The Incredibly-Shrinking Google Apps Free Edition Is Gone; Zoho Committed To Helping Small Businesses

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Google just yesterday announced it is giving the axe to the free edition of Google Apps (i.e. the Standard Edition). So from now on Google Apps only has a single version: the paid one. This is not exactly news to those of us who do business in this space. Google Apps free edition has gone from “unlimited users” to 100, to 50, to 10 and now, well.. to 0.

This is bad news for small businesses who are just getting started and who would rather use their limited amount of funds somewhere else. Although, software services are not expensive these days (for the most part), every single dollar counts when you’re getting started.

That’s the reason why we at Zoho remain committed to helping the small guys – new businesses just launching, the ones who are not able to commit just yet. That’s also reflected in our pricing structure – we’ve never required a yearly contract for any of our services. Sure, we’ll give you a nice discount if you do, but you can choose to subscribe on a monthly basis.

For those users looking for a great web mail service, and who want to get started for free, we’ll continue to offer our free plan for hosted mail – that is not going away anytime soon. We want to continue servicing Small Businesses.

It’s not just email – the vast majority of Zoho services are free for our growing customers –  from attracting more customers with Zoho CRM to having a mobile-enabled website presence, for free to online invoicing so you can get your money faster to…  well, pretty much everything Zoho offers.

And of course, with over 14 Apps, we continue to be one of the leading vendors in the Google Apps Marketplace. So whether you start with Zoho Mail or you start with Google Apps, you still have access to all the rest Zoho has to offer.

Thats why over 7 million people have chosen Zoho to, as we say, “Work Online”!


Great Ideas Start As Random Scribbles

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Be it the iPhone, Statue of Liberty, Tower Bridge, or for that matter the laptop, tablet or phone you are reading this post on, their designs most probably started as a scribble.

Who knows, even Jony Ive may have drawn a rough rectangle on a paper napkin, the casual scribble causing the edges to be curved, resulting in an ‘aha!’ moment and the iPhone design took its first form (purely imagined situation).

The freedom of being able to express an idea, feeling or thought with a quick, simple sketch, is any day a more fun and easy way to unleash ideas (that mostly flash at odd times, all of a sudden) than to toil with a Photoshop tool that demands professional skills.

At Zoho, we have always been fond of the freedom to scribble. That is why we have now made it possible for you to get your fingers do more exercise than just tap on letter keys while composing emails. You can now find a scribble button in compose view when you access Zoho Mail mobile version from your iPhone, iPad, Android touch devices. Tap it to load an ultra lite drawing interface and scribble away.

We surmise that this feature will score first as a fun tool, especially with people who love to draw, like Draw Something mobile app enthusiasts.

Since it’s Thanksgiving season, you could try bringing your latent drawing skills to the fore. How about draw a cool ecard, egreeting, cartoon to your friends and loved ones or get cute while inviting someone for lunch or coffee, right from Zoho Mail compose? Here are a some samples for inspiration:

Well, fun is good but we wanted to make this feature useful for business and official situations too. We thought about how people send emails with images of bar charts, flow charts, design sketches etc., as attachments, seeking reviews and opinions while collaborating.

So we further added the ability to use any attached image as a canvas in scribble mode, when you reply to such messages. This way you can quickly express yourself by drawing on top of the image, save it as an attachment or inline in your message, hit send to reply.


So there! Next time you are on the move and have a ‘eureka!’ moment or even a hunch, take out your iPhone, iPad or your favorite touch device, log in to Zoho Mail on your mobile browser, scribble email the idea to your colleague(s) right away and set your idea into execution mode. Because great ideas start as random scribbles.

As always, we’d love to hear your comments and feedback on how this feature worked for you.

Embarrassing Things Happen When You Don’t Use Zoho CRM With The Mail Add-On

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I’m not going to preach about the benefits of Zoho CRM, or why you should use it with our Mail Add-on.

Instead, I’m just going to highlight what happens when you don’t.

Below is an email, a real email, I just sent to the VP of Sales or a company that was trying to sell us some service. Fine company, but they are not using Zoho CRM with the Mail Add-On.

This is not the first time, in the recent past I’ve had the same experience with other companies trying to sell me stuff. From now on, they’ll get similar emails. I just made this a template in Zoho Mail.


ps. I changed the names  to protect the innocent ;) Everything else is verbatim.


============ Forwarded message ============
From : <my email>
To : <VP of Sales Email>
Date : Wed, 29 Aug 2012 14:56:37 -0500
Subject : Fwd: Re: New Partners
============ Forwarded message ============

<VP of Sales> –

Hello! We have never spoken before, but I’ve spoken to two of your sales reps – <Sales Rep 1> and most recently, <Sales Rep 2>.

The reason you’re getting this email is because, see, after some lengthy discussions with <Sales Rep 1>, I decided not to sign-up with you guys, and we left it there, amicably.
Then, <Sales Rep 2> contacted me again this week – starting from scratch (I understand <Sales Rep 1> left).

Now, this is not the fault of your sales guys. It’s just they don’t have the right tools.

The most valuable communication between you and your prospects/clients is stored in your email. When you combine your email with your CRM, not only you can avoid embarrassing situations like this, but most importantly you can provide better service to your customers; and everyone in your team can stay informed about what’s going on with each prospect.

Zoho CRM allows you to combine your email (any email you’re using) with your CRM. Painlessly. No BCC:, no nothing.

Yes, I understand you’re currently using Salesforce, but well, we just saw how that is not working too well for you guys!

Let me know if you’re interested in learning more and I’ll connect you with one of our account managers.



Group Calendar Support & Other Neat Updates in Zoho Calendar

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There is no refuting the fact that be it work, family or friends, in order to get things done, it is necessary to be on the same page as a group or with your group.

Group CalendarAt times, it is crucial for each person in a group to be aware of everyone’s calendar of activities. This is tough considering other complications like employees in the same company sitting at different time zones, teams changing frequently and what not.

Well, in relation to these thoughts, we are glad to share with you the latest update to Zoho Calendar. We have added group calendar support and other neat features to help you close these communication gaps and collaborate more effectively with your co-workers, team mates and groups.

Group Calendar
It can be overwhelming to plan and track group activities, especially when someone is a part of many groups. In Zoho Calendar, you can now create separate group calendars with different lists of members and also subscribe to other group calendars. Members granted access to these group calendars can create and modify their events, view events of other members and always be in sync with team proceedings.

You can view all your group events combined as a single unified view to get a feel of how stuffed or free you actually are. If you feel your combined view is far too busy, you can right click on a particular group calendar to load it up in a separate tab and then make some event modifications in individual calendars if necessary.

Send / Receive invitations across calendars
We realize that preferences vary from one person to the other and there are many other calendar applications in use. You can now send event invitations and receive RSVP from users of other calendars too. This is made possible through email event notifications via Zoho Mail, playing the part of a mediator between the two calendar services. What is neat is that even if the host does not check his mail, the calendar is kept up-to-date.

Add/View events in different timezones
Scheduling events with participants on different time zones can be really tricky. A little miscalculation of half hour and late arrival for a webinar with a good prospect can be quite damaging. In Zoho Calendar, you can now add /view events in different time zones without having to mess with the time zone of your calendar.

Merge multiple calendars & embed
Embedding your calendar of events on your blog or website is a good way to keep your fans and followers intrigued. If you are someone who maintains multiple calendars, you can now merge events across several calendars and embed a single view. So when you have a form for people to request appointments, they will be able to exactly know when you are free.

Check this what’s new page to learn more about these latest updates to Zoho Calendar. We are confident that these updates will make it easier for you to manage your group activities, events and meetings.

Do post your comments on how these updates worked out for you and other suggestions on improving the Zoho Calendar experience.

Announcing Zoho Sync: Push Mail And Mobile Sync Service

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Zoho Sync for Mobile Devices

We made a new year resolution to keep our services in tune with the ever evolving world, especially with respect to the rapidly growing smartphone and tablet segment. Today, we are glad to announce the release of Zoho Sync for mobile devices. You can now get automatic notifications PUSHed to your mobile phone or tablet when new emails arrive and your device’s local mail, contacts and calendar applications will sync with the web client in real time.

Zoho Sync for Mobile Devices

What’s neat is that this 2-way synchronization happens over-the-air, in the background (provided an internet connection is available) and once turned on, does not require any further manual intervention. So wherever you are, however occupied you might be doing other things, your mobile device will be up-to-date with the latest messages, event updates and contact information.

Zoho Sync functions using your mobile device’s Microsoft Exchange® ActiveSync® (EAS) account support and does not require any additional software. Since almost all the latest IOS, Android and Windows mobile devices support EAS, you can easily enable Zoho Sync on most mobile devices that run on these popular platforms. If you want to sync only mail, only mail and calendar but not contacts and so on, you can specify your options in your device’s EAS account settings.

ZSync Exchange Account Setup     ZSync Automatic Notification

So how is using Zoho Sync better compared to the typical IMAP setup? Let’s see:

  • Instead of your mobile device having to check (poll) for updates at regular intervals, notifications are pushed from the server to the device. This improves battery life.
  • You’ll receive automatic notifications on your phone the instant a new email arrives.
  • You’ll receive automatic notifications about new calendar events and event updates the instant the changes are made.
  • Email, calendar and contacts related actions you perform on your mobile will automatically reflect on your web client and vice versa. For example, when you read an email on your mobile, it is marked as read when you log in to the web client later on.

During our in-house tests, the syncing was smooth on the iPhone, iPad and Windows mobile devices. However, we did experience issues with certain models of Android phones. This is because of limitations induced by the customized Android versions shipped by the individual mobile makers and we are continuously working on overcoming them.

So go ahead and set up Zoho Sync on your mobile device and let it tell you that ‘You’ve got mail!’, as soon as it arrives. Be warned that once you turn on push notifications, your phone could be buzzing continuously and you might get addicted to checking mail. And do make sure you back up data before setting up the EAS account because existing data might be removed.

And please help us by sparing a few minutes in providing feedback about how this worked for you.

Has your phone started dinging yet? Coz…. you’ve got mail!

Update (26th June, 2012): Zoho Sync support is now available in all plans. Previously it was open only to users in organizations with their email hosted under the Zoho Mail Standard 15GB plan. Please request the administrator of your organization to go to the Control Panel and ensure that Zoho Sync is enabled for users. This is explained in the list of Zoho Mail feature updates made on Feb 06, 2012.

Email isn’t a productivity killer unless…

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As with every other productivity tool, what really matters with email is how you use it. If email is draining your work productivity, it’s probably because you’re doing one or more of these:

  1. you make it the aim of your workday to achieve Zero-Inbox status.

    Let’s face it: the more email you send, the more you’ll receive. Set aside some time daily to respond to selective emails that are urgent and important. Mark the rest for

    later follow up

  2. you believe email is real-time.

    It isn’t. And doesn’t need to be instantly responded to. If you need

    (and only if you need!)

    to initiate a real-time conversation, use IM, or make a phone call. Or even better, make it a face-to-face conversation, if that’s possible.

  3. you believe in the ‘a folder for every email and every email into a folder’ rule.

    Heard of

    Email OCD
    ? If you’re spending a lot of time just moving your mail into folders, you’re wasting valuable time that could be spent on other important tasks. Instead,

    make automated rules
     for emails that absolutely must be organized into folders. Leave the rest in your inbox.

  4. you need to hunt for emails manually, one folder at a time.

    Every time you have to look for that all-important email that suddenly needs to be referred to,

    use an advanced search feature
     to fish it out. Not only will this save you search time, it will minimize your dependency on folder-organization too (see the point above)

  5. you use the ‘reply-all’ function for every email.

    Before you use ‘reply-all’ and reply to everyone who is marked on an email, think about whether your reply will be relevant and / useful for all the intended recipients. If not, mark the email to only those who will benefit from reading it. It’s good email etiquette and saves everybody (including you!) a whole lot of time.

  6. you use email for debates and discussions.

    A more productive way to encourage ideas, discussions and brainstorms within your team(s) and / customers is to use an internal discussion forum. At Zoho, we use

    Zoho Discussions
     for all such “discussions”.

  7. you only send / check your email at the desk.

    Being able to check email on your mobile device is a necessary evil. You can spend time outside your office, meeting your customers and prospects, and yet, still find time to

    check email while you’re on the move
    . Remember to do this judiciously though, for not all email needs to be read / responded to.

  8. you check email during face-to face / telephonic interactions with people.

    Avoid doing this at all costs. For one, it’s rude. Also, you miss out on important conversations and the chance to make an impact on your audience.

Are there any other email-productivity-killing-habits that you can add to this list? Which email habit are you going to change today?

The New Zoho Mail: Smoother, Faster, Smarter

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Smooth, clutter free, fast and intuitive user interfaces are the order of the day. You are probably aware that we recently polished the UI for Zoho CRM – making it not only more beautiful to look at, but also -and more importantly- a lot easier to use. Zoho CRM is one app users spend a lot of time in. And so is Zoho Mail. That’s why we also just completed a major revamp of Zoho Mail’s UI and added brand new features like 3-pane view and advanced search that make your daily life a bit easier, as you spend a good chunk of your day inside Zoho Mail. Here’s what’s new in our latest update:

Overall UI makeover
We always felt that we could do a better job at being clutter free yet we also felt that there is no need to shock our users with a total transformation. So we started with a few subtle changes like scrubbing off unnecessary icons, retuning the look and feel of buttons and so forth. After many iterations and discussions in tandem with the art of balancing usability and aesthetics, we believe we now have a UI that is more clean and crisp.

New 3-Pane view

Given that by the end of 2010, the number of estimated email users stood at a mammoth 1.88 billion, it is almost a necessity for an email interface to offer the choice of different viewing formats. Now, Zoho Mail provides a new 3-pane view option in the form of neat
Toggle Layout
button. It takes just a click to switch between vertical and horizontal split of your entire right pane.

3-Pane View

Advanced Search
Not being able to get to a message that you know for sure is there somewhere in your rather bloated inbox is frustrating, right? That is why we have upped the ante on Zoho Mail’s search feature by appending an uncanny advanced search icon to the existing search button. You can drill down your search by specifying almost anything that you vaguely remember that is related to the message you seek.

Advanced Search

Smart follow-up flag

We hope you are making use of the 3 flag types you can assign to your messages as mentioned earlier on maximizing your productivity with Zoho Mail. One of them is the follow-up flag. Now, are you truly sticking to your commitment to follow-up on all those emails? To nurture a better sense of commitment, we have made the follow-up flag to ask you if you want to create a task and set a deadline. Smart, isn’t it?

Smart Follow-up Flag

Rename and add to Zoho Docs

It was clumsy not to be able to rename attached files when you attempted to add them to Zoho Docs. Now, it is possible to rename an attached file when you use the Add to Zoho Docs feature. Isn’t it nice to be able to directly store attachments online, even to shared folders, workspaces and thus have a copy available from anywhere there is an internet connection? Imagine the time and effort this can save from back and forth forward, transfer of attachments between your business personnel.

Better Address book

Searching for contact information can get tedious sometimes and also needs to be as simple as searching for messages. We made enhancements to the address book, making it a snap for you to get information about your contacts, ordered according to the frequency of your interactions. Also, searching for contacts by user defined categories has been made prominent and straight forward to use.

Speed and performance optimizations
‘Blazing speed’ is what is expected of an email service today. We have been making optimizations in the background to fulfill this need for speed. You will especially notice ​significant improvements in initial loading time, compose actions, mailing list loading time while switching between folders and email delivery time, now as fast as an instant message.

There you go! A smoother, faster and smarter Zoho Mail. While we are very excited about this update, what matters most is your feedback on if or not we managed to make the right judgment calls about improving the email experience. If you are an existing Zoho Mail user, tell us how you feel about the old and the new. If you are new to Zoho Mail, we will be thrilled to have you sign up and give us a fresh unbiased opinion of our new UI.