within its meagre 0.5% downtime allowance. It is bolstering the guarantee with a money-back promise if it fails to live up to 99.5% uptime. The company is confident it can meet this tough standard, for example achieving in excess of four nines — 99.995 percent — over the past 90 days.

One of the most potent demonstrations of Huddle's appeal to an enterprise market is in its penetration of government accounts, which make up a quarter of Huddle's business globally. Government is a natural candidate for collaboration outside the firewall, says Mitchell: "It's all about content. It's extremely collaborative. It's totally interconnected ... To be able to plonk a secure extranet in front of everyone is ideal."

Although Huddle is a firm proponent of the multi-tenant cloud model, it does offer a dedicated version of its service that runs over the private internet networks that many governments run independently of the public Internet. A first implementation for the UK government, introduced last year, "has gone absolutely crazy," says Mitchell. Now the company is seeing demand for the same solution from the US, Australia and many European governments. "It's delivering networked collaboration on content, in a secure environment," explains Mitchell. But he's careful to emphasize that this is "not a branched version of Huddle," which would break "a fundamental tenet of multi-tenancy."

For Huddle, multi-tenancy is not just an architectural choice, it's part of its raison-d'étre. "The next coming of the collaboration sector really has been enabled by cloud," Mitchell asserts. "Facebook is the prime example of that, using cloud in its purest multi-tenant form. Facebook could only have happened not just because of the Internet but also because of that ability to connect to one central, multi-tenant service."

The other component of Huddle's strategy is its attractiveness as a replacement for a very conventional enterprise collaboration platform. "We're benefiting from companies moving to the cloud and taking big and clunky kit such as [Microsoft's collaboration platform] Sharepoint off their servers," says Mitchell. "Sharepoint is near the top of most people's hitlist — it's so unpopular." Huddle offers easier mobile access, simpler connection to external users and faster speed of deployment among other factors, all for a lower cost than enterprises currently spend to maintain their existing Sharepoint instances.

Although Huddle is not as generously funded or as lauded by the Silicon Valley echo chamber as some of its competitors, it has the ambition to punch above its weight and an advantage in terms of its proven enterprise credentials that it aims to leverage to maximum effect. As a Brit, perhaps I'm biased, but I think this Silicon Roundabout prodigy is one to watch.

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