Posts Tagged ‘ zoho ’

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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Zoho Corp. Adding an SMB Accounting Application: Zoho Books

Zoho Corp., a leader in Software as a Service business applications, announced Wednesday January 19th that they are adding an accounting application to their portfolio: Zoho Books. Over the past few years, Zoho has had over 300,000 apps created on their platform, and as Zoho evolves as a leading work-flow engine, they are introducing application Integration with online payment gateways like Paypal, Google Checkout and Authorize.net.

Zoho offers SaaS applications and provides a wide, integrated portfolio of rich online applications for businesses. With 26 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.

Detailing Zoho Books

Zoho Books is an online accounting application that gives organizations complete visibility of their finances and aides management of cash moving in and out of the business. Zoho defines its’ Books application as “accounting for rest of us”. A primary selling point is that users need not be an accountant to mange their business and make informed financial decisions.

Those interested can view Zoho’s Youtube video describing Zoho Books here.

Features of Zoho Books:

Money In
Get a clear picture of how much cash-flow your business is generating. Manage your customers and invoice them either online or by direct mail. Automate recurring invoices, payment reminders and payment thank-you notes.

Money Out
Manage and control expenses and cash flow. Record invoices and commitments for purchase, services and even for reimbursable expenses, such as client travel. Keep track of the outstanding balances with vendors.

Banking and Credit Cards
Record and monitor your bank and credit card transactions such as deposits, fund transfers, checks, expenses, credits and refunds.

Go Global
Transact globally with multi-currency capabilities. Record foreign currency invoices and  expenses.

Collaborate
Share accounting duties with anyone in your organization, but set different permissions for those with access employees.

Stay on Top of Your Business
Glance through the dashboard to know what’s going well with your business and what’s not. Make smart and quick business decisions with the help of our insightful, available-anywhere reports.

Zoho Books integrate​s seamlessly with other Zoho ​applications. F​or example, users can import their contacts from Zoho CRM, view d​ata from various modules in Zoho Sheet, etc. I​n particular, Zoho Invoice customers will be able to seamlessly migrate from Zoho Invoice to Zoho Books – and go beyond invoicing to full-blown accounting without having to start over.

Zoho Books is also immediately available for Google Apps users through the Google Apps Marketplace.

Zoho Books is priced at $24/month (or $240/year with a 2 month discount). This includes access for 2 users. If you’d like to provide access for additional users, it’ll be an additional $5/user/month.

For more information on Zoho Books or any other Zoho application contact a Nubifer representative today.

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.


Zoho Creator Adds Reporting & Scheduler Modules

Zoho Corp., a leader in Software as a Service business applications, announced Wednesday October 6th that their ‘Zoho Creator’ offering now allows users to create situational applications. Over the past few years, Zoho has had over 300,000 apps created on this platform, and as Zoho Creator evolves as a leading work-flow engine, they are introducing two key modules to Zoho Creator – Reports & Schedules.

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.

Reports Module
Zoho is introducing a powerful business intelligence module in Zoho Reports that lets users create different types of reports and pivot tables.This Reporting module is now integrated into Zoho Creator allowing users to analyze the data they have in their application. Users are now able to:

  • Create dynamic reports based on the data contained in their Creator app
  • Generate Pivot Tables (including multi-level pivots) with a range of options
  • Filter & Sort data with a report builder interface
  • Embed & Share reports with team members or by embedding them on a website

Scheduler Module
The newly introduced scheduler module lets users create and schedule automated tasks. These tasks can be triggered by user input or at pre-set times and/or dates. There are three general schedule types:

  • Form Schedules, which lets users configure actions to be executed based on any date/date time field in a form
  • Report Schedules lets users schedule periodic reports of data that has been added to their application
  • Custom Schedule give users the power to create and execute their own scripts

Reports Pricing

  • Two reports are available for free users and paid users with ‘Basic’ and ‘Standard’ plans.
  • Unlimited Reports are available for Paid users (Professional plans and above)

Scheduler Pricing

  • Scheduler module is available for all paid users. It includes 31 schedulers.
  • A 15 day trial version is available for free users.

These two modules are available for use now and are readily available at http://www.zoho.com.  For more information on Zoho’s suite of SaaS applications, and migration best practices please contact a Nubifer representative today. www.Nubifer.com -or- (800) 293 4496.

Zoho Sheet 2.0 launches on August 31st 2010, with support for Million Cell Spreadsheets

Zoho, an industry leader in cloud hosted officing software, announced today the launch of Zoho Sheet 2.0. Among the many added features of Zoho Sheet, is the newly added support for million cell spreadsheets.

When a user logs-in to Zoho Sheet 2.0, they will not notice much change visually, but there have been many performance improvements on the back-end. Frequent users of Zoho’s increasingly popular spreadsheet app will notice the performance and interoperability improvements instantly. Regarding the performance of the app, Zoho enhanced the back-end engine significantly upgrading its performance, allowing users of Zoho Sheet 2.0 to load large and complex spreadsheets with instant response times.

Zoho Sheet’s One Million Cell Spreadsheet

At Nubifer Inc., we are constantly working with extensive spreadsheets, and were infinitely familiar with constant freezes and over-consumption of local compute resources. This is no longer an issue for our teams, as Zoho Sheet is completely online with all the heavy lifting being done on the server side, keeping our client side agile and nimble.

With Zoho’s latest product update, subscribers can now create a million cell spreadsheet. Zoho Sheet 2.0 supports 65,536 rows and 256 columns per worksheet, creating 1 Million Cells per spreadsheet project. Supporting a million cells is an important feature, but maintaining efficient load-times with large spreadsheets was the primary goal with Zoho Sheet 2.0. Waiting as long as 5 minutes to load very large spreadsheets is no longer an issue, this can now be experienced instantly within your web browser. We here at Nubifer encourage you to give it a test drive, and witness for yourself how agile and efficient response is while using Zoho Sheet 2.0.

Here is an example embedded spreadsheet with 25,000 rows. The performance on the return is quite impressive.


In addition to the improved performance metrics, here are some other great features designed to aid functionality and work flow.

Chrome & Safari Browser Support

Zoho Sheet now officially supports Chrome 4+, Safari 4+, Firefox 2+ and IE 6+.

Some Additionally Impressive Improvements

  • Users can now directly input Chinese, Japanese & Korean characters without having to double-click on a cell.
  • Improved ‘Find’ functionality. Control+F will now bring up the ‘Find’ panel at the bottom of the spreadsheet with options to search within the row, column or sheet.
  • The ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’ actions now work across the spreadsheet and are maintained on a per-user basis while collaborating with other users.
  • You can now set formats and styles on column, row, and sheet tiers.

Are you an existing user? If not, you probably wont see many changes visually, but you will experience these enhancements when working with Zoho Sheets 2.0.

Zoho is tirelessly working on performance updates to their cloud-hosted officing applications. Some updates are cosmetic for look and feel, while others are performance based. The overwhelming majority of Zoho’s updates go under the hood. For these updates, users may not notice anything visually, but these updates are significant and lay the groundwork for things to come in the future.

For more information about Zoho Sheet, or other Zoho officing applications please visit Nubifer.com.

Jabber Now Supported on Zoho Chat

Launched Wednesday August 4th, the ever-popular Jabber protocol will be supported on Zoho Chat. This enables users to log-in with their personal Zoho credentials and chat with colleagues and personnel if the enterprise network contains a Jabber client. This latest Zoho update interoperates with a multitude of Jabber clients including desktop, web and mobile clients.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Zoho Chat now supports Jabber. Users can connect to Zoho Chat from any desktop/web/mobile clients
  • Zoho Chat is a multi-protocol IM App that is integrated across all Zoho Apps
  • Zoho Chat can also be used for support when embedded on websites
  • Supports notifications on the desktop clients (for document sharing, missed messages)

In Zoho’s previous release, Jabber on the client side was supported, thus permitting users to connect to other Jabber networks from the Zoho Chat client. With this most recent update, Zoho Chat supports Jabber protocol on the server side allowing you to connect to Zoho from any chat client (encrypted connections only), creating many interesting business use case scenarios.

If your business environment is anything like ours here at Nubifer.com, you need to remain constantly connected to your partners, clients and colleagues. This newest release from Zoho allows users to log-in to their mobile device and run the application in the background. While on Jabber clients, Zoho Chat users can view the status of other connected members, view their profile photos, receive ‘Typing’ notifications, set a users current status and much more. Users will also be notified whenever a connection tries to establish a chat (if the mobile app supports push notifications).

‘Idle Detection’ is also supported with this newest Zoho Chat release. A primary feature in the Zoho Chat Jabber Support release is the ability to retrieve Zoho Groups (Personal groups) from a users account and initiate a group chat from the subscribers preferred desktop Client.

Site Support and Notifications

A highly sought after feature from us here at Nubifer, as well as from other Zoho users, was the ability to support customers chat requests from a desktop client. With this recent release, Zoho Chat can now be embedded on a subscribers website to receive support requests. With this update, users can receive notifications from their website visitors in the subscribers’ preferred desktop client. Once these invitations to chat are received, a user can accept the invitation and initiate a chat session with the website visitors.

Available on users’ desktop clients, Zoho Chat now contains a notification system which alerts a subscriber a document is shared, when someone responds to a topic in Zoho Discussions, or when a chat is missed. Please contact a Nubifer.com representative to learn more about Zoho’s multitude of Cloud hosted officing applications.

Here is what you need to try Zoho Chat on your favorite chat client.

  • Protocol: XMPP/Jabber
  • Username: Zoho username
  • Password: Your Zoho Password
  • Domain: zoho.com
  • Jabber ID: username@zoho.com

For more information about Zoho Apps, please visit nubifer.com

Evaluating Zoho CRM

Although SalesForce.com may be the name most commonly associated with SaaS CRM, Zoho CRM is picking up speed as a cheap option for small business or large companies with only a few people using the service. While much attention has been paid to Google Apps, Zoho has been quietly creating a portfolio of on-line applications that is worth recognition. Now many are wondering if Zoho CRM will have as large of an impact on SalesForce that SalesForce did on SAP.

About Zoho

Part of Advent, Zoho has been producing SaaS Office-like applications since 2006. One of Zoho’s chief architects, Raju Vegesna, joined Advent upon graduating in 2000 and moving from India to the United States. Among Vegesna’s chief responsibilities is getting Zoho on the map.

Zoho initially offered spreadsheet and writing applications although the company, which targets smaller businesses with 10 to 100 employees, now has a complete range of productivity applications such as email, a database, project management, invoicing, HR, document management, planning and last but not least, CRM.

Zoho CRM

Aimed at businesses seeking to manage customer relations to transform leads into profitable relationships, Zoho CRM begins with lead generation. From there are lead conversion, accounts set up, contacts, potential mapping and campaign tabs. One of Zoho CRM’s best features is its layout. Full reporting facilities with formatting, graphical layouts and dashboards, forecasting and other management tools are neatly displayed and optimized.

Zoho CRM is fully email enabled and updates can be sent to any user set up along with full contact administration. Time lines ensure that leads are never forgotten or campaigns slipped. Like Zimbra and ProjectPlace, Zoho CRM offers brand alignment, which means users can change layout colors and add their own logo branding. Another key feature is Zoho’s comprehensive help section, which is constantly updated with comments and posts from other users online. Contact details from a standard comma separated value (.CSV) file from a user’s email system or spreadsheet application (such as Excel, Star or Open Office) can be imported by Zoho CRM. Users can also export CRM data in the same format as well.

The cost of Zoho CRM is surprisingly low. Zoho CRM offers 100,000 records storage in Free Edition and Unlimited data storage in Professional and Enterprise Editions. In FE, users can “import” up to 1,500 records per batch in contrast to 20,000 records in the Enterprise Edition.