Basecamp from 37Signals

I'm testing Basecamp, a web-based project management and client extranet tool from 37signals, targeted primarily to web design professionals.

It looks very good which, in my eyes, means very intuitive and ergonomic, straight to the task, something one is entitled to expect from a team of web design and usability experts. It's also refreshingly Mac-friendly with calendars hookups to iCal (similar hooks with Entourage would be perfect) and works well with all sorts of browsers on Mac and PC (not a plus but a necessity for many web design professionals).

The ASP service is free for one project and provides pay-for plans depending on the number of active projects hosted (you are not taxed at every corner such as per the number of participants, like with other products). It takes about five minutes to get a project setup, and all the plans have a 30-days trial period, so anyone can make their opinion before buying. There will be an installed version in the pipe, which can be hosted behind a company firewall and requires OS X/Linux/Freebsd, MYSQL, and Ruby. Basecamp will not be available for install on Microsoft servers (do I see a pattern here?). The costs of the installed version have not been disclosed yet.

Time, and use, will tell how good Basecamp is, but I'm already confident that now there a working cross-platform replacement for the mono-platform Microsoft SharePoint (and the defunct Macromedia SiteSpring software which was also quite Windows centric).


What about privacy and security? I don't want my project data (customers?) in the hands of a foreign company.

There are different things:

1. security in general does not seem very tight at the moment with the product. It doesn't use SSL for login, for example. As well, the RSS and iCal feeds are completely unprotected. I guess this is something they will work out as the product matures. I have my own workarounds to make it a little more secured behind a company firewall.

2. privacy, it's up to you to decide:
I have some gripes about it but I'll submit that to them eventually.

3. handling data to a third-party and, specifically "my project data (customers?) in the hands of a foreign company". That is a fact of life with the advent of ASP. If that's something you cannot accept, never use a third party. That's a hard choice, though.

"As well, the RSS and iCal feeds are completely unprotected." Actually, they use a unique token in the feed URLs. They are not out in the open unless someone guesses a random 35 character/number string OR you're careless with them.

> They are not out in the open unless someone guesses a random 35 character/number string OR you're careless with them.

Anything that travels on the Internet through regular HTTP is out in the open. In terms of security, they are completely unprotected.

I shall add that most RSS readers know about cookies and basic HTTP authentication. That's much better than a supposedly cryptic URL that can (will) be emailed around and allows connection without any authentication at all. I don't know about iCal though.

I've tried this and it works... Add a https:// in front of your Basecamp site URL. You'll get a warning about authentication (probably because they don't have a certificate for each indivual subdomain, but do on the box), but the data will still be encrypted.

In my opinion it's great tool - I am using that.

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