Secure Enterprise Messaging with Teamwire

There is a relatively new enterprise messaging app called “Teamwire“. The app is a fast, easy to use and secure app for all internal enterprise messaging needs. Basically the goal seems to be to offer mid-sized businesses and large corporations a secure and enterprise-capable messaging app with a clear focus on mobile devices.

Within corporations employees often use Whatsapp or similar consumer messaging apps to quickly reach colleagues, discuss topics in real-time, drive work and make decisions. Email with its crowded and overflowing inboxes is too busy and not capable of these tasks anymore. Besides on mobile devices users prefer simple and easy to use apps, which are fully integrated in the mobile operating system for additional features. However, messaging apps like Whatsapp are not secure and violate corporate IT compliance.

As an alternative there are business messaging services (also referred to as unified communication services). While there are many business messaging services available (HipChat, Lync, Hall, Sametime, Slack, etc. – just to name a few), most of them come from the PC world and lack a focus on mobile devices. Furthermore, most of them focus and small and medium businesses, and are not enterprise-capable. If they are enterprise-capable (like e.g. Lync), their strengths mostly rest in VOIP services and online meeting tools. Thus, there is no dedicated enterprise messaging app or a “Whatsapp for enterprise” yet. This seems to be the goal of Teamwire.

From a feature set, Teamwire is pretty similar to the leading consumer messaging apps: 1:1 and group messaging, and sharing of any digital content (videos, photos, locations, voice messages, links with previews, etc.). A couple of features stand out though:

First, there is what Teamwire calls a visual inbox. This enables users to easily start new chats for different topics, and thus avoids the mixing of conversations in one chat only. Especially for group messaging this is great, and since group messaging is a major business use case, this is quite an important feature. Another advantage of the visual inbox is, that users can post status updates and therefore are able to easily share news like in a company social network. Second, Teamwire has read receipts – not only on an individual but also on a group level. So you can exactly see which recipients of a group message have seen your message. Third, the app offers on-click distribution lists. Users can set-up lists for their team, unit, group or anything they like, and then message and share with these colleagues with one-click. Fourth, users can easily share calendar dates as well as files. Again, these are important business use cases.

Teamwire - Secure Enterprise Messaging

Teamwire – Enterprise Messaging

However, the main differentiator of Teamwire are the security and administrator features. The service is completely encrypted: The transmission, the meta data, the messages, the content and the storage on the servers. As a German provider Teamwire complies with strong German and European data protection laws (e.g. anonymizing user data, no address book storage, etc.), and all data is stored in Germany only.

In addition, Teamwire offers an administrator portal. The portal enables enterprise IT to manage all users, define communication rules (e.g. closed communication groups to protect distribution of content), and archive messages. In order to fully comply with enterprise requirements, Teamwire also supports the enterprise mobility solution of the leading mobile device management vendor “MobileIron“.

As a deployment option, Teamwire offers a private cloud solution or an on-premise solution (based on the information of the Techcrunch database). This is quite interesting, since everything moves to the cloud nowadays. Teamwire seems to bet on the enduring on-premise requirements of large corporations.  

Why Whatsapp Is The Leading Messaging App

Many people have wondered how Whatsapp has become so immensely popular. Looking at the development and history of the messaging app, the following points are the main reasons for Whatsapp’s success:

Reliability

There were other messaging apps before Whatsapp, but the Silicon Valley based service was the first with a reliable app: Not loosing messages, always assuring that push notifications arrive, an app that doesn’t often crash, etc. Its early competitors struggled with these challenges, while Whatsapp delivered a performant and stable service. With 15-20 billion messages being delivered per day, this is actually quite an achievement. In consequence the customer satisfaction has been high.

Cross-platform availability

Having started with the iPhone, Whatsapp quickly launched its app on other platforms. Blackberry was second, and then quickly came Android, Nokia (with Symbian 60 and even 40), Windows Phone, etc. The platform reach gave Whatsapp a considerable advantage over its competitors, and the resulting network effects among its users helped to accelerate the growth.

Easily connecting users

Since Whatsapp accesses the user’s address book to automatically connect friends, the whole setup of the service has become very easy for users. Traditionally on other services, users had to manually find and connect friends (e.g. Skype, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.). Needless to say, many people don’t like that their address book is copied to the servers of a company. However, the benefits of the automatical synchronization and the resulting ease of use beat possible privacy concerns. Again the results have been strong network effects and growth.

Fast messaging

Whatsapp made it really easy to send many messages in a row. To a certain degree Whatsapp even changed the messaging behavior of users a bit. Before users wrote several sentences and then sent one complete SMS message. Now they simply press “Send” for every sentence. For teens who send hundreds of messages per day, this has been perfect.

If Whatsapp is able to keep its lead, remains to be seen. Many competitors have catched up, and there are certain use cases where users demand advanced features, because the app is not good enough anymore. However, so far Whatsapp is a great success story with 430 million users.

Best Messaging Apps 2013

There are hundreds of messaging apps available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores. The market for messaging apps is a really crowded space and for users it is increasingly difficult to get an overview of the best apps available. Here is our take on the best messaging apps in 2013 for various categories:

Best Instant Messaging App

1. Whatsapp
2. Line
3. Kik

Reason: Whatsapp is a fast and comprehensive instant messaging app. While the app has some weaknesses (e.g. when used for extensive group messaging and sharing), Whatsapp is very performant and available across all platforms.

Best Group Messaging App

1. Grouptime
2. Band
3. Groupme

Reason: Grouptime continuously keeps innovating and regularly launches new features to offer users the best group messaging and sharing experience. Grouptime is a powerful but still easy to use app, and comes with strong privacy protection.

Best Special Messaging App

1. Snapchat
2. Voxer
3. DingDong

Reason: Snapchat is great for ephermal messaging of photos, and has been one of the most popular apps among teens in 2013. If it is of wider use for the mainstream remains to be seen, but it has probably been the most hyped messaging app of the year.

Best Private Messaging App

1. Grouptime
2. Wickr
3. Silent Circle

Reason: Grouptime is a German company with strong data protection and privacy terms. Besides messages are not only encrypted, but in addition user data gets anonymized and no address books are stored. With this comprehensive set of features Grouptime has the lead over competitors from the USA.

Best Business Messaging App

1. Teamwire
2. Tigertext
3. Slack

Reason: Teamwire is a new enterprise messaging app with a very compelling feature set – personal and group messages, status updates for your teams, video messages, calendar sharing, file exchange, and more. The app is fast and easy to use, and besides very secure.

Blackberry Messenger for iOS and Android – Too Late To Market

The Blackberry Messenger (BBM) was originally the first big messaging app on smartphones. It came pre-installed on all Blackberry devices, and was a key sales proposition for business users as well as for many consumers. Basically 4-6 years ago the BBM had the success  that Whatsapp, Line, Kakao Talk and WeChat have nowadays. Some 60-80 million people once regularly used the BBM. A week ago the BBM for iPhone and Android was finally launched.

Basic Messaging App Requiring A Blackberry ID

Generally, it is a fairly basic messaging app and similar to the popular apps out there. One difference is that it doesn’t connect users by syncing the address book contacts. BBM mainly works with the Blackberry ID, and thus is probably mainly for users with Blackberry friends. Since the Blackberry platform is on the decline though, the demand will probably be limited.

BBM for iPhone

Digital Content Sharing And Design Need Improvement 

In addition to simple chats, users can set up group chats. The groups are pretty much standard, except that you also can create events. So they are a bit like Facebook Groups. As digital content you can send voice (push-to-talk) messaging and photos. However, so far there are no videos or stickers. Besides things like calendar or contact sharing which would be compelling to business users of the BBM are missing.

The user interface is pretty straight forward, but they could have reduced and simplified the number of tabs. As well from a design perspective,  there are definitely prettier messaging apps available.

The Messaging Market Is 2-3 Years Ahead

This iOS and Android version seems like a first launch effort and so far there is nothing groundbreaking. In comparison to the leading messaging apps the BBM looks a bit old. Apps like the new BBM were state-of-the-art in the market about 2-3 years ago. Now most apps move into better personalization, stronger self expression and advanced content sharing with games, music and much more to come. Overall, the launch of the BBM comes too late.

Top 10 Questions To Select A Secure And Private Messaging App

Couple of weeks ago we came across important questions for selecting secure messaging apps for businesses. Many people have asked us, what consumers should take care of when selecting a private and secure messaging app? Ideally a provider of a messaging app should answer all the following questions with YES. Here we go:

1. Is the transmission of the messages and all communications between the app and the server protected with an SSL encryption?

2. Are the messages and content end-to-end encrypted? Meaning: Only the sender and the receiver of a message can read it (this is quite important)?

3. Are the messages stored in a completely encrypted form on the server?

4. Is the provider not able to read the messages on the server?

5. Does the provider completely anonymize user accounts, messaging logs and profiles, and thus fully protect the privacy of users?

6. Your address book data is only stored on your device, and not stored on the servers of the provider?

7. The messaging app provider has a strong privacy policy, and does not sell or trade user data?

8. Is there a regular backup of the data on the server?

9. Is all data stored on servers outside of the USA (where it cannot be easily accessed by US government agencies)?

10. Is the provider of the messaging app based outside of the USA (again: thus cannot be easily accessed by US government agencies)?

A lot of messaging apps claim to be completely safe and encrypted. However, there are huge differences between providers as you can tell by this questionnaire. Not a lot of apps can answer all questions with YES. You will have to judge by yourself, what questions and topics are most important for you, and thus select a private and secure messaging app for your needs.

New Messaging Apps and Current Trends

The first wave of messaging apps on smartphones had mainly one goal: To replace texting/SMS and offer better messaging at much lower cost. The instant messaging apps started with sending simple text messages, and then soon added the ability to exchange photos and other digital content, as well as nice features like delivered receipts. Nowadays, many messaging apps are far superior to texting/SMS, and several even offer group chats. To better understand, what the next wave of messaging apps will improve, it makes sense to have a closer look at current trends in the messaging space.

Stickers, Fun and Personal Messaging

Stickers have probably been the biggest trend among messaging apps for the last couple of months. In addition to the classical emoticons (emoji), stickers offer users an additional way to express themselves – referring to the questionable quote: “a sticker says more than a 1000 words”. Most major providers (e.g. Line, Viber, Kakao Talk, ChatON) have added stickers of all sorts: Comic figures, cartoons, art, popular brands, etc. These stickers are often available in packages, and in many cases they cost between $1 and $2. Stickers have become a substantial source of revenue for messaging apps – especially for the Asian providers, which generate millions of dollars with stickers.

Another way to make texting more fun and personal is the introduction of custom fonts. If a message can be sent in a custom font like a handwriting, marker, news or comic type, it enables the user to better express themselves and gives the message a personal note. Furthermore, with custom themes or backgrounds users can receive kind of a “mobile postcard”. The first messaging app that introduced custom fonts and themes for more personal messaging was Grouptime, but other providers seem to start to follow.

Single Purpose Messaging Apps

Snapchat was one of the first popular single purpose messaging apps. Snapchat allowed users to send photos only, and assured that they are deleted on the recipients device automatically. Recently, some other apps have tried to be successful with the single purpose approach as well: DingDong focuses on location sharing only and GIF Chat enables users to exchange animated GIFs only. The success of the single purpose messaging apps remains to be seen. If they offer differentiated functionality or a use case that cannot be easily replicated by the leading messaging apps, they have a chance to establish a niche for their product. However, e.g. a standard location sharing feature alone is probably not enough to make such a simple app attractive for a broader set of users.

GIF Chat

Better Group Messaging and Sharing

While group chats are a standard by now, the users are often not satisfied with standard group chat functionality anymore: For sharing of photos with friends, group chats are easy to set up, but are not visually nice and don’t provide quick feedback mechanisms. Even if group chats are easy to set up, if you regularly start group chats with the same people, there should be simpler ways to add recipients or save distribution lists. Or, if users start different topics within the same chat, the communication can get confusing. These are just some of many examples, where better group messaging functionality is required.

Thus, some providers are now offering sophisticated group messaging and sharing solutions for family and friends (e.g. Grouptime, Line Band).  Some of these apps really work like the combination of an instant messaging app and a private social network: There is real-time communication with push notifications, but the group messages are presented in a nice visual feed, even with the ability to like content. Once you have tried it, you will see how superior this is to traditional group chats.

Stronger Security and Privacy

Due to the latest PRISM and NSA affair, more and more users are worried about their privacy and demand stronger security features from messaging apps. As a result, several secure messaging apps have been announced (e.g. Hemlis, Whistle). However, since end-to-end security and complete privacy protection are complicated topics, it remains to be seen how secure and good these apps will be initially (UPDATE: At least Whistle seems not to be secure in its current version). In the meantime we expect the providers of established messaging services (at least the better ones) to improve their security and privacy features. From our point of view, security and strong data protection should be a standard for messaging apps, and not a feature.

Gaming and Public Chat Forums

Especially the Asian messaging providers have started to introduce games, third party services and public chat forums in their apps. This is basically the Facebook strategy: Building a platform for all apps and services, and trying to offer the user everything in one app. Users, who love games and public interest forums, will find a benefit from this approach. Still, for many users these apps will become to complex and cluttered with features, and they will prefer the more simple, focussed and let’s say traditional messaging apps.