Coronavirus impact: As work-from-home gains ground, Zoho, Cisco offer remote working tools for free

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on March 09, 2020

Zoho’s Remotely and Cisco’s Webex are available cost-free for limited periods

Over the past few days, Zoho Corp CEO Sridhar Vembu has been running the company from a remote farm near Tenkasi, a town in southern Tamil Nadu, thanks to Remotely — the company’s virtual collaboration and productivity platform.

This ‘remote’ collaboration tool could come in handy for companies who have asked thousands of their employees to work from home (WFH) following the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, with companies globally scrambling to cope with the virus asking their employees to WFH, Zoho plans to offer its new tool to all, free of cost, till July 1.


Similarly, networking giant Cisco is offering its remote collaboration tool Webex for free under 90-day licences to businesses who are not its customers. “We are also helping existing customers meet their rapidly changing needs as they enable a much larger number of remote workers by expanding their usage at no additional cost,” Sri Srinivasan, SVP and GM, Team Collaboration Group at Cisco, said in his blog post.

Vembu, who is actually based out of the US, has also been encouraging his 8,000-plus employees globally to WFH if they have internet connectivity. “We have launched Zoho Remotely to enable groups to work remotely. It is a suite of products for communication and collaboration to enable remote work. This launch process happened with most of us working remotely on Remotely,” he tweeted.

“Until Covid-19 has been brought under control, a majority of our employees will be be working from home,” Zoho said in its blog. “We are able to make this shift quickly, in part, because our suite of apps were designed specifically to support and foster remote collaboration. Since more and more companies are adopting similar WFH policies, we wanted to offer the same set of tools we use to everyone for free, during this time.”

Online workplace

When dealing with a distributed workforce, communication assumes the utmost importance. Remotely is Zoho’s virtual collaboration and productivity platform that includes 10 applications that are designed to create a comprehensive, functional and contextual online team workspace. It includes Cliq team communication software, Zoho Meetings for virtual meetings and ShowTime for conferences. To allow teams to collaborate from different locations on their ongoing tasks, project management tools Zoho Projects and Sprints can be used.

The office suite (Writer, Sheet, Show) and online file management WorkDrive help teams achieve productivity even while working remotely, said Zoho.

As internet connectivity has reached even remote villages in the past few years, there’s absolutely no reason why companies cannot adopt a WFH model until the threat passes or is greatly reduced, said Zoho. “We would encourage companies to put their employees’ health and safety first and help in containing the spread of the disease. We will be happy to share some best practices for remote working that we have discovered for ourselves,” it added.

Usage zooms

Srinivasan of Cisco, in his blog post, said that after the Covid-19 virus, traffic on the Webex backbone connecting China-based Webex users to their global workplaces has increased as much as 22 times.

During the same time period, the company also saw four-five times as many users in Japan, South Korea and Singapore, with the average time spent on Webex video meetings doubling among users in those countries. On an average, free sign-ups in impacted countries are up seven times since the outbreak, said Vembu.

Published on March 09, 2020

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