Zoho has added email to its portfolio of web-hosted applications for individuals and organisations.
Zoho Mail will work on Internet-connected PCs, via mobile devices and also when users are offline, the company announced Friday.
"This is a very significant addition, a key component for us, because at Zoho we're trying to be the IT department for small and medium-size businesses," said Raju Vegesna, Zoho evangelist, in an interview.
Although Google's Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite gets most of the attention in this market, Zoho is widely considered a very credible competitor that edges larger rivals in the number of applications it has available and the features they offer.
Zoho Mail is a component to Zoho Business, a suite of hosted Zoho collaboration and communication software designed for use in SMEs that is free for up to 10 users. Thereafter, it costs US$50 per user per year.
Organisations can port their domains over to Zoho, which hosts the e-mail and handles all the back-end storage and operations.
In addition to being part of Zoho Business, Zoho Mail is also available to individual Zoho account holders, who will get their own e-mail address at the zoho.com domain free with no storage limits and without ads.
Zoho Mail can also be used as an e-mail client to send and receive messages from other accounts that also support POP (Post Office Protocol).
Zoho Mail lets users organize messages into folders and categorize them using labels, and it gives them the option to have messages listed chronologically or grouped into threads.
When disconnected from the Internet, users can still access Zoho Mail, thanks to its support of the Google Gears browser plug-in, designed to provide offline access to Web applications. To take advantage of this feature, Zoho Mail users need to install Gears on their Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers.
Meanwhile, Zoho has a mobile version of the mail service optimized for the iPhone and has plans to support other mobile devices in the future, like the Blackberry, Vegesna said.