Monitor Media – TOMMIE review

office management without the applications
Photo of Monitor Media – TOMMIE
£0.10 + VAT (per user per day)

The name is a bit naff, but TOMMIE – short for ‘Total Office Management Made Incredibly Easy’ – does have a serious purpose. Moreover, if you’re after shared office management tools in a format that’s both cheap and easy to deploy, TOMMIE may be just the lad you’ve been waiting for.

The key to understanding TOMMIE is knowing that it’s a managed service rather than a package designed to run on your own network. That means no software to install and maintain, nor data to backup: it’s all done for you. All you and other users need is Internet access and a Web browser. You don’t even need a PC, with mobile access via a smartphone a perfectly feasible and fully supported option.

However, if you were expecting the usual hosted Web and e-mail servers you’ll be disappointed. The people behind TOMMIE understand that most companies have those already, concentrating instead on information sharing and office management.

What TOMMIE users get, therefore, are shared calendars with facilities to see what other people are up to, arrange meetings, manage contacts and tasks, book holidays, fill in timesheets and do their expenses. Managers can, similarly, keep a close eye on what’s going on, approve holiday requests, produce expense and other reports and generally run the office from the same browser interface.

We signed up for the free 30-day trial which lets you experiment with live users and data and found it all very easy. Some time is needed to set up the basic company information, but it doesn’t take long even if you opt to take advantage of tools provided to customise the interface and add your own logos. You also need to set some time aside to configure user accounts and work out their access rights. However, it’s all very straightforward with the same Web interface used to both administer and use the services TOMMIE has to offer.

Performance is largely dictated by Internet bandwidth, with broadband giving the best results. However, the service is optimised to work on low bandwidth connections with usable results even on dial-up and via wireless hot-spots. It’s also comforting to find 128-bit SSL encryption used to secure the connections, with the data also held on a secure storage array and continuously replicated to a backup system.

Of course there were things we weren’t so happy with. For example, although contact data can be imported, we were disappointed to find no facilities to do so directly from Outlook. Neither can you schedule a new meeting from an e-mail or check for free time automatically, as in Outlook.

It also takes a while to get used to the way some of the tools – such as the calendar – work, as they can be quite different from more familiar Windows applications. Plus you’re totally reliant on your Internet connection. If it stops working then so do you.

Still, it’s easy enough to arrange for a backup Internet service to keep you connected and with plenty of documentation and online help available it doesn’t take long to get to grips with the way TOMMIE works.

Pricing is straightforward too. A flat rate of 10p is charged for each user per day with customers invoiced monthly in arrears. Users can be added or removed as required with charges only applied to active users and no limits on how many you can have.

It’s a lot cheaper than licensing and running similar applications yourself. Moreover, although the tools provided aren’t as feature-rich, they’re easy to use and a lot simpler to deploy and manage compared to locally-hosted alternatives.

Company: Monitor Media

Contact: 01306 743638


Verdict
A useful set of office productivity and management tools presented as a managed service accessed through a Web browser. All that's required is an Internet connection to open shared calendars, schedule meetings, fill in time-sheets, do expenses and so on, with tools also provided to manage and report on these facilities. Functionality isn't quite up to that provided by Outlook and other locally-hosted alternatives, but it's cheap and easy to use with none of the deployment and management hassles.