SingleFin – Why FREE hosted applications will work this time

I introduced you to Singlefin’s free email protection service in this post.
As a follow up, I spoke with Jake Jacoby, co-founder of Singlefin, about WHY he’s offering “free” services, when I thought the model of “free” (in this case) was dead.
Of course, there’s still free email, and you get advertising. Microsoft’s Office Live has a free version and you get advertising with that as well. But most mature hosted applications are not free. Jake explained to me that he is offering free email service (and other services – I’ll get to that in a minute) for three reasons.
1. He wants to give back to the community and offer something free.
2. The more email he has coming into his servers the better he can refine his anti-virus and anti-spam solutions for his paying customers.
3. His hope (as with many free services) is that the free customers will upgrade and be paying customers once they see how good their experience is with Singlefin.
Echoing what his competitor, BlueTie’s David Koretz, told me Singlefin is an alternative for businesses who don’t want to host a Microsoft Exchange server. But there’s more.
Singlefin’s latest offering is Singlefin office, at This is a robust hosted application suite, serving up:
Email hosting, shared contacts, shared calendar, archiving, file storage, web site hosting and mobile synchronization.
There’s a free version, which offers less features and the full version is only $9.95 per month. Other offerings from Singlefin include securing email, secure instant messaging traffic and secure web site access.
If your company does not want to be in the business of securing your email, IM and web traffic, Singlefin offers a completely outsourced security service and the cost is $2.95 per month.
So between Singlefin, BlueTie, WebExOne, eUnify, NetOffice, Office Live and I’m sure others, how can you decide what’s best for your business?
Jake told me:
1. Don’t get distracted by all the bells and whistles
2. Do you want to get your services from one provider (one bill, on number for support) or have to get various services from a variety of service providers?
3. If you rely on CRM (for example) as a core part of your business, you might be best served by using a CRM provider who specializes in CRM. However, for many small businesses they have similar needs – email, calendar, contacts (and maybe a bit
more). For these businesses a suite of solutions will be perfect, as opposed to a “best of breed” solution. If they need a particular application provided by a third party, Jake tells me that it’s better to have most of your solutions by one provider and one or two others by someone else than having 5 services, provided by 5 different providers.
Singlefin is not out to met 100% of the needs of 100% of businesses. However, Jake feels that for most small businesses Singlefin’s service provides most of what many smaller businesses need. You’ll rarely find a vendor to fulfill 100% of what you need (just like a spouse) but you can find a vendor to provide MOST Of your needs.