Zoho Discussions is an online community application that lets users create forums in which colleagues and customers can bandy about ideas and nourish them with conversation threads in the cloud. Zoho Discussions is rich in much of the functionality found in Zoho's messaging and collaboration apps. Zoho Discussions builds on idea management platforms from Salesforce.com, Spigit and Brightidea.
Zoho's first new application of 2009 is Zoho Discussions,
a software-as-a-service online community application that lets users create
forums for colleagues and customers in which to bandy about ideas and nourish
them with conversation threads.
With Zoho Discussions, businesses can create internal discussion exchanges
for colleagues and external forums to host conversations with customers, Zoho
Evangelist Raju Vegesna told eWEEK.
Users set up a portal
to begin a discussion, choosing their own URLs for
forums and communities. Clicking on a thread expands individual discussions
going on in the portal.
Businesses using Zoho Discussions can provision who gets to access which
discussion forums and with what permissions. Businesses can also brand forums as
they choose, adding their logo and other details to identify their company.
The real delight with Zoho Discussions is that the application does more
than provide a forum where users can upload files and bounce ideas off one
another. Though Zoho lists the application under its Zoho Business banner,
Discussions is rich in much of the functionality Zoho users have become
familiar with from Zoho's productivity and collaboration apps.
For example, Vegesna said Discussions integrates Zoho Chat to let users
communicate. "If I respond to a topic and I see that you are online, I can
start a chat session with you immediately within the discussion topic
itself," he said.
This underscores the blurring of the lines between enterprise and
collaboration applications going on at Zoho.
While Zoho aims to serve markets
for both collaboration and enterprise applications, rival Salesforce.com
integrates Google Apps to enable its CRM
customers to collaborate.
Zoho Discussions includes user profiles, labels and watch lists, content
organization and file sharing, search, RSS, and support for OpenSocial widgets.
There is a WYSIWYG post editor and support for e-mail confirmations, threaded
conversations, drafts and previews, and managing preferences. Zoho Discussions
also employs real-time spam checking and CAPTCHA tools to safeguard forums.
Peruse the complete feature list here
and check out the video in this blog post
for a run-through of Zoho Discussions, which builds on idea management
platforms from Salesforce.com, Spigit
Discussions began life as an alternative to the community solutions Zoho was
licensing for internal use, which Vegesna described as "painful." For
the last six months, Zoho has been testing Discussions as a way to interact with
its customers via Zoho Forums,
on which there are more than 20,000 posts.
While this may be the first of two or three new applications from Zoho in
2009, Vegesna said the company has been focused on integrating its existing
applications with each other, as in this marriage of Zoho Mail and Zoho CRM,
and with other products
from companies such as Microsoft
is immediately available free
for users requiring two forums. The Free
version offers unlimited portals with two discussion topic forums, one
administrator and an attachment space cap of 100MB.
The Standard version costs $25 per month, for which users can access five
forums, 10 subforums and up to 1GB of storage, with one admin and three
moderators, and custom domains. The Professional version costs $75 per month
for 25 forums, 50 subforums, 5GB of storage, unlimited moderators and admins,
custom domains, and bulk moderation and e-mail.