Zoho has announced that it is to offer up a suite of its products for free, until at least July 1st 2020, to help organisations with home working. This is one of those marketing ploys that is either inspired or could have some significant repercussions if it over stretches itself and finds interest too high.
Zoho is offering access to eleven of its applications under the banner of Zoho Remotely. One of these, Zoho Lens was only available in the US until this week. Zoho is planning on rolling out the application for European availability by the end of this week.
For users of Zoho One this is also good news as Lens will automatically become available to customers under their existing contract.
Zoho Remotely consists of:
- Zoho Cliq : Messaging application supports instant messaging, voice and video chats
- Zoho Meeting: A meeting hub where meetings can be scheduled
- Zoho Showtime: Online training or presentation medium
- Zoho WorkDrive: File storage area
- Zoho Projects: Project management solution
- Zoho Sprints: Planning and tracking tool for agile teams
- Zoho Assist: Remote support software.
- Zoho Lens: Interactive remote assistance using augmented reality on smartphones
- Zoho Writer: Document creation tool
- Zoho Sheet: Spreadsheet creation tool
- Zoho Show: Presentation creation tool
This offer is not unlimited. Up to ten users per company can take advantage of the offer. Companies who want to deploy it more widely will need to contact Zoho for pricing.
The above statement was incorrect Zoho have clarified saying:
“In an organisation, that’s new to Zoho up to 10 users can sign up for Remotely. If they want to add more users, they will have to connect with our team and they can extend the package. This is to make sure the product is needed by genuine businesses. The existing customers of Zoho who do not already use Remotely apps, can add as many users as they like until this free period expires.”
Existing customers are able to add as many users as they wish during the free period. Those companies will need to control those signups as they may need to reconsider their contracts once the period is at an end. Zoho has a relatively simple pricing model. However, there are break points where companies need to consider changing the deal that they have.
Enterprise Times also asked Zoho whether there was a minimum sign up or whether companies would need to enter payment details for when the free period ends. Zoho responded: ”No credit card details are asked for this, so there is no obligation for users to continue to use the product after the free period ends. The products bundled within Remotely are fully functional, so no different to how they would be experienced if accessed through different routes at Zoho. Even though the package is new, most of the products within it are quite mature, with advanced features.”
Does this solve the problem?
Not exactly. The Zoho offer intrigues and certainly removes much of the cost and risk that companies face during this period where employees need to work from home. However, there are a few factors that small businesses need to consider. It is a subject that a recent Gartner report covers at length. Registration is required which is disappointing considering the magnanimous gesture that Zoho and others are making. Gartner highlighted three actions for CIOs to undertakes:
- Source Digital Collaboration Tools With Security Controls and Network Support.
- Engage Customers and Partners Through Digital Channels, and Maintain Sales Activities.
- Establish a Single Source of Truth for Employees.
Sandy Shen, senior research director at Gartner: “With such a dynamic situation like COVID-19, it has the potential to be as disruptive, or more, to an organisation’s continuity of operations as a cyber intrusion or natural disaster. When traditional channels and operations are impacted by the outbreak, the value of digital channels, products and operations becomes immediately obvious. This is a wake-up call to organisations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience.”
These are not the only challenges though. There is also the matter of hardware. One company that Enterprise Times is aware of, has around 100 staff and five laptops to share between them. Organisations need to consider several things:
- What hardware will employees use? Is it adequate and is a suitable internet link available?
- Where will they use them (do they have an adequate working environment at home)?
- Is that hardware secure? If it is a personal device, how is it secured?
- What software will the company use? Is it licenced properly?
- How will the organisation support home working? Certainly in the initial phase it could take up a lot of resources.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
This offer by Zoho could cost the company a significant amount of money. However, by limiting user numbers of Zoho Remotely the potential to increase revenue is huge. Companies also need to consider if they are not using Zoho how do they move from their existing applications and file storage to the Zoho solutions.
Zoho uses its own software internally. Once team leader at the company noted: “The biggest challenge of working remotely is to ensure the experience is seamless. Be it collaborating with colleagues over call/ chat/ video or editing on same set of documents. The apps within Remotely ensured the switch to remote working is effortless. My entire team gets on video calls from different parts of the world, the support team can assist customers remotely and we can all update our projects status on the project management app. Since all these apps are available on mobile as well, it has enabled us to stay connected.”
This is an intriguing and welcome offer by Zoho. Companies need to pause, think and plan before rushing into committing to something that has some wider implications. However, for some organisations this may enable them to continue working effectively during what is fast become a global crisis.