Archive for December, 2010

Start Me Up….Cloud Tools Help Companies Accelerate the Adoption of Cloud Computing

Article reposted form HPC in the Cloud Online Magazine. Article originally posted on Nov. 29 2010:

For decision makers looking to maximize their impact on the business, cloud computing offers a myriad of benefits. At a time when cloud computing is still being defined, companies are actively researching how to take advantage of these new technology innovations for business automation, infrastructure reduction, and strategic utility based software solutions.

When leveraging “the cloud”, organizations can have on-demand access to a pool of computing resources that can instantly scale as demands change. This means IT — or even business users — can start new projects with minimal effort or interaction and only pay for the amount of IT resources they end up using.

The most basic division in cloud computing is between private and public clouds. Private clouds operate either within an organization’s DMZ or as managed compute resources operated for the client’s sole use by a third-party platform provider. Public clouds let multiple users segment resources from a collection of data-centers in order to satisfy their business needs. Resources readily available from the Cloud include:

● Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Provides users with business applications run off-site by an application provider. Security patches, upgrades and performance enhancements are the application provider’s responsibility.

● Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): Platform providers offer a development environment with tools to aide programmers in creating new or updated applications, without having to own the software or servers.

● Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Offers processing power, storage and bandwidth as utility services, similar to an electric utility model. The advantage is greater flexibility, scalability and interoperability with an organization’s legacy systems.

Many Platforms and Services to Choose From:

Cloud computing is still in its infancy, with a host of platform and application providers serving up a plethora of Internet-based services ranging from scalable on-demand  applications to data storage services to spam filtering. In this current IT environment, organizations’ technology ecosystem have to operate cloud-based services individually, but cloud integration specialists and ISVs (integrated software vendors) are becoming more prevalent and readily available to build on top of the emerging and powerful platforms.

Mashing together services provided by the worlds largest and best funded companies like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, Rackspace, Oracle, IBM, HP and many others, gives way to an opportunity for companies to take hold and innovate, and build a competitive, cost saving cloud of their own on the backs of these software giant’s evolving view of the cloud.

Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, licensing and maintenance of new software. Cloud computing involves all subscription-centric or pay-for-what-you-use service that extends your IT environments existing capabilities.

Before deciding whether an application is destined for the cloud, analyze you current cost of ownership. Examine more than just the original licenses and cost of ownership; factor in ongoing expenses for maintenance, power, personnel and facilities. To start, many organizations build an internal private cloud for application development and testing, and decide from their if it is cost-effective to scale fully into a public cloud environment.

“Bridging the Whitespace” between Cloud Applications

One company, Nubifer.com (which in Latin, translates to ‘bringing the clouds’) approaches simplifying the move to the Cloud for its enterprise clients by leveraging a proprietary set of Cloud tools named Nubifer Cloud:Portal, Cloud:Connector and Cloud:Link. Nubifer’s approach with Cloud:Portal enables the rapid development of “enterprise cloud mash-ups”, providing rich dash-boards for authentication, single sign-on and identity management. This increased functionality offers simple administration of accounts spanning multiple SaaS systems, and the ability to augment and quickly integrate popular cloud applications. Cloud Connector seamlessly integrates data management, data sync services, and enables highly available data interchange between platforms and applications. And Cloud:Link provides rich dashboards for analytic and monitoring metrics improving system governance and audit trails of various SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

As a Cloud computing accelerator, Nubifer focuses on aiding enterprise companies in the adoption of emerging SaaS and PaaS platforms. Our recommended approach to an initial Cloud migration is to institute a “pilot program” tailored around your platform(s) of choice to in order to fully iron-out any integration issues that may arise prior to a complete roll-out.

Nubifer’s set of Cloud Tools can be hosted on Windows Azure, Amazon EC2 or Google AppEngine. The scalability offered by these Cloud platforms promote an increased level of interoperability, availability, and a significantly lower financial barrier for entry not historically seen with current on-prem application platforms.

Cloud computing’s many flavors of services and offerings can be daunting at first review, but if you take a close look at the top providers offerings, you will see an ever increasing road map for on-boarding your existing or new applications to “the cloud”. Taking the first step is easy, and companies like Nubifer that provide the platform services, and the partner networks to aid your goals, are resourced and very eager to support your efforts.

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10 Compelling Reasons to Choose Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

The beta version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 was launched earlier this fall, generating buzz among industry analysts due to its major enhancements. Among the new features are a next-generation Microsoft Outlook client, Microsoft Office contextual CRM Ribbon for Office navigation and user experience, user personalization and role-tailored design.

Specifically architected for both cloud and on-prem deployments, the new software is Microsoft’s most robust attempt at gaining traction in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market space.

Following are some improved features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011:

1.     Advanced User Personalization Capabilities
Users can now configure their workplaces to meet their unique roles and informational needs. Personalizing a workspace means that users can set the default pane and tab that display when they open Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Now you can customize what links appear in the workplace view, how many records appear in lists, how numbers and dates display and language capabilities. Users can also combine these personalized features with new dashboards creating  personalized dashboards for default viewing.

2.     Integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics NAV
This latest version of Microsoft Dynamics illustrates Microsoft’s desire to offer out-of-the-box integration with two of its key products, SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates with SharePoint Server’s document management through contextual document repositories and will also integrate with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 R2 (set to arrive in the next few months). In conjunction with each other, these two products will increase productivity by enhancing interaction between front and back office applications.

3.     Business Intelligence Functionality
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011’s new real-time dashboards offer advanced business intelligence functionality that is more intuitive. Users are able to speedily configure multiple dashboards to monitor business performance, for example, and can set up dashboards for individual or shared use. The dashboards can include in-line charts with drill-down intelligence to visually navigate data, identify trends and uncover new insights.

4.     Seamless Integration with Microsoft Office
With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 comes a new Office 2010 contextual ribbon for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM browser clients, which delivers a consistent, familiar navigation and user experience. This allows Dynamics CRM users to take advantage of native Outlook functionality such as previews and conditional formatting. With the new release, users can highlight and flag CRM records (like with an Outlook email) and the reading pane grants readers an instant view of a record without having to open up a new screen.

5.     Interactive Process Dialogs
Dialogs aid users in the collection and processing of information using step-by-step scripts. Companies can use dialogs to increase performance and versatility by incorporating advanced work-flow logic, which calls automated tasks using the responses a customer or user makes during a dialog script.

6.     Improved Configuration Capabilities
Key features include custom activities and communications, data auditing, field-level security, tailored form experience and improved knowledge base.

7.      Cloud Development and Deployment
With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, developers can take advantage of Windows Azure to develop and deploy custom code for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online using tools like Visual Studio. Developers can incorporate Microsoft Silverlight, Windows Communication Foundation and .NET Language Integrated Query (LINQ) into their cloud solutions using Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0.

8.     Role-Based Forms and Views
Forms and views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM are based on user roles; this role-tailored design ensures that users have speedy access to the relevant information they need, while simultaneously preventing users from accessing data that they aren’t authorized to view.

9.     Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace
An online solutions catalog which helps developers accelerate and extend their Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online implementations. The Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace is fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM enabling customers to access the Marketplace from within Microsoft Dynamics CRM in order to search applications and connect with Microsoft Registered Partners.

10.  Customizing and Sharing
With Dynamics CRM, Microsoft introduces what the vendor calls “solutions”: ways to save customizations and share them with others. Users can create a solution or import an app created by a developer outside the organization; a managed solution can only be edited by a specific user while an un-managed solution can be edited by any user with an appropriate role. A solution is able to have version numbering, relationships with entities and other components and security features based on user roles.

Microsoft Dynamics 2011 offers a powerful suite of Business Intelligence capabilities which will aid any organization streamline is contact management processes.

For more information about CRM consulting services offered by Nubifer, visit www.nubifer.com

BPOS to be Enhanced with Office Web Apps

Although the software giant has yet to reveal a specific timeline for the integration, Microsoft announced plans in October to add Office Web Apps to its hosted Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). This integration will give Microsoft a much-needed edge, and keep BPOS ahead of rivals like Google Apps. Google Apps offers office productivity applications as part of their broader cloud-based collaboration and communication suites.

Described by Microsoft officials as “online companions” to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, Office Web Apps offers hosted versions of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that feature the use-ability found in the on-premise Microsoft Office suite. The software company says they are aiming to let users “access, view and edit” documents via a the Internet.

With about 20 million users, Office We Apps is currently available free for individual consumers as part of the Windows Live online services. Office Web apps is also a component to the free Live@EDU collaboration and communication suite for educational institutions. Office Web Apps can also be accessed by organizations that own the on-premise versions of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

It has been widely reported that the absence of Office Web Apps from BPOS has not hindered the adoption of that collaboration and communication suite for businesses (which features Exchange Online, Office SharePoint Online and Microsoft Office Live Meeting).

According to industry analysts, BPOS licenses have more than tripled since the start of 2010, but it is unknown how many BPOS seats have been sold overall. Microsoft stated recently that there are 40 million paid seats of Microsoft Online Services—of which BPOS is a part of. In October, Microsoft announced a number of big customer wins for BPOS, such as DuPont (58,000 end users), Volvo (18,000 end users), Australia’s Spotless Group, Godiva and Sunoco.

Industry analysts have observed that the familiarity of Microsoft’s software interfaces and tools (because it is present in many enterprises), as well as the links between Microsoft’s cloud and on-premise software, will be an advantage for the company.

Gartner explains, “I’d expect to see a growing opportunity for companies looking to move to a more cost-effective collaboration environment to consider Microsoft in the mix because of its experience in delivering enterprise collaboration.”

Analysts have also seen that Microsoft’s sales-teams are being aggressive about spreading the word about BPOS and promoting it as part of the renewing of enterprise contracts. A Gartner analyst has been quoted as saying, “Microsoft has tapped a deep root of demand for cloud services with BPOS.”

Additionally, Microsoft announced new customers, including several California State University schools, the University of Montana, Northern Kentucky University, the College of DuPage, Washington University in St. Louis and Aston University in the U.K., for Live@EDU. Live@EDU now features more than 10,000 academic institutions with over 11 million end users. Live@EDU includes Office Web Apps, Windows Live Sky Drive and Outlook Live.

For more information regarding BPOS contract a Nubifer representative today. Nubifer is a Microsoft Certified Partner.

Zoho CRM Adds QuickBooks and Telephony Integration

Zoho Corp., a leader in Software as a Service business applications, announced Wednesday December 8th that their ‘Zoho CRM’ offering now allows users to leverage QuickBooks software and Telephony Integration. Over the past few years, Zoho has had over 300,000 apps created on this platform, and as Zoho CRM evolves as a leading work-flow engine, they are introducing two key modules to Zoho CRM – QuickBooks & Telephony integration.

Zoho offers SaaS applications and provides a wide, integrated portfolio of rich online applications for businesses. With more than 20 different applications spanning Collaboration, Business and Productivity, Zoho helps businesses and organizations get work done. Zoho’s applications are delivered via the Internet, requiring nothing but a browser, enabling organizations to focus on their business while leveraging Zoho in order to maintain the servers and keep data safe.

Zoho CRM for QuickBooks

Zoho’s most recent CRM integration will help users sync information between their Zoho CRM and QuickBooks applications. This update now enables a business’ Customer and Inventory data to be synced between these two leading-edge officing and productivity systems. As QuickBooks doesn’t offer a per user model, this Add-on can be licensed for the entire organization for $25/Month.

Key features of the QuickBooks update for Zoho CRM include:

  • Zoho CRM for QuickBooks syncs Contacts, Vendors, Products, Quotes, Invoices and the Sales Orders modules.
  • Users can choose to import data from both systems or the Sync data automatically
  • Users have the option to choose which system gets a priority when there is conflicting data
  • Users have options to map data fields between Zoho CRM & QuickBooks
  • Zoho CRM Integrates with on-premise versions of QuickBooks Premier from 2008 to 2010 and also Simple Start  2008

Zoho PhoneBridge – Telephony Integration

As the name suggests, PhoneBridge connects your Telephone system(PBX) with Zoho CRM and allows you to interact with your CRM account during all your inbound and outbound calls. This add-on connects data from Zoho CRM with the telephony systems. For incoming and outgoing calls from your telephone, Zoho CRM can pull up the information of the caller, if available in the CRM system, and display that information in the app allowing you to log information for the contact.

Where is it used? Consider the case of a Call Center. Cold Calling, telemarketing calls, telesales calls,customer care, customer support –  these are the typical operations of call centers. They can leverage the data from the CRM System during a call.

This feature is available immediately. This module is proceed at $6/user/month after a 15 day trial.

Contact Nubifer representative to discover how Zoho CRM can work for your business.