File Sharing Over Instant Message
HipChat lets members share files with each other, and beyond the customary browse-and-attach method, you can easily share a file by dragging it directly into your message box. The list of files shared within a group is always accessible via HipChats right pane. (Shared files are searchable along with chat history.)
The program displays certain types of image files, like JPEGs, inline within the message thread when shared. Otherwise, depending on the type of file, clicking on it in the list either opens it in a Web browser or in the appropriate host application on the recipients computer. HipChat also parses each persons message text for Web links and aggregates them in the right pane.
Because these shared file links dont require you to log into HipChats site for access (the files are stored on Amazons S3 service), a member of the HipChat group could allow unauthorized access to a file by passing its link to someone outside the group.
HipChat highlights all your posts in blue, and lists shared files and links for easy access.
(Click for larger image).
Of course, this is no different than what happens if someone e-mails a file to an unauthorized party. But since HipChat is billed as a private IM service, its important to note that access to shared HipChat files isnt strictly limited to members of the organization. Its also worth mentioning that each file link contains a randomized 15-character code, so practically speaking, you wouldnt be able to use one link to deduce the location of other shared files.
The person who first sets up HipChat can bestow administrative status on other members of the group if desired.
Administrators can delete HipChat users, join, delete and access the chat history of private rooms, and disable the company-specific URL that allows new members to join the organizations account (when enabled, this link is prominently displayed in everyones HipChat software, allowing existing members to easily bring new people into the fold).
Admins can also regenerate the link so the previous one is no longer valid and a new one is required to join the account.
HipChat offers four pricing plans Basic, Plus, Premium, and Ultimate which differ primarily in how many users they support and how much storage they provide. The entry-level Basic plan is an attractive $9 per month for 12 people and 500 MB of storage, but it doesnt offer private rooms and limits the chat history to a mere 30 days.
To get the private rooms and an unlimited chat history, you need the somewhat pricier $24 per month Plus level, which also bumps people and storage to 30 and 3 GB, respectively. Theres also a bare-bones free version for four people with a meager 25 MB of storage.
Premium supports 60 people and provides 5 GB of storage for $49 per month while the Ultimate plan covers 100 people with 20GB of storage for $99 per month.
The monthly fee is per account, not per user, and the company bills plans monthly, with no annual contract or discount. A full-feature version of HipChat is available for a 30-day trial, and it doesnt obligate you provide billing information up front.
Wed prefer that HipChats file sharing be a bit more secure, but its not a showstopper as long as you dont need to share files of a truly sensitive nature. That issue aside, if you want solid IM for your business without spending a lot of time or money, HipChat is well worth a look.
Price: $9 to $99 per month, based on number of people and amount of storage
Pros: Quick to setup and easy to use; supports Windows, Mac and LinuxCons: Shared files arent protected by user login; no customized status options
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|