Monday, December 19, 2011

Cloud in 2012? Start Planning Now

Thinking about utilizing cloud services in 2012 and want to start mitigating some potential risks today.  InfoWorld’s Tim Greene recommends that you start working over you network provider today.

Is Zoho's CRM App Growing Up?

Zoho “software as a service” (SaaS) company has always impressed me.  I use their Invoicing application and reviewed it last year.  According to InfoWorld’s Chris Kanaracus, Zoho is gunning for with their latest upgrade to their CRM application.  Zoho is claiming they are making inroads into the CRM SaaS market that is known for.   I like the fresh approach they take to their applications, making them more inviting, easier to understand than their stodgy old school counterparts. Looking at the flashy new capabilities, mobile access, and continious improvement without the hassle of upgrades, I can't help but think they are the next big force in small business solutions via SaaS.

I think that in 2012, we will continue to see more fireworks in the SaaS and infrastructure as a service” (IaaS) cloud industry.  

- Chris Claborne

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Using Amazon’s AWS

In my last article, “Exploring Amazon’s Cloud IaaS & PaaS”, I introduced Amazon Web Services (AWS), and I used AWS to describe the terms “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS), and “Platform as a Service” (PaaS).  In order to better understand the value of AWS, I deployed a real world application.  In this article, I’ll step through how I deployed and scaled my example application on AWS and comment on where I found the greatest value to be.  If you haven’t read my first AWS article, “Exploring Amazon’s Cloud IaaS & PaaS”, I suggest you read it as an introduction to AWS.

Gartner Has First Ever IaaS Magic Quadrant Report

From ReadWrite Cloud's David Strom,  "Gartner Has First Ever IaaS Magic Quadrant Report"
    A new Gartner Magic Quadrant report is available this week covering the public cloud computing vendors. Not surprisingly, AWS received top honors, although Terremark, Savvis and CSC were also praised. Bluelock, a smaller vendor, also got props. The report is very detailed in the usual Gartner manner and is a must-read for enterprise IT architects who are evaluating players in this space.
I don't have access to the report but am interested to read it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Exploring Amazon's Cloud IaaS & PaaS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a large offering of various compute and applications services that I will use for this article to help describe what “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS) and “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) are.  

AWS is used by many large Internet companies like, Ericsson, the guardian news, Yelp,  IMDB and others to deliver their web applications or services.  Although I’ve covered Software as a Service” and related benefits, risks, and some specific applications, this article will take the next big step into another side of cloud computing, using public scalable infrastructure to deploy your in-house applications.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Have an "Exit Plan"

Although this is sort of IT 101, build an idea of what it looks like to shut down an application that you either built or are using as a service.  This should include things like migration of your data, and how you scrub important business data from the vendor's servers.  This article by Paul Venezia of InfoWorld explains the implications of exiting and how one IT group ensures their data has been removed from a providers servers.  I don't think the author goes far enough because there are most likely backups of your data on remote servers and possibly tape.  You should already know what your provider's retention policy is and what form these backups are kept.  If you have stand-by servers in another data center, you may want to perform a wipe on those disks as well before the storage space is released to other customers.  I'll assume that the backups on tape will eventually be destroyed and if you've actually implemented with this provider, that you are OK with their security policies that control access to backup media and their disposal procedures. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Marketing Misstep and Cloud Sneak Attack

    Version numbers & product names are pure marketing.  In my opinion Apple made a marketing mistake in naming the latest phone the “4S”.  Many bloggers,  Bill Houle among them, stated this as well.  

    I was resisting writing my own thoughts and reviews until I saw this article from BGR which is very much in alignment with my own thoughts.  Also, after playing with Siri and other iOS goodness, I’ve come to the conclusion that the software is helping start what could be the next major revolution in tech.  The sneak attack is iCloud, Apple’s cloud computing beach head.

Monday, October 10, 2011

HP TouchPad Thoughts

What follows are my growing notes on the TouchPad.  It’s not really just about the touchpad but to help me understand why iPad is continuing to kick butt in the tablet market.  Some say that there is no tablet market, there’s an iPad market.  The vote is still being counted on that one but early polls show iPad with an unbeatable lead for the next few years.  This isn’t anything new but in review is in part my quest to understand the “why”.   Part of it may indeed be the emotional connection that Apple somehow makes with a very large segment of users.  The Gardian author of “Why do some people really hate Apple” and Donald Norman’s book “Emotional Design” get in touch with this idea.  Although not the key topic of this article I give my thoughts on the Gardian article at the end.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Comparing Local to Cloud Security

The first thing that prospective cloud users ask about a new cloud application is "What about security?".  It's a good question, and one that should always be asked when looking at a new public cloud based service vs. internally hosted “private cloud solutions”.  One of the things that I highlight for my clients is that when looking at the security implications of using a public cloud computing service, they should use a fair comparison.  They should compare the security of the public cloud to their alternative, usually an application deployed on their "private cloud" or locally hosted solution, on their own hardware located within their walls.  

This is the first in a series of articles that I will be writing to help answer how we can evaluate cloud security for our business and make good choices.  I want to peel away that first layer when evaluating security.  What you might find is that getting into minute detail on cloud vendor’s security scheme isn’t needed if you can’t afford to do the most basic things for your own locally hosted business system.   I’ll revisit some of the things I mentioned in the security section of my risks article.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Backup The Cloud

Hopefully you’ve read my article about backing up your workstation to the cloud and using a secondary backup to something like a USB drive, but what about backing up the cloud?  One of the benefits of using cloud computing is that you don’t have to backup, nor do you need purchase and maintain the software, and other components needed to backup.  If you are a little bit scared of say, having a client or co-worker nuke a document in Google Docs, Spanning Backup may be your solution.  It’s a cloud backup service (think of it as insurance) that backs up your cloud documents.  Crazy, I know, but if it’s something you worry about, there’s a cloud solution.  

- Chris Claborne

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Using Google's Two-Factor Authentication

UPDATE:  If you've read about Gmail account passwords getting stolen (hackers getting users to load a fake page and stealing password) and you are concerned, you really should read this.  Had those users turned on Google’s “Two-Step Verification” they probably wouldn't have been hacked.

Google introduced what's known in the industry as "two-factor authentication” last year.  Google calls it "2-step verification".  Although I use a two-factor authentication system every day for the company I work for and have used others in the past, it’s time to tighten my security belt. In addition, I feel that if I’m going to write about Google’s system, I really should be using it.  Actually I think you should too.  Security is in the news a lot more these days and people are putting more of their lives into the cloud.  If you use Google Docs and other services like I do, you should be doing a better job of ensuring your stuff is secure and private.  

After the break, I’ll explain what it is, how it works, and how to turn it on for your Google account.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Cloud as Your Mobile Shared Disk

Although I’ve mentioned it in the past, I want to do a quick review of Dropbox, a “cloud network file system” for all your devices.  Although I had Dropbox installed for a while, the power of it really didn’t hit me until I talked about it with my friend Bill and using my new iPad.  I realized how it could solve several problems and truly further my goals for living in the cloud (compute wise that is).  If you need to share files between multiple PCs, phone, tablets (yours or with other people), this is the way to go.  You get all of this, wait for it..., for free.  You can sign-up for Dropbox for free and receive 2GB of space.

After the break, I’ll explian more about what it is, some of the key features, and a few use cases to demonstrate the benefits.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Thoughts about Amazon Web Service Failure

Amazon Web Services (AWS) had a major failure last week and there was a lot of buz about it since it took down several major web sites. AWS is one of the leading cloud infrastructure or platform as a service companies. When they fail, it's big news.

Here’s my take.  No solution will provide 100% up-time There will always be a use-case that was not anticipated, failure mode that was not thought of, or human error that couldn’t be mitigated.  Is this a reason to call cloud computing with AWS a failure?  No.  Although I don’t know what their up-time stats are, I’m willing to bet that even if you don’t use multi-site implementation the benefits of scalability, flexibility and up-time still rival what a lot of companies could do on their own for the cost.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cloud Docs on the iPad

I wanted to be able to continue to use the cloud for editing my documents in Google Docs.  If you need a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation editor that will open your Google documents, or equivalent Microsoft product files, try Docs to Go.

My attempt to use the rich text editing in Google Docs on my iPad 2 was a dismal failure.  Although Google offered “desktop mode” from the iPad Browser, I would designate it as #FAIL for the iPad.  This forced me to look for a real solution for rich text editors for the iPad and I was pleasantly surprised.  As proof of my success, most of this article was written using the iPad with “Docs to Go” and an Apple bluetooth keyboard.  Combined with Google Docs and Dropbox, Using Docs To Go is a very powerful tool for document editing on the go.

After the break, I’ll compare some core capabilities of Office2 HD and Docs To Go.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's New in Google Apps

Originaly published on 2/1/2011
As promised, this is my what’s new article on Google Apps. Google Docs has been around since 2006 and has been going through a continual cycle of enhance and extend (as I discussed in 2008). 2010 marked a time of furious change in Google Docs, now a part of a suite of tools called Google Apps, and I’ll review some of those here. This rapid release of change is partially enabled because of Google's distribution system, the Internet. This is an advantage of cloud computing (for the most part) over the client software in a box method because there is nothing to install and users don't have to "upgrade". Upgrades are released to everyone at once (mostly). If you receive a feature you don't like though, it could turn into a disadvantage.

Before identifying what’s new, a quick description is in order. In general, Google Apps is a suite of online office productivity tools. Individual users can access most of these tools using a Google Gmail account. The basic tool set covers all the classic office productivity tools similar to those found in Microsoft Office Basic. All access to Google Apps is via the WEB and users’ data lives in the “cloud” on Google servers where it is regularly backed up, and accessible from anywhere, and any device. When people think of operating “in the cloud” this is a prime example.
UPDATE: Look at the end of this article for a update regarding mobile

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thoughts on iPad 2 announcement and Why I Think Apple will continue to win

ipad 2
Taking a break from cloud computing I want to give you my quick take from the Apple iPad 2 announcement and why I think they will continue to dominate (and destroy some) in the tablet market.

There was nothing earth shattering in the announcement (until I saw the first video demo on Engadget).  It's a very nice bump to the hardware and blazing fast, giving them more capability.  After the break I'll drill down on why I think they will continue to dominate.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Google Released “Google Cloud Connect” Today

Today, Google took their MS Office plugin out of BETA and release Google Cloud Connect (GCC), a way to easily share and edit documents real-time with others. The video on their announcement is very compelling.  From their blog:" It adds simultaneous collaboration, revision history, cloud sync, unique URLs and simple sharing to the Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint applications."

Cloud Connect is a very smooth move by Google as a way to demonstrate the power of real-time collaboration without leaving the coveted Microsoft Office Environment.  Check out the announcement. By using GCC, users gain many of the advantages of using Google Docs without leaving MS Office. I'll write more when I have a chance to try it out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Big Cloud growth predicted in 2011

According to a Infoworld article on IT hiring slowing due to cloud growth they say IDC is forecasting that public cloud services revenue in the U.S. will grow nearly 24 percent, from $14.2 billion in 2010 to $17.6 billion in 2011.  In addition in the Hackett Group survey, IT firms were asked to rank their strategic priorities, and cloud computing ranked No. 4 this year, with 59 percent respondents citing it as a priority. Last year, cloud was ranked 10th out of 11, with only 27 percent of respondents identifying it as a critical priority.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Using the "Power" of Cloud Computing with Evernote is another great example of a powerful cloud computing application that has many of the benefits of cloud computing. I use Evernote to drop items into a notebook that I need to be able to access from anywhere, (iPhone or any web connected computer). Being able to access information from anywhere and via any device is a key benefit to cloud computing. The real power Evernote brings to the table, in my opinion, is OCR, making everything I upload searchable. Then I thought, why not scan in all the paper that I keep (bills, etc) and put it into Evernote. What would happen?

Update (2/21/11): After using Evernote for about a year, I've updated this article with my discoveries and experiences.  Also added new features in iPhone app released on 3/1/2011 at bottom.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Lesson in License Cost Risk In The Cloud

I came across something recently that places a black mark on cloud computing in general.  In January of 2011, MOZY, a network backup provider, significantly changed their pricing.  In fact, it’s so significant (and just a bit strange) that some MOZY customers will see renewed billing that can be double or 10s of times higher than they were paying.  MOZY’s unlimited storage for backup was just $6/month but when MOZY discontinued the unlimited plan and put a 50GB cap on that price plan, users with 100s of gigabytes of backed up data are now looking for a new home (or deciding to pay a lot more).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Amazon Ramping Their Cloud Teams

If there was any doubt about Amazon being serious about elastic cloud computing and their S3 storage service I think the recent article from Dice News will help answer that.
    This week, Amazon has some 700 openings posted on Dice, primarily in Seattle. Many are in Amazon's cloud services divisions, including Web Services, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). The skills most in demand are development, design, engineering and Java.
I read this as a positive trend in cloud computing growth. In summary, “game on”.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Online Invoicing In The Cloud

I recently started moving more of my business into the cloud. The business cloud application examples I’ve written about so far are more related to office productivity - word-processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. I took my small business and put its invoicing into the cloud by using the software as a service model (SAAS). Although I used ZOHO Invoice to do this, I’ll quickly discuss ZOHO along with others in it's class, like FreshBooks.

By utilizing this model, I’m saving money on software, can work from anywhere (they even have an app for the iPhone), and I look more professional. In addition, I can have multiple users, and I don’t have to deal with software licenses, upgrades or hassle that comes with installing off-the-shelf applications like this. The solution integrates with Google apps and has cool PayPal integration making you look good and boost productivity. While I was finalizing this post, ZOHO released a full accounting module that would of course include invoicing.  (Updated 6/20/11)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Google Draws a Line, Microsoft Stumbles

Google Announces New SLA

Google drew a line in the sand when it announced on January 14, 2011 some changes to its service level agreement (SLA). First, the SLA will no longer have an "out" for planned downtime. Customers will receive SLA credits for any downtime - planned or unplanned. Google claims to be the first major cloud provider to eliminate maintenance windows from its service level agreement.

Previously, Google did not count periods shorter than 10 minutes as downtime. That meant that even though short outages could add up to hours over a long enough period of time, the company had no obligation to compensate users. Google is ending that policy and will now credit users for any amount downtime, no matter how brief.