Posts Tagged ‘ IBM ’

Cloud Computing: A Guide for Small Businesses

Cloud computing is all the rage these days, being generally described as a computing model in which services and storage are provided online When small business owners or new software companies refer to cloud computing, they most often mean an application that runs on the Internet; as opposed to operating from a desktop that is connected to the Internet—Software as a Service (SaaS). 

Everything from phone services to marketing operations has a cloud based solution. Oftentimes, you are using SaaS without even realizing it. For example, your email provider is likely delivering service from the cloud, without on-premise hardware and software.

The following is a guide of different factors to consider when deciding to adopt a cloud solution for your business.

The growth of cloud computing is astonishing.
The worldwide cloud computing market is estimated at $8 billion, with the U.S. market accounting for $3.2 billion of that sum, or 40%. Gartner’s 2011 predictions place Cloud Computing at the top of their list of Top Strategic Technologies. Additionally, Gartner predicts that the SaaS market will reach $14 billion in 2013.

Says Gartner, “Cloud computing services exist along a spectrum from open public to closed private. The next three years will see the delivery of a range of cloud service approaches that fall between these two extremes. Vendors will offers packaged private cloud implementations that deliver the vendor’s public cloud service technologies (software and/or hardware) and methodologies (i.e., best practices to build and run the service) in a form that can be implemented inside the consumer’s enterprise. Many will also offer management services to remotely manage the cloud service implementation.”

A recent study conducted by AMI-Partners revealed: “Small and medium business (SMB) spending in the U.S. on software-as-service (SaaS) will increase exponentially over the next five years, eclipsing growth in investments in on-premise software by a significant margin. AMI forecasts growth in investments in on-premise software by a significant margin. AMI forecasts a 25% CAGR in hosted business application services spending through 2014. This will come against a modest 5% uptick for all other categories of on-premise software combined. However, this growth will not be uniformly spread across all hosted applications. Mature applications such as ERP, SCM, procurement, finance, and core HR will turn over more slowly than those that are less saturated and have lower switching costs.”

Cloud computing software solutions vs. desktop applications.
Small businesses choose cloud computing solutions over desktop applications because it is less expensive. You pay a small monthly amount rather than a one-time fee, like with traditional desktop software.

Another reason small businesses choose cloud computing solutions is that the SaaS application is often a simplified version of what you are currently using, which is installed on your machine. The developers of many cloud computing apps have created just the basics required to get the job done.

One of the market leaders in the cloud computing industry, Salesforce.com, has over 52,000 customers in 2009 while hosting provider Rackspace has over 1,000 SaaS apps in its new AppMatcher.com service.

Cloud computing solutions are available whenever you want, wherever you are.
The application often needs to be accessible from a web browser for many small business users operating virtual offices or operating remotely on different machines depending on location. Cloud computing is available wherever you have access to a computer and browser, and that is one of its biggest advantages.

If you aren’t connected and operating your laptop offline, many apps have either a mobile app or a widget that you can download to run a lighter version of the software. Some Google Apps, for example, offer a desktop version called Google Gears, which will sync your data when you’re back online. Google Apps has over two million businesses and 25 million users in its cloud computing marketplace.

Simple, focused cloud computing solutions can often get the job done.
If you don’t use all of the features of your desktop, a cloud computing application might offer a “forever free” plan, which will allow you to do the same work as a desktop application, but limited in some way. A billing solution might let you run an unlimited number of voices, for example, but only for two separate clients.

With that said, all apps that live in the cloud are not more basic than their desktop equivalents, but rather they offer a paired down basic package that can help you complete the task at hand when you don’t require the feature-risk version. Zoho, for example, offers a simple bookkeeping app that is free. You can also integrate it with other financial SaaS apps to do more, or purchase the more feature-rich SaaS version.

Pay attention to the security of your data.
It is important to remember that you are still responsible for making sure data is where it needs to be—onsite or in a cloud. Your cloud computing vendor isn’t responsible for your data, security or data privacy. They may promise certain aspects of security, but your are responsible if regulators come calling if you are a financial institution, for example. It is important to make sure you aren’t violating any compliance concerns and that your data is safe.

A May 2010 ‘USA Today’ article told the story of a small business owner whose store was robbed. Eight desktops were stolen. They purchased eight new computers and were back in business in no time thanks to cloud services, like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365 and QuickBooks Online.

Choose a stable and reliable cloud computing vendor.
It is important to ask questions like, What type of Service Level Agreement (SLA) do they have? How long have they been in business? Can you talk to users directly? How many customers do they have? It is often possible to read testimonials and get good information, and if the testimonials are real, they will often link to the person who made the comment. You can also do a search on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Consider the uptime of your cloud computing applications.
Uptime refers to the time a hosted application’s performance record and most are in the range of 98-99.9%–which acknowledges that servers go down for maintenance or unexpected issues. Make sure to read SLAs carefully and talk about changing terms with the vendor if you have to.

Pay attention to customer support.
Be sure to check if there is an extra charge for support and maintenance or if it is included in your monthly subscription fee. While it is often included, it important to read the fine print to check and also to see if you have access to a customer support team via phone, email or social media.

Choose a flexible cloud computing vendor.
Your monthly frees are usually dependent on how many users you have and you can add and subtract users as needed. Your capital outlay to “purchase” cloud based apps is often lower than traditional on-premise or desktop apps. Cloud computing is one streamlined way to scale with your needs.

Evaluate your requirement for software upgrades.
Cloud computing apps are regularly improved and upgraded, and you benefit from each and every improvement without additional direct cost and without the effort and time of downloading and configuring upgrades. Enhancements often happen more quickly and in shorter development cycles, often based on customer requests.

Make sure your cloud solutions integrate well.
Cloud computing might just be for you if your need involves some type of integration, as many of the current cloud based apps offer an API (application programming interface) which other synergistic apps will leverage. You might find an accounting package, for example, that ties into a CRM package. You would have to pay someone to customize both apps for you if you wanted to do this with your current desktop application. A web-based app would save you time and money and might have already done it for you.

You can look into an offering like CastIron (recently acquired by IBM) if integration is your concern, as it “pre-configures a number of apps” so that you can connect to the solutions you are using already.

Cloud computing offers a distinct advantage if rapid deployment is integral to your project, as many cloud computing projects are up and running in hours—sometimes in minutes. Although you may not get every feature set configured to your need, you can start working right our of the gate oftentimes. If the provider you evaluate has an API connected to another application you need, it may offer advantages over a desktop application—which will require more money to customize later.

Cloud computing isn’t always the least exciting solution.
Cloud computing may be the perfect option if cash-flow is an issue. While on-premise software purchases often involve high upfront licensing costs, cloud computing apps often require no large up-front licensing fees requiring department or board approval. There are usually no annual maintenance fees either.

On a website pricing page, SaaS pricing is often clear, and if a cloud computing app vendor requires a demo or doesn’t reveal its pricing, it usually means that there is a more complicated solution that demands some installation process or customization that will cost more upfront.

Pay attention to how quickly your software needs to change.
User are often forced to choose between a.) Upgrading at a high cost and experiencing delays as the new features are evaluated and plans for adoption are formulated, and hire or enlist local IT talent to develop, test, debug, deploy and train personnel on the new application, or b.) Continue using the older version of the software and avoid advantages of an upgraded version when an application packages requires an upgrade.

You are left waiting for software changes to be made by the software company in both cases, but with the cloud computing model, you will see those upgrades sooner than with a desktop application. The vendor applies upgrades at the data center and the upgrades are made available to users immediately via online connection and there are only minor delays—they also come at no cost to the user.

Remember: your monthly fee covers the upgrades so make sure to compare this when you need to consider this. If you upgrade each year, than the monthly outlay may be lower from a total cost perspective over time, while with a desktop application you are waiting until the next—often annual—release.

Many goals can be accomplished without all of the bells and whistles.
Because they are often focused on a particular area or business niche, cloud based applications can be less robust. While it can be argued that you have to operate your business—from a software perspective—using the Pareto Principle in which 80% of the effects come from 20% of the solution, this isn’t entirely accurate because most desktop users routinely admit that they don’t use all of the features of a desktop application. This partly explains how many cloud based applications get developed—they look at core problems rather than a large feature set that most users won’t even try.

If the cloud computing application lacks some of the features you need, you can add features via customization or premium levels of vendor service. Each application provider is different, but most offer extensive interface capability, usually via Web services that integrate both internal and hosted systems.

A common myth is that cloud computing software doesn’t play well with legacy applications/data sources, but there are two primary methods of integrating cloud computing apps: batch synchronization (which initially involved exporting/importing your data into a cloud based applications, after which your data can be incrementally synchronized on a scheduled basis) and real-time integration via Web services (which is like a neural middle layer where your application talks to the cloud computing company).

It is important to note that you have to evaluate the implications and limitations of cloud computing software for your needs. Some gaps remain for complex end-to-end processes that require complicated workflows or business processes.

Engage your technical team.
It is important to keep lead technical people in the loop for security and integration issues for a number of reasons. If you are a business owner and are unsure about what information you are sharing, you could be sending information out that onsite applications need or you could even be putting corporate information at risk.

Applications and services are now easily accessible to end-users, who can acquire SaaS capabilities without input from their IT or data management teams, which is a major challenge with cloud computing. Other related issues like data replication, outages and the complications of outsourced data storage can complicate cloud integrations. And if your tech team isn’t aware that your are running certain cloud based apps, you could create  challenge in multiple functional areas.

Good cloud computing companies have built their web apps on a Web-services based architecture because it is less proprietary and easier for these apps to share data with one another. These standards make it easier for companies to integrate services, but they can inadvertently create security problems by making a hacker’s job easy if the proper security isn’t in place.

Internal training is still required.
Most SaaS vendors provide online video tutorials in addition to robust user communities and forums where you can get your questions answered. This makes cloud applications easier to use with less training involved. Direct access to these teams means less of a burden on your own internal technical teams.

Conclusion
Cloud computing is drastically shaping the current small business market and if you are trying to grow your business and are limited by cash flow, cloud computing is an attractive option. The addition of Smartphones and other mobile technologies—aka mobile computing—makes for a dwindling audience for on-premise applications. The previously listed 16 things to consider before choosing cloud computing solutions will help give you a new outlook on how to get work done and solve problems.

For more information on how cloud computing can help your small business contact a Nubifer representative today.

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IBM’s Tivoli Live

IBM recently announced a new addition to its SaaS portfolio, IBM Tivoli Live – Service Manager, which provides integrated service management capabilities as a monthly subscription on IBM’s cloud platform. Along with IBM Tivoli Live – Monitoring Services, Tivoli Live solutions allow organizations to quickly adopt and deploy key ITIL processes and combine them with performance and availability monitoring, all under a common subscription and delivery model. There is no need to purchase hardware, software licenses or installation services. 

Both solutions are based on a common platform and architecture that many IBM clients use today as on-premise software. Customers are not locked into a single consumption model and in fact can choose from an array of flexible delivery options including on-premise software, SaaS, appliances and managed help desk services. Now, organizations large and small can take advantage of enterprise-class software and easily migrate from one model to another based on their business needs.

For small and medium-sized businesses without large IT departments, this service provides a quick, and practical path towards improving IT performance. For larger organizations, this service can complement existing IT management infrastructure, helping organizations better manage their costs and standardize IT operations.

Tivoli Live – Service Manager offers a comprehensive set of capabilities for implementing problem, incident, change, release and asset management processes, leveraging a common data model and a robust change management database. Customers have the flexibility to purchase any of these capabilities through our unique role based user pricing.

Tivoli Live – Monitoring Services delivers Tivoli Monitoring and Tivoli Composite Application Management software over the Web, which allow customers to manage the health and performance of their data center’s resources – including operating systems, virtualized servers, middleware and applications.

For more information on IBM’s Cloud Services, visit Nubifer.com.

Feds to Unveil Cloud Security Guidelines

Late in 2010, the federal government issued draft plans for the voluntary Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, dubbed FedRAMP. FedRAMP is expected to be operational by April, 2011 and would ensure cloud services meet federal cyber-security guidelines—which will likely shelve remaining government concerns about cloud security and ramp up adoption of cloud technologies.

Developed with cross-government and industry support over the past 18 months, the voluntary program would put cloud services through a standardized security accreditation and certification process. Any authorization could subsequently be leveraged by other agencies. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra said in a statement, “By simplifying how agencies procure cloud computing solutions, we are paving the way for more cost-effective and energy-efficient service delivery for the public, while reducing the federal government’s data center footprint.”

The adoption of cloud computing has been promoted by the Obama Administration as a way to help save the government money, and Kundra and other top officials have championed the technology and instituting policies like data center consolidation requirements—which could bring about a shift to the cloud. Federal IT managers, however, have consistently raised security concerns as the biggest barrier to adoption.

The government’s security concerns arise partly because cloud computing is a relatively new paradigm that has to be adapted to the security requirements of regulations like the Federal Information Management Security Act (FISMA, which governs federal cyber-security for most government agencies).  By mapping out the baseline required security controls for cloud systems, FedRAMP creates a consistent set of security outlines for cloud computing.

FedRAMP will seek to eliminate a duplicative, costly process to certify and accredit applications. Each agency used to take apps and services through their own accreditation process, but in the shared-infrastructure environment of the cloud, this process is redundant.

The FedRAMP draft is comprised of three major components: a set of cloud computing security baseline requirements; a process to continuously monitor cloud security; and a description of proposed operational approaches to authorizing and assessing cloud-based systems.

FedRAMP will be used for both private and public cloud services, and possibly for non-cloud computing information technologies and products. For example, two agencies have informed IBM of their intent to sponsor certification of their new Federal Community Cloud services.

Commercial vendors will not be able to directly request FedRAMP authorization, but rather have to rely on the sponsorship of a federal agency that plans to use their cloud services. Guidance on the CIO Council’s website suggests, FedRAMP “may not have the resources to accommodate all requests initially,” and that GSA will focus on systems with potentially larger user bases or cross-government interest, suggesting that the government predicts a large amount of interest.

FedRAMP will remain an inter-agency effort under federal CIO Kundra’s authority and will be managed by GSA. The new Joint Authorization Board, which now includes reps from GSA, the Department of Defense, will authorize the systems that go through the process with the sponsoring agency.

Although FedRAMP provides a base accreditation, most agencies have security requirements that go beyond FISMA and thus may have to do more work on top of the FedRAMP certification to make sure the cloud services they are looking to deploy meet individual agency requirements.

For more information regarding the Federal adoption of cloud technologies, visit Nubifer.com.

A Review of IBM’s Cloud Services

With more than 20,000 members and more than 200,000 processes currently modeled and documented, IBM’s new Blueworks Live offering unites process documentation and social community elements. IBM’s new cloud service provides a new ability to structure and automate ad-hoc processes quickly, effectively and efficiently.

IBM’s latest business process management cloud offering, Blueworks Live offers the most effective way for businesses to acquire and use IT with IBM’s reputation for security, reliability and integration. IDC predicts that public cloud services will grow at over five times the rate of traditional IT products. In 2009 worldwide revenue from public IT cloud services exceeded $16 billion, and that figure is expected to reach $55.5 million by 2014 (representing a compound annual growth rate of 27.4%).

With IBM’s new business process management cloud offering, employees will be able to quickly improve simple processes like new marketing promotional campaigns, employee on-boarding, and sales quote approvals, gaining increased visibility, understanding, insight and control. With Blueworks Live, business users interact with their departmental colleagues and collaborate through a private and secure company work stream, choosing to easily follow any updates to roles, processes, etc. These are updated in a stream view similar to that of the popular social networks enabling managers and team members to instantly see the status of work in progress via built-in dashboards and reports.

Blueworks Live offers intuitive discovery and documentation capabilities for even the most complex processes. For example, one client, PRC, is using Blueworks Live’s capabilities as part of its integrated call center operations.

IBM WebSphere Decision Server
Automating decisions to streamline process design and execution and subsequently make better, quicker decisions is a key to improving business processes. IBM is adding a new technology to its market leadership in Business Rules Management Systems – WebSphere Decision Server. Among this decision management software’s capabilities is the ability to deliver more dynamic marketing promotions and pricing, better fraud detection and prevention and more refined risk assessments.

Joining SPSS Decision Management, this product builds on IBM’s growing decision management portfolio, allowing business users to set up industry-specific data for fast, efficient modeling, providing predictive analytics to business users.

IBM enables organizations to detect and react to defined data patterns as they occur and provide the appropriate decision response based on various factors such as business policies and best practices or regulatory requirements by combining Business Rules Management technologies with WebSphere Decision Server.

IBM WebSphere Lombardi Edition
An easy-to-use business process management (BPM) offering for building and managing process applications with less time, money and risk in a unified platform, WebSphere Lombardi Edition’s graphical design makes it easy for process owners and business users to implement and improve their business processes.

Clients can gain the visibility to understand process bottlenecks and inefficiencies so they can be streamlined, with built-in real-time monitoring and analytics. WebSphere Lombardi Edition is tailored to business processes requiring a high degree of usage and collaboration, and its shared model architecture ensures collaboration between business and IT departments.

IBM Elevates Its Cloud Offerings with Purchase of Cast Iron Systems

IBM Senior Vice President and Group Executive for IBM Software Group Steve Mills announced the acquisition of cloud integration specialist Cast Iron Systems at the IBM Impact 2010 conference in Las Vegas on May 3. The privately held Cast Iron is based in Mountain View, California and delivers cloud integration software, appliances and services, thus the acquisition broadens the delivery of cloud computing services for IMB’s clients. IBM’s business process and integration software portfolio grew over 20 percent during the first quarter and the company sees this deal as a way to expand it further. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed although Cast Iron Systems’ 75 employees will be integrated into IBM.

According to IBM officials, Big Blue anticipated the worldwide cloud computing market to grow at a compounded annual rate of 28 percent from $47 billion in 2008 to a projected $126 billion by 2012. The acquisition of Cast Iron Systems reflects IBM’s expansion of its software business around higher value capabilities that help clients run companies more effectively.

IBM has transformed its business model to focus on higher value, high-margin capabilities through organic and acquisitive growth in the past ten years–and the company’s software business has been a key catalyst in this shift. IBM’s software revenue grew at 11 percent year-to-year during the first quarter and the company generated $8 billion in software group profits in 2008 (up from $2.8 billion in 2000).

Since 2003, the IBM Software Group has acquired over 55 companies, and the acquisition of Cast Iron Systems is part of that. Cast Iron Systems’ clients include Allianz, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, NEC, Dow Jones, Schumacher Group, ShoreTel, Time Warner, Westmont University and Sports Authority and the cloud integration specialist has completed thousands of cloud integrations around the globe for retail organizations, financial institutions and media and entertainment companies.

IBM’s acquisition comes at a time when one of the major challenges facing businesses when adopting cloud delivery models is integrating the disparate systems running in their data centers with new cloud-based applications–which used to be time-consuming work which drained resources. IBM gains the ability to help businesses rapidly integrate their cloud-based applications and on-pemises systems, with the acquisition of Cast Iron Systems. Additionally, the acquisition advances IBM’s capabilities for a hybrid cloud model–which allows enterprises to blend data from on-premises applications with public and private cloud systems.

IBM, which is know for offering application integration capabilities for on-premises and business-to-business applications, will now be able to offer clients a complete platform to integrate cloud applications from providers like Amazon, Salesforce.com, NewSuite and ADP with on-premises applications like SAP and JD Edwards. Relationships between IBM and Amazon and Salesforce.com will essentially become friendlier due to this acquisition.

IBM said that it can use Cast Iron Systems’ hundreds of prebuilt templates and services expertise to eliminate expensive coding, thus allowing cloud integrations to be completed in mere days (rather than weeks, or even longer). These results can be achieved through using a physical appliance, a virtual appliance or a cloud service.

Craig Hayman, general manager for IBM WebSphere said in a statement, “The integration challenges Cast Iron Systems is tackling are crucial to clients who are looking to adopt alternative delivery models to manage their businesses. The combination of IBM and Cast Iron Systems will make it easy for clients to integrate business applications, no matter where those applications reside. This will give clients greater agility and, as a result, better business outcomes.”

IMB cited Cast Iron Systems helping pharmaceutical distributor Amerisource Bergen Specialty Group connecting Saleforce CRM with its on-premise corporate data warehouse as an example. The company has since been able to give its customer service associates access to the accurate, real-time information they need to deliver a positive customer experience while realizing $250,000 in annual cost savings.

Cast Irons Systems additionally aided a division of global corporate insurance leader Allianz integrate Salesforce CRM with its on-premises underwriting applications to offer real-time visibility into contract renewals for its sales team and key performance indicators for sales management. IBM said that Allianz beat its own 30-day integration project deadline by replacing labor-intensive custom code with Cast Iron Systems’ integration solution.

President and chief executive officer of Cast Iron Systems Ken Comee said, “Through IBM, we can bring Cast Iron Systems’ capabilities as the world’s leading provider of cloud integration software and services to  global customer set. Companies around the world will now gain access to our technologies through IBM’s global reach and its vast network of partners. As part of IBM, we will be able to offer clients a broader set of software, services and hardware to support their cloud and other IT initiatives.”

IBM will remain consistent with its software strategy by supporting and enhancing Cast Iron Systems’ technologies and clients while simultaneously allowing them to utilize the broader IBM portfolio. For more information, visit Nubifer.com.

Microsoft and IBM Compete for Space in the Cloud as Google Apps Turns 3

Google may have been celebrating the third birthday of Google Apps Premier Edition on February 22, but Microsoft and IBM want a piece of the cake, errr cloud, too. EWeek.com reports that Google is trying to dislodge legacy on-premises installations from Microsoft and IBM while simultaneously fending off SaaS solutions from said companies. In addition, Google has to fend off offerings from Cisco Systems and startups like Zoho and MinTouch, to name a few. Despite the up-and-comers, Google, Microsoft and IBM are the main three companies competing for pre-eminence in the market for cloud collaborative software.

Three year ago, Google launched its Google Apps Premier Edition, marking a bold gamble on the future of collaborative software. Back then, and perhaps even still, the collaborative software market was controlled by Microsoft and IBM. Microsoft and IBM have over 650 million customers for their Microsoft ® Office, Sharepoint and IBM Lotus suite combined. These suits are licensed as “on-premises” software which customers install and maintain on their own servers.

When Google launched Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), it served as a departure from this on-premises model by offering collaboration software hosted on Google’s servers and delivered via the Web. We now know this method as cloud computing.

Until the introduction of GAPE, Google Apps was available in a free standard edition (which included Gmail, Google Docs word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software), but with GAPE Google meant to make a profit. For just $50 per user per year, companies could provide their knowledge workers with GAPE, which featured the aforementioned apps as well as additional storage, security and, most importantly, 24/7 support.

Google Apps now has over two million business customers–of all shapes and sizes–and is designed to appeal to both small companies desiring low-cost collaboration software but are lacking the resources to manage it and large enterprises desiring to eliminate the cost of managing collaboration applications on their own. At the time, Microsoft and IBM were not aggressively exploring this new cloud approach.

Fast-forward to 2009. Microsoft and IBM had released hosted collaboration solutions (Microsoft ® Business Productivity Office Suite and LotusLive respectively) to keep Google Apps from being lonely in the cloud.

On the third birthday of GAPE, Google has its work cut out for it. Google is trying to dislodge legacy on-premises installations from Microsoft and IBM while fending of SaaS solutions from Microsoft, IBM, Zoho, Mindtouch and the list goes on.

Dave Girouard, Google Enterprise President, states that while Google spent 2007 and 2008 debating the benefits of the cloud, the release of Microsoft and IBM products validated the market. EWeek.com quotes Girouard as saying, “We now have all major competitors in our industry in full agreement that the cloud is worth going to. We view this as a good thing. If you have all of the major vendors suggesting you look at the cloud, the consideration of our solutions is going to rise dramatically.”

For his part, Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft Online Services, thinks that there is room for everyone in the cloud because customer needs vary by perspective. Said Markezich to EWeek.com, “Customers are all in different situations. Whether a customer wants to go 100 percent to the cloud or if they want to go to the cloud in a measured approach in a period of years, we want to make sure we can bet on Microsoft to serve their needs. No one else has credible services that are adopted by some of the larger companies in the world.”

Microsoft’s counter to Google Apps is Microsoft’s ® Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). It includes Microsoft ® Exchange Online with Microsoft ® Exchange Hosted Filtering, Microsoft ® SharePoint Online, Microsoft ® Office Communications Online and Microsoft ® Office Living Meeting. Microsoft also offers the Business Productivity Online Deskless Worker Suite (which includes Exchange Online Deskless Worker for email, calendars and global address lists, antivirus and anti-spam filters) and Microsoft ® Outlook Web Access Light (for access to company email) for companies with either tighter budgets or those in need of lower cost email and collaboration software. Sharepoint Online Deskless Worker provides easy access to SharePoint portals, team sites and search functionality.

The standard version of BPOS costs $1 user per month or $120 per user per year while BPOS Deskless Worker Suite is $4 per user per month or $36 per user per year. Users may also license single apps as stand-alone services from $2 to $5 per user per month, which serves as a departure from Google’s one-price-for-the-year GAPE package.

The same code base is used by Microsoft for its BPOS package, on-premises versions of Exchange and SharePoint, thus making legacy customers’ transition into the cloud easier should they decide to migrate to BPOS. Microsoft thinks that this increases the likelihood that customers will remain with Microsoft rather than switching to Google Apps or IBM Lotus.

At Lotusphere 2008, IBM offered a hint at its cloud computing goals with Bluehouse, a SaaS extranet targeted toward small- to mid-size business. The product evolved as LotusLive Engage, a general business collaboration solution with social networking capabilities from IBM’s LotusLive Connections suite, at Lotusphere 2009. In the later half of 2009, the company sought to fill the void left open by the absence of email, by introducing the company’s hosted email solution LotusLive iNotes. iNotes costs $3 per user per month and $36 per user per year. Additionally, IBM offers LotusLive Connections, a hosted social networking solution, as well as the aforementioned LotusLive Engage.

Vice president of online collaboration for IBM Sean Pouelly told EWeek.com that IBM is banking on companies using email to adopt their social networking services saying, “It’s unusual that they just buy one of the services.” Currently over 18 million paid seats use hosted versions of IBM’s Lotus software.

IBM’s efforts in the cloud began to really get attention when the company scored Panasonic as a customer late last year. In its first year of implementing LotusLive iNotes, the consumer electronics maker plans on migrating over 100,000 users from Lotus Notes, Exchange and Panasonic’s proprietary email solution to LotusLive.

When it comes down to it, customers have different reasons for choosing Google, Microsoft or IBM. All three companies have major plans for 2010, and each company has a competitive edge. For more information regarding Cloud Computing please visit Nubifer.com.