Software

Sanity check: Can tiny Zoho beat Microsoft and Google in online office apps?

Google recently admitted that it is officially launching a bid to compete with Microsoft Office. However, the biggest threat to Microsoft Office may be from tiny startup Zoho, which has an online office suite with better features than Google and more Web savvy than Microsoft. TechRepublic's Jason Hiner looks at whether Zoho's challenge can succeed where IBM, Sun, and open source have failed.

Issue: Zoho apps vs. Google and Microsoft

Two months ago, Google made a quiet, back-door admission that it was developing an online suite of applications to take a bite out of the lucrative office apps market, which has been dominated by Microsoft for over two decades. Apparently, Google did not want to wake the sleeping giant by making a direct challenge to Microsoft. After all, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was previously an executive at Novell and Sun, two companies that got steamrolled by Microsoft in the server software business in the 1990s.

By contrast, a small private company called Zoho is making an open challenge to both Google and Microsoft in the office apps arena. While the idea of Zoho dethroning Microsoft in office apps seems laughable when you consider the fact that the graveyard of failed challengers to Microsoft's office apps crown includes IBM, Sun, Apple (remember ClarisWorks?), and the open source crowd, Zoho's challenge has one important advantage -- it's got the products to back it up.

In the past 18 months since Zoho Writer was first released in October 2005, Zoho has released 14 more online applications/services. It now boasts one of the broadest and most mature sets of online applications available in the cloud. The screenshot below lists some of the Zoho fleet.

Of course, the cornerstone of the Zoho application suite is the trio of Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, and Zoho Show -- word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps, respectively -- which are aimed at taking on the dominant Microsoft triumvirate of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The three screenshots below provide a quick look at Writer, Sheet, and Show.

While Google is trying to take on Microsoft Office by providing streamlined online office apps with a pared down feature set, Zoho is attempting to give users the full feature set and take advantage of the benefits of a Web-based experience with tagging, sharing, and collaboration.

Microsoft still hasn't released an online version of the Microsoft Office suite, so we don't know what its online office suite strategy will be. Microsoft's OfficeLive is an online mail and Web site service for small businesses. It's unclear why it calls the service "OfficeLive," because it has nothing to do with Microsoft Office. I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft play catchup by buying an online office player like ThinkFree, another startup that is nipping at the heels of Google and Microsoft. It's also possible that Microsoft is quietly developing its own online office suite, or simply an online component of its current application suite.

Sanity check

It's impressive that Zoho has created a broad fleet of full-featured online apps in a short period of time, but just as significant is the fact that it has done it without sacrificing simplicity and usability. That points to software that is well-conceived and well-developed. Nevertheless, there are some caveats with Zoho and some issues that it will have to address if it wants to stand toe-to-toe with Microsoft and Google. Let's take a closer look at where Zoho is winning and where it has progress to make.

Zoho strengths

  • Feature set -- Almost all of Zoho's apps have the best feature set in their class of online apps. "Our individual applications have 20-30% more features than Google [apps] at the individual app level," Zoho Evangelist Raju Vegesna said. In fact, 20-30% is a low estimate in some cases. Plus, the Zoho suite has about twice as many online applications as Google, even though Google employs about 300 engineers working on online apps while Zoho only has 120.
  • Online savvy -- Zoho's apps take advantage of Web technologies and Internet connectivity, including tagging, search, document sharing, RSS, chat, and collaboration features. One example: Document management is much easier than traditional desktop office apps because files are much easier to search and aren't spread out in various directories across the filesystem.
  • Speed of development and updates -- Every Zoho product typically has at least one upgrade/update each week. For newer products like Zoho Notebook, there are usually multiple updates each week. For more mature products like Writer, there's usually an update every 10 days. That's a lot faster and more nimble than the new versions of Microsoft Office that come out every few years, with a handful of significant service packs and patches in between.
  • Internationalism -- One of the secrets to Zoho's success is the international character of the company. (It's actually an independent division within AdventNet, a traditional shrink-wrapped software vendor.) The data center is in Silicon Valley and so are the business development and sales teams. The software development teams are in India. (Zoho typically takes students who can't afford college but have a passion to become software engineers and trains them in its own internal "university"). Zoho also has offices in China, Japan, London, and New Jersey. While Google prides itself on hiring PhDs, Zoho has only one PhD -- the CEO. "It's about adding the right people," Vegesna said. "We don't have degrees. We have passion."

Zoho weaknesses

  • Business model -- Currently, almost all of the Zoho products are available for free. Zoho charges for advanced use of its CRM and project management apps, but the other apps are free to individual users and will remain that way in the near future. Unlike Google, Zoho does not plan to monetize its online applications by selling advertising on them (either display ads or search ads), although Zoho might consider sponsorships, according to Vegesna. Eventually, for companies that want to widely deploy Zoho, there will likely be various packages of applications, some enterprise-specific options, and a per-user fee. That's where Zoho thinks it can make most of its money, by offering the same level of features as Microsoft Office while charging the same kind of fee that Google does for its Premium Apps. The question is whether that will be enough to make Zoho profitable and to keep funding the rapid development of the Zoho office suite.
  • Security -- This is not a knock on any bad code or poorly developed features on Zoho's part. It's simply a matter of whether business users will feel comfortable saving sensitive business files online. I know that there are certain documents I'd hesitate to save online with Zoho or Google because if someone figured out how to crack my password, they could read sensitive internal business information. I'd feel a little more confident if Zoho implemented something like the Vidoop authentication grid that I wrote about last week. In addition to authentication, Zoho will need to integrate some strong data security and encryption features to win over IT departments.
  • Full offline capability -- Zoho has taken a couple small steps to give its applications some offline and desktop capabilities by releasing a Microsoft Office plugin and a Desktopize widget for Writer, Sheet, and Show. However, to compete with Microsoft Office on a wide scale, Zoho is going to have to give its online apps full offline capability with an identical interface and local caching of files. There's a reason that Zoho's 250,000 users are concentrated in education and several pockets in Asia -- those areas have the best and most consistent broadband connections. Zoho can't simply wait for the rest of the world to catch up to those small pockets. That will take decades. If Zoho does try to wait it out, the market will pass it by.
In taking on Microsoft and Google in the office application arena, Zoho sees itself in the same mold as Microsoft taking on IBM in PCs in the early 1980s and Google taking on Microsoft and Yahoo in search in the past decade. It would be easy to wave off Zoho as a bug destined to be squashed, but judging by the quality of what Zoho has created so far, I wouldn't count it out.

Are you ready for an online office suite? Have you tried any of Zoho's apps, and if so, what do you think about them? What do you think about Zoho's chances against Microsoft and Google? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

68 comments
triniweb
triniweb

MSO online offerings are virtually nonexistent (can't write them off though collaborative office tools are being built around outlook and msn), google gaining strength with SaaS however much of us are still waiting for the much talked about offline model to function, and i'm still thinking the weaknesses outlined apply to all, the main benefit of SaaS asfaik is reducing IT burden (i.e. DRP, deployment and maintenance challenges for software and data) --> Zoho has a very comprehensive suite, kudos for Database Rapid Development, CRM and Project software, I wonder if they have report integration features to turn them into presentations. pity we can't be online all the time (hmmm then again why not? 2-3yrs and broadband everywhere), and i'll still be saying I need all my sensitive documents password encrypted, and a file/knowledge management interface with appropriate controls as the center of any SaaS. As for pricing and competition, I think eventually ISP's may get in the bundling game so network providers may offer subscription packages with their broadband, like google and even some CBT type SaaS, I believe they may eventually offer a localized server type package to satisfy the security paranoid, since these online deployments typically could be modeled like a thin client/server architecture it may be more beneficial to be used as intranet/VPN model with limited but secure external or online connections, rather than be connected to the whole world, fact is nobody likes to give up control of their data. In the future versions, I suppose you will eventually never have to see something the likes of this msg: "Zoho CRM service will be down from 21st July 2007 9.30 PM PDT to 22nd July 2007 6.30 AM PDT due to a scheduled maintenance. Sorry for the inconvenience caused." Benko

e_itoro
e_itoro

This sounds good. Maybe we can keep fingers cross and see what it's got to offer...

sam_samuel
sam_samuel

Lets get real guys - it is not the best technology, technique or capability that wins - it is the best marketed! If this was not so - why would Microsoft be so dominant. All the bells and whistles in the world ain't gonna beat a highly funded, slick marketing campaign - sad though this may be.

skicat
skicat

Has any actually looked at who owns ZOHO? Advent is a quality company with many quality products for development and administration. We use a couple products including OpManager, NetFlow Analyzer and Application Manager. Free to test and reasonably affordable. Before anyone scoffs at the product because they have consumed too much Google kool-aid, check out the product. It may be a great alternative and it a more mature than anything else that is out there.

johnywhy
johnywhy

ThinkFree has MUCH stronger features -- within the few apps they offer (word, excel, powerpoint). But Zoho offers a lot more apps. ThinkFree emulates the look, feel, and many features of Microsoft apps much better than Zoho. Zoho has that "i'm on a web-page" feel, similar to Google Documents and Google Spreadsheets. ThinkFree feels much more like a solid desktop app. ThinkFree has been around longer than Zoho-- but Zoho has a broader offering. One highly-desired feature that Zoho has, that Google Calendar lacks: To-Do Lists! My other problem with Zoho is it seems there's some overlap between the apps. For example, when do i use Planner? When do i use Project? Is my data automatically integrated between them? Notebook and Wiki and Writer all seem too similar.

jos
jos

W3C validator 76 errors. I tried to Sign up under Linux (Suse 10.2) No.. I cannot (:-( And so I tried W3C Validator. Beat Microsoft by making a non-microsoft site first!

intrepi
intrepi

Hey, I think all is fair when it comes to software and hardware competition. Let's be honest, MS hasn't pulled any punches with their software licensing, pricing and support that has limited English communication skills. I'm one who wishes all new comers the very best in their ventures towards a successful business. Great stuff !

ken.davis
ken.davis

I think the only way ZOHO can succeed is if they offer their products through shareware and hope enough users enjoy and adapt to their product to the extent they can gradually start charging for it. They should also target a specific segment of the user community. Somewhat like how Unix/Linux entered into the OS world.

AIS.SfwBuyer
AIS.SfwBuyer

Seems to me that the strategy is to use the on line community to debug and add features to get to a robust product set, then to offer it for sale behind company firewalls. That gets past everyone's security issues, provides the internet features and if priced right clobbers MS and help IT groups by not having to manage mulitudes of PC's with a variety of levels of Office products. Just sounds awesome to me.

brianh
brianh

Scary Zoho Item!!! In the Zoho "Privacy Agreement" listed in the "Terms of Service"-Check this Out->>>..."We store and maintain files, documents, to-do lists, emails and other data stored in your Account at our facilities in the United States or any other country. Use of Zoho Services signifies your consent to such transfer of your data outside of your country." My Business is a US Gov't entity. We would NEVER subscribe to such a Service as it is a Serious Security Breach...BH

TheTossmanCometh
TheTossmanCometh

This looks promising. I'll have to try it out. I'm especially interested in the chat.

ChrisEvans
ChrisEvans

It really comes down to marketing power as it does with most things. In order to 'win' Zoho will need to become a market force with a believable supply chain and support mechanism otherwise no business will ever 'take the risk' of moving over from a massively established product.

compugal
compugal

It looks very interesting and promissing, I would like to give a try.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Don't look now, but Zoho just might have the world's first legitimate online office suite: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=497 Are you ready for an online office suite? Have you tried any of Zoho?s apps, and if so, what do you think about them? What do you think about Zoho?s chances against Microsoft and Google?

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

That was true in the early 1990s and before when the dissemination of information was controlled primarily by the mass media. However, the Internet has brought about a major sea change. How well marketed was Google? How about Digg? MySpace? FaceBook? Skype?

pcrx_greg
pcrx_greg

I have just been playing with Zoho writer, and you don't have to store your documents online. After you save them, you can export them to your local hard drive and delete them from the server. To access them again, you can import them to Zoho Writer, make changes, etc. and go through the save, export, and delete process again. So you don't really have to sacrifice the security of local storage.

raju_vrk
raju_vrk

Can you please let us know which browser you used? Raju Zoho

rdcpro
rdcpro

I began thinking along those lines the instant I read the part that described it as a free service with no advertising. It certainly explains the business model. Brilliant! I hope they license it to ISVs.

jrosenthal
jrosenthal

In today's world with anti-americanism (like anti-microsoftism) that disclaimer can be very scary. I would never trust my personal data to be stored anywhere else that I do not have control over it. Trust can only go so far, and it shouldn't be outside of the U.S. There is far to much money, and business that is going outside of the U.S. currently. Many other countries don't have copyright laws that we have, and to have sensative data stored outside of the company can be very very very risky.

raju_vrk
raju_vrk

Currently, all our data centers are in US. However, we are in the process of expanding to other locations for redundancy, speed and several other reasons. Apart from his, we do have to backup your content in other locations (very secured). Backup and redundancy is the primary reason for this approach. Regarding security, we will soon let you encrypt your data.

intrepi
intrepi

If you feel it's a serious security breach, I'd make a direct inquiry to Zoho and find out the details to which this applies. If you are a globe trotter and need access to your files, of course such an agreement would be required. If your files are subject to being copied, read, used or managed in a non secure fashion, then I'd request a list of any and all government's, institutions, business's or private individuals or anyone that would have access and the authority to do so. I believe you will find you may have over reacted with respect to your security issues.

rdcpro
rdcpro

I'd be surprised if that would be a show stopper for most organizations. Anyone who emails a document is doing much the same thing. That's a pretty standard TOS clause, because it allows for geographically distributed datacenters, and fault tolerant routing. (See Akamai, for example). As they grow, I'm sure that they will have other datacenters. What you should really be concerned about is the safety of the data. Regards, Mike

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Thanks for pointing that out. I'm sure that there are others that need to be aware of that as well.

kcmplex
kcmplex

the server and files would be a very good option. I believe this will be the best way for any web hosted App company to really succeed in the present state of the web. If you start thinking about the technical spec for this of course you start seeing new issues, but the pros could out weigh the cons.

intrepi
intrepi

I have no doubts there are many business's out there that are looking at some serious alternatives to Microsoft's software which is expensive to upgrade to, use and maintain security of with 3rd party software. The costs have escalated to the point where any and all options are not ones to overlook.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

How long before M$ tries to make ZOHO an offer they can't refuse? Also how long before some of the other companies try to use the source to duplicate the products ZOHO has on offer? It is a jungle out there in the software field and the biggies are not above using their manpower to "develop" the ideas others have and even using their code to do it. If ZOHO plays the game right they can divest themselves of this product for big bucks and retire very young.

Peter
Peter

I don't believe that the lethargy of Corporate users would move with any speed to advance Zoho's success. I wish it success and will give it a try. The marketing power of Microsoft will try to kill off any opposition. Remember OS/2 ? - better product in many ways but the life squeezed out of it.

epaalx
epaalx

For those business that get site licenses, Microsoft charges pittance (and there are still cheaper competitors like Lotus SmartSuite, Corel Office X3 and half a dozen more). If a SOHO don't wanna spend a cent, why not use superb Open Office with only minor compromises? I reckon these on-line applications is just a fad...

pcarmitchel
pcarmitchel

I get where they're headed and no one wants to manage their business from one place online more than I, but has anyone been able to successfully manage their business online with Zoho? It's like their jack of all trades, master of none. Why does it have to be so hard to find a powerful solution that manges everything from projects to accounting in an interface that makes sense. I'm trying to get an invite to http://rule.fm because I see that they have CRM, Projects, Documents, Discussions, Accounting and more, but I can't find one. The interface comps I found were amazing and their launch is around the corner so someone has to have an invite. I'm sick of managing my biz from multiple services...open to suggestions.

floresf
floresf

I think the concept of having apps avaialble from any computer and anywhere you can get internet connections is a direction worth exploring. I am very uncomfortable about having the confidentiality and security of my data trusted to an online service. With my own computer system(s) I have the control of the security implemented. Online, I have no idea how secure my data is. Felix the Cat

kidtree
kidtree

I used Zoho Sheet fro a few months to post a list of supplies for copiers, printer, etc. we sell. It ran about 300 rows by maybe 12 columns. It worked beautifully in Firefox but took several minutes to load in Internet Explorer. It still beat Google, though. Google says I can upload a sheet in either Excel or OpenOffice (.ods) formats. Failed every time. Small files work, but my big sheet simply didn't show up. One of the ZDNet blogs told me about EditGrid and I'm very happy with it. It's fast (for an online spreadsheet), it works reliably, and it allows me to freeze the top rows and left columns, so the machine model stays on-screen when I scroll across the sheet. EditGrid is not part of a suite, but it's a powerful spreadsheet that works in IE, Firefox, and Safari, running on Windows, Linux, and Mac. That means a lot when I have to share with others who don't share my perfect taste in computers and applications.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

No CEO or CIO in their right mind would think even for a millisecond about having some relatively unknown and unproven external company host sensitive corporate documents. PERIOD. Google already happily indexes every byte that passes through their grubby little hands -- with your only protection being privacy policies crafted by the most weasely lawyers on earth. Considering the low cost for fully redundant storage these days, and the fully integrated applications with whatever level of security you care to implement readily available, it's a no-brainer. Sure, start-ups, students and non-professionals with little or no intellectual property to worry about may consider the so-called 'free' web-based applications, I'm not going to hold my breath on seeing any mass migration of major accounts soon.

daniel9696
daniel9696

To me, all the gee-whiz stuff these applications can do is irrelevant because both the Google and Zoho offerings share one fatal design flaw; They both require completed forms and databases to be maintained on equipment completely beyond the user's control. Short of opening my Server's firewall and converting my company's databases to plain text, I can't imagine anything more irresponsible.

ray.fellers
ray.fellers

I've been using Zoho tools for about two months. I sure think they are on the forefront of what's to come, and I applaud their work. I'm very satisfied with the tools that I've used to date, and will continue with them.

halfnium
halfnium

Sad not to see Open Office mentioned in the discussion. No, it's not an online suite. But yes, by now it is a stable, feature-rich, multi-plaform, XML-speaking freeware alternative to MS-Office. So, do Zoho and Google reduce Open Office to merely a slab of cold pizza?

JEfromCanada
JEfromCanada

Like every other small venture on the internet, when a terrific idea seems to be on the cusp of really winning market share, along will come a deep pocket competitor to take over the operation with an offer that just can't be refused. I believe Zoho will eventually be in that position. It should not be arrogant enough to spurn a once-in-a-lifetime offer, because the alternative is to wake the sleeping giants and really get them motivated.

richardh9935
richardh9935

These sorts of web2 apps can beat Citrix, too, by not requiring complex infrastructure.

oromis
oromis

I don't see OpenOffice.org in any 'graveyard' and consider this open-source product's file compatibility and cross-platform nature as what I will seek in my future office suite configurations. I am disinterested in taking steps backwards to 1960s-style server apps and client consoles architecture, and plan to continue using locally hosted OS, applications, and utilities for most work; I do like the idea of network or web enabling to promote data sharing and co-authorship of documents.

MidnightGeek
MidnightGeek

Ok, Let's see if I have the "givens" of the discussion clear. 1. It's a web app suite that is providing service for free and will make up the difference in volume. (Sounds like the Dot Com era business model for daily operation) But - they are part of another larger software company, and this is a very good way to show the "agility" of the parent responding to market needs. 2. The data is hosted somewhere on the planet and the company may not even be sure where at any given moment. Uh, security risk? Of course, so obviously they are not targeting that market. But - For students, small business, and personal use there is a significant opportunity. Students in specific are a perfect target for a long game approach. Think about how Apple has managed to convince a small (but now nearly religious fanatical) group to adopt a highly business-incompatible platform for day to day use. **Disclaimer - This is not a pot-shot in the holy war, merely a factual example for case study comparison. Apple gave and still donates hardware heavily to schools.** In this aspect, adoption of the technology by the upcoming generation goes to the enabler. And if you can get your name synonymous with the online application suite, you win. 3. Are they farming themselves to get bought? Uh, name a company that won't sell a division for the right price. Zoho has a functional proof of concept in the market, not in beta. I would be surprised if Yahoo or AOL aren't making offers already. Microsoft can't bite because it would be an admission of defeat. Mr Gates would never find that acceptable. (They painted themselves in the corner of MS Office with Office Live. Redmond now has to port to the web... Oh, I mean uh, innovate.) But what about Google as competition? Like everyone seems to say... The suite is kinda there but nowhere near as robust. Google has name but the market is fickle. In short, the product exists and for broadband users is Nifty-Kewl. Yea for Zoho! Keep up the good work. But I see a larger question that refers to Web hosted apps in general... How do we integrate them into our IT business structures, and in reality is there really a need/advantage to them beyond novelty? I am posing this question ignoring the pure price gouging that "some" creators/vendors of desktop suites have, creating a muddy financial motive. What are the real compelling technical and productivity advantages of using online office apps?

n4aof
n4aof

Giants have fallen before. Given a viable choice there are a lot of people who would choose a non-Microsoft app simply because it IS non-Microsoft.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

If Zoho or their competitors sold or leased servers (or server software) that we could install in-house, particularly if it cost less than and supported the same filetypes as our current solution, it would be worth considering. As it is, we can't afford to allow any external entity to have control over our data unless it is protected in accordance with our policies, which we derive from the lettered governances: U.S. storage, encrypted, strict access control and monitoring, two-factor authentication, etc.

chucklyons
chucklyons

Two problems with Zoho's business model. Jason pegged the first one on the head. Security and safety of business information i.e. intelligence. A lot of companies will not secure their information to a third party, although one has to wonder what is the difference between that and hosting...the second, and maybe most important, is Zoho simply doesnt have enough 'seat time'. I'm not sure I could recommend a company secure their information with a 'no-name' company. What happens if Zoho tanks? What happends to my information? Do I have to wait until the assets are divested? Until those two issues are resolved, Zoho's biggets clients will be start-ups.

grax
grax

?Are you ready for an online office suite?? Absolutely not! As others have mentioned there are serious security and access issues. Funny that there was no mention of this in the advertisement. (Sorry) That should read ?article?. We?re invited to think that Zoho is a competitor for Microsoft but they do not have an online office suite. No contest, yet! Then we?re warned about the ?graveyard of failed challengers to Microsoft?s office apps crown includes IBM, Sun, Apple ? and the open source crowd,? None of these are doing online office apps. either! However, before you get too snide Jason, ask yourself why Toshiba is shipping new machines with OpenOffice pre-installed. Is it only because no version of MSOffice before 2007 will run properly on Vista? Clearly, the more options there are available, the better the choice and the better the products will become.

fjp
fjp

"Where's the Sanity Clause?" "What Sanity Clause? Don't you know there ain't no Sanity Clause..?" (with apologies to the Marx Brothers)

fjp
fjp

I'm in favour of healthy competition. After all, who'd heard of Google ten years ago? (Rhetorical question - it didn't exist.) I would have thought that the main concern was security of data, but that affects all the providers. I think this sort of thing will snowball, once a few users discover the benefit and realise that their data is probably better looked after than in-house. Lots of inertia to overcome, of course, but I'm sure it will happen, and it would be nice to see the smaller outfits gaining a few points. Even MS was nimble, once upon a time :-)

elrico-fantastica
elrico-fantastica

Its a brilliant concept but certainly in my company people use spreadsheets and databases that call information from other local sources. I think this could cause issues with security and maybe bandwidth in certain areas. Although a mix of an online word processor/presentation program and locally installed spread sheet/database programs could be a very usable setup. My other concern is the requirement of stable internet to function. we have many sattelite branches that all rely heavily on the interenet as it is to communicate with head office, transfer files and email customers. when the connection in a branch fails and they claim they can no longer function, our reply has always been "well at least u can catch up on your typing". with online office applications they would literally be unable to work in that scenario making for a lot of lost revinue and unhappy staff. The downtime issue alone would stop me reccomending an online application suit to any company at this time.

n4aof
n4aof

That might solve the accessibility and reliability concerns that some have expressed, but it does nothing to resolve security concerns (at least not for anyone who is genuinely worried about the potential security issues and who understands those potential security issues). There is no reason to believe that "deleting" a file from the Zoho server accomplishes any more than "deleting" a file from your hard drive or a floppy.

n4aof
n4aof

"I would never trust my personal data to be stored anywhere else that I do not have control over it" I assume that you do not conduct ANY sort of online business transactions; never register with any websites; never buy anything online; have no credit cards; have never been included in a census; have never paid any kind of federal, state, or local taxes (other than sales tax paid in cash in a physical store); etc., etc. Every one of the above transactions and situations places your personal information stored online in multiple locations over which you have no control (and mostly by entities with a known track record for data losses, such as the government)

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

In many corporate environments, a lot of emails are encrypted and digitally signed both for internal and external communications. Nobody with half a clue would use unencrypted email to send confidential documents. I guess that's the problem -- too few people actually HAVE half a clue. :( Any IT department without proper policies and procedures in place for transmitting and handling confidential information these days should be fired. Especially where they entrust clear-text transmissions and host confidential information with untrusted third-parties. The EULA described earlier is only a HINT of tue underlying folly of this whole untrusted-third-party-hosted-application concept. At least Google is halfway honest about letting they know they are indexing your documents and emails to 'help' you -- by presenting better quality contextual advertising. Free can be pretty expensive once your company's intellectual property ends up in the hands of an untrusted-third-party.

Antagonist
Antagonist

Are you on drugs? I doubt anyone would call Microsoft's licensing fees a pittance in comparison to free online apps. Especially if you're an IT shop in a low budget local governmental unit. Microsoft has people so brainwashed that they think $100 a seat is cheap :) Not to mention what it costs the average personal user. No, sorry but nothing Microsoft produces is inexpensive.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I won't even touch CIOs. The number of CIOs that fall for marketing pitches and sign up for vaporware ... well, let's just say it's running joke among IT pros. :-) Seriously though, as for hosting sensitive documents, that's certainly a major concern, that's why I noted it as one of the caveats. However, pcrx_greg noted that you can also save Zoho files offline (with or without keeping a copy online): http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=229770&messageID=2280550 That made me feel slightly better about my storage concerns in regard to sensitive data. Of course, others have suggested that Zoho could come up with an internal appliance solution where a company hosts a version of Zoho inside the corporate network. By the way, I was joking about CEOs and CIOs, so all of you IT executives who are reading this don't need to send me hate mail.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I was hoping we'd get some people who had used Zoho to post their thoughts. Sounds like you've had a positive experience similar to what I've had. Have you run into any snags or caveats in using Zoho?

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Open Office is a "me too" product that is not very innovative. It is a nothing more (or less) than an open source copy of Microsoft Office - and although it's a decent copy, it's still just a shadow of the original. Zoho, on the other hand, is not trying to copy Office. It is attempting to create a better product that is easier to use and takes advantage of the power of the Web. For example, if you compare Zoho Notebook to Microsoft OneNote 2007, Notebook has some features that are better than OneNote (including better RSS drop-in support) and it is a little simpler to use, in my opinion. That's why I think that Zoho is more significant than Open Office.

Antagonist
Antagonist

I currently use google apps for everything, on an Ubuntu PC. I only use microsoft for music apps, adobe's apps and gaming. And when adobe has versions for linux, that will be the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

richardh9935
richardh9935

Using web2 apps means data is central & secure, while the operative in the field has no data stored locally. If our agent is caught, s/he has no data to lose.

richardh9935
richardh9935

US and European attitudes to security and privacy were opposed until SOX.

raju_vrk
raju_vrk

Chuck: Zoho is part of AdventNet which has been in business for 12 years serving SMB market. We are very profitable and we are here to stay. Regarding your data, we plan to provide options to take your data with you at anytime (or even sync it).

Antagonist
Antagonist

You say there was no mention of security. The article clearly says "Security ? This is not a knock on any bad code or poorly developed features on Zoho?s part. It?s simply a matter of whether business users will feel comfortable saving sensitive business files online. I know that there are certain documents I?d hesitate to save online with Zoho or Google because if someone figured out how to crack my password, they could read sensitive internal business information. I?d feel a little more confident if Zoho implemented something like the Vidoop authentication grid that I wrote about last week. In addition to authentication, Zoho will need to integrate some strong data security and encryption features to win over IT departments." Did you read it?

shadowdao
shadowdao

Security and accessibility were both addressed in the article, and stated as weaknesses...

thisisfutile
thisisfutile

Seems that every time I read a forum post or blog entry from someone that advertises (sorry), should have said "supports", open source products, they always take the defensive and come off like they've just wiped sweat from their brow and a tear from their eye. I admire the passion but I'm having a hard time seeing Jason's phrase, "the open source crowd" as being snide. Don't take my comment too personally because all of you do it. Besides, I'm just another dumb Microsoft supporter. Nevertheless, that's a great point about IBM, Sun, Apple, "the open source crowd", and Microsoft not having an online office suite. Probably because they believe like you and I do...too many security issues.

eugen.soare
eugen.soare

BUGS!! Patches (if you have bought current and un-pirated software) umm... I gues that's it. Yes,yes, there will always be bugs. cheers

troy
troy

Completely off point... We know it's not online, but it's proven to be powerful and reliable, for just a little over 100MB for an entire office suite. I'd not be alone in preferring that, even if it means having to download it. It's also, because it's locally stored and modified, much easier to manage than web based.

johnywhy
johnywhy

You have to download and install something. 'nuff said.

troy
troy

Agreed. Nothing *WORTHWILE* microsoft does is cheap. Not all of it is expensive, but some of it is unreasonably so. Yeah, the SQL services are free, Visual Studio Basic is free, but in all honesty, what average home user is gonna use them very much, if at all. Open office is, and has been since its release, a powerful, reliable and very cross platform compatible suite, and it always will be. There are very few people who have any idea, and have used Open Office, who wouldn't swear by it. The majority of people who have any complaint against it are idiotic home users who've been brainwashed into thinking that if there's no MS logo, it sux! Online apps may or may not be a fad, but weather they are or aren't, it is interesting all the same. Either way, I think I'll stick with my OpenOffice 2.2 installation thank you...

epaalx
epaalx

Like I said, if SOHO (or even the richest company in the world) doesn't want to pay a cent they can get Open Office which beats the crap out of jokes like Zoho.

hercules.gunter
hercules.gunter

You really can't complain about the cost of: - MSDE (SQL Server 2000, free) - SQL Server Express (SQL Server 2005, free, as is the Management Studio) - Vistual Studio Express editions (free) Microsoft does offer some things at inexpensive prices - inexpensive in the most literal interpretation.

ncuster
ncuster

I've tried to use Zoho apps and have had a serious problem with response time, even with just logging in. I spent the better part of half an hour cutting and pasting 15 entries into a spreadsheet I created. This is not the kind of productivity I can rely on. If they beef up their service response times significantly, I'll give them another look in the future. I'd also like to see a database app. One that is easier to use than Access for building in a half dozen or so tables that can be related.

grax
grax

?Seems that every time I read a forum post or blog entry from someone that advertises (sorry), should have said "supports", open source products, they always take the defensive and come off like they've just wiped sweat from their brow and a tear from their eye. ? Nice bit of plagiarism that I could take as a compliment. However, you missed the point. I was not promoting or supporting open source. Toshiba is doing that! I merely stated a fact. Sorry if that offends. ?I admire the passion but I'm having a hard time seeing Jason's phrase, "the open source crowd" as being snide. Don't take my comment too personally because all of you do it. ? Snide is as snide does and you did it too with ?all of you do it. ? Do you mean all of us in the ?open source crowd?? Sorry to disabuse you but I use open source and proprietary products as my needs arise. I?m not too picky and I certainly wouldn?t admit to being dumb, but, as you say: ?this is futile.?

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