5 Unavoidable Reasons to Adopt Collaboration Services on the Cloud

The way business happens has changed dramatically over the last few years. More and more businesses are keen to engage and collaborate with stakeholders within and beyond the four walls of their enterprise. Whether it’s the coworkers, customers, partners, suppliers, or any other external groups – businesses are keen to collaborate with them in real time, regardless of where they might be located.

Related: Business Impact of Email and Collaboration Technologies

Faster and effective communication between internal and external stakeholders has become the key to a venture’s success. To facilitate the seamless flow of information and knowledge-sharing between stakeholders, businesses use a suite of services called collaboration services. These services essentially include a range of communication and security tools such as email, web and voice chat, video conferencing, shared contacts, calendar, document management, archival, etc.

Traditionally, businesses have been deploying in-premise collaboration solutions on their own servers within their own data centers, managed by their own (or outsourced) IT teams. Managing an in-premise setup comes with its own set of challenges such as the overhead of Capex, getting the most out of ageing hardware, dealing with the complexities of application upgrades and the like.

Related: 7 wants of an IT Manager of a Small to Medium Size business

But cloud, as a platform, has changed the game in the recent years. Although it was way back in the 1960s that the concept of a global computer network first emerged, it’s only over the last few years that cloud computing has come into its own.

By providing readily available elastic components, modules and storage, it has become a no-brainer for application providers to adopt cloud computing as a platform for scalable and reliable delivery of the applications. In fact, the cloud computing market is projected to exceed $241 billion by 2020, according to Salesforce.com, one of the global pioneers of cloud computing.

Related: Understanding cloud computing as a platform

So with so many benefits, what still stops organizations from moving their application workload to the cloud platform?

We believe that the lack of understanding of the business impact of applications delivered via the cloud platform is perhaps the single biggest hurdle in the adoption of cloud-based collaboration services. Besides satisfying the 7 wants of an IT Manager, see if any or all of these five additional compelling reasons make you change your mind about moving your collaboration workload to a cloud platform:

1. Flexibility, reliability and multi-location accessibility

Traditionally, businesses have been using in-premise collaboration solutions. These location-specific solutions work well when users in that particular location have to collaborate with each other. But as is already established, that’s not how businesses work anymore. Collaboration happens across geographical boundaries and time zones. Cloud-based collaboration solutions, since they are central to all locations, are not restricted to a specific geography, and can reach the employees of an organization dispersed across regions (even countries). In his paper, The Promise, Progress and Pain of Collaboration Software, Jason Green, board member on many SaaS firms working to improve workplace collaboration, quotes the solutions built by companies like Yammer, Box, Skype and Google to tackle the problem of employees working together remotely.

2. Grow and shrink your operations freely and instantly

The modern day IT department is one of the most complex and over-burdened part of an organization. Reducing complexity, scaling resources and adapting to changing business requirements are some of the major challenges that an IT department faces. By adopting cloud-based collaboration services, organizations get access to elevated elasticity in resource allocation, which allows them to grow and shrink their operations freely and instantly, without having to carry the burden of provisioning or de-provisioning expensive resources.

3. Leverage the latest functionality of the continually upgraded versions of the apps

The cloud application provider will normally ensure that the latest security patches and the latest application upgrades are always applied on the cloud delivery platform to ensure that the consumers get secure access to the new functionality quickly. The entire upgrade/migration and configuration is performed by the backend teams, relieving you of the effort to manage downtime, and performing the upgrade.

4. Zero Capex and reduced operational costs

With no upfront capital outlay required, cloud-based collaboration services allow organizations to start deployment immediately. Not only are they able to save the cost of buying new servers, but businesses also benefit from the reduced need for space, power and liability, not to mention the expense of managing and maintaining the servers. In addition to that, most cloud-based services run on a ‘Pay-per-use’ subscription model allowing companies to budget for them easily and more accurately.

According to Kristof Kloeckner, CTO for Cloud Computing at IBM, cloud computing can reduce IT labor costs by up to 50 percent and improve capital utilization by 75 percent. Additionally, companies can save an estimated 68-87 percent in energy costs by moving to cloud computing, as per the data shared by Google.

Related: Will the cloud and new devices lower the cost of collaboration for an enterprise? Will they make collaboration richer and more efficient?

5. Reduced risks – Not happy with your vendor? Another one is just a click away!

Shifting from one vendor to another is an easy task (as long as you have stuck to an open platform and used open clients for application access). If you plan your deployment well, you may be able to shift with minimal or no change at the end point. It’s only a matter of deciding. There is no play of complex infrastructure overhaul, upgrade, reconfiguration, etc.

These are just five ways in which businesses benefit from adopting cloud-based collaboration technology. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find many more such compelling reasons to adopt this platform.

So, is your business ready to make the big switch?

 

 

Live Case Study: How FFreedom achieved Better adviser productivity with Mithi SkyConnect

With the objective of making the advisers, selling financial products, better equipped to establish trust and assist the customer with their financial planning, Mithi’s customer FIINFRA (Ffreedom Intermediary Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.) has created a suite of applications that includes a adviser portal and a set of financial planning tools to assist the Advisers in delivering superior financial advice to their customers.

FIINFRA needed to integrate a ready suite of Security and Collaboration Applications like email, video chat, Attachment capture and record, etc with their adviser portal to enable the Advisers to establish a high touch engagement with their customers.

The Team at FIINFRA, after having experienced the benefits of using Mithi SkyConnect earlier, decided to integrate the suite of Collaboration Applications from Mithi SkyConnect into their adviser portal, to provide a seamless look and feel, while allowing Mithi to host and maintain the collaboration application work load away from their data center.

The Mithi SkyConnect collaboration platform constitutes a key component of FIINFRA’s Infrastructure offering to IFAs and Distributors. SkyConnect has enabled seamless and highly secured collaboration across all channels and devices covering mobile, tablet and desktops between our key users – service team, IFA/partners and clients. It has been a perfect fit for our enterprise wide collaboration and Mithi SkyConnect has provided a new benchmark with its open source offerings and integration capabilities.

Harbinder Saini,
CTO, Ffreedom Financial Planners

FIINFRA logo

 

 

Due to this integration, some of the top benefits experienced by FIINFRA and their users are:

  • Better adviser productivity – Enables the IFA to handle more number of clients, while ensuring that the communication, reports etc. keeps flowing to their clients (by the system)
  • Improved net customer experience due to Improved responsiveness in serving the customer requests
  • Saves a lot of time and money in travel and fixing up face to face meetings
  • Post-sales automation – upload transactions, portfolio reports

The FIINFRA team is now free to focus on what they do best – work on and improve the adviser portal, while Mithi focuses on delivering a great collaboration experience from Mithi SkyConnect.

Download and Read the full case study here

 

7 WANTS of an IT Manager of a Small to Medium sized business

Your business may belong to a niche fragment of the industry, or be among the more commonly existing businesses; but if you have more than 50 employees and are looking ahead at business growth, you’ll definitely have things like capacity, productivity and performance hindrances on your mind 24×7.

Interactivity and effective communication (internal and external) is the key to business operations and it can only express itself if it is ably aided by a back-end setup that is strong, scalable and reliable. It is this very platform that contemporary business ventures vie for.

Effective storage, management and transportation of data, voice and video traffic has, in essence, become the spine of modern businesses, regardless of the size or the industry segment that they belong to. The concept has grown to attain incomparable importance in the operations of an enterprise – its availability, utility and performance have become decisive success factors.

What follows is a series of questions that you have possibly been struggling with, and essential components that might be missing from your business.

1. You want Professional Email and not Free email

Do you use free email services to handle business communication?

While a free Email service may seem the most convenient choice, the problem there is that the ID suffixes are @gmail, @hotmail, @yahoo, etc. And although this doesn’t sound totally out of the league, it is always better to take a more professional approach – by getting the name of your business added at the end of the Email address. Not only would it lend a hand to building your brand name, but also make the recipients take you seriously. Check out our blog post on 7 reasons to stop using free email for your business.

2. You want to control ever growing Collaboration Costs

A robust IT structure is central to an organization’s day-to-day operations, of which the collaboration setup is one of the most crucial elements.

Do you find that over time the usage pattern is changing and more and more users are joining the network, using the system more aggressively, storing and exchanging larger volumes of data?

Do you find that ageing hardware, rising costs of AMCs, complex and expensive software licences, ever growing storage needs and man power attrition in your team are making it very costly and complex to manage your email setup?

Maybe you need to change the model of your setup to one that allows easy scale up or down as per your needs and on demand, without any upfront or ongoing investment. Read more on Why controlling cost is so important to you?

3. You want improved levels of Uptime and Services Quality

Yes, the advances that we’ve witnessed in the areas of infrastructure and technology are incredible, but several businesses around the globe still suffer due to database, software and hardware downtime. Research suggests that the average organization suffers ~61 hours of downtime each year (which translates into 99.3% uptime). Of course, >99%  uptime doesn’t sound too bad, but try looking at the loss suffered in terms of costs, lost sales, diminished productivity and dissatisfied customers.

Does your collaboration setup have an uptime of more than 99.9%? Why settle for anything less?

Businesses today focus on customer service and satisfaction, and that is directly correlated to the highest level of network and service uptime, subsequently resulting in elevated customer experience. What you DON’T need is to be the kind of business which spends an unwarranted amount of time struggling to fix network issues, only to see a rise in the number of downtime episodes. What you DO want is a heightened level of uptime and service quality.

4. You want to upgrade your set-up for Higher Capacity and Higher Performance

Your ever growing number of users want to store more data, send more data and are just online more of the time.

Do you find that your current collaboration setup is creaking under the increased workloads and you are trying to squeeze out performance by constantly tweaking an ageing, undersized and expensive to upgrade storage,  server and network system?

Maybe you need an upgrade that will give you all the storage and processing capabilities you might need, enable sending and receiving of larger attachments, cater to the increased usage patterns and prevent any potential loss of data. This way you (and your associates) can store hundreds of thousands of business Emails, and access them anytime, anywhere, all the time.

5. You’re looking for Data Security and improved Control over your email set-up

Data security is one of the primary concerns for today’s businesses. The leakage of sensitive information, secure documents and critical data cannot (and should not) be compromised at any cost.

Do you find users in your network, frequently misusing the system by sending bulk mail (with attachments) to groups of users, frequently sending large attachments to occupy valuable bandwidth and storage, sending confidential information out of the corporate walls? Essentially is it an uncontrolled free for all environment, where you have no visibility?

That’s where regular Email gets beaten hands down by business class Email.

Maybe you need a Business class collaboration system that competently addresses issues of spam, viruses and malware, and uses advanced encryption technology through every session (to jumble up any information that is intercepted), to disable the decoding of the contents of the Emails by unintended outside parties. In addition business class collaboration systems will provide you with strong mail policy controls to allow you encode rules for controlling mail flow amongst users and between users and the Internet and can provide for strong features to manage attachments like SISA, or attachment vaults.

6. You want to move to Open Standards to enable access to a wider range of devices and Free Software

Do you find yourself paying heavily for proprietary client devices and software applications just because your users are “used to” or comfortable with these tools and do you find yourself struggling to maintain/upgrade these tools and integrate them seamless with your existing business systems?

Application independence, platform independence, long term access, mobile access, migration to Free Software and architectural integrity are some of the focal benefits provided by Open Standards.

Augmented interoperability and maximized access to resources and services via multiple devices are two improvements that you’d definitely want to include in your long term business operations.

7. You need to provide email and collaboration tools to a Rapidly Expanding, or Variable workforce (or branches)

Is your business expanding and you see yourself catering IT to an extended enterprise of users outside your core network?

Do the users of your extended enterprise have access to tools like Mail, Calendar, IM access, Audio Video conferencing, document management, contacts, file sharing, multi-layered anti-spam filtering, larger and more reliable mailboxes, Email archiving, mobile Email, capable and efficient administration?

If not, well, it’s almost time your dynamic, ever-expanding personnel got their hands on them. Regardless of what industry sector your enterprise falls into, you require a proficient email and collaboration system to manage the administrative side and the daily operations of the business.

Have you considered moving to an open collaboration SaaS platform that runs off the cloud and can deliver on all the above 7 WANTS and more?

Shift from a Capex based model TO an Opex based pay per use model.

Shift from DIY (doing it yourself) TO YDI (You do it – outsourcing the hosting, reliability, management, maintenance and operations)

Shift from being a Service Provider (for your internal customers) TO being a Service Consumer of a SaaS application.

Shift from Planning Scale To Scaling on Demand

Shift from Buying and Maintaining hardware TO Renting a Service

Shift from Hiring and Training a team TO Availing 24/7 industry leading support

Shift from a Home Grown system TO a Professional cloud computing platform

The technology, tools and solutions under the aforementioned pointers are all part of Mithi’s SkyConnect, the cloud based collaboration platform designed for small to medium sized businesses. It is reliable, real time collaboration that will help you gain the kind of flexibility your enterprise needs, and equip you with more capabilities at much lesser than what you are spending right now.

The effective use of collaboration technology is guaranteed to send your operational cost curve downwards and create a secure and fruitful collaboration environment – one that you’ve never experienced before.

Talk to us and see if we can help make a difference to your WANTS!

2 critical features that enable Chat for Enterprise Business Use

So what worries IT executives about using Chat?

Traditionally Enterprises have stayed away from, allowing the use of  Chat/IM within their enterprises. The reason being that the use of Chat is considered as a tool for casual conversations not suited for official communications. Click here to read an opinion on why IT executives are worried about employees using chat apps

So what are the main concerns of using Chat in business?

  1. Lack of control on who can use chat and from which devices?
  2. Lack of record of all conversations which take place among employees. (Any discussion done on any medium is company property after all)
  3. Using free community apps for business, increases risk since the data is no more in your control.

So how does Chat help my business?

While IT executives highlighted the above mentioned concerns, at the same time, they felt the need for an enterprise chat system. To quote from the article mentioned above –

“In a survey more than three-quarters (77 percent) of enterprise IT executives indicate a highly secure, simple and intuitive internal messaging service would be valuable compared to their current enterprise communication system.”

Live case study: How our team used Live group chat collaboration to resolve a server outage

Chat can provide a quicker, faster way to exchange information and ideas. Businesses stand to lose a lot of productivity gain by not making chat an integral part of their communication and collaboration strategy. By allowing for on-going and interactive conversations to move to chat, business can also gain the benefit of de-cluttering the mail boxes and in turn helping improve productivity.

Alright I am convinced, so how can we make chat usable for my business?

To make chat usable by businesses, 2 critical features become necessary,

  1. All chat conversations must be recorded on the server in an archive, just like email archival and should be retrievable on demand.
  2. The business can control the use of chat by using access policies.

With these features in place, you can safely enable chat in your workplace and gain a newer level of productivity.

If you are not already using secure chat in your organisation, try Mithi’s enterprise secure chat feature of Connect Xf, which incorporates more than just these 2 critical features and goes further with features like secure transmissions over SSL, defining scope of chat communications, etc to enable a secure and productive collaboration environment.

Related:

Instant Messaging: Accelerating Collaboration in Enterprises

Confused about what is Cloud computing?

Confused about cloud computing?

Layman's guide to cloud computing

Learning from running our SaaS online collaboration service, Mithi SkyConnect, from a single server to a multi-server, multi-location set-up, we’ve come long way in handling high volume email services, but the increasing sophistication of the service, rapid growth in traffic and speed at which we need to provision for new users has made it necessary to consider a cloud based platform such as Amazon Web Services and have been working on the new architecture and design for the setup. Via this post, I would like to share some clarity that emerged during this journey and discussions, about what really is a cloud platform and where does it fit in the stack. If the meaning of cloud computing/platform in your mind is as nebulous as a rain cloud is, please do read on.

Hosting an application for consumption by users:

We are all reading this since we have the need to host (or are already hosting ) applications in a SaaS (software as a service model) model for consumption by end users. Thus end users will connect and consume the service (typically using a browser or a specialised application on their device) via the Internet or a private network – Client Server topology.

Consider the following basic requirements for any Application hosting environment:

  • Provisioning Server/Compute instances as required
  • Provisioning Storage and Backup objects as required
  • Networking the objects together for inter-connectedness
  • Provisioning for Bandwidth as required
  • Deploying the application on the platform
  • Planning for High availability on site and off site
  • Planning for temporary bursts/spurts in usage
  • Planning for scale up or scale out as required
  • Setting up maintenance and monitoring procedures and automation.

The Stack of a SaaS application in a traditional hosting environment:

Traditional computing stack

Non cloud based computing stack for a SaaS environment

You would need a good team to deploy, manage and maintain the bare metal infrastructure using tools like Virtualisation, SDS, automation of processes, etc so that you can get a reliable hosting platform and can get the most performance out of it. These would constitute provisioning, scaling, troubleshooting, etc at the infrastructure layer.

Enter “Cloud”: The Stack of a SaaS application in a cloud environment

Cloud computing Stack

Cloud Computing Stack

The cloud platform has taken over the provisioning, management, scaling out of compute objects and has left your team to operate at a higher level, at the level of the solution architecture.  A good Cloud platform typically provides a unified console to manage objects like server instances, storage drives, load balancers, templates to setup the architecture, out of the box services, tools to manage and monitor the infrastructure, and lots more.

In essence a good cloud platform is a software, that sits over the bare metal objects like Servers, Networks, Disks, etc to provide “out-of-the box” services, and “reliable and elastic” objects, which can be used to host the application. Typically a cloud platform will provide you a single interface to manage the server and setup instances, storage elements, services, across multiple sites and will automatically handle the scaling and availability requirements of the application, without needing human intervention in most cases.

So another way to look at it is:

User  <–> Uses Applications <–> Running off a Software Platform <–> Hosted on a cloud platform <–> Running on a bare metal infrastructure.

Introducing the cloud platform in between the software platform and the bare metal infra is critical to allow us to scale the performance with ease and reliability and also leverage services from that layer for providing additional end user functionality like bulk mail, cloud based backups, end point backups or anything else.

Thus your strategy would be to introduce this layer between your application and the bare metal.

And the good news is that you don’t have to develop this yourself. In fact you have to guard against doing this. Its similar to writing code when you can buy a component or incorporate an open source component. Just like we don’t build hardware or switches.

Now what?

Using this approach frees up resources to now work on the software application to deliver value to the end users…today you may be locked up monitoring hardware, setting up machines when needed, worrying about storage and its scalibility and reliability…a lot of thinking is locked up one step below where it should ideally be.

So NOW we don’t have worry about

  1. Adding more servers as load grows…its automatic scale out and scale in
  2. Adding more storage as we need more (on demand)…its automatic.
  3. Having a cap on our bandwidth…it bursts on demand
  4. Reliability of the machines and storage…there is built in redundancy
  5. Paying for capacity we don’t use…pay per use
  6. Planning for capacity in future…its elastic.

and several more…

One key word in any cloud platform is “elastic”. Scale up or down, manually or automatically, vertically or horizontally.

All we need to do is to design the architecture, which will leverage the elasticity of the cloud platform….the components and their placements and their connections….isn’t that our competence as application developers?

Focus on what you are good at!!