Bitrix24: A serious intranet that even you can afford

If you've been thinking that you could really use an Intranet site for your small business, but you're worried about the costs associated with building and maintaining one yourself, you might want to take a look at Bitrix24. Easy to use and even easier to set up, Bitrix24 is a social network in the clouds that will cost you anywhere from, well, absolutely nothing to $199/month. The absolutely nothing price tag is for companies with 12 or fewer employees -- small businesses or start-ups who want some easy way to share notes, files and chats without having to hire an administrator to manage it for them. And, yes, it's secured with SSL so that only your staff will have access. And you get a free 5 GB of storage to go along with with your free Intranet site. If that's not quite enough, you can scale up to a price tag of $99 a month and get unlimited users and 50 GB of storage for your files, plus you can set up an extranet with controlled outside access as well. If you outgrow that, then for $199/month, you can get 100 GB of storage, and add time management, online meetings, reports, and your own domain name. Even one fairly junior person and a computer system on which you can store and manage this much information would cost way more than that.

Bitrix24 is described as providing a "united, social format for business tools" allowing its users to communicate with colleagues, brainstorm problems, manage projects, keep track of contracts, etc. And, of course, they could also use the site to actually socialize, maybe share some personal photos or hobbies, rant on about their pet peeves, or plan company outings.

The thing that most impressed me about Bitrix24 was how quickly I went from knowing nothing at all to finding my way around the user interface, setting up groups and posting files. It tooks me a matter of seconds -- yes, seconds, to get started -- and there was my site with my personally chosen company name. And soon after I was outlining tasks, attaching giles, and setting due dates.

Launched earlier this year (April 2012), Bitrix24 is intended to provide an affordable multipurpose site for groups of user who need to collaborate on just about anything. It provides ...

  • task management (To Do lists as well as project management features)
  • file sharing
  • conversations
  • photos
  • an optional extranet that facilitates collaboration with other companies and organizations with whom you interact

And, of course, there's the issue of security. I've learned in the last couple of years that the world is still divided between those who trust the cloud and those who don't. Putting your ideas, plans and data on servers managed by people you don't control can be a giant step. So I checked into Bitrix24's security to see how they stacked up.

As it turns out, even if you're using public WiFi connections, your password cannot be stolen and your postings are private. "Why?" you ask? Well, the company boasts that it has seven layers of protection. These include:

1 all ports on their servers are closed except for 80 and 443 (standard web ports)

2 their data centers are compliant with SAS 70 Type II (access to data centers are protected by biometric data and intrusion detection, the Safe Harbor standard is in effect, data files can be encrypted using Amazon's EBS storage and regular changing of your encryption key is an option)

3 customers' data are isolated from other customers

4 their server enviroment does not allow write access to the local file system and, instead, a custom PHP module isolate is used which ensures isolation of user data

5 all data transfer uses an SSL-encrypted connection with a 256-bit key

6 their web application conforms to the WAFEC (Web Application Firewall Evaluation Criteria) 1.0 standard which blocks attacks beyond the capabilities of both firewalls and intrusion detection systems

7 authentication data sent by the client can be encrypted with javascript and an RSA key

That's a hefty amount of security, quite a bit in excess of other systems that I've come in contact with.

In fact, the only drawback that I could see with respect to Bitrix24 is that you cannot (yet) brand your Bitrix24 intranet site with your company logo or official colors. The site is very "clean" and easy to navigate; it's just not going to look like an extension of your organization. And I might not go as far as saying that it's completely intuitive, but it sure comes close.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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