Archive for the ‘Cloud Computing’ Category

Eminent industry analyst compares HyperOffice with Office 365, Google Apps and others

You hear us gush about HyperOffice’s socks-rocking capabilities all the time don’t you? But we are supposed to do that right?

How about hearing about HyperOffice from an eminent industry analyst who has been observing, writing about, and commenting on the information technology industry for more than 30 years? You can bet on one thing – they know their stuff.

We are super glad to tell our readers that Amy Wohl, widely known analyst and commentator on the cloud and collaboration markets just published a whitepaper comparing HyperOffice and other prominent solutions in the collaboration market.

Apart from a main feature comparison chart, Amy identifies other important parameters and themes in the collaboration market, and how different solutions compare of them. Amy has identified four major areas that companies looking for collaboration software must consider.

Features: What is the feature range and depth. Does the suite have the features you want?

Mobile Collaboration: Companies are increasingly looking to enable their mobile workforce with access to important business information on their iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and other mobile devices. Does the solution support the features and devices you are looking at?

Social Collaboration: The “Enterprise 2.0” debate has been around for 2 years now, and the benefits of “social” tools in companies have been widely accepted. Does the collaboration suite you are looking at have social tools like profiles, wikis, and activity streams?

Integration: Since many collaboration solutions in the market have been built through acquisitions, it is important how well different features of collaboration software play together, as well as integration with commonly used software. How well integrated is the product? Does it work together with other software you use in your company – MS Word, Outlook etc?

To see how HyperOffice compares on these factors, please read Amy’s white paper – HyperOffice and the Online Collaboration Marketplace.

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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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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.

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?

Email Archiving and SMBs

“Email archiving” wouldn’t normally ring a bell for a small business owner. The general impression is that the regulatory requirement of keeping all company email records for a certain number of years, falls only on enterprises, and hence the inapplicability of email archiving software to smaller businesses.

This is not totally accurate, since there are certain categories of small businesses, which are affected. There are thousands of small companies in the financial sector, for example, that are affected by regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC and National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD).

But the general indifference of SB owners towards email archiving does not come as a surprise, given the price points, which more than outweighed any benefits. It typically involved purchasing and implementing specialized software like MS Exchange, and setting up dedicated servers – running up costs from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

However, thanks to the cloud revolution, email archiving is another area that has moved to the cloud. Companies can now access email archiving tools over the internet for a reasonable monthly fee, without the need to host solutions in-house. Given this substantially reduced price point, small business owners would do well to consider the benefits. Specifically, the benefits are as follows:-

1) Safeguard Mission Critical Data. It is not an overstatement to say that information that is critical to any businesses – client communications, documents, records, contracts, invoices – flow through its email system. Often, this information is lost or locked away in individual inboxes, frustratingly inaccessible when needed the most, and hostage to a fickle email system or a disgruntled employee on his way out. Email archiving ensures that all this information is stored, backed-up and safeguarded centrally on an ongoing basis.

2) eDiscovery. Email archiving solutions have search and discovery tools built into them to ensure that companies have access to the specific information they need, when they need it.

3) Legal Concerns. Although a large majority of small businesses are not required by law to store and conserve their business email communications, they may find themselves in a messy litigation, and required to produce historical email records under a subpoena. At other times, the presence of historical email records may help the small businesses owner in building a case in litigation against, say, a defaulting partner.

4) HR Benefits. The HR department may find email archiving to be an invaluable tool at their disposal, and a protection against staff email misuse. Numerous situations can be thought of to exemplify this – an in house investigation, monitoring for workplace harassment, or arbitration of employee tribunal cases before going to court.

Given the above benefits, small businesses may want to give email archiving a long and hard thought.

At HyperOffice, we constantly look to bring more and more features and functionality into our messaging and collaboration suite, to ensure that our customers don’t have to shop around as their needs expand. After expanding our email/messaging capabilities with push email support for almost every major mobile platform a few months ago, email archiving was the logical next step. Email archiving is currently in beta, and we hope to make it widely available very soon.

HyperOffice: 2010 in Retrospect

2010 was a pivotal year for HyperOffice. Not only did we find ourselves right in the eye of the convergence of multiple market trends, but HyperOffice grew and matured as a product more than ever before in its history. Our efforts did not go unnoticed, as our brand is stronger than ever, and rubbed shoulders with the biggest names in the industry, backed as they are by astronomical marketing budgets.

The Market

2010 will be looked back upon as the year when cloud computing finally went main stream. It was great to see our vision of more than 10 years – the ability to access business applications over the internet without expensive infrastructure – finding not only wide acceptability, but wide adoption as well. Vendors have shifted from selling the model to arguing for the superiority of their cloud products over others.

Apart from the mega success of cloud computing, we found ourselves plonk in the middle of two sub trends in the larger growth of the cloud.

Cloud collaboration was one of the main areas of growth in cloud computing. Studies from Sandhill, Forrester, MarketResearch.com, AMI all found collaboration as one of the fastest growing SaaS segments in 2010 and beyond. This is understandable as collaboration software caters to a supra trend afoot in business today – increasingly distributed teams which need to work together and coordinate effort. As insightfully observed by the editor of CloudAve “cloud has the necessary DNA for collaboration”, since it allows people anywhere to contribute to a shared system.

Another trend in evidence was the convergence of messaging and collaboration software. HyperOffice has been offering integrated business email and collaboration tools since before 2005. Companies have found that having their messaging and collaboration solutions in separate silos is expensive and inefficient. Integrated solutions are a counterweight against the temptation to use email for everything, and great synergies arise from data of different types – documents, emails, tasks, contacts, discussions – being able to freely interact in a unified system. Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 from industry heavyweights have validated this approach. HyperOffice however offers the best solution with a laser focus towards SMBs.

The Product

Without doubt, 2010 proved to be the year when HyperOffice evolved and grew more than ever before in its more than 10 year history.

Late in 2009 we released the beta version of the biggest ever overhaul of our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite, rebuilding it ground up in AJAX. Over early 2010, we put the beta through months of rigorous testing, made hundreds of enhancements and thousands of bug fixes, before finally making it widely available. Apart from a completely redesigned modern interface and more tightly integrated features, our users get countless new features like full text search, color coded calendars, database applications and web forms, wikis, drag and drop publisher and more.

Keeping with the mobility revolution, push messaging was a natural extension to HyperOffice’s capabilities. Although HyperOffice was already optimized and available on mobile browsers, we increasingly found users wanting solutions which leveraged their mobile phone’s native mail, calendar and address book applications. Moreover, most solutions in the market work only with single devices, or require expensive server based implementations. To fill this gap, HyperSynch was born, a mobile messaging add-on to HyperOffice which allows users to push, sync and share mail, contacts, calendars and tasks across mobile platforms including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia, Android and more.

Since the mega upgrade, HyperOffice has undergone four upgrade cycles implementing more than a 100 customer requested enhancements. Most notably, we bolstered our project management features. HyperOffice is now a full blown project management solution with sophisticated project management features like task dependencies and interactive Gantt charts to handle complex projects. New features like the ability to convert email to tasks demonstrate the benefits of having integrated messaging and collaboration and tools.

The Brand

HyperOffice’s developments have caught the attention of end users and tech experts alike, and our brand is stronger than ever. HyperOffice is one of the most well recognized names in a jam packed online collaboration market. Our developments kept making it to leading publications such as NY Times, ZDNet, GigaOM, Entrepreneur.com, CMS Wire, eWeek, Information Week, MSP Mentor, PC Magazine, PC Today, Information Today, Small Biz Mag and more.

Can HyperOffice out simplify Google Apps?” asked Christopher Dawson of ZDNet. PC Magazine listed HyperOffice as one of the “Top 10 Apps that can make you productive”. “HyperOffice to Take on Google Apps, Microsoft Web Apps?” was CMSWire’s reaction to our mega upgrade. HyperOffice was compared to MS SharePoint in Entrepreneur.com’s “Collaboration or aggravation?

HyperOffice was reviewed by Edward Mendelson, an eminent software reviewer for PC Mag, known for his rigorous analysis of solutions. We were more than glad with his comments – “Overall, I was deeply impressed by HyperOffice’s depth of features, tight integration of all its elements, sleek appearance, and crack support team that was admirably responsive in both acknowledging the problems I discovered, and in many cases, fixing them almost as fast as I reported them.”, and that some of our key messaging points were echoed in his review – “Bottom Line – (HyperOffice is) A fully hosted alternative to building your own Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint servers.”

As one of the oldest players and thought leaders in the SaaS collaboration market, the opinions of our leaders were frequently sought by analysts and experts. Shahab Kaviani, our Executive Vice President Marketing and Product Marketing was one of the panelists in Small Business Tech Magazines nation wide SMB Tech Tour. Phil Wainwright, one of the leading minds on SaaS, interviewed Shahab for his podcast series on ebizQ. Shahab was also interviewed by Laurie McCabe of the SMB Group, as by Peter Radinski and Rich Tehrani from TMCNet.

HyperOffice was also one of the solutions covered by SMB Group’s study “Moving Beyond Email: The Era of SMB Online Collaboration Suites” along with eminent names like Google Apps, Microsoft BPOS, IBM LotusLive, VMWare’s Zimbra and more.

In Conclusion

The ultimate test of any solution are its users. The SaaS game is not only about getting new users, but keeping and satisfying current users. We believe we did a great job of that this year, by making an effort to provide them great service in addition to great technology.

2010 was a year of great satisfaction, a testimony to everyone’s effort in development, service, marketing, sales and administration. But our eyes are now firmly focused towards the future. We’ve got all the right cards – experience, technology, and brand – and when the cloud surge takes place in 2011, we want to ride it right at the crest.



The Wisdom in Web 3.0

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T.S. Elliot


Technological innovation isn’t simply accelerating; the rate at which it’s accelerating is itself increasing. On a daily basis, the geometric rise of computational power makes possible new advances that were incomprehensible a decade before. As you hurtle ever-faster towards the future, you’d be forgiven for keeping your head down, heeding only every fifth technology promising to “change the way we [blank] forever.” – Windows 7, Unicode 6.0, HTML5, 4G, USB 3.0, H264, and a cyborg partridge in a pear tree. Right?

The Early Years

Web 1.0’s overly optimistic monetization of the Internet imploded, but thankfully left us with Amazon.com (whew) and eBay. Web 2.0 has shown even the most curmudgeonly Luddite that it’s not him/her against the Internet—our friendly Facebook pages are nodes on a global grid of goodwill (and a goldmine of marketing data) and LOL cats can make the upload-friendly H264 codec mentioned above sound  warm and fuzzy. Web 1.0 was brave, rugged and individualistic; 2.0 inclusive, accessible and egalitarian.

Move over for Web 3.0 – The Semantic Web

Not that Web 2.0 can be entirely spoken of in the past tense—but make no mistake, Web 3.0, the Semantic Web, is here. And while Web 2.0 brought people together, its successor is bringing information together. You’ll hear more and more about semantics over the next few years, and many of you readers might already grasp the technical details at a deeper level bouncy castle for sale canada than does this humble blogger. Regardless, humanity has generated massive stores of data during the short life of the still-adolescent internet (which we’re on a familiar basis with today, and therefore needn’t capitalize any longer), and has learned that more information doesn’t necessarily equal more knowledge. Commercials for Microsoft’s Bing search engine (watch) emphasize that a search isn’t simply (or even mainly) about finding matches for the words typed into the box; it’s about gathering the knowledge being sought.

Semantics is about embedding meaning in our information so that a given word, phrase, sentence, etc. displayed is part of a granule of contextual, standards-driven metadata tags. Rather than a human searching for an article and manually linking it to or syndicating it alongside another page, an article’s words, sentences, paragraphs, even images and videos can be, with increasing automaticity, associated with precisely relevant content on other parts of the web. A given word can have several denotative definitions, connotative meanings, and/or slang usages, and any one of those definitions could take on slightly or drastically different meanings in the jargon of myriad professions, fields, social units, geographical areas, etc. But weight that given word with contextual tags, and the intended meaning emerges—ready for association, translation, categorization, ad infinitum. It’s not totally absurd to think of Semantics as empowering data to “friend” other data, and only fairly absurd to conceptualize Web 3.0 as a great big e-Harmony service for information.bounce house

The Semantic Web and Collaboration

You might not have friended your co-workers, but your goals and objectives should be aligned and your tools should allow you to collaborate for better, faster results. It shouldn’t matter if your co-workers are in the cubicle next to you or in Madagascar. Collaboration isn’t talking about working together. It isn’t discussing what will be done between the current meeting and the next. It’s about actual making immediate micro-decisions within a team environment; the assembling in real time of a project by living, breathing knowledge bases. Getting up and walking across the office to discuss a topic with a colleague is still a nice thing to do; but we have the technology to automate inquiries and responses, tasks and tickets, change notifications and event reminders. Isn’t getting up and walking across the office to chat with a colleague so much better after you’ve cleared from your plates the morning’s dozen action items?

My roundabout point is that we, like the contextualized data of Web 3.0, are granules of information. Maybe your AOL-Time Warner stock didn’t do so well; maybe Twitter gives you migraines—but the Semantic Web is much more than an evolution of e-commerce and hashtags. It’s a rapidly expanding and interweaving net of data connecting partners in collaboration based on the information they seek and have; increasingly immersing us in knowledge; integrating knowledge bases with each other to achieve—with increasingly precise tools in the hands of increasingly knowledgeable people—wisdom.

The way we work is changing, and the rate of that change is increasing. But don’t worry; just think how great you’ll be at your job with a shiny, new-fangled wisdom base…

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.

Listen to HyperOffice at the Small Biz Tech Tour

Small Biz Technology, a premier online journal dedicated to tech issues related to small businesses, is launching the Small Biz Tech Tour, the first edition of what is going to be an annual event. Spread out over 43 days, the Tour will stop over at 5 cities including Mountain View, CA; Salt Lake City; Boston; Washington DC and Atlanta. If you are a small business owner near any of those venues, make haste to get yourself over there!

It is going to be a grand show, featuring a lineup of star studded speakers representing thought leaders in small business tech from the analyst, journalist and vendor community. You get a chance to hear and ask questions from 35 speakers including Ramon Ray (smallbiztechnology.com), Brent Leary (CRM expert), Laurie McCabe (SMB Group), Patrick Schwerdtfeger (Bloomberg TV), and, our own Shahab Kaviani!

Click here for the itinerary and further information

This series of events will give owners insights into the most pressing contemporary question for small businesses – to cut through all the chaotic talk and find how to make use of modern internet technology, which makes available to them tools formerly in the sole dominion of enterprises, to be more effective and competitive.

You also get to network with your peers. Speak with technology vendors. Participate in discussions. Eat. Win Prizes.

HyperOffice at the Tour

We are glad that HyperOffice was invited to share our experiences and insights. We’ve served small businesses for more than a decade since 1998. We were one of the first companies to offer software-as-a-service solutions to the business market, and one of the earliest players in online collaboration, the most explosive market these days.

Importantly, we have dealt with the needs of small businesses on a day-to-day basis over all these years, learnt invaluable lessons, and built our solutions and services around that knowledge. And Shahab has been in the thick of it since the early days of HyperOffice listening to customers, spearheading our marketing efforts, helping define a nascent market and educating small businesses about it. Be sure that he has some serious pointers and tips for you.

Be there!