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News

26.09.2011

Practical web services: Basecamp

Basecamp

Basecamp is a highly useful online tool for project management. Groups can together work on projects and make use of simple functions that are intelligently linked. Basecamp is used completely intuitively, which also makes the tool interesting for cooperation with freelancers and even customers. And the special thing about Basecamp is that it doesn’t offer more than necessary!

Sometimes less really is more. That was our thought when we tested the online-based project management solution Basecamp several years ago and then implemented it at our company. What were the reasons for investing in project management software? Well, it is only possible to handle projects successfully if we maintain an overview: Who is doing what and when is the deadline? What still needs to be done? What might already be behind schedule? Of course, everything can also be organised using Excel tables or blown up into huge Gantt charts. But suddenly there are several versions of lists, a project member forgets something or a memo isn’t sent to all those involved. These are familiar scenarios.
 Unlike many project management programs, Basecamp only provides the most important functions – it takes less than 10 minutes to obtain a complete overview. Basecamp focuses on the uncomplicated management of responsibilities: setting milestones, allocating to-dos, writing comments and recording time. There is also a comment function, a clearly arranged calendar and the possibility of uploading files and thus making them available to other project members. All team members have the same knowledge status at any given time. Basecamp indicates if a new file version has been uploaded. Messages, comments and activities are clearly presented on the Dashboard. Refreshingly simple and reliable compared to endless email loops, post-it reminders and scribbles on old envelopes, isn’t it?

Get started in 60 seconds: Configure an account, create a project, and off you go! If you want to use Basecamp, you will need a customer account. Simply choose between five different options:

There is also a “Free plan”, which is not particularly easy to find (the red circle marks the hidden treasure) and all account variants may be used free of charge for 30 days.
 And then the first project can be created. The good thing about Basecamp is that all the functions are virtually self-explanatory – and so there is no need for us to provide an extensive tutorial here. Instead, we have a few tips for those who are still sceptical:
 All user data is backed up by Basecamp on multiple partitioned hard disks every night. The manufacturer 37signals guarantees full recovery in the event of a problem – although with an uptime of 99% this will be a rare occurrence. The entire browser communication takes place via SSL, which prevents data piracy. The ultra-secure Amazon S3 service is used for storing uploads.
For those who are unwilling to trust the data security measures employed at Basecamp, it is possible to regularly save data using the following services:

 

Create your own backup
 If you wish to cancel your Basecamp account at some point, it is possible to retrieve your data via account export in XML or HTML format. This includes all messages, to-do lists, milestones, time entries and the persons involved in every project. Or you choose Basecamp’s own API and upload your data directly into the new software.
 
 
 Last but not least, let us return to the saying “less is more”, which we praised at the beginning. Since Basecamp was launched, a large number of third-party suppliers have naturally emerged who have developed all kinds of apps in order to make Basecamp much bigger and extensive after all. The Basecamp website lists an overview of the Add-ons, but here are just a few to whet your appetite:

  • Insight – Basecamp on iPhone (for all Apple followers)
  • Kompass for Basecamp (for all kinds of smartphones)
  • Mesron (text message reminders for milestones)
  • Agile Agenda (for all those who miss Gantt charts)
  • Simply Invoices (create invoices using Basecamp)
  • Toggl (time-tracking tool for Basecamp projects)

Incidentally: In its original form, Basecamp has an English-language interface. However, it is now possible to select languages from all corners of the world – the short video shows you very clearly how to change the language!