The Future of SQL in a SaaS world: Announcing Zoho CloudSQL

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As far as computer languages go, SQL (Structured Query Language) is a pretty old one. It came to light in the early 1970s and it is probably not too popular with the Facebook generation. But the fact remains – SQL is a pretty awesome thing. It is by far one of the easiest and most efficient ways to query and interact with structured data. That’s why it remains by far one of the most heavily used languages for business applications.

But perhaps the most important role that SQL plays is that it makes developers think with a relational model in mind – and that means thinking about the best data structures for the application at hand. That’s a good thing. When developing applications -and particularly when developing business applications- the most important things are the data and the structures the data is stored in, not the application logic. Rob Pike, one of the original creators of UNIX, came up with an elegant maxim for this:

“Data dominates. If you have chosen the right data structures and organized things well, the algorithms will almost always be self-evident. Data structures, not algorithms, are central to programming.”

In this era of distributed file systems and cloud computing, traditional databases are being used less and less, in favor of other data storage and retrieval methods. And that has led to improved, faster and more responsive web applications. But while there are some SQL-like approaches for cloud computing out there, they tend to be fairly limited and not as powerful as the full-blown SQL – in particular because it doesn’t take into account the intricate data relationships that SQL so elegantly describes.

The problem is, there’s a fundamental mistake people make when they think of SQL: they think of the access language and the storage mechanism as one and the same. But they can in fact be separated. SQL can be just a pure access language used to describe the data and relationships being accessed. The backend (the engine that actually handles and stores the data) can be anything.

That’s why today we’re announcing a new Zoho technology. It is a milestone for accessing data on the cloud through the familiar SQL language. We have aptly named this Zoho CloudSQL.

Zoho CloudSQL is a middleware technology that allows customers to interact with their business data stored in Zoho through the familiar SQL language. Customers are able to access Zoho cloud data using SQL on both other cloud applications as well as through traditional on-premises software.

At a high-level, Zoho CloudSQL serves as the bridge between the external application and the data stored inside Zoho. It receives the query in SQL, interprets it, delegates queries and aggregates results across the Zoho services.

Zoho CloudSQL Architecture Diagram

There are in particular 3 things that stand out about Zoho CloudSQL:

  1. It’s the first technology that allows customers to interact with their data on the cloud, from another cloud application or from an on-premises one through real SQL.
  2. It supports multiple SQL dialects. We support all the major (and even some not so major) ones: ANSI, Oracle, SQL Server, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Informix.
  3. With our JDBC/ODBC drivers, developers can access data in the cloud just as easily as if it were stored in a local database.

The next natural question is: What Zoho services you can access through Zoho CloudSQL? Today we’re starting with Zoho Reports, our on-line reporting and business intelligence service, and soon other relevant Zoho services will follow-suit. Zoho Reports (which used to be called Zoho DB & Reports) also added a new Web API today.

Zoho CloudSQL also underscores Zoho’s commitment to never lock-in customers through the artificial retention of their data. Customers trust Zoho with their data because they know they can get it out anytime, through a variety of clearly documented and accessible means.

And just in case you were wondering – yes, Zoho CloudSQL is meant for developers, not end-users. So if this is the first time you’re hearing about SQL dialects and JDBC drivers, well, Zoho CloudSQL is probably not for you. But hey, it’s never too late to get started!

Get more details about Zoho CloudSQL.

Rodrigo Vaca

Top 12 Reasons for Using Zoho Projects

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Looking for a project management tool to manage your projects? Here’s a dozen reasons why you should choose Zoho Projects.

12. Available in major languages
Your mother tongue is not English or you have an international team placed in many countries? Zoho Projects is available now in 15 international languages – Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish, Swedish. And the list is growing.

11. Gantt Charts
Want to know visually how your projects are progressing? You can click on the Reports tab of Zoho Projects and the Gantt charts will give you a bird’s eye view of your project’s status (based on open/closed tasks and for each user).

10. Timesheet
Make your client billing easy. Ask your team to fill up the hours they put in for each of their tasks. Zoho Projects provides the option to export timesheets as xls/csv. And to specify non-billable hours too (say, team meetings).

9. Better User Management
You can classify your project members based on their roles – Administrators, Managers, Employees, Contractors & Clients. Each role has pre-defined access privileges. List Milestones as ‘External’ for your clients to view and monitor how their project is progressing.

8. Calendar
Zoho Projects’ Calendar function gives an easy view of tasks, milestones & meetings planned for the month. You can add tasks etc from the calendar view itself. iCal is supported and you can export your Zoho Projects calendar to iCal supported calendars like Google Calendar.

7. Email & RSS notifications
Tasks can be edited, their status modified. And you can set email notifications so that other team members are notified of the task’s changes. Zoho Projects offers authenticated RSS feeds too which team members can subscribe to.

6. Integration with other Zoho apps
A major plus for Zoho Projects compared to other project management applications. When you sign up for Zoho Projects, each of your project members gets free access to the whole suite of Zoho applications (as Zoho has a single sign on system).

5. Forums
A central place to discuss what’s happening in each project. You can even embed html code snippets, say a video in YouTube or a Zoho Sheet spreadsheet/chart with project figures.

4. Centralized Document Management
You can bulk upload project documents and make Zoho Projects your online repository. View/edit the documents, spreadsheets, presentations using the appropriate Zoho app (Zoho Writer/Sheet/Show) without downloading and viewing/editing them each time using a desktop-based application.

3. Variety of Task Options
Club tasks as task lists and several task lists as Milestones. Set dependency among tasks. Create task list and project templates for easy duplication. Assign multiple owners to a task. Set end date, email notification for each task. Assign priority (color coded), edit the task completion status, add Notes. And associate forum topics, documents to a task.

2. Improved Collaboration and Transparency
If you are a small team collaborating on a project, what better way than to have all the tasks listed centrally with their completion status? Combine this with all projects documents being available centrally with a forum to discuss the project happenings, you have a transparent system that allows easy project execution through collaboration.

1. Affordable Price
No large upfront fees. Pay-as-you-go. You can manage upto 10 projects for as low as $12 per month. There is a free version for managing one project. Zoho Projects allows having unlimited users even for the free plan. Check out Zoho Projects’ pricing plans.

Try Zoho Projects now for all your project management needs.

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Prioritizing your To-Dos using Zoho Planner

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Many of you Zoho users might be using Zoho Planner to keep a note of your to-dos. Let’s see how to go about from scratch creating to-do lists.

First would be to translate all those things to be done that you have on your mind as a list of to-dos in Zoho Planner. Here’s what mine looks like.

To better organize the above list, let me move the personal to-dos out to another list.

Let’s now put the more immediate to-dos first.

And to give extra importance to the must-do items, let’s mark them in bold (Zoho Planner allows text to be formatted).

And the last item in the list is one which would require more than one day of work. Let’s put a due date and set a reminder so that you don’t lose track of it.

There, hope you like it better now :) As you can see, you can prioritize your to-dos in various ways using Zoho Planner.

  • Have separate lists for official and personal tasks
  • Re-order the list so that the urgent ones are at the top
  • Mark the important to-dos in bold
  • Set due dates and reminders for tasks that take more than one day to complete

Do you have any tips of how to organize to-dos? Please share them in the comments.

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How-To : Setting Vacation/Auto Reply in Zoho Mail

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Holiday season is around the corner and it’s a long weekend for businesses in the US. What if you have clients all around the world and you are one of those who receive mails all 365 days a year? It’s a business best practice to set up an auto-reply for your email address during such long holidays so that your clients are in the know. Here’s how to set automatic vacation replies in Zoho Mail.

  • Click on Settings -> Personalize -> Vacation Reply
  • Set Yes for Enable Vacation Reply
  • Choose whether the reply is to be sent only to your contacts, non-contacts or everyone
  • Set the dates for which the vacation reply is to be active
  • Type in the subject, the body of the email and the ‘Sending Interval’ (this refers to the number of minutes after which the auto-reply will get sent)
  • Click on the Save button

That’s it, you’ve set your auto reply in Zoho Mail.

How-To : Add your Business Signature in Zoho Mail

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If you are like me and use Zoho Mail for communicating with your business contacts, the best thing to do would be have your contact information attached as signature in the emails you send. Let’s see how to add a signature to your Zoho Mail account.

  • Login to your Zoho Mail account at
  • Click on Settings -> Personalize -> Signature
  • Define your unique signature. You can even have URLs, images as part of your signature
  • Click on the Save button

So, there you have it. it. Whenever you click on Compose mail, you will see your signature appear automatically at the end.

Set up your signature in Zoho Mail now.

ps: An article by Mitch Wagner which I enjoyed reading, “What Does Your E-Mail Signature Say About You?

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Improved Customizable Options in Zoho Wiki

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Customizing your Zoho Wiki has now become a bit easier. Let’s see what the improved version of the Customization tab under Settings offers.

1. You can Enable or Disable the Bottom Panel
2. In addition to specifying whether you want the Side Panel to the right or the left, there’s a newly added option to not have it displayed
3. The modules or elements in the Side Panel can now be drag and dropped in any order you like. And you can add your own elements using the Add element -> Custom Page Box option. Say, a gapingvoid widget or a RSS feed.
4. The Top and Bottom panels can be customized to have your own logo, heading, footer etc.
5. And the option to specify your own CSS is retained

This is just the first round of changes as regards wiki customization. More to come. If you want any specific customization options or features in Zoho Wiki, do please leave your comments.

Improved Conversation View in Zoho Mail

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Last month, when we talked about Conversational View in Zoho Mail, some of you asked us to avoid showing the subject in every thread for the conversation view. It looked like this.

Based on your feedback, we now removed the subject line in the thread showing just the content in each thread.

Zoho Mail Conversation View

Thank you for your feedback and we hope you like this better.

This is one of the advantages of the SaaS model – the feedback cycle is shortened. We roll out something, you let us know what’s good or bad, and we fix/enhance it. All this takes few days or weeks. Imagine this loop for an installed product…

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