Huddle, the British cloud-based content collaboration firm which describes itself as an alternative to Microsoft Sharepoint, has unveiled a new Unlimited Enterprise offering, allowing organisations to invite 'lite users' into their workspaces for free.

Huddle workspaces are where members can share files, collaborate with their colleagues, provide feedback and exchange comments and ideas. As well as enabling internal collaboration, Huddle also serves as a secure online environment where information can be shared with external partners.

Project management tools and discussion boards can be accessed securely across the company firewall, and there are granular permissions to control and audit who can and cannot view specific information.

According to Huddle’s research, 93 percent of its customers use Huddle to work, not only with teams and departments within their own business, but at least one external organisation. On average, Huddle’s customers are working with 25 other companies in their workspaces.

In the past, companies have had to pay for every user in their business network to access the collaboration platform. Unlimited Enterprise means that customers, partners, contractors and suppliers can now download files and comment on documents, files, whiteboards and discussions in Huddle workspaces for free. However, they cannot create and upload content.

“Collaboration isn’t just about working with the people next to you, or even teams in other departments, it’s about sharing information with your entire business community,” said Alastair Mitchell, chief executive of Huddle. “As our figures show, the modern enterprise relies on a wide network of external organisations to achieve its goals. Yet, traditional collaboration services, like SharePoint, lock information and people in silos.

“With our Unlimited Enterprise offering, CIOs don’t need to worry about costs spiraling out of control as lite users are added at no additional cost,” he added. “One of our customers has many thousands of internal users as well as more than 600 other companies in dedicated Huddle workspaces. This is true cloud collaboration and it’s hugely exciting.”

With concerns about reliability still preventing many organisations from making the move to cloud computing, Huddle has also announced a 99.9 percent “True Uptime” guarantee. This means that, if Huddle services are not available 99.9 percent of the time, the company will financially compensate its customers.

The guarantee includes all product updates, of which Huddle releases 13 a year, and maintenance. According to Mitchell, the uptime guarantees offered by most other cloud providers do not cover scheduled downtime for maintenance, so are in reality far lower than their headline number.

“Downtime is downtime, regardless of whether it’s scheduled or not, and such guarantees are useless if your service is down for hours over the weekend and you need to access information,” he said. “Last year, Microsoft and Google both suffered from hours of outages that prevented people from accessing information, which in today’s 24/7 digital economy is unacceptable.”