The Perils of SaaS

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You wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Zoho is a pretty hardcore advocate of SaaS. After all… that’s all we do! And there’s no question that SaaS will be the predominant way in which companies buy and use software for many years to come.

Still, some customers are apprehensive of surrendering their data to a provider that might go out of business or hold it hostage. For the most part, online software companies do a very good job of making it clear that data belongs to customers, and they can take it with them whenever they want. That has certainly been Zoho’s policy from day one. We provide multiple API and Export options, and will also work with a customers when s/he wants to take his business (and data) elsewhere. It’s not only good for business, but it is also the right thing to do.

The key phrase there is… “for the most part”.

As you know, Zoho Invoice competes head-on with Intuit’s Billing Manager. The other day we read in their blog that they are discontinuing the product, and we were a little surprised to learn that. Anyway, many other of our competitors have closed down shop, so that’s no big surprise. Companies may go out of business, products get discontinued… that’s just a fact of life. Except that… Billing Manager customers have no easy way to export their data OUT of the system.

They are stuck.

You can of course, export your data to Intuit’s other billing product, you know, the one that doesn’t offer a free option. Intuit is giving Billing Manager customers one free year of Quickbooks Online. After that, they’re going to be charged ~$13 per month. $13 doesn’t sound like much, but it is certainly a “nice” business move to get customer to pay (even if deferred by one year)… people that would have otherwise have been free.

This was not the intention behind the freemium idea! That’s too bad for customers, because they chose a seemingly solid player that at the end of the day, left them hanging.

Cost is not the only issue. Billing Manager customers are also loosing key pieces of functionality. For example, estimates and currencies-other-than-US-Dollars are not supported in the version of Quickbooks that Intuit is recommending customers switch to. Not only that, many customers have expressed their desire to use an invoice-only product. We understand that. 

You’d think that we’re happy with this, because it could only mean that customers would come over to Zoho Invoice – at least to give it a try. But turns out we are not. Why? Well, because it makes SaaS software seem like an unsafe choice.

So we’d like to suggest Intuit do the following two things instead:

- Make it easy for customer to take their data with them. Currently customers have no way to export their data out of Billing Manager. They can only migrate it to Quickbooks Online. Sure, it’s “nice” of you Intuit to make it easy for customer to give you data when they are moving from a free product to a paid product. But you also need to make it easy for them to take their data and leave should they choose to do so.

- Honor your commitment to customers. If you were going out of business, well, then not much you can do about it. But you are a successful company. You promised customers a free service. Honor that commitment. You can close Billing Manager, move customers to Quickbooks Online. That is fine. Just create a SKU that has comparable features set to what Invoice Manager had… and give it to them (and only to them) for free. At Zoho we have changed pricing for some of our products from time to time, but we have maintained the pricing to what customers signed up for (for as long as they remain a paying customer in that plan). 

That can only be good for customers and the SaaS industry as a whole. And it is also the right thing to do.

Finally, a piece of advice for customers. Before you sign-up with any SaaS vendor (regardless of their size and name) be sure to check whether you’ll be able to take your data out, and also make sure you check on your vendor’s reputation and history of handling these issues.

Rodrigo

Zoho Meeting: Corporate Branding and Organization Management!

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Zoho Meeting, the easiest and most effective online meeting tool recently added full support for Mac users. Today, we’re happy to share that we also offer customization for brands and organizations. Corporate organizations, educational institutions, consultancy firms and IT support organizations, who conduct online meetings can all benefit from this feature. Users who buy the Professional Edition of Zoho Meeting can avail the corporate branding feature. You can use your organization name and logo and your users will see it as part of your own service/brand.

Also, Zoho Meeting offers a custom portal URL for organizations. For example, Contours, Inc. can avail a custom URL like http://meeting.zoho.com/a/srk/. This custom URL will bear your brand name and logo, where your customers can join or login to a meeting. Cool, isn’t it? But, it’s not all. You will also have the following Administration features to effectively manage your organization.

  • User Management – You can add or remove users in your organization. You can view the added users along with their joining status, email ID and user name. These added users can also host meetings other than you, and they can invite customers or colleagues to the meeting.
  • Meeting Management – You can view all the meeting sessions, including the current sessions, conducted by your organization users, along with the meeting details. You will have three timeline view options to track your meetings.
  • Reports Management – You can generate detailed reports just by entering the respective user name and the respective time frame. The detailed reports will have the date, time, duration of the meeting, presenter and details. This could help you to analyze your meetings. Your organization users can also view the reports of their respective meetings.

So, why wait? Sign up for Zoho Meeting Professional Edition today. It starts at just $12/month. You can check out the step-by-step guide here.

Do tell us your opinions about this feature either by dropping a line below or you can catch us at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Zoho Creator automates order-placement and stock-maintenance for UCSF Medical Center

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University of California, San Francisco
 (UCSF) is committed to providing the safest and highest quality health care. According to the

US News & World Report
, the UCSF Medical Center, which operates out of two major facilities at Parnassus and Mount Zion, is one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals. To continually refine the care they provide, the UCSF had to monitor and measure the treatments their patients received and evaluate their performance against their own rigorous standards, as well as industry benchmarks. We had Alfio Levy, a project manager at UCSF Medical Center, explain how

Zoho Creator
 served their need.

Alfio says, “UCSF has many departments that frequently needed to interact and be in constant communication with each other. And that includes departments situated across the two facilities. For instance, the nursing units need to receive pharmaceuticals from the material services department. They would fax an order across, and the materials would be delivered. It was working fine, except that we faxed about 4,000 orders every month. And that was a lot of manual work in both departments. It was also not possible to track the stocks periodically, so we would sometimes be left with no stocks till the order is delivered.”

“Another major challenge we had to address was ownership; one person would place an order or initiate a transaction, but almost always, someone else follows up to close the order. And before any loop could be closed, we perform Quality Assurance related checks. Everyone needed to know who did what, so a detailed log at every point of contact had to be recorded. This collaboration demanded a complex workflow, and could never be pulled off using paperbacks.”

I
should admit that I have previous lightweight programming experience. I
should have fallen for the workflow approach, because I was able to
implement everything I had in mind with Zoho Creator.

Alfio first tried to implement this workflow using Microsoft SharePoint, but he soon realized it was pretty cumbersome. Just about that time, he stumbled upon a Macworld magazine that recommended Zoho Creator, and he opted to try the online system. Condition based email scheduling helped him in identifying those areas that required intense attention, decide quickly on what supplies were needed frequently, and ensure they never run out of stocks. They had a lot of tasks that required authorization, and access control logic was absolutely essential. He could easily make Zoho Creator handle it all.

By providing the automation, efficiency and trend-analysis at an affordable cost,

Zoho Creator
 effortlessly overthrew all other options for UCSF Medical Center.


If you’d like to share your Zoho Creator story, connect with us -

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Just in: Withholding Taxes in Zoho Invoice & Zoho Books

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“When waiting gives you joy, that wasn’t much of a wait at all”

Wait we did, with bated breath to write this post! In this post we’d be introducing to you a brand new addition “Withholding Tax” to Zoho Invoice & Zoho Books. We believe that most small business users will benefit from this feature at some point in time. Come along as we give you the low-down on this feature.


What is withholding tax?

In some cases your customers may need to withhold the tax due for an invoice. They would pay the tax to the tax authorities and send you the receipt of payment. Once you receive the receipt, you can deduct the withholding tax amount from your tax liability.

For instance, when Jorge, a Mexican business owner sells in the US, he qualifies for the 10% tax-withholding treaty rate between Mexico and the United States. 10% of the invoice amount will be withheld by Jorge’s customer and will be paid to the IRS on behalf of Jorge.

Before withholding taxes in Zoho Invoice:

When you didn’t have the option to record a withholding tax, you may have made a negative tax such that it is deducted from the total payment expected from the customer. This obviously wasn’t the most straightforward way of dealing with withholding taxes.

Withholding taxes are in:

You’ll find the entire process to be much simpler. While you record a payment, you’ll be asked the question if the tax has been withheld or not. If you select yes, you’ll be shown the option to record the amount withheld.

This is just a precursor to a host of fascinating additions coming to Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books very soon. Right when you are enjoying this addition, we are done and dusted on the next. We’ll be back with that soon. In the meantime, keep up with what’s making news in Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books via Twitter and Facebook.

ClearDrop’s Preferred Project Management Solution – Zoho Projects

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We’ve been talking about how various businesses choose Zoho Projects for their project management needs. Today, we’d like to talk about ClearDrop, a value-added reseller offering business consulting and implementation of Openbravo ERP. They were in search of a project management solution that can
  • quickly be learned and easily used by a hybrid team of distributed developers
  • scale to handle the company’s growth

ClearDrop evaluated several client-side and cloud-based project management solutions including 37signals’ Basecamp. Ultimately, the company selected Zoho Projects.

ClearDrop’s Challenge

“I like to keep things simple,” said Jan Hendrik Mensen, CTO and
consulting partner at ClearDrop. “We can’t afford to complicate our
developers’ lives with a project management tool that has too many
options and settings. All those bells and whistles are actually
user-unfriendly and just complicate things and clutter the screen. We
need a lightweight tool that does all the essentials and lets us manage
all of our projects with minimum effort.”​

For ClearDrop, those essential project management features include
logging and tracking bugs, tracking project progress, setting and
assigning tasks and milestones, and managing the overall project
workflow. And those features must be presented in a streamlined,
easy-to-use interface.

Why Zoho Projects?

Broader Suite of online applications

In addition to satisfying ClearDrop’s list of essential feature demands, Zoho Projects offered other, distinct advantages. It is part of Zoho’s broader online application suite that includes Zoho Creator Helpdesk and Zoho Reports, both of which ClearDrop expects to use going forward.

Google Apps Integration

Another key advantage of Zoho Projects, it integrates with Google Apps.

“The Google Apps integration makes it really easy for us to add users and give them access to Zoho Projects using their Google accounts,” said Mensen.

How ClearDrop uses Zoho Projects?

For now, ClearDrop uses the Tasks and Milestones features in Zoho Projects to keep projects and deliverables organized and manageable in a single, easy-to-access location. Project milestones give ClearDrop full control of what its developers are doing and how the various projects are progressing. The company also uses the Wiki, and of course, the Bugs module too.

“We’re in software development, so we need to be able to log bugs. That’s really important to us, and Zoho Projects is one of the few tools that combines project management with bug tracking,” said Mensen.

Zoho CRM Usage

ClearDrop also uses Zoho CRM. Mensen likes the fact that he can test the application for free yet still access most of the key CRM functions. As the company expands its use of Zoho CRM, Mensen expects to easily scale from the free to a paid version of Zoho CRM. “I like how Zoho enables small businesses to just use a freebie,” said Mensen, “and if you grow and have the budget, it’s not a big step up to a paid plan.”

Zoho Projects Impact

“Software development projects can really be a pain, especially when you’re working with offshore teams,” said Mensen. “As a manager, you need to feel that you control the situation. You need updates. You need visibility. And Zoho Projects gives you all that. I can go to my dashboard and see the latest updates, so I know what’s going on and what my team is doing. Now, we don’t have to worry about being in control. With Zoho Projects, we’re in control.”

Read more about ClearDrop and Zoho Projects here.

If you would also like to share your project management success story, do contact support[a]zohoprojects.com or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Xero and 1ShoppingCart Integrate with Zoho CRM

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This is a guest post by Vinay Joshi, CEO of Suvichar Technologies. Suvichar Technologies is our partner and they have already integrated MailChimp with Zoho CRM. Here are two more additions to the integration list.

If you use Xero as your Accounting Software and Zoho CRM for managing your Customer Information, you have something to rejoice. We have developed an integration utility that’ll let you sync your Zoho CRM accounts, contacts, invoices with Xero.

What are the benefits of this integration?

  • Seamless integration of CRM and accounting system
  • Increase the productivity of accounts and sales departments
  • Sales team can get real time view of accounts receivables in Zoho CRM
  • No software to install, no hardware to maintain, we manage everything for you

Read more about this integration here.

Using 1ShoppingCart ? Well, we have also developed a utility that lets you integrate your shopping cart orders, clients and products with Zoho CRM.


The features include:

  • Seamless integration between e-Commerce and CRM system
  • Sync clients of 1shoppingcart with Zoho CRM accounts and contacts
  • Sync product details  to Zoho product
  • Map client orders with Zoho sales orders

Learn more about this integration here.

Try these integrations and let us know what you think.

- Vinay

Manage Your Cash Flow Right With Zoho Books

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As Small-Business owners, we sometimes unknowingly do things that can hurt our business. A recent article at openforum.com talks about 6 such ways in which business-owners might be sabotaging their own businesses. We’d like to encourage all Entrepreneurs to work towards avoiding all 6 of these costly mistakes. But, there’s one in particular, that we feel can help you with.

Losing focus on Cash-Flow. It’s critical to keep track of the money flowing in and out of your business. At any point of time, you as a business-owner, should have a clear picture of your business investments and spending, in order to be able to take immediate steps if and when the cash-flow slows down. And of course, what better way to achieve this than with
Zoho Books
‘ integrated

Cash-Flow Management feature
that helps you constantly monitor and measure your cash-flow and stay on top of your business. The cash-flow statement helps you keep your business financially healthy by measuring the impact of accounting activities from three major activities that drive your business – operating, investing and financing.

Besides the cash-flow statement, Zoho Books also lets you generate

other important reports
that can help you make insightful decisions about your business.

For a complete experience of how Zoho Books can help you stay in control of your business finances, take the
30-day free trial or start by watching this video: