Since I first came across UK-based low cost file-sharing and collaboration vendor Woobius in April last year, I have kept tabs on their development. [Disclosure: I have also undertaken occasional paid PR consultancy projects for the company.]
Their latest news (see also blog post) concerns a simplified approach to the pricing of their core collaboration product, reflecting some user and company issues with the free trial pricing model. When Woobius launched its Software-as-a-Service platform, first-time use of the system (for storage of up to 200MB of information) was free, with users thereafter paying £10 per month per Gigabyte.
However, as Woobius co-founder Bob Leung explains:
“Lots of people set up multiple free projects on Woobius, then started paying for additional storage as their usage grew. So when it came to upgrading their accounts, each project had to be dealt with individually, resulting in numerous invoices and payment schedules. Responding to user feedback, we have therefore created a new category of user – ‘project owners’ – for those who want to manage multiple projects via a single account.
“With the new model, you still get free projects with 200MB of storage, but each user can only own one project. When they decide they want to adopt Woobius on more projects, they can upgrade their user account, and get both more storage and more projects. This is simpler than upgrading projects individually. All their projects then benefit from the additional storage instantly, and – importantly – every project can still have an unlimited number of users.” [my emphasis]
This last point, for me, is important. From my first exposure to web-based construction collaboration platforms in the late 1990s, I have always felt that – in a highly fragmented, cost-conscious and litigious industry like construction – pricing per-user or per-seat is unlikely to encourage good levels of collaboration or ensure high levels of auditability of information. As soon as companies are given the option of cutting corners, by, for example, sharing a single account rather than having separate logins for different users, then some will take it. If a dispute arises, it is then more difficult to identify who uploaded/downloaded/accessed a particular piece of information; identifying regular or proficient individual users of the platform also becomes difficult; and sharing logins also, of course, creates security and confidentiality issues (what happens if one person leaves the company and the user-name and password aren’t changed?).