Zoho Creator : Scheduled Maintenance on Sep 19th, 2008.

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We’ve scheduled a maintenance for Zoho Creator from Friday Sep 19th, 23:00 hrs –to– Saturday Sep 20th, 03:00 hrs PDT. Friday Sep 26th, 23:00 hrs –to– Saturday Sep 27th, 03:00 hrs PDT. During this period access to Zoho Creator will not be available.

We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. We appreciate your patience in this regard.

UPDATE: The scheduled maintenance has been postponed to Sep 26th 2008 as we found some unforeseen errors at the last minute.  Kindly excuse for the inconvenience caused.

Integrating Zoho with your Central Document Repository

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If you are a medium sized business or an enterprise, your organization would have invested on an intranet solution for document management. All documents are uploaded and accessed from this central repository. For viewing/editing documents, your users would be using desktop-based software like Microsoft Office installed in their PCs / laptops. Currently, your workflow for accessing a document would be like below :

  1. User downloads the document from the document repository to his/her local hard drive
  2. Uses a desktop-based software to read and (if need be) make changes to the document
  3. Uploads it back to the document repository

[Note : If the machine from where the repository is accessed doesn’t have the necessary software, the document cannot be viewed/edited]

How can the above flow be improved using Zoho?

By using Zoho’s Remote API. This is how it works :

  1. Clicking on a document will open it in the Zoho editor. Based on the file type (doc, xls, ppt etc), Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet or Zoho Show editor will open the document.
  2. Once the document is viewed/edited and saved, the saved copy will be transferred to the enterprise document repository.

As you can see, this model is a more straight-forward and an easier one. No need to download a document copy, view/edit using a desktop-based software, then upload back to the repository. There is no duplicate copy of the document created locally in the user’s machine. And most importantly, no need to install costly desktop software in each of your user’s machines. Using Zoho’s Remote API is secure. And you don’t need to have a Zoho account for each of your users.

For illustration, screenshots taken from box.net

If you are planning to implement the Zoho Remote API, do write to us at api@zoho.com. For more details, refer to the Zoho API Documentation.

Related Article : An enterprise balancing act in the cloud, by Oliver Marks @ ZDNet.

PC World reviews Zoho Invoice

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PC World LogoIn an article titled ‘Let Zoho Send the Bill‘, Richard Morochove @ PC World offers a good review of Zoho Invoice. Excerpts :

The free edition of Zoho Invoice limits you to 5 invoices per month. Yet even the high-end plan, which offers sufficient capacity for most small businesses, costs a relatively modest $35 per month.

Despite its low cost, Zoho offers enough flexibility in invoice forms and sales reporting to suit the billing needs of almost any small business. If you don’t require a complete integrated accounting program, but want to automate your sales invoicing and collections, Zoho Invoice could offer just the right mix of services for you.

I particularly liked the selection of estimate and invoice templates designed for selling services or products, or to collect fixed price amounts, which are generally used for recurring bills. You may also design your own custom template, with sales tax rates you define.

You can opt to skip most of the configuration steps until you create your first invoice. Zoho lets you select most invoicing options on the fly, as you create the bill.

Invoice lets you decide how to follow up on unpaid bills. You may select up to three e-mail reminders and determine how many days after the payment due date they should be sent. You may also change the default reminder message text.

Zoho Invoice is particularly well suited for exporters, since it supports multiple currencies.

Thanks to Richard & PC World!

Deflating IT

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The Economist recently profiled Sridhar Vembu and called him ‘a dangerous man’ refering to his thoughts on  letting a lot of air out of the corporate IT balloon.

SRIDHAR VEMBU is a dangerous man. If he succeeds, a lot of people will lose a lot of money: software developers, consultants, shareholders and others. The chief executive of AdventNet does not have fraud in mind. Instead, he wants to remove what he calls the “value-pad” from corporate IT in general and business software in particular: all those millions of dollars he thinks are wasted on inefficient production structures, marketing and, not least, proprietary standards. “In the world of corporate IT”, he says, “the low-cost revolution is very much unfinished business.”

The complete article is available here and is a great read. It also talks about Zoho, our affordable business offerings and our philosophy in offering non-advertising based applications – even for free users.

Yet Zoho is no mere clone of Google’s applications. It is the most comprehensive suite of web-based programmes for small businesses, including even services to keep track of a firm’s employees and its customers. What is more, although Mr Vembu does not want to earn money with advertisements, he wants to keep prices for business customers rock-bottom. Zoho’s application for customer relationship management (CRM), for instance, starts at $12 per corporate user per month.

And at some point firms in the rich world will ask whether they are paying too much. As Mr Vembu puts it: “The India or China price will effectively become the world price.”

Introducing Zoho Docs

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Today at the Office 2.0 conference, we are launching a new addition to Zoho Suite – Zoho Docs

Zoho Docs is a central place to manage all your personal documents. Your Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations that you created in Writer, Sheet and Show will now be available at this central location.

This video provides a quick overview of Zoho Docs.

Zoho Docs supports folders. You can drag-n-drop files to these folders. The folder structure you create in Zoho Docs will be the common folder structure inside Zoho. Eventually this folder structure will appear in all other Zoho Applications.

Apart from aggregating you documents, the application also lets you view your documents, spreadsheets and presentations as a tab within the application. If you choose to edit any of these files, the file is opened in Edit mode in the appropriate Zoho Application. All documents inside Zoho Docs can be tagged, Downloaded, Shared etc. They can also be sorted by name, creation date and modified date.

Zoho Docs accepts all file types. To keep the upload process simple, you can upload ZIP files and Unzip them after the upload. Your My Documents folder can be uploaded to Zoho Docs in a single shot for example. When unzipped, your existing folder structure will be retained. When the files are uploaded, we automatically scan for viruses.

Zoho Docs also supports Group Sharing. If you have any groups created, you can share the documents to your existing groups. All documents shared to groups can also be viewed in Zoho Docs under the ‘My Groups’ section.

The Views section groups the documents by type across all folders. Here you can view ‘All files’ from all folders, Recent Documents, Documents from Zoho Writer, Spreadsheets from Zoho Sheet, Presentations from Zoho Show, Pictures and other file types.

Zoho Chat is integrated right into Zoho Docs. You can now chat with all your Zoho Contacts without leaving the application Zoho Docs.

As you notice, you’ll see multiple Zoho Services integrated well to form the Zoho Docs application. We have documents from Zoho Writer, Spreadsheets from Zoho Sheet, Presentations from Zoho Show, Groups information from Zoho Accounts, Chat from Zoho Chat – all integrated into Zoho Docs. The plan is to provide you the information where you need it rather than having to hunt for information inside applications.

Zoho Docs is also integrated into Zoho Business as the ‘Documents’ application.

This application has been created entirely by user feedback. We hope you’ll find this application useful. Please do give this a try and let us know what you think.

PS: We are hosting a Zoho Party at the Office 2.0 Conference today to celebrate our Million User milestone. This event is open to all Zoho Users. We hope you can join us to celebrate the occassion. Looking forward to seeing you.

SaaS or S+S? It’s over: Software+Services wins (and about Office 2.0)

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Call them the technology equivalent of old religious wars: Mac vs Windows, Mainframes vs PCs, Blackberries vs. iPhones, Open vs Proprietary… they all have passionate people on both sides of the issue.

The latest one is the Software-as-a-Service or Software-plus-Services debate. The Software-as-a-Service camp argues that every single piece of software can be delivered over the internet. The Software-plus-Services crowd argues that the user is served best when there is local software installed on their machines is complemented with internet services.

Well, it just dawned on me that this battle is over. Done. C’est Fini.

The clear winner is the Software-plus-Services camp. Let me explain.

To access the on-line services you need a browser – and that is software. The browser needs an operating system – and that is software too. So really, we all need software to access internet services like Zoho or Google search. But that’s about everything the Software+Services camps has gotten right.

On the other hand, of course you don’t need bloated, expensive, buggy, updated-every-once-in-a-blue-moon software to access the services you need and care about. The Software side of the S+S equation can be made of Linux+Firefox, Windows+Firefox, MacOs+Firefox or, as of lately, Safari on your iPhone or Opera Mini in some other mobile phones.

As for me, I use Windows Vista. Certainly not because I wanted to, but because Microsoft forced me to get Vista on my new Dell machine. So I’m stuck with it. I was apprehensive about using Vista … but after a few days I got used to it. Wanna know why? No, it’s not because Vista is good – it’s because it doesn’t matter. The underlying operating system you use is irrelevant. 99% of the time I’m at a computer, I’m inside the browser, and I keep about 15 local files on my machine. The rest of the local applications I access are applications every single operating system has… since about 1994. Traditional software is not dead, it’s just that for the vast majority of users it just doesn’t matter anymore.

Why do I bring this topic up today? Today marks the start of Office 2.0, a conference about new technologies in the workplace that Zoho is sponsoring.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d do a quick recap of some of the things businesses can do without installing any software… not in the server room neither on their local machines (other than their operating system and Firefox browser):

Getting Customers Managing Their Business Productivity & Collaboration Other
  • CRM
  • Advertising through Google or Yahoo
  • Inventory
  • Invoicing customers and paying vendors
  • HR and Payroll
  • General accounting
  • E-mail
  • Documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Keeping and sharing notes (shameless plug for Zoho Notebook, of my favorite Zoho products)
  • Projects
  • Web conferencing / meetings
  • … and even building entirely new applications from scratch

Businesses can do all of that on-line, with just their browser (and yes, businesses can do most of it at a single destination, Zoho.com). Office 2.0 will help to remind us and highlight how the world is changing no matter what the dinosaurs of yore keep saying. Yes, you do need software: your browser… everything else businesses can get on-line, we hope at Zoho.

See you at the Office 2.0 conference!

Rodrigo

Firefox 3.1 & Google Chrome: Javascript Wins, Flash/Silverlight Lose

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We work closely with Google Gears and other open source teams in Google. On multiple occasions, I have joked with them “Web apps like us need a really good Javascript engine, I hope you guys are working on it”. Well, now I know they had been working on it :) 

Being heavily invested in web standards and Javascript, we love the recent announcement of a new JIT based Javascript VM in Firefox 3.1, and today’s news of Google Chrome. These developments are a huge win for the entire ecosystem of web application developers. But the impact of this goes beyond the browser, as important as the browser itself has become.

The biggest losers in Google’s announcement are not really competing browsers, but competing rich client engines like Flash and Silverlight. As Javascript advances rapidly, it inevitably encroaches on the territory currently held by Flash. Native browser video is likely the last nail in the coffin – and Google needs native browser based video for its own YouTube, so we can be confident Google Chrome and Firefox will both have native video support, with Javascript-accessible VOM (video object model) APIs for web applications to manipuate video. As for Silverlight, let me just say that if Silverlight is the future of web computing, companies like us might as well find another line of work – and I suspect Google and Yahoo probably see it the same way too.

More speculatively, I believe we will witness the emergence of Javascript as the dominant language of computing, as it sweeps the client side and starts encroaching on the server. The server landscape today is split between “enterprise” platforms like Java and .NET on the one side (we ourselves are in the Java camp on the server side),  and “scripting” languages like PHP, Python, Ruby on the other, with Javascript firmly entrenched on the client.  Languages like Ruby promise tremendous dynamism and flexibility to the developer, but their relatively weak execution environments have held them back. It is telling that both Java and .NET come with state of the art just-in-time compilers, while none of the major scripting languages do.

With Firefox & Google Chrome announcments, and the recent developments on WebKit (which power Safari), now there are 3 compelling VMs for Javascript. These VMs promise a 10-fold speed up in Javascript execution. Combined with the rapid evolution of Javascript libraries, I believe the time has come for Javascript to start encroaching on the server landscape.