Russia's Bitrix24 launched a cloud-based version of its on-premise social intranet and collaboration product last year. In the release of the cloud product, the company has also brought its new service to North American shores.

With more than 60,000 customers and more than 7,000 partners, Bitrix24's primary install base has been in Russia and through much of Europe, and now the company is hoping to expand its reach. To do that, it is in the process of creating a formal channel strategy and partner program.

Stephen Ankenman, Bitrix24's regional director for North America, told Talkin' Cloud the channel strategy for North America is currently under development, but the company is already working with a handful of partners that approached the company interested in resale opportunities. And resale will certainly be the focus of Bitrix24's channel program when it is put in place.

The company's service combines CRM and social intranet functionality into one product, putting it head-to-head with the major CRM providers, but also cloud-based collaboration service providers. Having both feature areas in one service is where the company hopes to be able to shine in the SaaS world.

"Everything merges together in communications, so there's plenty of overlap. For us, we have the intranet stuff put together and pretty well-developed, and we added a CRM. That really changed the dynamic," Ankenman said about the product. He added that customers appreciate collaboration features such as file-sharing and task-sharing, but the addition of CRM keeps all the data together for ease of use and access.

Aimed at SMB customers, the Bitrix24 cloud service still doesn't have all the functionality of the on-premise version, which has been in various incarnations around since 1998, but Ankenman said additional features from the on-premise product will be added to the cloud service in time.

The channel will be very important to the business going forward, but when the partner program will be ready is currently unknown.

"We're interested in attracting partners who can put this into the ground," Ankenman said. Bitrix24 provides 40 percent margin to its partners, making for a good recurring revenue business for cloud brokers.

The cloud service is actually still in beta, but expect it to go into full general release soon. A version with limited features is available for free for companies with up to 12 users. After that, there are two levels of paid subscription—$99 per month (adding workgroups) and $199 per month (adding timeclock reporting features). Each of the paid subscriptions is for an unlimited number of users.