Since we last used Huddle some time ago, the cloud-based collaboration tool has seen some major changes. It's now positioned not as a project management tool so much as an accompaniment to project management software, and an alternative to SharePoint in particular for enterprise-level collaboration.
Web-based Huddle provides tools for sharing files and collaborating with colleagues and partners. It offers version control management, meaning that as you work together with teammates on files, Huddle saves all the history of the work and past versions of the documents – and can manage the restriction levels different users have, as well as workflows and approval processes.
While Huddle used to offer a free version, that's no longer the case (some existing accounts may have been grandfathered in, but they do not receive support, according to a company representative). Prices now vary according to a number of factors, such as the number of users. Baseline prices start at $20 (£13.40) per user per month for small businesses, and $40 (£26.80) per user per month for enterprises. However, you can still get a free 90-day trial, which includes 100MB online storage space and a few other limitations.
While services like Zoho Projects and AceProject function as Swiss army knives of online tools, Huddle is more of a scalpel. Where Huddle operates, it's effective: File management is exceptional, and online collaboration is finely tuned. Just don't expect it to be your all-in-one project management suite.
Consider Huddle an intermediary between the more focused approach of Basecamp and the wider ambitions of Zoho Projects. While its feature set pales in comparison to Zoho's, Huddle offers plans with plenty of online storage (from 1GB to 25GB) and great tutorials. Small business owners looking to invest in a suite of products for the long haul will find Huddle comes up short. But if all you need is a central place to collaborate, it's not a bad option.
At first glance, Huddle couldn't be more different from Zoho Projects. Huddle has less, does less, and aspires to do less. But the interface is clean, clear, and highly modular. Your online Huddle dashboard displays a variety of task management boxes, or widgets – Files Awaiting Approval, My Tasks, Files I'm Working On, My Calendar, My Notifications, and so on – that you can drag around the screen and rearrange, collapse, or remove on a whim. The level of flexibility can't be beaten.
Huddle also lets paying customers upload their business logos to further customise the experience for their employees (with the free trial, you'll be greeted with the Huddle logos only).
"Workspaces" help you break down your work by project, or arms of a business, or really whatever you want. Each workspace has its own dashboard view, and you swap between them via a dropdown menu at the top left of the screen.
Although Huddle has a streamlined and intuitive interface, it also provides a bit of handholding when you need it. Video tutorials, interactive online demos, and live webinars can coach you through how to use different areas of the site. The selection of learning tools is ample, and the content worth exploring.
Huddle's name comes from the concept of huddling around something to collaborate on it, and with this fact in mind, most of Huddle's primary features and functionality are self-explanatory. Some of the main areas include Whiteboards, Discussions, and Meetings. The types of things you can share and collaborate over are tasks and files, and files can of course be nested into folders with subfolders.
Whiteboards are the most versatile way to collaborate on a project, with less structure than some of the other systems. Think of Whiteboards as Wiki pages. You can make as many as you please, embed images, and attach links. Edit any Whiteboard, and Huddle will retain version information so that you can turn back the clock if you or someone else introduces errors or accidentally deletes information you wanted to save.
Another nice inclusion is the People section, which doubles as an address book, but also lets you quickly see who does what. Users' profiles include their names, titles, companies, contact information, and whether they've recently been active on Huddle (an inactive user may be a quick indicator that a person is no longer with the organisation, or perhaps out of the office on unexpected leave). For larger organisations where not everyone knows other employees by their faces, the People feature can add a lot of value.
Huddle's real strength lies in its file management features, which are surprisingly capable. In addition to supporting folders and subfolders, you'll see options to add comments and notifications to files, and you can even request user-specific approvals.
The best thing, however, is that Huddle encourages you to work with numerous files at a time. Once the files are uploaded – which we found a surprisingly fast process – you can tick off boxes to make batch changes: Select multiple files to lock for editing; zip, download, or delete. The files don't have to stay in Huddle. You can email one or more files to users outside the system so they never need accounts. For those working in Huddle, you can create documents and spreadsheets online through what looks like a Citrix-based Office. Even though Huddle provides a generous 100MB of online storage for free, because adding files was so easy, we managed to almost fill it in two days of testing.
Meetings and tasks
The Meetings section works for the most part like a standard online calendar. You can set recurring meetings, add members, and include email addresses for users outside the system. Once a meeting is scheduled, invitees receive a calendar request that they can add to their Outlook Calendar (this integration comes in addition to an independent iCal feed). That’s all ordinary enough so far, but what differentiates Huddles is its many options.
Huddle offers you the option to include a conference dial-in, which is ready to go with multiple international phone numbers. There's also a section to add webinar details to a meeting (Huddle provides the system optionally for a fee, or you can include your own webinar details in the field if you use your own system). All of these add-ons will cost you, but, thus far, Huddle is the only online project management software to integrate all of these communications directly into its calendar functionality.
Finally, Tasks deserve brief mention. The nice thing about a task is that you can link it with document(s) in your Huddle file inventory. At any given time, you can export all your tasks into an Excel-ready CSV file for bookkeeping.
So what's missing? The project reporting tools you'll find in bigger project management suites, and the online chat boxes available in business-grade social media platforms, such as Yammer.
When you step back and look at the overall functionality of Huddle, the software seems best tailored to multinational companies, or businesspeople who collaborate heavily with a disparate team. A lot of attention is paid to time zones and different means of electronic communication, be it web, audio, or video.
Huddle isn't as fully-featured as Zoho Projects. It doesn't have the user base of Basecamp. And it doesn't live in a larger ecosystem. In a sense, it has made an attempt at differentiation through specialisation, becoming a very specific tool for collaboration and file management.
Despite these shortfalls, what Huddle does, it does well. The interface is lean: Simple menus, a consistent UI, and plentiful tutorials make this software easy to master. Huddle's file management is, quite simply, the best of the group – and the quantity of free online storage is second only to that provided by AceProject. Furthermore, if you're looking for a collaborative tool for geographically dispersed employees or freelancers, Huddle's optional web, audio, and video conferencing lets you connect without ever leaving the service.