Running your small business just got a little easier. Zoho, which already offers a host of free
-as-a-service applications, has launched a beta of Zoho People, a human-resources management tool.
Aimed at small and midsize businesses, Zoho People offers a range of HR functions that include everything from defining organizational structure to recruiting new workers. It's designed for companies with more than 30 employees -- the size at which keeping tabs on employees in ad hoc ways (such as Excel spreadsheets) becomes unmanageable, according to a blog on the Zoho site.
Zoho already offers a suite of free Web 2.0 tools that compete with big-name Web applications, such as Google Apps. At the Zoho Web site, small-business owners can find integrated word processing, presentation, meeting and project-management tools. Most are free, though the company does offer some fee-based versions (for example, the Zoho solution is free only for the first three users; after that, it costs $12 per month).
Made for Non-Geeks
Like the other Zoho applications, Zoho People is user friendly rather than tech-centric. For example, there are 28 premade forms (such as expense reports), but if you need to add or change some of a form's fields, you don't have to call in a programmer; instead, you can open another tool, Zoho Creator, and customize the form simply by dragging and dropping.
HR managers can restrict access to forms and customization tools. So employees can find the forms they need and update personal information, but not gain access to compensation or other private data. In addition to forms, Zoho People has modules for recruitment, checklists, organization, self-service, and roles and permissions. Some of them are available only to an administrator, who can set access parameters for different modules.
Safeguarding Your Data
Though convenient, Web applications such as Zoho raise the question of how well the data is secured; after all, trusting your business data, whether HR records or a customer spreadsheet, is risky. Security experts recommend looking carefully into the company to ensure that it's stable and secure.
"As enterprises increasingly evaluate software as a service (SaaS) and deploy applications online as a way to transform their businesses and improve ROI, it's critical that they ensure the security of these applications and any associated data -- internal and external -- especially when dealing with sensitive HR information," said J.R. Reagan, vice president of BearingPoint, a leading management and technology consulting company. "Equally important, businesses must also be sure that these applications are being managed and protected in a stable environment to avoid business disruptions that IT failures can impose."
Zoho stores customer data "in a world-class data center in California," according to the company's blog, with data replicated and backups kept offsite. A secondary data center is expected to go live in two months. Zoho claims on its site that its security measures include hosting "in the most secure types of data centers" with physical-security measures in place. Hardware and software protective measures include multiple firewalls, antivirus and intrusion .