Basecamp vs. Zoho Projects vs. AceProject

Three cloud-based tools provide solid project management and collaboration features

By , ITworld |  IT Management

Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects has a lot of tools under the hood, but watch your wallet.

Price: Scaled (Free-$80/month)

Platform: Online

Zoho is a cloud-based solutions provider that's been around for quite a while, even before they started calling online tools "cloud-based" or "software as a service," even though that's what these tools were.

I have run into Zoho before, when looking at online office suites, and while I liked the feature set of Zoho Office, I don't remember being entirely thrilled with the speed and usability.

Those reservations aren't held for Zoho Projects, which has an easy-to-use and snappy interface that delivers quite a bit of project management tools.

The entire tool set is built with full-scale project management in mind, with project management and creation that's easy to do, and task management that's clear, too. I liked that you could not only assign tasks within a given project, but you could also create tasklists within projects -- a nice little organization tool.

Document management was strictly done within a centralized library (though you could put documents within project-centric folders). What you could not do, however, was attach documents to individual tasks or events.

Where Zoho Project seems to break down is in pricing, which is downright confusing. For instance, time-tracking is available, but you have to upgrade from the free plan that I was using to demo the product. I clicked on the link to see the pricing for time tracking, and was taken to a yearly pricing page that had prices that came out to be less expensive than the public monthly pricing page. The difference is very significant, too: if you sign up for the high-end Enterprise plan without trying the demo first, (which gets you 30 GB storage, and all the base features) it's listed as $80 month. Try the demo however and upgrade from there, and the price is $599 per year, which breaks down to $49.92 per month -- a 37.6 percent savings.

So right away, the lesson here is upgrade from the demo and pay the yearly fee to save some coin.

But that's not the only pricing confusion. Rather than price based on projects or tasks, Zoho Project plans differentiate by features within a base set, and then adds additional fees over and above that for other add-ons. Want a wiki feature for your projects? Add up to $149 per year or $40 per month depending on how you pay. Want an iPhone add-on? That'll be $3/user per month. And so on ...

While some of these add-ons are nice and not available in other tools (like the wiki and bug tracker systems), the sense of getting nickeled and dimed here is palpable, and tends to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

All this does not preclude Zoho Projects from being a useful cloud tool -- but you will need to know exactly what you are willing to pay when you explore this product.

Overall, these three tools each offer unique ways to help you manage your time and projects.

AceProject is by far the most comprehensive and granular in nature, but for organizations that are looking for more collaboration than project management, it may be too much.

Basecamp is much more about the collaboration, and if that's what you are looking for, it's a great tool that lets you do just that. It doesn't get in the way with a lot of cumbersome project tracking.

Zoho Project is closer to to AceProject in functionality and while it provides a streamlined and easy interface, its pricing plans are complicated enough to warrant closer inspection when considering this cloud solution.

Collaboration and project management is one thing the cloud can do well, and all of these solutions definitely make that true.

This article, "Project management software smackdown," was originally published at ITworld. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe.

Now read:
Project management: 4 tips for dealing with problem stakeholders
Getting value from the project management process
The essential project management reading list

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