How much does “free” enterprise software cost with time?

Nowadays there are hundreds of collaboration and project management services for companies of all sizes. Therefore customers expect from software far more than just a user-friendly interface and the relevant feature set. The terms of service provision become one of the key factors for making the final decision.

The today’s reality is that most market leaders do not provide a fully-featured collaboration software for free. Even if there is a free version offered, the use of the platform is limited in every possible way. The limitations include: reduced functionality and customization options, limited storage volumes in the cloud, number of projects and employees, etc. This is a common policy of such leading software providers as CentralDesktop, Zoho Projects, Huddle or PBWorks.

Although worthy 100% free alternatives to such cloud-based giants do exist, no one can guarantee that with time you won’t have to pay for the service you subscribed to for free. There are plenty of examples showing this ambiguous policy in practice.

Let’s take ActiveCollab. At the moment this is one of the most popular platforms for business collaboration. The period when the company achieved the highest level of popularity falls on 2006. At that time the platform positioned itself as a 100% free clone of Basecamp. You can still find references to such policy on the Internet. However, in early 2007 the platform became commercial.

If we compare Basecamp, GoPlan and ActiveCollab – platforms popular at that time – one comes to unexpected results. As reviewed at* in 2007 ActiveCollab had very basic project management tools and no chat rooms, as opposed to its two competitors, yet it was 8-9 times more expensive.

Therefore the main question about free collaboration software is still open:

Will it remain free, or will any unexpected fees be imposed?

No wonder that this is one of the most popular questions we receive about TeamLab. And our answer is:

TeamLab current modules will remain free for you.

Even if we decide to charge fee for additional unique functionality in future, you can use the platform independently of our company. By deploying the source code you can use TeamLab on your own server at no cost forever. This is what makes TeamLab different from the other services.

* Data source: “Basecamp, activeCollab, and Goplan compared” published at on March 17th, 2007


View Comments

  • Nice discussion about .Net vs PHP I know it's bit off topic. I am using proofhub since 2 years and found it simple and slick to use. Features like time tracking, discussions, to-do's are there. It's free trial is also available for 30 days.

  • Thanks for your kind words, we will continue growing and working on the server version of TeamLab that may be released as a paid solution. As for the recurring tasks - they are not included in the open source version but will be a bit later.

  • Hi Svetlana,

    Your Team has done a very good job with TeamLab.
    Some features in open source like recurring tasks are missing. These would have been a big plus but I do understand that you have to survive and grow. We all all sincerelly feel that TeamLab grows and prospers even as it offers the open source version. Possibly a small charge on the open source could help add to your operations.
    Cheers for offering such a product on .NET.

  • I wonder if there is a possibility to restrict visibility of 'members' details - it is not always desirable when any user can see names, e-mail adresses and details of all members from all teams in all projects.

  • I want to install teamlab on shared hosted (Plesk) Is it possible to do ? or i need dedicated server.

    • Unfortunately, you cannot run TeamLab under a shared hosting account, as in this case you will have access to IIS only, but no access to the system settings. You need to add the service to the system to install TeamLab, and it is impossible under a shared hosting account.

  • Interesting discussion about ASP/.Net and LAMP, but a bit off topic, I think. What I find interesting is your business model. Of course it's nice to have a platform that's free forever, but it's also philantropic. Don't get me wrong, I like free, but I like also your platform to succeed and to earn money so you can build new great features. Having a kind of freemium model which is based on added functionalities would work for me. I'd be happy to pay a few bucks per month if I get the features I want.

    For now I'm impressed. Professionally I work with commercially available platforms within the pharma industry (SharePoint, anyone?) but for smaller organizations TeamLab is a great start. Trust me, you guys ghave some features even the big fishes costing $10,000s don't even have.

    I would pay some extra $$ for the following features:

    - Permission-based (so I can 'hide' certain content for selected team members). VERY important if you want to use this in a freelance environment.
    - Gantt charts functionality
    - Themes or adapting the lay-out
    - RSS functionality
    - Searching across Communities and Projects

    I'll repprt back if I come up with other things. These just pop in my mind now.

    Grtz from the Netherlands (localization in Dutch is not necessary, we'll all understand English pretty well).

    • Erik, thanks for the nice words and suggestions on functionality you’d like to see. We do have these features in mind. Access permissions is likely to be added this fall. And we hope to develop other features asap.

  • Good post about the position of Free Project Management. It's funny because TeamLab in many ways is identical in overall nature to Freedcamp (free project management solution) except for one, we know for a fact we will never charge for a hosted Solution that does not limit the user on it's users or projects. We might charge on hosting huge files but that's simply because we don't want to offer a movie streaming service... hosting hundreds of docs files will be free.

    Anyways, i do like what you guys have done, however using .NET to build your solution is your Trojan Horse, it's very slow and it can never go main stream. But other than that, it's funny how similiar Freedcamp is to TeamLab. I wish you guys best of luck with your future endeavors!

    • To Angel >> Still, the very best difference between your app and TeamLab is that our project is open-source. Your source code is closed and this generally brings you into line with other proprietary software, such as Basecamp mentioned.

    • >…using .NET to build your solution is your Trojan Horse, it’s very slow…
      Your software is developed with the use of PHP like a Basecamp, I guess. Probably you’ll be surprised, but PHP is no way better or worse than .NET. They are alternative technologies. And the choice purely depends on the project needs. We aren’t stuck with current functionality. We are working on new features/modules. So we choose .Net which is definitely better for large complex apps. Also I’m sure you use some MVC framework that makes project no less complicated than a .Net one and eliminates all the PHP advantages.

      You point to the fact that .NET is very slow. How compiled app can be slower than interpreted? Here’s a reference to PHP vs ASP.NET implementation comparison performance tests. Hope you find the results interesting: according to them ASP.NET is universally faster than PHP.

      >and it can never go main stream.
      Cross-platform support isn’t an issue for .Net apps now. Yes, currently our app is tied to Windows platform. But probably you’ve heard about Mono project. We plan transition to this platform on the roadmap.

      I couldn’t restrain myself from writing this comment. But I’m not going to keep the debate on what technology is better. Again, it all comes down to your preference and biz needs.

      And thanks for your wishes! I also would like to wish you good luck with your project. Hope soon I will be able to see your PM app in action ;)

      • Basecamp developed using Ruby-on-Rails. It's much slower than .NET, PHP also slower than .NET because there is huge a difference in performance between compiled language (.NET) and interpreted language (PHP)

    • Angel, glad you like the post. Unfortunately I can’t comment on TeamLab & Freedcamp similarities, ‘cause registration on your website is closed and I can't try your app. BTW all PM tools have something in common, so I do not see anything funny in this fact ;) Regarding provision model – we are NOT going to charge for file hosting unless the overall size of uploaded files reaches 1000 of Gbytes (movie uploads for ex.)There are and will be no restrictions on #projects, #users & docs uploads.

  • We do plan to offer hosting for the current TeamLab version for free in future. The only contingency would be that you upload terrabytes of information to TeamLab and, as a result, we are forced to charge fee for additional file storage. However, even if we have thousands of permanent users this is very unlikely to happen.

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