Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Guest Post – Benefits of Cloud Computing

Technology has been taken over by the Cloud. Putting it in simple terms, ‘Cloud’ is the new meme used to describe nirvana from clogged up computers and saving files directly to the internet. So how does it work?

Essentially, instead of saving files to a hard disk or using software on a computer that is directly installed, the Cloud offers the ability to quickly and easily access these files using an Internet connection.  It all sounds very swish, but what actually are the benefits?

Services that offer Cloud storage can provide businesses with the storage space that they simply wouldn’t otherwise have access to. As storage is provided using a vast remote server, businesses can pay a relatively small amount of money (compared to the relevant cost of physical hardware) to receive a phenomenal amount of storage space.

As more and more companies rely on the Cloud, this means that the need for a contingency plan in the case of file loss can be completely eradicated. Recovery times are quick and relatively simple should anything go wrong, as all information and data is backed up onto the servers. This is great in the event of files being accidentally removed, or worse, stolen.

A huge benefit to businesses is the ability for multiple staff to access, edit and share folders and files that they are currently working on. This means that collaboration between teams of people can be greatly improved, and no time is wasted on uploading and emailing files individually. This end result for businesses – efficiency.

Cloud resources are easily scalable – they can be altered to suit growing needs, which is perfect for companies who are unsure of their growth curve.

On the topic of efficiency, it’s also worth noting that using Cloud as your storage solution will use at least 30% less energy than by using regular servers based on-site. Perfect for any companies with a strong interest in green ethics.

The Cloud has also rapidly become more and more accessible via smartphones and tablets – meaning that your documents are truly available anytime and anywhere. For people who work on the move, or do a lot of travelling, this can be a lifeline for effectively managing time away from the office.

Businesses should all be aware that mobile computing and social use of technology is still growing rapidly. Enterprises will need to keep up or get left behind.

About the author

Shelly Flaherty is a mom of two and an avid freelance blogger. She also works alongside Ideal cleaning services group. In her spare time she loves to spend time with her kids.

From intranets to social intranets – Part 1 (Social intranets and knowledge management)

We tend to get carried away in the mood of the moment. As enterprise social networks started to pick up, weren’t we a little too quick to grab our shovels, prepare tearful eulogies post the “death of intranets” in the manner of “intranets were great BUT…..”, and start to drag the intranet away?

Not so quick.

Admittedly, intranets have had a rocky past, suffering from adoption problems, never quite delivering their promise. However, the objectives where sound, and lots of companies which thought through their intranet implementation, did have great success. Social software on the other hand, is beyond its bright eyed boy stage, and has to bring more than a business version of “let’s exchange likes”. The right way then, is the best of both worlds. This coming together is already underway with the assimilation of modern social concepts in traditional intranets – the “social intranet”.

Although I was going to discuss all the ways in which a social intranet improves upon a traditional intranet in a single blog entry, I realized that each area deserves its own attention. This is therefore a series.

Social intranets and knowledge management

Shortcomings of knowledge management in traditional intranets

A classical objective of the intranet was knowledge management – capturing all possible knowledge created in the organization and making it readily available to everyone else. The idea was to capture learning as problems were faced, solved, best practices developed, and share such learning across offices, teams and hierarchies – a growth and maturation for the entire organization in the process.

Although the intranet was able to capture knowledge to an extent, it was never able to solve the problem of sharing. Knowledge created and captured in the intranet in the forms of documents, presentations, or best practice sheets, never left the team, office or division “workspace”. The inherent flaw lay in the structure of traditional intranets – everything was blocked off into “intranet workspaces”, each an island of information in itself.

Another major flaw with the design of the intranet was that although it captured the information created through formal processes – documents, presentations, spreadsheets, code-bases – it was in-adept at capturing the key resource of any organization – the knowledge in the minds of workers. The workers had no incentive to, or means of, voluntarily and proactively contributing what they had in their minds in terms of ideas, suggestions, and solutions to others’ problems. One could even think of it as outdated human resource philosophy as reflected in traditional intranets – why would an employee go beyond their job role to help their colleagues and company?

That is what changes in a profound way in social intranets.

Employee generated content. Social intranets bring to intranets one of the main sources of the web 2.0 revolution – user generated content. Content is not created at the higher echelons of the company and handed down to everyone else. Social intranets equip employees with the tools to contribute their own content. Employees engage in open conversations by finding colleagues, posting messages on their walls, contributing articles, following and participating in existing conversations, or setting up ad hoc groups around common areas of interest. In the process they are contributing their knowledge, and gaining from the knowledge of others. And this knowledge is accessible to everyone else in the company for all times.

Sharing across silos. Another thing social tools encourage employees to do is to freely share information across formal organizational groups. For example, if you are on a cross functional group, you can simply post a message on the wall of a teammate in another division at another office, and attach a document from your groups document repository that might help them. In doing this, you actually created an information bridge across groups. As this is one more and more, group boundaries become porous and information travels freely across them. Company knowledge is now not siloed, but available across the grid.

Access people. As mentioned before, key company knowledge resides not in company documents, but inside the minds of employees. Employees have a face in social intranets in the form of profiles which detail their skills, projects and experience. You can easily locate the right people across the organization by searching for skills or experience, and approach them directly for help. More often than not, you will find they are willing to help, which saves you the time and effort of reinventing the wheel.

At an abstract level, what social intranets really represent is a shift in philosophy. They recognize people as the most important repository of organizational knowledge, and believe that employees will go out of their way, beyond their formal roles, to help their colleagues and the organization – and derive satisfaction from that (HR practitioners call this theory Y).

Guest Post – The Cloud in the Public Sector: Is it real or is it myth?

Blogger Bio

Jim Sweeney has more than 35 years of experience in the development and integration of a broad range of enterprise IT applications and technologies. He has held several roles including technical, sales and marketing positions over his career. For the last four years, Jim has served as the Manager of the Virtualization and Cloud Computing Consulting Practice at GTSI, working with different federal, state and local agencies on a variety of technical solutions primarily focused in the areas of server, desktop, application virtualization as well as storage virtualization and consolidation. He just finished a book titled “Get your head in the clouds” discussing the relevance of the cloud for the public sector in detail, with scores of real life implementaions.

There has been a lot of hype over the last year about Cloud Computing (not to mention Big Data, and a whole host of other topics, but that’s another blog post). But has there been more than talk? Vendors are jumping on the bandwagon left and right and now even Oracle has announced that they are in the public and private IaaS Cloud business.(see my latest blog post for GTSI). But what about customers? Are they just listening at the moment or is there real movement to implement real Cloud solutions in the public sector?

Well I am happy to report that the answer is a resounding “Yes”. There are real customers at real agencies that have already adopted the Cloud for one or more services. AWS announced this morning at their annual Federal Conference that there are over 300 agencies already using them. They spent a lot of the day trying to clear up the misconceptions surrounding Cloud. In fact, this is the purpose of my new book on Cloud, entitled: “Get Your Head in the Cloud: Unraveling the Mystery for Public Sector”. Actually the purpose is two fold:

1. Clear up all the FUD that is out there as to the types of Cloud and the various deployment models of Cloud. I make it simple for even the non-technical folks out there to understand.

2. Give real examples of customers at all levels of the public sector, federal, state and local, that have already made use of this exciting new technology. Here are just a couple of examples:

a. Many people are afraid of the Cloud. But the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab jumped right in. You see, they figured they were going to get blamed anyway if their customers went around them to the Cloud and had it blow up in their faces, so they took a proactive approach. You’ll have to read the book to get the whole story but suffice it to say that there are 180,000 images of Mars now sitting in the Amazon public Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Cloud.

b. Lot of people throw “Security” as a reason for not going to the public Cloud. But that is exactly one of the challenges that the Department of Labor overcame when they outsourced their entire Financial Management system to a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, GCE. Not only did they immediately see returns but all of the auditing problems they had before the transition were gone!

c. Finally, let me say a word about the agencies that have announced their intention to move to a SaaS email provider, some to Microsoft and their Office 365 Cloud and some to Google and their Gmail offering. This is a great move by the various agencies. While we have to wait for some of the final numbers the case study in the book, State of Minnesota, has already seen tremendous savings in both dollars and headaches by moving to the new system.

Finally, let me say a word about HyperOffice. Over 200,000 customers now use their SaaS product as a replacement for Microsoft Office. Can you imagine not having to handle the installation, configuration and patching of all of your various versions of Office Suites out there today? Their technology really does make it easy for you. And by moving to a SaaS provider like HyperOffice you are one step closer to that other technology that is getting a lot of press recently, BYOD (Bring Your own Device).

The Cloud is here. The Cloud is now. It is not right for every service that IT provides to its customers, but with budget cuts looming and staffs that are already overworked, Cloud can provide monetary savings as well as relief for your current IT staff.

As always, thanks for reading.

Back to the basics – How to share files online

This is another post in our “Back to the basics” series. Those amongst us who are tech geeks tend to fall in the trap of subconsciously assuming that others are as comfortable with cloud technology as we are. However, studies like the one from Spiceworks which found that upto 50% of SMBs still don’t use cloud services, bring you back to reality.

So you have a file, and want to share it online with someone in another city. Here are your options:

Send it as an email attachment: OK, you knew this already. The easiest way is to simply mail the file across as an attachment. But, this method doesn’t work well with big files since you have to sit around all day for it to upload, and many mail services have upper limits for attachment size. Moreover, sharing documents through mail has the disadvantage of the documents being hard to retrieve at a later date. If you want to go beyond simple sharing, but actually work together on a file, it is vastly inefficient to send the same file back and forth over and over.

Use a free file sharing service. This is indeed the era of cloud file sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive. These are basically cloud based folders where you can upload files, and access them wherever you have access to the internet. For sharing purposes, you can provide other people access to this folder. Nowadays, these services have strong mobility capabilities, which means you can easily share files even from a mobile device or tablet.

File sharing and collaboration for business purposes. In a business situation, you need to not only share files with others, but also work together on them remotely, and make sure that access is secured. File collaboration services like HyperOffice are ideal here, as they let you create shared cloud folders and also have added collaboration features like version control, access permissions, comments and notifications.

HyperOffice and ZDNet Panelists Discuss Doing Business in India (27 June ’12)

HyperOffice President Farzin Arsanjani and eminent ZDNet journalists Christopher Dawson and Larry Dignan will get together for a live online panel discussion on “doing business in India” today (27th June 2012).

If you are interested, you can register at the following link –

India’s spectacular economic growth story is widely known, and most companies either already have a presence in India, or are considering entering Indian markets. Such companies will find this panel discussion immensely useful. ZDNet felt that HyperOffice would offer some important insights on the subject, since we have a long standing relationship with Tata Communications, who offer HyperOffice communication and collaboration solutions to their telecom customers.

Be there!

The Microsoft Yammer acquisition, Sharepoint, and social business

It’s a closed deal. The media has widely reported the imminent acquisition of Yammer, the enterprise social network provider, by Microsoft for a whistle-evoking 1.2 Billion dollars. Everyone knows something big is happening here, and experts, in characteristic style, have quickly congregated around opposite ends of the pole – equally shrill in lauding or denouncing the move.

It is unclear as yet how Yammer will fit in Microsoft’s product portfolio – will it be used to bolster Sharepoint’s outdated and weak social capabilities? Or will it go the Skype way, where Microsoft uses it to enter enterprises through the backdoor (employees using it in small groups with or without official approval), and then upsell heavier Microsoft enterprise products like Sharepoint, Dynamics CRM and Office through integration points?

Social business is the winner

But underlying both of the above two approaches, or any other approach Microsoft might take, is an implicit acknowledgment – Social tools in businesses are here to stay. And this time, unlike Office 365 in cloud collaboration, Microsoft does not want to be a laggard in the race.

As a general rule, it suits giant companies to slow market movements and keep the status quo, and milk existing markets where they have a dominant position. Microsoft did that with cloud computing, till it was finally forced to move to the cloud with Office 365. But when an IT giant invests in and shows commitment to a new market movement, it is an indicator of the undeniable importance of the movement. Microsoft’s $1.2 billion spend on Yammer is one such indicator for the social business space. IBM’s attempt to be associated with the organizational study of social business is another. This is further supported by a flurry of merger and acquisition activity in the social business space.

But the most important indicator is real businesses using social businesses tools more and more, and reporting benefits. Email might not quite be dead yet, but it is increasingly finding a new companion in social business software.

But an important, and yet unresolved question is the best approach for a company to introduce social software. At HyperOffice, as we have argued before, we feel that collaboration software is a natural environment for social tools to be introduced. Social and collaboration tools both have something to contribute to each other (collaboration tools become less siloed, and social tools become task oriented rather than encouraging empty chatter), and moreover, both relate to generic communication and collaboration needs that exist in all organizations.

Microsoft probably plans to do the same by integrating Yammer into Sharepoint, its collaboration software. This is hinted by the emphasis Jared Spataro, Director of SharePoint Product Management, has put on social capabilities in Sharepoint’s future.

However, we feel that Microsoft is not likely to do justice to bringing the collaboration and social pieces together, given the vastly different architectures of Sharepoint and Yammer (the former is server based, while the latter is cloud native). Add to this the inertia of a risk-averse large enterprise with existing revenue bases to defend.

With most players in the market geared either as “collaboration” suites (Office 365, Google Apps), or “enterprise social networks” (Yammer, Chatter), we feel there is a gap in the market of a solution which combines the two approaches. We hope to fill this gap with HyperSocial….

What does strategy have to do with buying business software?

I came across a very interesting article by Daniel Rasmus, which was in turn was inspired by an article by Doug Henschen late last year. The article talks how more and more business intelligence vendors are adding collaborative capabilities to their suites. Multiple players have tried to do this, including Microsoft with Sharepoint, SAP with StreamWorks and IBM with Cognos 10.

While it’s always good to have a few extra features in your software, things start getting a little confused when your CRM provider also includes email, your email application also includes shared folders, your collaboration vendor throws in light weight reporting and business intelligence tools, and your accounting system suddenly goes “social”.

It is understandable why vendors want to do this – the cloud deployment model offers a great opportunity to blur traditional software boundaries, enter high demand markets (is it a wonder that everyone is clamoring to enter the collaboration market), and make the user more committed to your solution.

But from an organization’s standpoint, solutions with overlapping functionality create a great temptation to use the tool immediately available to manage data (for example store an invoice in the “shared folders” section of your accounting system) and as a result fragmenting corporate data, and creating scores of mini information silos. As an organization increases in size, this potential for fragmentation grows exponentially.

Companies therefore need to take a careful look at their application portfolio, and decide exactly how they distinguish software categories, exactly what they want from each software category and how they will interact – ERP, CRM, Collaboration, Social. Special attention might be necessary in the area of collaboration, since it can have such a far reaching impact on organizational performance. Conceptual models might be of help here. For example I had proposed a model about how “social software” can best enter the enterprise.

Daniel Rasmus has the following incredible suggestions about how to see collaboration software in the organization (we suggest a similar approach : Whitepaper – Collaboration or Chaos).

Focus on deploying a set of collaboration tools that connect with other technology, not collaboration tools within other technologies. People only have so much time, and there are personal switching costs involved in deciding which tool to use to share something. There are also costs involved in remember where you shared something, or even in remember to check various locations to see if people have shared something you need to know about.

The best implementations of collaboration software should have a single interface that brings everything together for the end user, and makes the same conversations available on mobile devices that are accessible on larger clients.

But all of this goes to strongly underline one thing – the importance of a strategic, long term view while selecting your company’s software.

5 dirty Sharepoint Online secrets revealed

When you go through vendor feature datasheets, you get a view of features at a very high level. It’s only once you dive deep and actually start using the software do you get a sense of how it works. The experience might sometimes yield unexpected surprises.…

So while you might have absorbed some of Sharepoint Online’s marketing hype, here are some things they failed to mention.

1) You can’t cut/copy and paste documents and folders (let alone drag and drop). Sharepoint, supposedly a sophisticated enterprise grade solution, has somehow overlooked this very elementary functionality. The way you move information in Sharepoint is by using the “send to” function, which requires you to actually type out the entire url of the destination. Convenience be dammed!

2) Designing pages using the Ribbon pane is a pain. The default editing option for designing a page in Sharepoint is the famous Microsoft “ribbon” pane. The default view is a basic WYSIWYG editor of the kind you see in blogs and wikis. You can add Sharepoint modules by going to a separate “insert” tab, which opens a new navigation with a myriad choices. Inserting modules just dumps the default views into the page. You can customize how they look, but that requires still deeper digging. In this era of usability, there is no way to simply drag and drop elements and add information. Simplicity be dammed!

3) Sharepoint Online’s structure means features within features within features. The above themes are repeated throughout Sharepoint Online. Sharepoint Online admittedly has depth of functionality, but finding features means diving through layers and layers where each feature has sub-features and more sub-features. Sharepoint Online, keeping with its enterprise legacy, almost shows an IT expert’s disdain for user friendliness.

4) Sharepoint Online is fragmented. Beyond feature accessibility, Sharepoint’s broad structure is laid out in the following manner:

A default team site section with its own navigation structure

A “my site” section a link to which is tucked away in the top right corner (not very obviously). This section has its own navigation structure with no obvious links back to the team site section.

A totally different account management console with a different url

Usability demands that everything a user needs should be easily and intuitively accessible from a single interface. And what this interface displays should be dependent on the users’ role. For example a site admin would have ready access to the account management section, the administration section, and the portal functionality itself, while a user would have access to only portal functionality, while a group admin would have something in between. In Sharepoint’s world users do all the hard work.

5) Social features in Sharepoint Online are primitive. Though Microsoft has emphasized that social features are an important part of Sharepoint’s roadmap, the current social features can be described as Neanderthal at best. In a world of slick social tools like Facebook, where we can easily communicate and get updates on people, information and groups right on our social wall; social features of Sharepoint Online feel like managing the software administration screens of yesteryear.  There is no concept of “following” specific documents or projects (you can get feeds on “tagged content”), no ability to comment on wall activities, and no concept of “groups” in the social context.

If all this daunts you, and you would rather prefer dragging and dropping for files and folders, drag and drop designing of intranet webpages, cutting edge social tools, a unified solution experience, and importantly, a solution which is pleasing to the eye – we invite you to try HyperOffice instead.

Google Plus for Business? 5 Reasons Why Google Plus is Not Social Collaboration

I can barely control my indignation when I read articles about Google Plus as a tool for “social collaboration”. These articles sometimes come from writers I respect. I guess we have a difference of opinion on this. Here are my reasons why I think Google Plus is not a tool for social collaboration (even remotely).

1. You can’t paste horns on a dog and call it a bull

The last I remember, social collaboration was supposed to be about learning from the design concepts of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, and adapting them to a business environment to spur productivity and collaboration. The key phrase here is “learn from design concepts and adapt them”. Google Plus is an out and out consumer tool in fierce competition with Facebook. Can anyone show me even a single change made to Google Plus in Google Apps to make it adaptable to business? Surely there is some difference in consumer and business needs.

2. Social collaboration is not about sharing cool videos and favorite recipes

Social collaboration in the enterprise is not about networking and sharing stuff for the heck of it. In fact it means nothing if it is not connected with company information and processes. Social collaboration should not be an end in itself but subordinate to getting the job done.

In fact, when connected with enterprise data – documents, tasks, schedules, and discussions – social tools become an incredible way to consume information, break organizational barriers and bring together people in a conversational yet productive environment.

Google Plus has no connectivity with other parts of the business. Even in Google Apps, it has no connectivity with other applications like Google docs, mail, calendars or tasks.  It might spur some light weight conversations and connections, but does not bring much business value.

3. Social collaboration is about combining open sharing with structure and policy control

The beauty of social collaboration is that it leverages the open, conversational design of social media, but combines it with the structure and policy control mechanisms required in business. So even while people share information freely, everyone has access to exactly the information they have rights to.

Admittedly, Google Plus has an interesting concept of intuitively structuring people into “circles”. But policy control needs in businesses go beyond that, and social collaboration needs to reflect that. Each group needs to have further ability to distinguish between group members, and fine tune access levels right down to every piece of data.

4. You cannot be everything to everyone

Google obviously isn’t going to have two versions of Google Plus, one for business and one for consumers. Its product direction is evidently going to be driven by the dynamics of the fiercely competitive social networking market dominated by Facebook. In fact, its very future might depend on controlling the consumer social network market.

Does a business really want to ride its boat on this stormy consumer market?

5. Social media marketing is not social collaboration.

People sometimes confuse the concept of using popular social media platforms like Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter to promote their business, with the concept of using social media design principles internally to spur productivity and collaboration. The former is better described as “social media marketing” and the latter is “social collaboration”.

It makes all the sense in the world to do social media marketing, and use all the attention and activity in these networks to market ones products. Even we have a company page on Google Plus to market ourselves in this community.

This, however, is a totally different baby from social collaboration, where networking, activity streams, “following” and other social tools are seamlessly worked into the collaboration tools we use to accomplish work on a day to day basis to improve productivity. That is not Google Plus’ forte.

At HyperOffice, we have been working on new social capabilities, which deeply integrate with our widely known communication and collaboration suite. Our attempt has been to bring businesses the benefits of new social technologies, but at all times keep it linked it to business data and processes, and contribute to job completion, rather than distract from it.

Let us know if you want to be informed when we launch our social collaboration features.

Should your business take the Google Drive?

After years of rampant speculation, Google has finally released its cloud storage service, naming it quite what everyone had expected – Google Drive.

For those forever on the lookout for the next exciting internet thing, Google Drive is not an unprecedented new product out of Google’s hat. Google Drive is Google Docs rebranded, plus added functionality. That is why your Google Docs (Documents) tab now redirects to “Google Drive”. Google Docs, I am guessing, will only refer to Google’s web based office authoring tools henceforth.

Though not totally new, Google likely saw Google Drive as a repositioning exercise to make its presence felt in the fast growing consumer storage segment with players like DropBox, Box etc.

It is interesting to see how Google positions Google Drive’s – “now all your stuff, work or play, is in one place”.   So, Google Drive is seen as a kind of crossover service which can be used to store personal as well as work documents. The question then, is, do you want to be using Google Drive for work?

A couple of facts immediately scream NO!

1) Scary privacy terms. As has been widely reported, Google Drive’s privacy terms contain some chilling clauses, which would deter anyone who is uploading anything other than a recipe (assuming it’s not a secret family recipe handed down the ages).

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

2) Do you really want to mix work and personal documents? Though as a personal user, there is a temptation to manage all documents from a single place, it would be an utter nightmare for an administrator. Imagine multiple people having multiple copies of sensitive office documents in their personal accounts, with Google’s privacy terms added on top – a security scenario akin to trying to stop air with a sieve.

Besides, do you want to have that kind of data scatter in the company? Efficient information management and collaboration is all about having central copies of data that everyone can access, and that can be easily tracked through changes. Definitely not happening when everyone has their own copy.

So although individuals are always going to be tempted to upload an office document to Google Drive to take a peek later at home, companies will certainly not want to endorse it as a solution.

3) Is data divorced from processes? A larger point – although companies want to store and secure their data, and access it remotely, is this data really divorced from company processes and other information management applications?

Google Drive and many other solutions are predicated on the assumption that collaboration in an organization begins and ends with cloud storage. In business practice however, every document or bit of data relates to some process or transaction.  For example company projects are associated with project specs and resources, meetings are associated with meeting agendas, intranet pages associated with HR forms and policies, a CRM transaction associated with customer documents and so on. With data stored in a separate application, users have to manually move documents between applications all the time.

For this reason, document storage in HyperOffice is not stand alone, but offered in the context of other collaboration applications in HyperOffice – project management, scheduling, intranets, or database apps. Even other serious enterprise solutions like SharePoint recognize this, and see documents in the larger context of company processes and information flows.