Cloud + Mobile = Inevitable !!

Mobile devices sold per secondAccording to Gartner, 1.2 billion smart phones and 216 million tablets were sold worldwide in 2014. That’s an astonishing 46 every second. At the same time, according to a recent Silicon Angle report, 82% of companies saved money by moving to the cloud and public cloud workloads are expected to grow by 44%. We live in a Mobile + Cloud world.

This inevitable nexus of forces is forcing companies to change how they do business. Customers expect to make purchases on their smart phones and get notifications instantly. Employees expect to perform day-to-day tasks like signing off on POs or vacation requests on their smart phones. Our devices can monitor our health, tell us when friends are nearby and guide us to our destinations.

Maribel Lopez wrote a great article at Forbes on What Mobile Cloud means for your Business. Truly mobile-enabling your company doesn’t just mean buying devices or instituting a BYOD policy. It means that your applications, workflows and services must be:
Cloud has 1 Exabyte of data

  • Device aware: Does the device support touch, gesture, voice navigation, camera? What is the available screen size?
  • Network aware: Can the application use location services? Will it work with erratic or slow connectivity?
  • Sensor aware: What type of data is available on the device?
  • Identity aware: How can you secure access not just to devices but to these mobile services?

Cloud computing is an essential enabler. Without AWS and its kin, how could small businesses support millions of users? Without incredibly cheap storage solutions from Dropbox, Microsoft and others, how would you access your data from anywhere on any device? Cloud-based meeting software like Go To Meeting allows small companies like ours to have a global presence and customer base. And, of course, without affordable workflows from frevvo and others, how could small businesses automate their workflows and increase the speed with which they do business?

It’s only going to get easier and more interesting as service providers increasingly publish Cloud APIs and Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferate.

The combination of Mobile & Cloud fundamentally changes the equation for businesses. You don’t want to think of a Mobile Strategy and a Cloud Strategy but a combined strategy for both.

Why is the Confluence plugin price tied to the # of Confluence users?

Customers sometimes ask us why our plugin license is directly tied to the Confluence license.

We have far more users for Confluence than for forms. It would be better to license a [smaller] group of users as having access to the frevvo Plugin.

It’s a reasonable question/complaint. Why should I pay for 500 users when only 20 will be using forms?

By and large, this is about running a viable business for the Confluence plugin. We’re a small company; likely a lot smaller than most of our customers. We constantly face the every-day challenges of running a small company, especially in the current economy.

The reality is that our product is more complex than the vast majority of plugins – workflows & forms in Confluence are just harder than charts & graphics since they often interact with external systems like databases, send out email notifications and, generally speaking, provide very high business value. frevvo is not just a plugin. There’s a server component that you must install and configure and we’ve found that it can get complicated because customers have firewalls and proxy servers and all kinds of setups. That’s why there’s a required $1,000 first year support cost.

We’re very very good at customer support and you’d never get the kind of support and attention you’ll get from frevvo from a larger company.

However, all this requires people and money and we have to be able to afford it. We make most of of our money on the larger licenses. That’s our “bread and butter” and if you could always just buy licenses in much smaller chunks, we would not have a viable and sustainable business model for the Confluence plugin.

We’ve also found that many customers will deploy the plugin and quickly find that all kinds of users want access to it. Once business users discover that they can quickly create their own registration forms/surveys and download submissions to Excel, they want to do it. Once IT realizes that they can simply point business users to a Tutorial for these basic needs, they want nothing else.

At the end of the day, we simply cannot afford to develop, support and sell the plugin any other way. Hopefully, you understand.

10 Things We’ve Learned About Cloud Computing, So Far (Forbes)

Joe McKendrick recently posted an interesting article about Cloud Computing and some key lessons we’ve learned more than a decade in. It’s a good read and an excellent introduction to some of the important things to know about Cloud, especially so for SMBs who may not have significant expertise. We’ve accumulated some expertise ourselves having been in the Cloud for years now. Here are some of his points with added thoughts:

1) It works. A decade on, with organizations of all sizes, from the Forbes 500 to mom-and-pop shops adopting cloud for mission-critical functions,  it can be said that the cloud computing model is working well.

There’s no doubt about it. Check out this Infographic for some of the services we at frevvo rely on every single day to run our business.

2) It simply moves computing to another location, period. … It simply means processing, systems, and often data reside somewhere else on the network, and not downstairs in the server room.

Well, maybe. Obviously, you can move workloads to Cloud-based servers (IaaS). But, usually adopting Cloud applications (SaaS) means accepting things like multi-tenancy where you’re sharing resources with others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but something to be aware of.

3) It’s relatively safe and secure. This holds many enterprises back from fully embracing cloud — especially public cloud services. But many CIOs admit that cloud providers and their staffs keep up on the latest security measures than CIOs’ own staffs.

One of the most enduring myths about cloud computing. Like other cloud vendors, we go to great lengths (more than most I.T. staffs) to ensure that your data is secure. Ironically, security is probably the #1 reason most organizations should adopt cloud.

4) We’re still figuring out the rules of data ownership. When data is maintained or generated by another entity, it’s not clear who ultimately has the rights to and responsibility for the data.

We haven’t typically seen this as an issue. Certainly, with frevvo, your data is yours. No ambiguity about it.

5) The termination aspects are still messy and murky. The promise of cloud is flexibility; particularly when it comes to swapping vendors’ offerings underneath your infrastructure. However, it’s possible to get deeply rooted and entangled in a cloud vendor’s environment, making termination as painful as tearing out stitches.

6) It renews the vendors lock-in issues that were supposedly resolved ten years ago. The loss of flexibility to swap vendors as needs dictate is a step backwards in many respects.

Valid concerns indeed. While most cloud vendors have straightforward termination (e.g. at frevvo, there is no long-term contract and you can cancel anytime), it’s not necessarily that easy. Sometimes for technical reasons i.e. it’s just too much work to move to some other offering. And, sometimes it is the vendor e.g. we’ve been trying to get rid of a completely unused old salesforce.com account for weeks now without success. Emily, if you’re reading this, could you please call us back? 🙂 Luckily, you won’t have this issue with frevvo. We’re easy to work with.

7) It requires just as much IT expertise as on-premises systems. Going to a cloud doesn’t mean you don’t have to do programming, integration work, or systems configuration. You still need to be able to do all these things, and ensure the performance and capabilities you need to keep the enterprise running.

Well, you have to do a helluva lot less. The point is that a lot of this work e.g. a software upgrade is amortized over 1000s of customers. When frevvo upgrades our software to a new version, we do it once and all Cloud customers get it immediately. On the On-premise side, customers get the flexibility of upgrading when they want but each customer has to do it themselves.

8) It’s not necessarily cheaper than on-premises systems. The long-term costs of subscribing to capabilities month to month add up quickly. But cost savings is not the best reason to go to cloud.

Very true. Often, the biggest benefit is that it’s easy to try new ways to do things. That’s because you can easily add or reduce temporary resources (costs) without big capital costs and deploy solutions fast. Want to try out a new automated workflow? It takes days to build/deploy and it’s super inexpensive to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, un-deploy, stop paying and try a different approach.

9) It hasn’t taken away IT jobs. If anything, it has created new opportunities. IT professionals still need to help make the hard decisions about the best technologies to serve their internal and external clients. The help-wanted ads are full of openings for architects, analysts , operations people and developers who can help oversee organizations’ embrace of clouds.

10) It has elevated the role of IT in organizations. Many IT leaders now have a seat at the table. They now serve as consultants and advisors to the highest levels of their businesses, often with a seat at the table.

Technology can be a critical competitive advantage. If your I.T. department is configuring servers and upgrading software, you’re wasting time & money. Your key I.T. people should be figuring out the best responses to the numerous, rapidly-shifting challenges facing businesses today. See #7 above. Cloud can help.

Essentially, the same is true for all your employees. Why waste their time with the drudgery of routine approvals, form-filling and searching through email? Download this new eBook and learn how frevvo’s Cloud can help you securely digitize these routine approvals.

[Infographic] Why Small Business are Flying to the Cloud

SMB CloudCheck out this new Infographic on why Small to Midsize Businesses (SMBs) are rapidly adopting the cloud. Millions of small business are flying to the cloud – some adopting digital technology for the first time.

Why? Because they finally can … for the first time, these tiny shops have access to world-class software for a reasonable monthly fee without having to incur upfront costs for servers, software licenses, I.T. staff etc. They’re ditching paper forms and spreadsheets, registers and paper receipts every day.

Of course, we’re a small business ourselves and we use Cloud-based software everywhere. Check out the Infographic which also shows 11 Cloud Services that we use everyday and find indispensable to our business. From Infrastructure to Email to, of course, Mobile Web Forms and Approval Workflows, we benefit from low-cost, low-maintenance cloud-based software every single day.

Your organization can do it too. For approval workflows, you know where to reach us. But, there are hundreds and hundreds of choices like GoToMeeting for online meetings, Zendesk for Customer Services, Dropbox for File Sharing and Google Analytics for web analytics.

Cloud Computing – A Sign of Intelligent Life?

Cloud Intelligent LifeI couldn’t help it. I know I’ve seen this before but it seems appropriate for today’s Cloud-or-Nothing age and it always makes me literally Laugh Out Loud.

With all the talk of Private Cloud and Public Cloud and Hybrid Cloud and the ceaseless hype from the big boys, sometimes it’s good to just laugh.

Of course, you’re using Cloud. We’re using it all over our business. Check out this list of 10 useful cloud services we love for our business.

Cartoon Credit: David Fletcher for CloudTweaks.

To Cloud or Not To Cloud?

Cloud Reality Check 2015 InfographicPublic Cloud is mainstream. Undoubtedly. Whether it’s AWS or Microsoft Azure, it feels great to push a few buttons, run out to grab a coffee and somewhere, somehow a server is spun up and by the time you return, it’s up and running with your database, web server all configured. It’s cool and, for small companies like frevvo, it’s amazing. AWS has been a godsend for us as it has been for thousands of others. And, we ourselves use many other Cloud services.

There’s very little reason to host things like email on-premise anymore but, for many applications, large enterprises just have more complex needs. Security for one but cloud vendors are addressing this. Large enterprises have tons of existing infrastructure from Active Directory/SSO solutions to ERP systems with critical employee information to important customer data in Oracle SQL to regulatory requirements. 59% of IT Professionals say that this complexity of integration prevents them from making more use of the cloud. Even Public Cloud Services messiah Google is being forced to talk positively about hybrid cloud and strike partnerships to help it compete.

The bottom line is there is no single answer even within the same organization. Some applications (email, CRM, storage) are naturals for the Cloud. Others such as HIPAA compliant applications and approval workflows that must integrate with this existing infrastructure aren’t as good a fit. Nothing wrong with using an on-premise solution for those use cases. Check out this infographic from NTT (link to original here) called the Cloud Reality Check 2015: Have Global Enterprises Embraced the Cloud? For large enterprises, it’s definitely a mixed bag.

Luckily, at frevvo, we offer both so you can choose whatever works best for the application in question.

Using frevvo + Google Drive for Document/File Management

It goes without saying that there are big advantages to having your files in the Cloud. They’re automatically backed up, secure, can be accessed from anywhere etc. You can use Google Drive as a simplified document/file management system with folders/sub-folders, sharing and permissions.
frevvo + Google AppsIf your organization uses Google Apps, you can combine frevvo + Google Drive in interesting ways to create some cool solutions. For example, you can create an electronic approval workflow for a Purchase Order, and send it to your customer for signature (electronic, of course). Once signed, the customer gets a receipt (PDF) by email. But, the PDF can also be saved to Google Drive in the proper folder/sub-folder e.g. Purchase Orders/Acme Inc 2015_04_09 or Purchase Orders/Order 1234 or whatever makes sense for you. Check out this 90 sec video to see how it works. As POs flow through frevvo and are approved by customers, they’ll automatically be filed away in the correct place.

What about finding POs? As you might expect, Google Drive has great Search. When a file of a common type is uploaded to Google Drive, it is automatically indexed so users can easily search for it in their Drive files. Google Drive also goes much further. For example, it’s capable of recognizing objects and landmarks in images uploaded to Drive. Searching for a PO is just like doing a regular Google search. Just type in some text (a name, an address, an amount, anything …) and Drive will find files containing that text.

Now, obviously, Drive isn’t a full-fledged document management system and there are pitfalls to using folder structures for document management. But, the price is hard to beat and there are many situations where it’s genuinely useful. Especially, when combined with an automated approval workflow from frevvo 🙂 Check out our Google Apps Solutions and contact us for more information.