HipChat Instant Messaging for Small Business - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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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 HipChat’s 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 recipient’s computer.  HipChat also parses each person’s message text for Web links and aggregates them in the right pane.

It’s important to be aware of how HipChat handles shared files, especially if you’re concerned about privacy. Any file shared over HipChat has a Web link associated with it. That link is revealed when the file opens in a browser or else is easily discernible by right-clicking an item in the shared file list before opening it.

Because these shared file links don’t require you to log into HipChat’s site for access (the files are stored on Amazon’s 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 online messaging screen shot
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, it’s important to note that access to shared HipChat files isn’t strictly limited to members of the organization. It’s also worth mentioning that each file link contains a randomized 15-character code, so practically speaking, you wouldn’t be able to use one link to deduce the location of other shared files.

 Messaging Administration

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 organization’s account (when enabled, this link is prominently displayed in everyone’s 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 Pricing

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 doesn’t 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. There’s 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 doesn’t obligate you provide billing information up front.

We’d prefer that HipChat’s file sharing be a bit more secure, but it’s not a showstopper as long as you don’t 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 Linux

Cons: Shared files aren’t 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.

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This article was originally published on February 24, 2010
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