Archive for the ‘Business Productivity Online Suite’ Category

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.

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.

Microsoft BPOS is now Office 365

Office 365: What is it?

A couple of hours ago, Microsoft announced the beta release of Office 365, a cloud service that wraps its major offerings – Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office in a unified cloud environment.

Experts expected Microsoft to announce that it will upgrade the backend of BPOS to its 2010 range of products, and also include Office Web Apps, its much covered web version of MS Office. Since there was no mention of BPOS during the keynote it is unclear if Office 365 will replace MS’ Business Productivity Online Suite or be an additional product (Marie Jo Folie of ZDNet is of the opinion that BPOS goes).

The unexpected news is that Office 365 will also include Office Professional Plus, a desktop client which includes MS Office and some other collaboration features.

Crudely, Office 365 can be seen in the following terms


Microsoft gives the cloud a bear hug

This keynote is probably the strongest endorsement of the cloud by Microsoft yet, where they called the cloud a “once in a generation technology shift” and ”of the magnitude of a change to the graphical user interface.”

We were glad to see much of our messaging echoed in the keynote – that the cloud changes the rules of competition by enabling small companies with the same technologies as enterprises; it allows cost savings of up to 50%; that small businesses need technologies that are easy to use and quick to deploy, and so on.

Microsoft would have you believe that it was all part of its “vision”, but the truth is, market pressures have forced it to give the cloud a central position in its strategy. Cloud computing for businesses was made mainstream by Google Apps in the last couple of years, but confidence was built slowly and steadily over years by early cloud players like SalesForce and HyperOffice.

Where HyperOffice fits in

We are more than glad when a large company like Microsoft endorses and evangelizes the cloud or software-as-a-service market. It validates the market, and we have to exert less effort trying to convince users about the benefits of the cloud, and can focus on telling them about what differentiates our product from others.

We know we placed our bets right – the online collaboration software market, which apart from HyperOffice, only had one or two other players in the early 2000s, and is now the most exciting market in business IT.

This news also further validates the integrated online messaging and collaboration software market, which breaks down the traditional barriers between “communication” and “collaboration” applications. We have been offering “integrated” solution for years now, and Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS have made this approach mainstream in the last couple of years.

We do not have the grand plans of Microsoft and Google, of swamping the enterprise market with cloud solutions. We are confident that HyperOffice brings one of the best solutions for our target niche – small and mid sized businesses – and of our ability to continue to operate profitably in that niche.

Microsoft BPOS, and its possible new avatar, Office 365, are ultimately refurbishments of its enterprise focused technologies, and retain some of the complexity. Companies with IT resources will find themselves best positioned to make advantage of these solutions.

HyperOffice, on the other hand, being a small business ourselves, we are more in touch with the needs of growing companies. SMBs need solutions they can implement without the benefit of in house IT expertise, and require strong customer support. HyperOffice brings users a lot more functionality “out of the box” than Office 365, developed over years of real experience with SMBs. Moreover, we bring a strong customer service ethic, and a service package (free training and phone support), which Microsoft cannot replicate with its network of partners.

Small Businesses Serve Small Businesses Best?

In a recent article at eWeek, Nathan Eddie wrote about a very interesting survey conducted by online marketer WebVisible. They survey found that 83% of consumers surveyed prefer smaller, local companies to larger chains due to lesser prices, higher quality goods and more personalized service.

Although the survey wasn’t conducted with the online business collaboration market in mind, the conclusion applies.

In a market dominated by Google and Microsoft, and their ability to monopolize airwaves, we found that one of our major unique selling propositions was the ability to offer personalized services, being a small business. We found that a certain segment, the small business consumer segment, especially valued this.

Google and Microsoft claim to be “everything for everyone” – the two are having a well-chronicled battle for the enterprise segment, and at the same time regularly talk about being imminently interested in the SMB segment. But their business model, and size, doesn’t allow for them to offer truly “personalized” services – hand hold customers with free training and consultation to get them started; have real people around to call when issues arise; allow for exceptions; or offer concessions and be flexible in diverse business situations.

All this is especially important for cash constrained smaller businesses which may not have an in house IT department. Offering such services to millions of consumers is not viable for mega businesses, which is why they cultivate a vast network of resellers and MSPs.

Similar themes are discussed in other articles I have come across recently. Keith Farrell asks the all-important question in his recent article – considering the multi-billion dollar size of the enterprise market, does Google even want your small business buck?

Phil Whitewright in an article last year titled “Web giants and the helpless individual” speaks about the frustration faced by users of big business web products experiencing mission critical problems.

With the inherent difference in the negotiating power of a small business user, and that of a mega firm with millions of similar small business users, such situations are bound to arise.

SharePoint 2010 and Growing Businesses

ms2010It is usual for all Microsoft launches to be associated with a lot of hoopla and fanfare. A similar scene precedes the soon to come Microsoft launch of its 2010 series – SharePoint 2010, Exchange 2010 and Office 2010. A recent report on SharePoint 2010 by Forrester cut through the talk and came out with a rather strong conclusion – SharePoint 2010 may be overkill for some.

The exact phrasing of that conclusion evoked a kind of sense of deja vu here at HyperOffice. Isn’t it what we have been saying for SharePoint for years?

First, the report.

The new version of SharePoint has greatly bolstered its cloud capabilities and web 2.0 features, areas in which SharePoint was traditionally lagging.

According to Rob Koplowitz, a principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report, SharePoint 2010 is “evolving  SharePoint beyond its server application role to become a full-fledged platform reaching from the intranet to the cloud and out onto developers’ palettes.”

Sounds great?

Well, not if you are not looking for an application development platform, but looking for a set of tools, which will allow distributed teams to collaborate and work better.

Rob advices that new users should evaluate the software’s feature set and make sure it is not overkill. He says that SharePoint 2010 “can be a hammer, but not everything is nail.” He concludes that SharePoint 2010 is likely not a fit for those with basic needs.

This applies especially to growing businesses, which don’t have a complex technological landscape, have a small or no IT department, and need to enable their teams without going to through long and winding learning curves. They need a plug and play toolkit which helps them work together better (file storage and collaboration, wikis, intranet workspaces, task management, online meetings etc), as well as tools to help improve productivity (shared calendars, address books, email, to-do lists, email, mobile access to corporate data etc). At the same time, these companies need a certain degree of customization, which they can easily accomplish without much expertise.

HyperOffice’s web based total collaboration software approach suits this segment perfectly, which is why we have been positioning ourselves for this segment for years as a “Sharepoint Alternative” for growing businesses.

Although SharePoint 2010 is a lot more web savvy than its predecessor, its target audience seems to remain the same – large enterprises with a complex technological context and highly customized needs.  Some other basics of the solution remain the same that make it unsuitable for growing businesses – it’s server based, complex, and more an IT department tool than an end user tool.

Collaboration Software is a hit with Virtual Assistants

advadirectory

Last night the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce sponsored a webinar event for their members titled Leveraging Collabortive Virtual Office Technology for Virtual Assistants and Solopreneurs, where they invited HyperOffice to present our collaboration software suite. This was the second event we have done together, in response to the tremendous amount of interest we have from the Virtual Assistant community. Seems like the downturn in the economy is leading to greater demand for Virtual Assistants – since small businesses are laying off full-time staff, yet still have to keep up with the demands of trying to grow their business.

One of the common themes during the webinar was business productivity online suites  like HyperOffice help Virtual Assistants save time in trying to service their customers, allowing them to take on more clients in the same amount of time. One time saving trick  Danielle Keister, VACOC Founder and Virtual Assistant expert, shared with the group was creating a virtual drive which can be shared with between Virtual Assistants and their clients.

Danielle demonstrated how  HyperDrive can be setup in a couple minutes to create a central document repository where documents can be stored securely while giving access to clients to view and upload files and documents. As compared to other tools on the market, HyperDrive allows you to store multiple versions of a shared document without the clutter of sifting through multiple files with built in document version controls right from your windows explorer (also available on Mac). HyperOffice welcomes the Virtual Assistant community to try HyperOffice and take advantage of our deep domain expertise on setting up your virtual office to streamline your business using HyperOffice.