Kerio Samepage - Concerns and Promise
Kerio has replaced their Workspace collaboration product with a hosted version they call Samepage.
Initially, I thought this was a very unfortunate decision. However, as I have learned more about what Kerio's plans and intentions are, I have changed my mind. I still have some concerns, but I now see that Samepage does have something important to offer.
Cloud vs. Private
One of the biggest objections I had to Samepage is that it's hosted. I'm hardly the only person to feel that way: many people are concerned about both security and reliability of hosted apps. As I rather sarcastically said in one conversation:
"If just one little 't' falls out, you are left with a completely HOSED app rather than a hosted app!"
Failures by very large players such as Amazon and Google haven't helped dispel the notion that hosted apps can cause business disruption. So can your own private apps, of course, but you might be able to fix whatever is causing that yourself: if a hosting service is down, you are dependent upon them and, especially with free services, their motivation to repair may be far less than yours.
Kerio is not unaware of that and is certainly not unaware of the security concerns that may prevent some customers from using anything but internal apps. For whatever reason, legal constraints or just trade secrets, some data simply cannot be put in the Cloud.
Kerio wants to offer a private version of Samepage. There are difficulties in doing that, but Kerio management has said that they recognize the need and are working to overcome the problems. You can find discussions about that at the Samepage Forum (registration required). My impression of this is that it won't be quickly done and that it's even remotely possible that it can't be done, but at this moment at least, Kerio says they do intend to produce a private version.
Where I think they are making a mistake is suspending availability of Workspace in the meantime.
Right now, anyone already using Workspace can continue to do so. It won't be supported after January of 2014, but it won't stop working even then. In fact, the only thing that would ever stop it working is operating system upgrades causing incompatibility and that could be prevented by virtualization.
Note: if you are currently running Workspace on a Mac or Windows platform and wish to switch to a Linux version that can be more easily put in a VM, Kerio will let you do that. I'd advise doing it NOW.
In my opinion, the smarter thing to do would be to open up the current version of Workspace to anyone who wants it, offering a new, "no support" license to those new customers. It doesn't have to be free - the intention would be that it's something that will keep customers in the Kerio camp until the private version of Samepage is available. This, however, is simply my opinion and is not Kerio's policy.
What about security?
As noted above, there are businesses who simply cannot use a hosted application. In some cases, there may be some things that could be considered to be sufficiently protected by the sharing controls built in to Samepage and other data that you'd rather not expose to any possibility of access. In other cases, it's not really security at all but more a matter of convenience: you have local data and you need it there.
I have such a situation myself. I currently use Workspace to track support and license renewals for all my customers, Kerio and otherwise. While I am not particularly paranoid about that information being breached, it's not convenient for me to have it all in the Cloud.
Samepage (and Workspace, for that matter) lets me localize my data through the use of their "Mashup" component. This is just a wrapper for an iframe tag; it lets me reference a cgi script on my internal network that will generate renewal data that is displayed within Samepage. That data is absolutely unavailable to anyone who is not on my local office network - well, unless I've been hacked and someone is sniffing everything I do, which is a circumstance unrelated to Samepage or any Cloud data.
With this Mashup, I get the convenience of Samepage collaboration - everything is in one place - but am not exposing the data I don't want to expose. In my case that's for convenience rather than any real need for security, but it does show that some concerns can be met.
What makes Samepage better than Workspace?
That's an important question. Of course part of it is reduction: Samepage is important because Workspace will be abandoned. There's a bit more to it than that, though.
First, Samepage is designed to be scalable and distributed. Large data sets will be accessible and safe from harm. Backups and replication are Kerio's problem, not yours (you can export your data to your local storage if desired, though).
You can bring outside people - your vendors, your customers, your partners - into your Samepage content, either as content creators or simply as consumers. You can do that with Workspace also, but it's easier with Samepage and perhaps safer as you are not potentially exposing any of your internal infrastructure to those people.
Imagine the convenience of sharing invoices, proposals, artwork and the like without the clumsiness and unnecessary duplication of email. Like Workspace, Samepage has automatic version control as new files are uploaded.
Let's take that thought a bit farther, though. Suppose you had a Samepage API that allowed you to create and manage content. This could potentially allow your existing internal systems to programmatically share Samepage content with the appropriate external and internal people and integrate their feedback to your internal systems!
That API is being created now. I can't say (because I don't know) what its features and capabilities will be, but I believe that it will open up incredibly powerful possibilities. I don't think it is very far away: we'll probably see at least beta implementations within a few months.
What about the cost?
There's no doubt about it: while Samepage does compete favorably with similar services (and does offer a free version with limited storage as some competitors also do), it is much more expensive than Workspace even after factoring in the expense of providing and maintaining your own hardware.
However, because it was inexpensive, Workspace tended to be over-bought. That was especially true when Kerio offered a Connect/Workspace bundle where adding Workspace to a Connect purchase cost only a few dollars per user. In many cases, most of those user licenses may not have needed at all; rather there was probably a much smaller group of people who actually need this collaboration capability.
I talked to one Workspace customer just this week who is able to use the free version. His Connect license is for 40 users, but he said only a half dozen of those would be created as Workspace users. That's probably not unusual, so while Samepage definitely is more expensive than Workspace, it's not necessarily a large expense overall.
There may also be a loophole here. External users accessing Samepage content shared via a link don't seem to be counted against licenses. It's easy to imagine a situation where you could license just one content creator and have tens of thousands of customers accessing the content through links (password protected or not). I'm not sure Kerio intends that - it seems to me that could mean a lot of data being transferred for very little income, but on the other hand, data streams are pretty cheap today, so perhaps that won't matter. I'll be sure to update this post if anything changes in that regard.
The free version
You can hop on over to Samepage.io and create a free account right now. That account is limited only as to storage:
Starter Plan is free, without user or time limits. Starter Plan starts at 2 GB shared storage, with 500 MB additional storage per user, max 10 GB.
(As of this writing; of course subject to change).
Please do NOT create a paid account without talking to me. For one thing, that cuts me out of any possible income, but more important is that it also prevents me from saving you any money or technical difficulty, now and in the future. So, if you happen to be convinced that you need a "Premium" account now, please just create the free account and advise me that you want to convert it. I'll smooth the road and get you what you need now and going forward.
I am of course available to answer any questions or concerns by phone or email.
Got something to add? Send me email.
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