Afterlogic Corp. is an award-winning technological company creating world-leading email and telecommunications components, software and platforms since 2002. This week, we had the opportunity to speak with Alex Orlov, the Co-founder and CTO of Afterlogic.
Please describe the story behind Afterlogic: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
It dates back to 2000 (we’re students back then) when my friend Anton told me that, considering the huge gap between the salaries of software developers in Russia and the US, we must seize this opportunity and start our own business. Somehow we found our first client and got the remote work. Initially, we worked ourselves. Over a few years, we found a partner in the US and gathered a team of developers building web and desktop apps on an outsourced basis along with some internal projects to support the company’s infrastructure.
For one of the internal projects, we developed an ActiveX library to process email. It worked very well and we suddenly realized that there is commercial potential for this software. This way, MailBee Objects was conceived and the production department was formed in our service company. Later, we also developed a highly successful .NET version, MailBee.NET Objects.
Having the component which works with email, we started thinking about what else can be done with it. Anton sparked the idea to build a web app that can act as an Outlook replacement with only a web browser needed, so that you could access email from all your email accounts in one place, from any computer. Not from “any device”, smartphones were not quite there back then. And then WebMail Pro was born.
Over the years, we launched the business email and collaboration system Aurora Corporate which adds groupware functionality, and Aurora Files – a file cloud platform. They share the same philosophy – white-label self-hosted solution a corporation, university or provider can install on their premises, to offer it to their employees, students, or customers.
Through these years, we managed to attract some major customers for our email components, webmail, and groupware solutions, including AirBus, StackOverflow.com, Twitter, UOL, Xerox. We also advanced in the field of email and file security and mobile apps.
In 2021, we’re both a product and service company with 40+ people, offering collaboration and webmail platforms and custom web development services for clients worldwide.
What services do you offer?
As for our products, we offer:
MailBee.NET Objects – a library of email components for developers for .NET platform
Aurora Corporate – self-hosted business collaboration platform intended for businesses and providers looking for a replacement of services like Office 365 or GSuite with greater control over their data
Aurora Files as a self-hosted secure file cloud with sharing capabilities
WebMail Pro – webmail client service providers can install as a premium replacement to generic clients like Roundcube
MailSuite Pro – a complete bundle of the webmail client with the mail server
WebMail Lite – free open source version of WebMail Pro with basic capabilities
All products but MailBee.NET Objects ship as PHP source code (for MailBee.NET Objects its C# sources code can be purchased separately).
For our products, we also offer the services of integration, data migration, customization of any scale, branding, and ongoing support of our web and mobile apps.
Our services department provides outsourced custom development for web and mobile in Node.js, PHP, and Flutter at highly attractive rates. We’re especially accustomed to working as a white-label expansion of digital agencies which provide web design services but have little to no development resources of their own. We’ve got very good recognition on Clutch.co, the world’s leading directory of digital agencies and custom dev firms.
What separates you from other similar websites/companies?
While many customers have noted the eye-candy and minimalistic UI of our products as one of the key factors in our favor, I’d say that perhaps the most crucial point is our support service. It’s really empathic.
Doesn’t matter if it’s about regular helpdesk support for ordinary usage of our products or large-scale custom development projects, we give our all. Large companies often cannot be as flexible when it comes to non-standard inquiries and cases but we can. If a customer needs special features or their case is special, that’s definitely our customer.
Our commitment to providing solutions to a customer’s challenges often resulted in establishing a long-term partnership when that customer started using our services in areas not even closely connected to the original product for which the solution was provided.
Seeing that we’re comfortable and reliable to work with, customers get accustomed to the thought that they can rely upon us when they happen to start a new venture or clean the mess in some legacy project.
Which trends and technologies do you find to be particularly intriguing these days?
In our field, I see a growing interest in self-hosting. 10 years ago we saw the global adoption of cloud storage but now we see that the pendulum swings in the opposite direction. Compliance, local regulations, willingness to control your data dictate this setback. Now we have hybrid clouds and private clouds of all sorts.
Demand for security- and privacy-related technologies is rising exponentially. Incidents of massive data theft from top corporations or government institutions occur so often that they became mundane. And besides hackers looking for ransom, they are authorities live federal agencies which may enforce the provider to let them search through any customer’s data or simply take out storage hardware for inspection.
This raises the interest in end-to-end encryption technologies which transfer the encryption mechanism to end users’ devices, leaving the server with only encrypted data and no keys to decrypt them. This approach has become very popular in instant messenger apps and now is gaining recognition in file storage services and email apps.
We’re adopting this approach through the entire line of our products.
How do you envision the future of your industry?
An email will still be there. 10 years ago I heard “email is dead” from, like, everywhere. Now it’s still with us. It’s becoming a platform for “official” communication, much more like paper mail was. Email message feels like a “document” while an instant message – not really. Not yet, at least. Still, messaging platforms will tend to unify multiple communication channels, be it chat, email, voice, or video.
Major service providers (like MS with Office 365, Google with GSuite) will still leave some spots for smaller ones as local businesses need the level of support and customer dedication that major providers simply cannot sustain.
IoT will radically increase the number of communications, notifications, storage volumes, and so on. Big data still sounds like rocket science for many. Soon, we’ll treat it as just “data”, taking “big” for granted. The ability to index, search, analyze data in all meaningful aspects will become an inherent property of any information system. Today, it’s a feature. Tomorrow, it’s a must.
How has COVID impacted your customers and business?
I’d say the effect was balanced. Some clients had to cut down their expenses (or even went out of business) while others had to increase their online presence to keep up with shutting down the offline sector. As for remote work vs on-site work in the office, I can say that office work is still better for most employees.
We spent almost a year in remote mode, and now I can say that only a small fraction of staff would be willing to keep the remote format forever. Being actually together is important, in both senses of socialization and productivity.
However, partial work from home – that rocks. When the employee can decide if they want to go to the office today or stay at home – this makes life a lot easier. We’ll stick to this format for the time being (and, probably, forever).