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Kiwi encrypted cloud-based proofing tool a world first
Mon, 1st Dec 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

PageProof has tantalised audiences with a sparse website that reads, “the world’s first fully encrypted cloud proofing and approval system. PageProof coming 2015.”

What is it? None other than a fully encrypted browser based tool for creators to receive feedback and collaborate on documents. It can be used on any browser with mobile devices and desktops.

"Everyone who is given access can see the document, those who aren’t, can’t," says Gemma Hurst, PageProof co-founder, speaking with TechDay. "That’s the beauty of encryption, it’s entirely secure for users and ensures the right people have access."

Those providing feedback click on the red pen icon and type their comment. A pin shows up on the document and the note appears on the side.

If many people have feedback about one section, one pin can link to a conversation, and if someone agrees with a piece of feedback, they can ‘endorse’ the comment.

The original document remains unaltered. “The person who put up the proof remains the master in control,” says Marcus Radich, co-founder.

"It's all about thinking about what the user would want," he says. "Code and encryption is really important to us, but so is design."

PageProof creators worked with Alt Group to find a balance between design and functionality, taking time to work out every detail - from how the pins look to how to organise workflow.

When it comes to their target market, Hurst says it's very broad. “PageProof is for anyone who creates material and wants feedback," she says.

“Our product is the connective piece between content creator and the people who want to give feedback,” says Radich.

Writers can get feedback from their editors, lawyers can use it to work on contracts, enterprises can use it to collaborate. The tools and features remain the same, but the usage differs, says Hurst.

“Design people can get in touch with their clients; people working in teams, such as lawyers, can get feedback from their peers; and enterprises can work with board members around the world,” she says.

When creating PageProof, the team looked at the old processes of proofing and problems people consistently had. “Accessibility is really important to us,” says Hurst. “We wanted there to be no hurdles and eliminate barriers.”

This is why PageProof is browser based with no need to download software or plugins - the set up of an account is simply an email address and password. Decisions such as this came from extensive research and long trials.

The team already had statistics and information from a separate proofing tool, also called PageProof, which they launched in 2001. This was targeted for the creative industry and for New Zealanders only.

It has thousands of users, tens of thousands of pieces of art and hundreds of thousands of comments and feedback, says Radich.

Recognising this success was what gave Hurst and Radich the idea to re-create PageProof and take it global.

“We were lucky in that we had the data and we weren’t starting from scratch,” says Hurst. “We know a bit about what people want and the market.”

They looked at the 13 years worth of data and interviewed PageProof users and non-users. Among the non-users were 35 potential customers from very different sectors and with very different job titles, including people from banks, law firms, and education institutions.

Radich says during interviews they discovered while many New Zealand businesses know about security, they don’t really utilise it. Even if they have systems in place, they don’t necessarily get used. On top of this, Radich says they noted how the security of data was cropping up in the news more often.

While other tools similar to PageProof already existed, such as Google Docs, Radich says no experience was private or encrypted. “Encryption is at the core of the system,” he says, “but we worked hard to layer encryption away from users.”

In order to protect their intellectual property, they applied for a Patent with AJ Park. The intellectual property lawyers and patent attorneys did a worldwide search to see if anything like PageProof existed and didn’t find anything. PageProof now has a patent pending.

"We thought to ourselves, 'this is huge'," says Hurst.

Hurst and Radich expect a vast amount of users, and in order to manage these huge numbers Microsoft Azure servers are being used.

Azure has a modular design and each part can be individually scaled to allow for spikes, Radich says.

“This means we don’t have to micro manage everything,” he says. “Instead of focusing on keeping the servers going, we can focus on product and delivery.”

On top of this, geo-redundancy ensures PageProof can be ‘global from day one’ - this has always been the focus, says Hurst.

“At every decision we didn’t want to think just in terms of New Zealand. With everything: design, product, sales, marketing, we’re thinking globally. We have a long vision of this,” she says.

So far there are three levels of account; a free account, premium account and a corporate/enterprise account, details of which are still being finalised.

Hurst and Radich say there is still work to be done but with a strong foundation of security, usability and design, there is already a lot of interest and many places PageProof can go.

“We’re concentrating on this year, focusing on our primary goal of launching PageProof, and then we’ll think about expansion,” says Hurst.

Hurst and Radich say the beta release will be made available to those who have signed up early 2015, and the full launch will take place mid next year.