Zoho has released a major update to Zoho Projects, its online project management system that allows you to share projects with your team via the web. Zoho Projects 2.0 could be a tempting service for small- to medium-sized organizations that cannot afford Microsoft Project (s msft), the “gold standard” for project management in the enterprise. Zoho Projects requires no special software, just a browser and an Internet connection.
Several plans are available, including a free account that enables you to manage one project. That free account has unlimited users, which is a great way to get your feet wet. Create an account, invite all your team members, and give Zoho Projects a test drive before splashing out on one of the beefier plans. The good news is that you can now also import Microsoft Project files, which means you don’t have to recreate everything from scratch for an active project.
There are many new features for Zoho Projects 2.0, such as a revamped and less-cluttered dashboard and a Twitter-like user status update service that lets people involved in a project know what everyone is doing. There are also wikis and live group chatting, which give team members the ability to communicate online in real time.
A useful feature is a centralized file-sharing system for storing project documentation with folders, tagging, search and versioning. Files can be Microsoft Office documents or Zoho Office documents, which is now integrated with Zoho Projects.
The Timesheet feature allows you to log and track time spent by individuals or groups on specific tasks. Zoho has also integrated Zoho Invoice, which can assist with creating and tracking invoices for the project.
Zoho Projects vs. Basecamp
The biggest competitor for Zoho Projects isn’t Microsoft Project, but actually 37Signals’ popular Basecamp project management system. Some will prefer the slicker user interface of Basecamp over Zoho’s simplistic UI, while others will prefer the much lower cost for Zoho plans. For example, it’s $149/month for a Basecamp unlimited projects plan compared with $80/month for Zoho Projects. However, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison because Basecamp offers 50 GB of file storage vs. Zoho’s 25 GB.
Both services offer free plans for one project with unlimited users, but Zoho’s free plan includes many more bells and whistles such as SSL support, 100 MB file storage, time tracking and more. However, you can try any of Basecamp’s plans for 30 days with all of its features enabled.
As for performance, both solutions are perky over a DSL connection. The true test will be accessing a massive project with a large amount of users hitting it at the same time. Which one will scale better? If you take into consideration the client base for each solution, then Basecamp will probably have the edge.
Each service provides the basics for project management such as milestones, to-do lists, live chat, file sharing/management, time management, calendaring, Gantt Charts and wikis. Zoho does provide the unique option to integrate documents from its Zoho office suites of applications, including Zoho Invoice.
If your organization is looking for a quick and easy and affordable solution for implementing an online project management system that works with an online office suite of applications, then Zoho Projects could be just what you’re looking for. The only way to know for sure is to get your hands dirty and try it out. Take advantage of the free account for one project, let your team members kick the tires for a while and compare notes.