10 Cloud Collaboration Services You Can Try for Free
The best things in business aren’t always free, and over the long term "free" things tend to have hidden costs. That said, products that are free to get started with have a lot to recommend them, particularly when you’re first getting started, just experimenting, or don't have a budget for social collaboration.
Most of the options on this list are available for you to use for free, indefinitely, within the specified limits. A couple of significant 30-day free trial offers are included, such as the one for Jive Software's Jive for Teams
A small business with a distributed team might get years of value out of the free version of Yammer, for example, without ever seeing the need to upgrade to a paying account. Just understand that, as far as Yammer is concerned, you don't really own your employees' accounts until you become a paying customer. Until then, Yammer treats them as a collection of individually owned accounts from a common business email domain whose social sharing is defined by that domain. Otherwise, Yammer provides a full range of the collaborative features that prove the utility of its service.
If you get serious about social collaboration on Yammer, and start to use it to discuss serious or sensitive business topics, you should plan to become a paying customer and get access to the administrative tools that give you more control over your company social network. On the other hand, not being bound by a limited-time trial means you can take your time evaluating the tool and whether it's right for you. You can upgrade on your own schedule.
Similar logic applies to the other products here that are offered on a freemium business model: free with no time limit, but with a clear enticement to upgrade in the long term.
The parallel for the open source products listed here is that you can download and try them for free but will probably want to sign up for technical support and other services if you decide to keep them.
|Product||What You Can Do with It||Reasons to Upgrade|
|Yammer||Form a free private social network and invite an unlimited
number of collaborators who share your business email address to
Create external networks that can include people from other companies.
|Get more administrative control and features like Active
Directory synchronization. Removing the accounts of former
employees is awkward without this.
Integrate with other Microsoft cloud services, such as Office 365.
|Podio||Invite up to five employees and five external team
You get full access to all of Podio's core features, including task management and tools for building custom web apps to organize work.
|Support for larger teams, plus some additional administrative tools.|
|Teambox||Participate with up to five users and five projects. Includes Google Drive integration and access to all basic collaboration and project management functions.||If you like the tool, you will eventually outgrow the user and project limit. Paid accounts also get access to support, plus some additional integration options for file collaboration tools like Box and Dropbox.|
|Socialcast||The public cloud version is free to try for up to 50 people.||The biggest reason to upgrade is to get more users into your collaboration network. Cloud pricing starts at $5 per user per month, with a minimum of 100 users. On premises installations are also limited to paying customers.|
|Samepage.io||Invitean unlimited number of users and manage up to 10GB of files for free (combined storage limit for all users).||Paid accounts include up to 10GB of storage for each user.|
|Moxie Software Collaboration Spaces||Access all basic collaboration and social networking tools, including activity streams, blogs, wikis, and project management.||One distinguishing feature reserved for paying customers is organizing content in a social knowledge base. Paying customers also get API access, Active Directory integration, technical support, and support for developing a social business strategy. Base pricing: $3 per user, per month.|
|Jive for Teams||Try it free for 30 days and test the full range of capabilities for the cloud version of Jive's platform.||On day 31, you will need to decide whether to sign up for an account, which starts at $12 per user per month (minimum of 25 accounts).|
|Socialtext||30-day free trial in the cloud.||As with Jive, Socialtext is only free for a limited time.|
|Cynapse Cy.in||Complete enterprise social networking suite, downloadable for free as open source software.||Access paid support, options for on-demand hosting or pre-configured appliance.|
|Acquia Drupal or Drupal Commons||Download the open source software for free and build your own social community website.||Sign up for support services, development help, or hosting from Acquia, the prime corporate backer of Drupal.|