I’ve been looking at DeskAway lately as a free alternative to Basecamp for managing client projects.
DeskAway is a project management solution from India-based Synage. Discovering Basecamp was a revelation, but I’m paying over $24/month for the service and am running out of the alloted Active Projects (15). I figured I should look at other options as my business grows.
Although it will take me more time using DeskAway to give a detailed assessment, a few things stood out for me immediately after signing up for and logging into my DeskAway account.
The first thing that struck me was that at their free level, DeskAway seemed to have more features than the fee-based Basecamp. Basecamp does offer a 30 day free trial on any of their service packages, however, DeskAway offers a completely free level although they do limit you to three projects and up to five users.
DeskAway also offers more packages than Basecamp in addition to free: Personal Professional, Plus and Power. Basecamp offers Basic, Plus and Max. DeskAway seems to offer slightly better prices with more Active Projects but in some cases, less space. For example, their Plus package is 100 Active Projects, unlimited users, and 10GB storage space at $49/month or $490/year. Basecamp’s Plus package covers 35 Active Projects, and unlimited 10 GB of space at $49/month and is month to month so doesn’t offer an annual subscription with a discount.
Just looking at the main menus of features, Basecamp’s Basic package offers:
Dashboard – The main landing page for your company account gives a listing of recent activity – about a week’s worth.
Messages – Standard message board. You can attach files to messages.
To-Do – Create and check off items on To-Do lis
Milestones – Keep track of what’s due, when, and by whom
Writeboards – These are editable collaborative pages
Chat – Real-time chatting. With the ubiquity of IM and SMS, I haven’t yet found the use for a built-in chat feature.
Files – File upload for sharing.
Dashboard – Like Basecamp’s overview but also includes several views including Last 3 Days, Today, Upcoming and Previously. Basecamp offers only one view.
Milestones – Like Basecamp’s milestones but automatically provides links to Add a New Task within each Milestone so they are related.
Tasks – Can be added individually or integrated into Milestones.
Issues – Can be created individually or integrated into Milestones.
Time Sheet – Hours must be added manually. Basecamp doesn’t offer a timesheet function at the Basic level. I’ve been using Freshbooks to track time.
Files – Similar to Basecamp.
Docs – Like Basecamp’s Writeboard, however, DeskAway offers a much more robust text editing system with bolding, italics, underlining, formatting, bulleted lists, numbered lists, links – all the editing functions one expects from a basic word processing program. Basecamp forces you to use their proprietary tagging system to affect the text.
Team – Similar to Basecamp’s People and Permissions feature.
Messages – Similar to Basecamp.
Reports – Basecamp Basic doesn’t offer a reporting function. I’d have to pay for the Plus version at $49/month. With DeskAway, you can get a quick overview of the status of Milestones, Tasks and Issues and check the status of every aspect of the project at a glance – even with the free version.
DeskAway seems to put a greater emphasis on due dates as well as status reports which can help increase accountability, especially when you are no longer flying solo on a project and are collaborating with other team members. The fact that they offer these features on their free version is impressive.
In addition to wanting to track collaboration with my clients, I’ve been bringing on several independent contractors to assist with portions of projects so staying on top of the status of their work is important to me. For the time being, I will stick with Basecamp to track my client work, but in terms of a better collaborative tool for teams, I’m leaning toward DeskAway and am starting to use it for tracking two new projects where I’ve brought on contractors.
You can’t beat the price for testing out a new application that could save me time and headaches in the long run.