CrashPlan PRO is an online backup service for businesses.  It’s developed by Code42, which is the same company behind CrashPlan for home users.  CrashPlan PRO adds support for multiple users, so you can manage backups for everyone in your organization.

Using a smartphoneWhen a new technological idea gains ground and becomes widespread, it often doesn’t take long before a lot of startups join the bandwagon.  You will be amazed at the number of cloud based companies in existence.  When it comes to cloud storage, the amount of providers offering their services is countless.  Every one of them tries to offer a feature that is expected to be the game changer.  Apple offers iCloud in order to stem the growth of smaller cloud based companies eating away at its customer base.  A lot of competitors have fallen along the way and others are still in their mother’s basement trying to hash the next big thing.  So, what is Synchronoss?

Any startup that wants to be around in the foreseeable future will do well to keep a tab on its competitors.  At the moment, Synchronoss is not a well know brand but those at Dropbox would have heard about the latest kid in the cloud storage business.  That doesn’t mean that Synchronoss is a startup.  It has been around since the year 2000 and has been offering software-based activation service for mobile operators.  Recently, the company decided to branch out and offer cloud based storage similar to Dropbox.

Synchronoss WorkSpace is not really going after Dropbox customers directly but it shouldn’t be counted out of the equation.  Since the company has been working with mobile operators and their huge customer base, what better way to leverage its existing partnership and generate more revenue.  For example Vodafone, the British telecommunications giant with over 400 million subscribers will be one of the many mobile operators targeted by Synchronoss.  When one revenue source is getting to saturation point, you need to find another way to generation more from the same infrastructure. That is what is at stake and why Synchronoss is in a different league than ordinary cloud storage companies.

Smartphones and 3G enabled tablets are everywhere.  There are millions of users who are trying to consolidate their digital presence on their mobile devices. What if your mobile provider can offer you cloud storage with your phone plan where you don’t have to log into another app?  A lot of people can see the advantage of that.  This can improve user experience and help keep customers locked into their current mobile operator plan.  The more services people consume from a single vendor the more difficult it is for them to just walk away.  Most customers will rather not go through the hassle.

This is where Synchronoss can easily reach millions of users by targeting telecom operators who already have the customers.  It is evident that this can be a win-win situation for Synchronoss and any mobile operator looking for ways to generate more revenue without the need to build new infrastructure.

That said, any new technological feature pushed to consumers has a greater risk of failure.  Consumers often don’t like paying for things no matter how great it might be.  That is a risk that most mobile operators will need to take into consideration.  That can also impede Synchronoss in its effort to become a big player in the cloud.

Cloud ComputingThere are a lot of technology companies out there that the general public doesn’t even know about.  These types of companies often offer services geared towards other corporations and do not sell directly to end users.  Most people with computers will know about Microsoft but very few would have heard about Joyent.  If you are not into cloud computing or if you are not in search of alternatives to Amazon EC2 cloud, you would know nothing about Joyent.  That said, the company has been around for about 10 years and that says a lot when you think that most startups die off only after a few years in operation.

Initially, Joyent specialized in web hosting and through merger and acquisition, it has grown into a cloud infrastructure based entity.

Joyent offers three main products: Compute Service, Manta Storage Service, and Private Cloud.

Compute Service

This is the service that allows you to buy a virtual server.  This is similar to Amazon Web Service.  You have the option to choose either a Linux, SmartOS, or a Windows server.  This is a great option for those who might want to setup a server environment running multiple Operating Systems.  There is no need to buy hardware and worry about future upgrades.  All you need is to purchase the virtual server and scale up as the need arises.  Pricing for the entry level server starts at $0.020 per hour.  Windows servers are more expensive to run and there is a good reason for that.

Manta Storage Service

This is like having a personalized Google search with more intelligence.  You are able to automate stored data and run analysis on the data.  The service allows those who are familiar with Python, Perl, Ruby, Java, grep, and awk to drill down and get information from big data.  Developers will be pleased to know that they don’t have to learn a new programming or scripting language in order to interact with Manta Storage Service.  You can imagine many use cases for this service.  You have a lot of data, you write a program to analyze and produce meaningful results.  Once you are done, you can move on without worrying about what to do with your hardware.  For those who want to run a sequences of data analysis for a determined period of time, this can help predict cost.  This cloud based data crunching tool is great for prototyping and short term projects.  There is of course nothing stopping you from adopting this service as a permanent solution.

Private Cloud

This is another product by Joyent for those who might be worried about the inherent security issues of running in a public cloud.  The company also offers the possibility of a hybrid solution where you can keep some of you data on-premise.  You will also be able to manage your system using Joyent cloud management solution.  This is similar to what most cloud IaaS and PaaS offer.

One of the great things about Joyent is that it provides an alternative to those who might be looking for cloud solutions and who might not want to go with Amazon Web Services or Google Compute Engine.

The company also supports open source initiatives and that can only help nurture new ideas and maybe bring something new to the cloud.

ERP, Enterprise Resource PlanningWhen you talk about a finding a solution to a situation or a problem, some will answer, “There is an app for that!”  Can the same be said of enterprise software solutions?  The amount of software applications destined for the enterprise market is staggering.  The ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software is the cash cow of many big names in technology.  That said, like with every good thing, there comes a time when you have to admit that your product is coming to the end of its life cycle.  That is when most software houses start to look for ways to open up new market for their ERP.  What about moving to the cloud?  That is a good question but you will first need to consider what companies do with their on-premise ERP solutions.

Large corporations will use ERP solutions to monitor their core business and gather real-time information for business analysis.  This is often seen in bigger companies and that can also explain the cost of purchasing these software.  On the other hand, what about small to medium size enterprise?  Often small entities do not see the benefit of spending thousand of dollars in resource planning because a lot of things can still be done manually and the amount of data available is limited.  It is also easier to pay an external party to come in and perform an ad-hoc analysis as required.  Microsoft Dynamics tend to market their ERP towards those small and medium enterprise users.  The difficult task for most vendors is convincing potential customers that they actually do need the software and that the information gathered can lead to greater Return On Investment.  Large enterprise do see the need for a company wide resource planning solution but they also have to deal with the cost of implementing a SAP or Oracle based solution.  This is a dilemma that most software vendors are now facing and that is one of the many reasons why the cloud is appearing to be a better place to do business.

ERP in the Cloud

Why would you want to offer ERP in the cloud in the first place?  If customers cannot afford it on-premise would the cloud change their mind about SaaS?  What is the added value of implementing an ERP solution in the cloud?  What about security?

With the US government accused of spying, security is a big issue for big companies who might want to keep sensitive information from prying eyes.  The biggest players in the ERP world are American companies, ranging from Infor, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft.  Security considerations are a big concern and the big vendors will need to convince potential customers that their data is safe.

Another consideration to take into account is cost.  Will buying an all in one SaaS solution be more cost effective?  Yes and no.  Like most people running a cloud solution, the initial price is often attractive but as your traffic grows and you require more processing power, you might find that the expected savings will quickly dry up.  That said, for those who want to give ERP a test drive to see if it fits their needs before going down the road of a full implementation, the cloud is a stepping stone.  If you don’t like what you see or you are not impressed, all you have to do is stop your subscription and move on.

Finally, ERP in the cloud will not replace on-premise solutions but it will give those still standing on the fence a choice that might lead to better things.