2014 has been another fantastic year for us with continued growth in the US, UK, Europe, Australia and other regions in addition to opening new data centres in Australia and the UAE. The products have also gone from strength to strength with some major new releases, including Collaborate 3.3 and Publisher 4. But, as is customary at this time of year, we want to take a look ahead at our product roadmap for the next 12 months or so, lay out our high level vision for our products and give you a sneak peek into some of the new features we have planned.
Collaborate 3.4 – hybrid storage, encryption key management, office integration, personal file syncing and more
The Collaborate 3.x series of releases has delivered some massive additions to the platform, starting with the full redesign and mobile optimisation in 3.0, then following up with site templates, system level groups, AD integration, iSheets enhancements and most recently ad-hoc secure file transfers, document automation and a completely new REST API. Let’s just say it’s been a busy couple of years. Collaborate 3.4 is set to deliver even more major new features to the platform in Q1 2015 that open up multiple additional use cases and add considerable value to the platform.
Hybrid storage and encryption key management
HighQ has always been at the forefront of secure enterprise-grade cloud solutions with our private cloud, single-tenancy deployment model and multiple global data centres that offer hosting options and provide data sovereignty. However, the increased interest around cloud security since the Snowden revelations has been a catalyst for us to look in more detail at how we can help our customers feel more comfortable with their data being in the cloud, so we have developed two new solutions that we believe make our cloud solutions incredibly flexible and significantly improve security.
The first is hybrid storage. This essentially allows our customers to choose where they want to store files for each individual workspace within their instance of Collaborate. We have developed an Appliance that can be installed inside a customer’s network (or anywhere else for that matter) and when it is “attached” to a Collaborate instance, it becomes an optional repository for storing files. This means that for each individual workspace you can choose to store the files in any one of our existing data centres in the UK, US, Australia, UAE, the Channel Islands or anywhere else you have an Appliance installed. This offers incredible flexibility and data security knowing you have the option of storing files within a particular jurisdiction or within your own network.
Related to this, we also allow the same Appliance to act as the manager for the encryption keys used to encrypt/decrypt files stored at rest. Typically, most cloud based systems will hold the encryption keys in the cloud alongside the data and, whilst this does offer protection, it does mean that anyone who manages to get access to the data might also be able to decrypt it. By allowing our customers to hold the encryption/decryption keys on-premise in the Appliance, it adds another layer of abstraction and protection and means that the keys are never permanently held in the cloud. In the worst case scenario, you could simply withdraw access to the keys and the application would no longer be able to decrypt any of the files stored in the cloud.
Together, these two options take the security of our solution to the next level and we hope will allay any fears our existing or new customers have with where their data is stored and who has access to it.
Office integration and personal file syncing
Two of the roadmap items we outlined a year ago will also be delivered in 3.4. We have been working hard to improve our integration with Microsoft Office and in 3.4 it will be possible to seamlessly open and edit files that are stored in Collaborate in their native Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications respectively. When a file is being edited it is checked out in Collaborate and edits will be saved as drafts. When the user finishes editing the file and closes it, the changes will be committed and published as a new version. This process should significantly improve the overall editing experience and make the whole process seamless for the user.
Following on from the release of our ad-hoc secure file transfer capability which is built into each user’s personal “My files” area of the application in 3.3, we will be introducing the first beta version of our new personal file syncing capability in 3.4. This will allow users to have their personal files stored in Collaborate synced to their PC or Mac, offering a secure alternative to using consumer file syncing tools.
Additionally, we will be releasing our first Outlook plugin that will allow users to leverage the secure file transfer features seamlessly right from within Outlook. You will be able to configure the plugin to replace large attachments with links to securely download the files from Collaborate instead and manually insert download links to your files from Collaborate in your emails.
The end of the line for the 3.x series
Collaborate 3.4 is likely to be the last major release in the 3.x series and it completes the vision that we first laid out in 2012: combining multiple aspects of enterprise file sharing and sync with social collaboration and secure team workspaces. The next step in our journey is just starting, however, and what we have planned next is very exciting.
As I have already mentioned, one of the major focuses for HighQ during 2014 has been the development of a major new version of HighQ Publisher. Publisher 4 introduced a stunning new design and user experience, along with some amazing new features that has really set a very high new standard for our applications. We want to bring that same experience to Collaborate in 2015 and we will be starting work on Collaborate 4 early in the New Year. The key themes for Collaborate 4 are going to be bringing the user experience inline with the new standard set by Publisher 4, improving the overall performance and responsiveness of the application, focusing on client requested features and enhancements across all modules of the application and integrating Collaborate 4 and Publisher 4 so they can be deployed as a seamless solution for internal or external audiences.
We know that our existing customers are very excited about having the opportunity to combine the capabilities of Collaborate and Publisher into one solution to drive client portals, online services and intranets. Taking the advanced enterprise content management capabilities of Publisher and combining them with the powerful file sharing and collaboration features in Collaborate open up some very interesting opportunities for sophisticated solutions. So it is these solutions that we will be focusing on delivering throughout 2015 and beyond, starting with the release of Collaborate 4 in the second half of 2015.
Publisher will also continue to evolve throughout 2015 and has an aggressive roadmap of its own which will be delivering key strategic enhancements to the platform and some powerful client-requested features. For example, we will be adding the capability to apply permissions to the metadata engine in Publisher, so you will be able to give users access to specific areas of content based on which areas of the taxonomy it has been tagged with. We will also be overhauling the comparison toolkits and microsite functionality so that they can deliver sophisticated topic- or product-based sites with the ability to compare and manipulate structured data sets or publish custom mini-websites. We will also be rethinking the concept of our campaigns module and offering the capability to combine several aspects of the platform together. For example, you will be able to create a campaign for an event that combines a tailored microsite, multiple email campaigns, custom content and videos into one integrated digital campaign.
Integration, integration, integration
If there has been an underlying theme to what we have been doing over the past year or so, it’s been working hard behind the scenes to integrate our systems with others. We have introduced Active Directory, SharePoint, SQL, InterAction and other integrations over the past year and we will be continuing this work throughout 2015. We will be introducing some exciting new APIs in Collaborate 3.4 that will allow two-way sync with document management systems such as HP WorkSite, SharePoint, OpenText eDOCS and others. We are working with a number of system integration partners to deliver new connectors alongside the release of 3.4 in Q1 2015. Look out for more news on our integration partners in the New Year.
We will continue to deliver new APIs in Collaborate 4 and by the time of its release we expect to have a comprehensive API that covers all of our modules, including iSheets and Tasks. We are also working on launching a developer programme that will allow our customers, other vendors and ISVs to leverage our APIs and even more exciting things.
Going native on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android
We are firm believers in the web as a platform for delivering applications to a diverse global user base on as many different systems and devices as possible. This is evidenced by our investment in sophisticated responsive web design techniques to deliver amazing mobile-optimised experiences out-of-the-box in both Collaborate and Publisher. We also know that there are times when a native application offers more capabilities or other benefits that are hard or impossible to deliver in browser-based applications. So we have started to develop native applications for the most popular desktop and mobile operating systems that can take advantage of some of the more sophisticated native features, the first of which will be our file syncing apps for Windows and Mac and our Outlook plugin. These will all evolve over time to incorporate other features and deeper integration with the native systems.
Later in 2015 we intend to release our first native mobile apps, first for iOS and later for Android. We want to be able to take advantage of some of the new features in both iOS and Android that will allow us to integrate more deeply with the operating systems and offer users a more seamless experience for managing files, replying to comments or seeing what’s happening on their projects. Watch this space for further announcements and developments throughout the year.
Exciting times ahead
I hope you have found this peek into our roadmap and current thinking useful. Obviously priorities can shift and plans can change but hopefully this has given you a good insight into where we see our products going over the next 12 months or so. 2015 should be an exciting time for HighQ and our clients and we look forward to sharing more details about our plans with you throughout 2015.