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Active Directory and the Cloud

Active Directory is a directory service widely used in organizations to implement policy controls and manage access to company IT resources.  It simplifies things for administrators as well as users by centralizing creation of usernames and passwords. Administrators are saved the effort of setting up usernames and passwords for every person for every computer, software and piece of information; and keeping these policy controls updated. On the other hand users can use the same login credentials to access all the network resources relevant to them.

However, things have changed in the era of cloud software. Employees need access not just to systems and information within the company network, but also to numerous cloud solutions which are hosted on the servers of the solution vendor.

However, the need for integration with Active Directory is as pertinent today as it ever was. Now that many business critical on-premise software are now moving to the cloud – email, accounting, collaboration, CRM etc – managing usernames, passwords and policies for each of these systems separately is highly inefficient. And the more cloud systems a company implements, the greater the number of users, the harder it is for administrators.

Since cloud based software have found wide acceptance in businesses only in the last couple of years, it is only now that vendors are considering advanced technical requirements such as integration between Active Directory and their cloud software.

At HyperOffice, we are fully appreciative this requirement, especially given the strategic nature of our collaboration software. We conduct on-demand Active Directory integrations based on the specific needs of our users. We have developed special tools, which let us do anything from simple Active Directory integrations, to highly customized integrations which meet enhanced security requirements, or let administrators trigger specific actions within HyperOffice right from Active Directory.

We just put out a white paper discussing in detail the relevance of Active Directory to the cloud, and presenting HyperOffice as a case study of the various degrees of integration between Active Directory and cloud software.

You can read it at “Active Directory and the Cloud”.

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HyperOffice is an iCloud alternative for team collaboration

iCloud is great news

iCloud is great news for the cloud industry as a whole. As everyone knows, the genius of Steve Jobs is to show everyone the importance of “sexy” in technology (for lack of a better word) – take an existing technology, and make it so compelling, so beautiful, that people can’t wait to lay their hands on that sleek shiny new thing.  He did that with iPhone, and repeated it with iPad.

The same could well happen with iCloud. The cloud has been around in the consumer market for more than a decade, and the business world has finally embraced it in the last couple of years. But Steve Jobs’ visibility and marketing genius could make the “cloud” meme so commonplace, that no cloud vendor ever has to lose hair again trying to explain to a prospect what the cloud is.

However, iCloud is not a team tool, nor is it intended to be.

iCloud is not for collaboration

Firstly, iCloud is designed as a personal data management tool. You have a personal account, which you use to access data across the iPhone, iPad and Mac. It simply has no “sharing” or “groupware” functionality.

Secondly, iCloud is not a traditional “cloud” solution. It has no web-browser access option, which is the cornerstone of most cloud solutions. All data (music, mail, apps) must be accessed on local applications on the iPhone, iPad or the Mac desktop. Therefore, in effect, the cloud is invisible in the background, and it pushes and synchronizes data between local applications. It has been argued that this model is simply not suitable for collaboration, which is more about everyone accessing a common instance of data on the cloud and working on it. In the “sync” model, an instance of the data is pushed locally, and changes synced back to the master copy on the cloud. The more the number of users working on that bit of data, the more complex the situation is.

Thirdly, iCloud restricts users to the Apple ecosystem. It effectively excludes users who prefer to have online access to their data, access it on their PC, or want to access it on one of the myriad mobile devices around in addition to iPhone and iPad.

HyperOffice lets you collaborate on Apple devices

However, quite undeniably, there is a segment of users and businesses who work primarily in the Apple environment, and want a solution that will let them share data in the Apple ecosystem. At HyperOffice, we have made a constant attempt to make our solutions compatible with an ever larger number of popular business environments. We have kept a constant eye on various Apple devices as they have gained importance in the businesses world, and continued to add support.

HyperOffice is the ideal solution for businesses looking to access and share corporate email, contacts, calendars and other information across their iPhone, iPad and Mac devices, and beyond.

Here is how HyperOffice supports each of these devices:

iPhone: HyperOffice support all mobile devices based on ActiveSync. This means iPhone users can push and wirelessly sync their business email, contacts and calendars on their devices. Since HyperOffice is a team solution, users can even share iPhone contacts and calendars with other team members. Anytime you create a meeting or edit a contact, you can choose to let everyone in your team know immediately.

Plus, HyperOffice is optimized for access from the iPhone Chrome browser. Users can access advanced HyperOffice collaboration software tools like shared documents, projects, forums, and workspaces right from their iPhone.

iPad: In addition to iPhone, HyperOffice also supports synching with the native mail, contact and calendar apps just like iCloud. Only, you can even share this information with team members. Besides, users can access HyperOffice features from their iPad Chrome browser.

Mac: HyperOffice allows synching with the native mail, contacts and calendars of Mac using a third party tool called SyncJE. Entourage in turn, is designed to automatically synchronize with these native Mac apps. In effect, Mac users can access their corporate mail, calendars and contacts from the native apps of Mac or entourage, and keep them in sync across devices.

Beyond Apple: Unlike iCloud, HyperOffice by no means restricts users to sharing and collaborating on information only in the Mac universe. All of HyperOffice’s features can be accessed from any PC or Mac web browser in the world. Support for mobile devices is also not restricted to iPhone and iPad, and fully extends to phones like Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile and even BlackBerry. Plus, people who are addicted to Outlook, may continue to use Outlook to access and share mail, contacts, calendars and tasks using our Outlook synchronization functionality.

So, if you are a Apple die hard, and looking to fully leverage your shiny Apple gadget to collaborate with teams, do hit us up.

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How to introduce collaboration software in your business – Best practices

Although simplicity is the hallmark of modern cloud collaboration software, the decision to implement collaboration software in the company is not to be taken lightly. This seriousness is apt given the strategic nature of collaboration technology – while most software are used by some of the people in the organization some of the time, collaboration software is by used by most of the people (if not all) much of the time (and extends to partners and clients).

Collaboration (or working together) is at the heart of what every organization does, and collaboration software can be thought of as the lubricant which ensures that the cogs and gears of business run smoothly. Just as the foundation of a building determines the strength of the super structure, the rigor and diligence with which collaboration software is implemented goes a long way to determine the success of the initiative.

HyperOffice has observed, guided and conducted tens of thousands of collaboration software implementations over the years. Here is what we’ve learned:

Planning – Planning begins even before you purchase a collaboration solution. Planning encompasses all other parts of ensuring implementation success. If it’s worth doing, it should be part of your plan.  Key points to consider in planning are:

Study needs and define objectives – The first question to ask is – what are you looking to accomplish? – Organize documents and enable remote access? Enable travelling teams with mobile email? Centralize corporate information and processes in an intranet? Once the objectives are defined, the picture becomes clearer – what data, systems and people will be involved. Objectives become the guiding light for everything that follows. When objectives are unclearly defined – “to enhance company collaboration” – the initiative tends to meander.

Create implementation roadmap – Consider the following things:

o   Migration

o   Configuration – What will the structure of the solution be, what members will be assigned to each group, the level of access for different members and other policy controls.

o   Implementation Phases – Rather than throwing the collaboration kitchen sink at the organization, a phased approach to implementation ensures that collaboration tools are smoothly incorporated into company processes. Moreover, collaboration tools one at a time are easier for users to digest than having to learn the entire solution all at once. The sequence of tools implemented can be based on the priorities of the business needs addressed.

People – People are critical to implementation success. You need to identify all the stakeholders, persons responsible for implementation and use, and identify “champions” within specific groups who drive adoption.

Careful migration – Migration is an extremely important part of the implementation.  You will likely be moving hundreds if not thousands of email accounts from a legacy system, or terabytes of documents from individual computers or network drives. A migration conducted hastily could result in disaster like data loss, or cause problems which surface only much later. A careful analysis needs to be done of the data involved, the source and the target systems, and all possible interactions. Based on that appropriate tools need to be selected and migration conducted according to a set plan.

Training – The simplicity of use of collaboration software does not undermine the importance of training. The people who lead the collaboration software initiative sometimes tend to make wrong assumptions about end users. What may be glaringly self-obvious to you may not be so to others – some people DO NOT have what you would define as “basic” tech savvy. Plus, don’t underestimate the tendency to resist change. Training does not have to be simply about educating about product features. It is a great opportunity to get user buy in. Lay out the benefits of the system, and explain how it will help employees do their day to day work better. Separate trainings need to be conducted for administrators and users given different degrees of engagement with the software.

Create context for success – It is folly to think that technology on its own can change set ways of doing thing. Much has been said about creating a context to ensure technology success, and it holds even truer of collaboration software, given its strategic nature. Before users get into the equilibrium of using the collaboration software in their day to day operations, they need to be guided and their behaviour reinforced. Some things you can do to create the right context:

Management backing: The management needs to send out strong messages about the importance of collaboration software to the organization and lead by example.

Lay out formal processes: Lay out formal procedures for data handling which make the collaboration software part of the process.

Marketing campaign: Implementation should be accompanied with an internal “marketing campaign” of sorts.

Reward good behaviour: Reinforce positive behaviour with recognition, praise or material rewards.

Once the implementation is undertaken with this seriousness, the collaboration initiative will surely soar on its own with minimal interference.  Given the payoff, it makes sense to involve an expert in the process who can guide the implementation. For companies that may require such assistance, HyperOffice offers a variety of professional services ranging from consulting, migration, training and customization.

A call to Office 365 and Google Apps customers

Rough week for Google and Microsoft

Over the past few weeks, Google and Microsoft customers experienced widely publicized downtime issues. On May 10th, some BPOS customers had to go without mail for as many as 6-9 hours, and then again on May 12th for up to 3 hours. As if that was not enough, Microsoft also experienced problems with its DNS (Domain Name Service) on 12th May, which prevented users from accessing Outlook Web Access hosted in the Americas for around 4 hours, and partially impacted some functionality of Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync devices. And it doesn’t end yet….Again on May 19th some Microsoft customers complained of email delays from 15 minutes to one hour. Microsoft attributed the issue to “email delays caused by mail flow issues” which affected around 1% of users. 1% may sound insignificant but I bet it’s not so insignificant if you are a part of that 1%.

Update (9 Sept 2011) – Even though Microsoft promised that the downtime issues would go away once users migrated from BPOS to Office 365, that has been far from true. Within a couple of months of Office 365 being made public, it has already had two downtime episodes.

Google on the other hand, experienced its own set of problems. Users of Google Blogger, Google’s blog platform, experienced downtime for more than 20 hours over 12th and 13th May. Google Blogger is not exactly a business product, but Gmail, which is used by many businesses as their primary email system, when down for around 40,000 users (including paid users) for over 30 hours late in February.

Is the cloud the problem?

A portion of the media is up in arms and interpreting this as an inherent problem with the “cloud” model. But as the Microsoft problems persisted, it became evident that the problems were Microsoft specific, and these arguments died down.

Affected customers, understandably, have reacted with extreme frustration. Imagine trying to get business done with your email unavailable for hours at end.  Many customers have expressed their intentions to move off Microsoft or Google, or move off cloud based systems altogether and fall back on legacy email servers.

Or is it a lack of commitment?

How come, with all its financial might and resources, Microsoft still ends up having a worse track record than companies much smaller? At HyperOffice, we have never experienced a data breach, and have always kept well within our 99.9% uptime guarantee. Maybe it is indicative of a lack of real commitment to the cloud market, irrespective of stated public positions. That might well be the case, given that the primary profit churners for both Google and Microsoft are other services or product lines. Microsoft gets less than 5% of its revenues from cloud services, a vast majority contributed by on premise product lines like Windows OS, Exchange, SharePoint, MS Office etc.

Google’s gets more than 90% of its revenues from advertising and it seems like they are entering a new line of business (mobile payments as of last week) every week and shutting down businesses that don’t meet their strategic objectives (google wave with over one million subscribers) on a regular basis. It is understandable that they would be focused on the areas where they make  the majority of their profits and revenue. .

HyperOffice is a reliable alternative

We would like to reach out to all the Google Apps and BPOS customers who have decided to look for alternate solutions to consider HyperOffice. Here is what we offer you:

Experience – We have been offering web based business solutions for over 10 years now, and are one of the pioneers in cloud communication and collaboration. HyperOffice is one of the most well recognized and respected solutions in the space.

Superior reliability – We have an impeccable record in terms of uptime and data security. We have always kept well within our SLAs and 99.9% uptime guarantee, and never compromised customer data in our history.

Focus – Our cloud communication and collaboration solutions are our sole focus, and our resources and attention are not dispersed across multiple products and markets.

Responsiveness – We bring you a responsive support team, and you always have real people to talk to in case of problems. Our lean corporate structure allows us to be extremely nimble in response to issues.

Best in class technology – Finally, we bring you one of the broadest, deepest, most well integrated technologies in the communication and collaboration market developed organically over many years in response to the day to day operational needs of our customers.

Look at a comparison between HyperOffice, Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS

We are looking forward to hear from you.

HyperSync is now HyperMobile!

Given the growing importance of mobility in HyperOffice capabilities, we thought it was time to give our mobile sync services a slight image makeover. So what you have hitherto affectionately referred to as HyperSync, gets the crisp, all-new, and descriptive title of HyperMobile. The same beloved product, but in new garb. There are a couple of reasons for the change:

HyperSync had the potential of being confused with the other “sync” services HyperOffice provides, namely, Outlook synchronization and the ability to sync with Mac mail and contacts. We felt that “HyperMobile” was a lot more descriptive, in that it makes clear the mobile specific capabilities of HyperOffice.

This is a great opportunity to re-emphasize our commitment to support an ever greater range of “mobile” features, and help popularize the concept of “mobile collaboration”. Mobile collaboration does not refer merely to the ability to collaborate on mobile phones, but reflects the emergence of new age devices – mobile phones, tablets, netbooks – and workers’ desire to access and collaborate on business information independent of device. Workers want to instantly collaborate and access information across all these devices depending on where they are – at office, at home, at a client site or on the road – without being tied to a single one. That is the spirit of “mobile collaboration”.

HyperMobile already offers powerful mobility features  including the ability to push and sync mail, contacts, calendars and tasks on their devices; share this information with colleagues; push information from third party sources like Gmail, Yahoo mail, and Hotmail ; and support for most major mobile devices. We plan to keep building on these capabilities and exciting new mobility features form a prominent part of our product roadmap. Keep following us to keep updated!

Microsoft Office 365 : An assessment

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the public beta of Office 365, its web based communication, collaboration and productivity software, and successor to Microsoft BPOS.

Integrated communication and collaboration is here to stay folks

This announcement, and the enthused industry reaction is another shot in the (already bulging) arm of cloud based software. Take a moment to think – Microsoft, which made billions off on-premise software, is now putting its entire weight behind Office 365, with the certainty of cannibalizing its cash cow on premise software (Exchange, SharePoint, Lync). Microsoft realizes the cloud is where the action is, and wants to be in the thick of it.

Office 365 validates another approach that HyperOffice has been evangelizing for many years – the coming together of communication and collaboration software. Communication and collaboration needs have traditionally been served through separate server based products, but it is increasingly being realized that since these needs are closely connected and overlapping, they are best served through a single software bundle. We used to call this “total collaboration”, but “mobile collaboration” is more apt today, given the importance of mobile access to modern workers.

Microsoft Office 365 vs. HyperOffice Comparison Chart

Against the background of this announcement, we felt it was a great time to compare and contrast our solution to Office 365 and highlight our strengths, especially for the SMB market. We feel that Microsoft Office 365 falls short in certain areas, mainly because it tries to serve multiple segments with the same base suite. Also remember, Office 365 has directly evolved from on premise versions of Exchange, SharePoint and other enterprise server software, and is bound to reflect those antecedents (humans still resemble their simian ancestors don’t they?). Since HyperOffice is designed mainly for SMBs, we have been able to design our product and services with a single minded focus towards SMBs. A feature comparison and reasons why Office 365 may not be ideal for SMBs is as follows:

Office 365 is offered in various flavors, or a “slicing and dicing” of the base suite in various ways in an attempt to serve multiple segments. For our comparison we have chosen Office 365 E1, for mid sized companies, because it is closest to HyperOffice in terms of functionality, price and target market.

SMBs are not second class citizens

Given its enterprise trappings, Microsoft has grossly misread the needs of SMBs in certain areas. For example, its Office 365 P flavor, meant for small businesses upto 50 users has only the self service support option. In our experience, even with a simple solution like HyperOffice, SMB customers need very involved assistance and discipline given the strategic nature of a communication and collaboration software, especially during the implementation phase. Simplicity, of course, is key to day to day usage, but customers expect somebody to be at hand when they have questions or problems, since they may not have in house IT staff.

Integration

Degree of integration is essential to efficient use of a communication and collaboration suite, and garners more user adoption because of the simplified and intuitive experience. However, MS Online Services by their very design are limited in the degree of integration they can offer. Consider this – Office 365 is comprised of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Web Apps and Lync Online – each also a standalone product. Furthermore, all of the aforementioned solutions are refurbishments of its on premise products (SharePoint, Exchange, Office, Lync) and carry forward the same basic solution design principles. With so many demands on its solutions, Microsoft can never do what we can do – develop a single solution, organically with a single minded focus towards SMBs.

To illustrate, I have listed a few screen shots of Office 365’s interfaces and compared that with HyperOffice’s design. Notice how the button layouts for Office 365 keep changing. You are kept being taken to multiple pages lying on different domains (outlook.com, sharepoint.com, microsoftonline.com). On HyperOffice, all features open within a single page – you.hyperoffice.com.

Also, in HyperOffice, all features lie on the same level (documents, contacts, calendars, sites, mail) and are navigable with a single click from a consistent left navigation – a simple but successful design principle. In Office 365, calendars, contacts and tasks are nestled in, and subordinate to email. At the same time, documents are nestled in, and subordinate to “team sites”. Another aspect of HyperOffice is “interlinking” where any piece of data may be linked to any another piece of data within the system (mails, projects, contacts, calendars, documents, surveys). This allows users to create context around specific tasks, contacts, transactions etc.

Office 365                                                                                           HyperOffice

Mail

5

Calendars

5

Documents

5

Team sites

5

Mobility

At HyperOffice, we have tried to popularize the concept of “mobile collaboration” – integrated communication and collaboration tools with a strong mobility aspect. Again, Microsoft is limited in the devices it can support since it has to be committed to its own protocol – ActiveSync. HyperOffice also supports SyncML devices, which includes a large number of Java phones, as well as devices which base mail, contacts, calendars and tasks on a combination of ActiveSync and SyncML. Both HyperOffice and Office 365 support BlackBerry.We also offer the push email to sms (and vice versa) feature, an innovative feature designed to support basic phones where users can forward emails in their inbox as an sms on their device, and also reply to that email through sms.

Microsoft may push its own agenda

The SMB market demand is for a communication and collaboration suite, which has multiple touch points in organizations, to support and plug with the widest variety of common business devices and software. We have tried to accommodate this with Mac integration, Outlook and Office integration, and widest possible mobile phone support. But since Microsoft doesn’t sell a single technology, but a complete stack of interrelated technologies, there is always the danger that Microsoft may push users towards its own products, and upgrade the entire stack (for example earlier versions of MS Office and Outlook are not supported).

Microsoft’s eminent position in the software industry, and competition in multiple markets may also have an impact on featured offered to users. For example, Office 365 does not support Chrome from competitor Google (apart from Outlook Web App support), even though it is massively popular.

Simplicity

Again, Microsoft’s enterprise trappings, and the fact that Office 365 has evolved from on premise server based products, means that it retains the complexity of its precursors. Although implementation of collaboration software requires discipline because of its strategic nature, it is essential for it to be simple enough for end users to manage their day to day tasks. At HyperOffice, we have always tried to be true to our philosophy of “collaboration made simple”.

Mobility

Office 365 Isn’t Mobile Enough

Tony Bradley

Pcworld.com

Needs more robust mobile integration.

Samara Lynn

Pcmag.com

At HyperOffice, we have tried to popularize the concept of “mobile collaboration” – integrated communication and collaboration tools with a strong mobility aspect. Again, Microsoft is limited in the devices it can support since it has to be committed to its own protocol – ActiveSync. HyperOffice also supports SyncML devices, which includes a large number of Java phones, as well as devices which base mail, contacts, calendars and tasks on a combination of ActiveSync and SyncML. Both HyperOffice and Office 365 support BlackBerry.

We also offer the push email to sms (and vice versa) feature, an innovative feature designed to support basic phones where users can forward emails in their inbox as an sms on their device, and also reply to that email through sms.

The Collaboration Patchwork Quilt Problem

We had the privilege of being featured in an article (HyperOffice one-stop collaboration) by Amber Singleton  Riviere at GigaOm yesterday, which is where I came across the expression “patchwork quilt problem”. The reference was an article by Simon Mackie of GigaOm. Simon discusses the issue of an ever greater number of web apps in organizations performing specific tasks, and the problem of integrating them.

How companies end up with a patchwork quilt

Normally, SMBs tend to add web tools in response to an immediate collaboration problem – sharing documents with offshore teams, managing joint projects with a partner, or the need to have distributed team meetings. But as these companies keep piling on the tools, they realize that they are compartmentalizing information which should be shared across tools, or is closely related. For example every project has associated documents, schedules, discussions, and meetings.  Managing each of these with a separate tool becomes increasingly inefficient, as information is duplicated or has to be manually moved between tools.  As companies add more and more to the collaboration mix, the more chaotic the situation becomes.

One solution is to invest money in integrating these disparate tools. But apart from the extra costs, the problem is that these tools were never primarily designed to work together, and have different architectures and interfaces. The result is more often than not somewhat hodgepodge – a patchwork quilt.

Collaboration patchwork quilt or a stitch in time?

Another approach is to have foresight, look beyond immediate needs, and invest in “integrated” collaboration solutions or a “collaboration suite”. As the word “suite” suggests, a collaboration suite is not a single all-encompassing magic bullet tool for all your collaboration needs, but a collection of tools. That is understandable, because “collaboration” is very broad, and involves a wide spectrum of activities in the organizational context – communicating, working together on files, co-ordination of schedules, managing and coordinating projects and tasks involving people across the organization, team meetings and discussions and so on.

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However, in a collaboration suite, tools are developed and designed to complement each other, and integrated at a data level so that information can seamlessly flow in all directions.

Workspaces and Collaboration

Intranet/Extranet workspaces are an ideal way to organize collaboration tools in a collaboration suite, and are also the design principle of HyperOffice. A “workspace” is a permissions protected collection of web pages and collaboration tools for specific groups inside and outside the organization. A collaboration suite can have multiple permanent and temporary workspaces depending on the company’s needs – an HR workspace, a workspace for a major client, a workspace for a temporary cross functional team and so on.

Apart from organizing multiple collaboration tools that a team needs in a single place, workspace pages also help create context around these tools. Workspaces can also be seen as a “virtual office” for teams, which managers can use to encourage and motivate team members who might never interact face to face. For example if team members log into their workspace, the landing page can direct them to group documents, highlight a prominent upcoming event, reflect the status of a team project, display the “team member of the month”, or display latest team news.

Conclusion

As the collaboration market matures, a general realization has started to dawn that being myopic can lead to problems later. Collaboration goes beyond solving a specific part of the collaboration problem brilliantly, but looking at the larger picture in light of expanding collaboration needs, and the information management problems that could arise later. The “larger picture” has always been the focus at HyperOffice, and we have sought to bring an ever wider range of essential team communication and collaboration tools in a single solution.

Does your company seem to be running into the patchwork quilt problem?

The HyperOffice Promise

Cloud email security is a hot topic these days, especially after the much publicized Gmail glitches a few weeks ago.

We felt this was a good time to reiterate our commitments to our customers, and bring your attention to what we offer in terms of stability and security, and our track record.

The vendor-customer relation in software-as-a-service is fundamentally one of trust. The customer entrusts the vendor with sensitive corporate data and the efficient working of systems which impact their business performance. This is especially true of a solution like HyperOffice which is a pervasive part of your day to day operations. At HyperOffice, we hold this trust in highest regard. Our customers are at the centre of everything we do, which is how we have grown over many years, and will continue to grow. We have systems and procedures in place that are at par with the very best in industry, to ensure that you get the best products, services and stability.

HyperOffice offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee, which is the highest standard offered in the industry. We have a narrow allowance of .1%, meaning 8.76 hours per year, or around 43 minutes per month, to include all unforeseen contingencies AND scheduled downtime. In all previous years, we have maintained an impeccable record, and have been able to keep well within this slim window. This is one the best records in the industry, compared to even prominent solutions like Google’s Gmail, which has experienced well publicized outages over the past couple of years, including one just last week, where it took them as long as four days to restore affected accounts. In close to 10 years of operation, HyperOffice has NEVER experienced a data breach or lost customer data.

HyperOffice is  hosted at  the best data centers in the world, manned and monitored by engineers around the clock. We incorporate redundancy across every node in our network of servers and the latest fault tolerance technology to maximize system uptime. Security is implemented at multiple levels, and all problems attacked and resolved within minutes of them occurring. With such systems in place, you get continuity and stability that would be near impossible for most businesses to achieve  in house. A study from Radicati Group found that on-premises email averaged 3.8 hours of downtime per month, and the number was even greater for Microsoft Exchange.

At times, for all our preparedness, there may be problems caused by external factors beyond our control. For example,  there may be network problems on the internet preventing your request to connect to HyperOffice servers from reaching our servers. There are also times when because of network saturation or poor connection you may experience slower than usual speed with HyperOffice. Note that HyperOffice is a rich and robust application that requires adequate connection speeds, bandwidth and processing power on your system.  Regardless our engineers are working hard to constantly optimize the performance and stability of HyperOffice despite external or internal factors.

We would like to reemphasize that you – our customers are at the centre of everything we do. Our customer focus remains one of the key pillars of our company, and our “personal touch” is one of the reasons you choose us over larger players like Google and Microsoft.  We are totally committed to provide you with the highest quality services and products.

We are ever ready to go that extra mile, for your continued trust.

All about Collaboration and Collaboration Suites

Ramon Ray from the Small Biz Tech Magazine, recently published a video from the Boston leg of the Small Business Tech Tour, held late last year. The video features a panel of experts in the online collaboration industry moderated by Laurie McCabe, including our own Shahab Kaviani at HyperOffice. The topic of discussion is “How to Listen Inside Your Company?“.

The discussion revolves around some basic issues related to collaboration and collaboration suites – What are collaboration suites? Why do you need them? What are the internal or external warning signs which tell you that you need a collaboration suite? How much effort does it require to implement one in your organization?

Someone like the blogger, who is deeply involved in the collaboration industry, might sometimes lose perspective on these basics. This discussion is a refreshing re-orientation, and a reminder of the critical need and palpable benefits of collaboration and collaboration suites in the day to day working of a company in the new business environment.

SMBs will instantly relate to the discussion because it starts from their daily operational needs, and then justifies the use of collaboration software to satisfy those needs. This video is also a great introduction for SMBs who may have heard a lot of background noise about collaboration software, but want to find more, and beginning to ask critical questions like – are collaboration suites for me? is now the right time?

The video:-

What are Collaboration Suites?

Every company utilizes some tools to work together with people inside and outside the organization – IM, web conferencing, email, document management etc. Rather than having scattered tools, and having problem linking different pieces of collaboration, collaboration suites combine all of these tools into a single integrated suite accessible over the web. HyperOffice is one of the leading evangelists of fully integrated communication and collaboration tools.

Why are the signs that my company needs collaboration tools?

1) If you are a small business which notices that it is going to pass the 2-3 office location mark, rather than setting up costly servers in house to enable employees to share information, it may be more efficient to simply subscribe for an online collaboration suite.

2) As a company increasingly gets work done from outside contractors, who are deeply involved in its work, using an online collaboration suite to enable collaboration and information sharing is in order. This makes sense since you have no control over the contractor’s tech environment, and collaboration suites require no more than a web browser to be used by either party.

3) If a company finds that everyone’s inboxes are increasingly unmanageable due to emails being used for scheduling, document attachments being sent back and forth, task assignments and so on, it makes sense to move these collaborative needs to collaboration tools designed specifically for those purposes.

People are just too addicted to email. How do I garner adoption for a collaboration suite in my company?

Adoption is mainly a function of how motivated a team is to employ a collaboration suite. Leaders play an important role. A leader can spearhead implementation and adoption by encouraging employees to resist the temptation of email, and use the right collaboration tool for the right purpose. Sometimes it may simply mean mild coercion. For example if someone sends a manager a document as an email attachment, they should ask the employee to upload it in the document management system. Or if they try to schedule a meeting through email, send them to the company calendar.

The Heyday of Mobile Collaboration : 4 Important Mobile Productivity Tools

How’s this for an explosive concoction.

As of June 2010, 93% of Americans owned a mobile phone. Penetration in other developed nations like Germany and UK has crossed 100%. Not far behind are developing countries (Brazil – 100%, India – 56%, China – 59%). Now consider the fact that a growing percentage of these mobile users (31% in USA in Nov 2010) use smart phones – powerful, internet friendly and addictive phones like Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Nokia. Add to this mix the emergence of wireless technologies like 3G and 4G which make wireless data transfer a breeze.

No wonder data usage over mobile devices is surging! Or that the mobile internet is expected to exceed desktop internet by 2015. Or that the mobile platform is the new focus of diverse areas such as advertisement and application development. Indeed, this is the decade of mobile technology.

Business Impact of Mobile Market Growth

As expected, businesses are not insulated from these gargantuan changes. Especially since the new market is pushing the worker to be more “mobile” – on the road, working from a client site or home, or working with a globally distributed network of colleagues and partners. IDC expects a third of the world’s working population to consist of “mobile workers” by 2013.

Habituated to using their mobile devices for everything beyond talking and texting – checking email, browsing the web, posting on FaceBook and Twitter, playing with apps or finding their way with maps – workers increasingly see the mobile devices as ways to connect with work. According to a recent Forrester study, a whopping 49% of small business owners are reported to own smartphones.

Since workers need, want and expect to keep connected with work outside the office site, it is imperative upon businesses to provide them with the right tools to do so. Changing trends in corporate IT spend reflect this. The SMB Group found that mobile spending now accounts for almost 10% of all technology spending for U.S. small and medium businesses and amounted to $26.1B on mobile solutions and services in 2010.

The mobile tools that organizations need to provide employees range from access to essential business information like email, contacts and calendars, to mobile collaboration tools which allow them to share and work together on business information. Going forward, businesses fill feel an increasing need to provide employees mobile access to specialized business apps and work-flows.

4 Important Mobile Productivity Tools

Push Email. Push email allows employees to access and manage their corporate email accounts right from the native email app of their mobile device, and keep it synchronized.

Mobile email remains one of the top business uses of mobile phones. Nielsen found that users spent close to 42% of their mobile internet time on email. Much of this is business related email use. A recent study on Mobile Messaging from Osterman research found that more than 95% of respondents check e-mail after work hours. Email is one of the top business technologies, and companies will find that enabling workers with the ability to access email on their mobile phones will allow workers to keep connected with work, and in turn increase productivity and speed reaction times in business situations. In Ostermans study, 84% of respondents revealed that their senior manager’s ability to make critical, time-sensitive decisions will be affected if they do not have access to mobile e-mail.

Push Calendars. Push calendars allow workers to access corporate schedules from their mobile phone, and set up meetings and events and keep them in sync with their Outlook or other business calendars. In the face a hundred demands on their time, push calendars allow workers to be organized and keep on top of schedules, even when they are outside office and don’t have access to their corporate calendar.

Push Contacts. Push contacts allow workers to manage their business contacts lists from the address book of their mobile device. It is a great convenience to be able to quickly look up a contact on the mobile phone, when one does not have access to the company’s contact management system.

Collaboration Tools. Apart from essential mobile productivity tools, the demand is shifting to tools that not only let workers access important corporate information, but work together on this information with colleagues. Indeed, the ante is being raised to “mobile collaboration”. These tools, which may be accessed through native mobile apps, or the mobile browser, allow workers to share contacts, calendars, documents and other corporate information with colleagues.

According to Tonya Fowler, Global Director with Frost & Sullivan’s Customer Research Team “tools that enhance the mobile experience (i.e., such as Web-based collaboration tools) are likely to see increased levels of adoption sooner rather than later.”

Afterword

The above market movements have been experienced by us at HyperOffice as well. Mobile support has been a much requested feature by our users. We have made an effort to keep up with our customer requests as well as emerging trends in the market. Our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite has dedicated web interfaces for mobile devices, and all features may be accessed through a user’s mobile browser. About a year ago, we decided to take things to the next level and address some gaping lacunae in the market.We found that users increasingly want solutions that allow them to leverage the native apps of their mobile device. Moreover, there was a shortage of inexpensive mobile messaging solutions which worked ubiquitously across devices, rather than limiting users to a single, or a few choices.

Based on that, we introduced HyperSynch, a fully hosted add on push messaging service to our suite, which allows users to push and sync business email, contacts, calendars and tasks with the native apps of almost every major mobile device in the market including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile and more.