Archive for November, 2009

12 issues you need to know about software-as-a-service

November 24, 2009

12 issues you need to know about software-as-a-service

Before choosing software-as-a-service, think about SOA, data security, support, hype and 8 other matters
By

Jon Brodkin

,
Network World
, 07/31/2007

Sponsored by:

Software-as-a-service is just about the most-discussed topic in software these days. It’ll probably save you money and lead to faster implementation,
but it’s not always a no-brainer. Here are 12 things to think about before choosing a software-as-a-service application.

1. Mission critical.

Don’t use software-as-a-service for any application your company cannot do business without – unless you’re sure the vendor can support it better than you. “You shouldn’t get
SaaS for any application where your entire company is depending on that application running successfully all the time, and
you feel that you could not get the reliability or the performance that you require except by controlling it yourself,” says
consultant Amy Wohl.

A stock brokerage, for example, should keep trading software in-house. But a large company might have 100 applications that
it absolutely cannot run the business without, she says.

Many customers are apparently confident in the ability of software-as-a-service vendors to support mission-critical applications. Saugatuck Technology says 49% of enterprises plan to deploy mission-critical software-as-a-service
apps over time.

2. Pay as you go? You wish.

We all know software vendors are addicted to up-front licensing payments. A major selling point of software-as-a-service is
that monthly payments force vendors to continually improve service and satisfy customers. But most software-as-a-service vendors
are actually turning this model on its head and forcing customers to pay fees for as much as a year in advance, says Jeffrey
Kaplan, who runs the consulting firm THINKstrategies.

“Traditional software customers are tired of parting with their money before they receive the benefit of the application,”
writes technology blogger Ken Boasso. “When SaaS vendors act like traditional ISVs by requiring up-front annual payment, even offering deep ‘time-value’ discounts, customers want to know how SaaS is different
from the same-old, same-old and if there’s something wrong with it.”

3. Don’t assume your data will be safe.

Make sure the vendor has a reliable way to back up data in case there is a disaster or the vendor goes out of business. If sensitive data is involved, you want the vendor to have contingency plans for backup and recovery and service agreements that include harsh penalties for losing or exposing data.

Ideally, customers should find a way to escrow the application itself so there is a copy, Wohl says.

Customers “really need to understand the SaaS infrastructure underlying the delivery of the SaaS solution,” says William McNee,
president and CEO of Saugatuck Technology.

4. But software-as-a-service could actually improve security.

Software-as-a-service allows companies to cooperate with business partners without exposing their internal networks. “A lot
of companies don’t want those people wandering around inside their firewall,” Wohl says. Another beneficial side effect is that software-as-a-service can give companies the off-site backup of data
required by various government regulations, Kaplan says.

“We need to have off-site backup of our data to be compliant – lo and behold, software-as-a-service with its off-site hosting
solves that problem,” Kaplan says.

5. Your software-as-a-service will run better on an SOA.

A service-oriented architecture and its emphasis on Web interfaces and interoperability will give you an IT infrastructure that takes advantage of the strengths unique to software-as-a-service.

“SaaS is able to leverage a lot of next-generation technologies to its advantage. This includes a service-oriented architecture
that is providing a tremendous benefit as it relates to integrating back into enterprise applications,” McNee says. “Companies
going down the direction of SOA will find that their integration with SaaS-based applications will be much easier.”

6. Single sign-on.

Look for vendors who offer single sign-on capabilities that authorize users to work on multiple computing resources. “This is particularly important with more complex SaaS systems
that also include third-party add-ins, such as background checking SaaS applications and reporting SaaS applications,” writes
consultant David Linthicum.

7. Software-as-a-service integration is limited.

Software-as-a-service vendors have struggled to find a good way to integrate their apps with those made by other vendors,
Linthicum says.

“As more enterprises move their applications to SaaS, there is a growing need for SaaS-to-SaaS integration,” he writes. “Unfortunately,
as customers are requesting this, many of the SaaS providers are stumped for an answer; beyond [hiring] a bunch of developers
and hoping for the best.”

Too often, this approach creates expensive and “cumbersome architectures that lack agility,” Linthicum argues.

8. Don’t expect too much.

A software-as-a-service application that works well for a small group of users may not be ready for rollout to your entire
enterprise. “You need to find out ‘what can I reasonably expect from using this application? Is it something I have to limit
to a small set of people?’” Wohl says.

If more than one department uses a software-as-a-service app, set boundaries. “Explicit mechanisms . . . will be needed to
determine who decides the level of customization of software and who pays for it when two departments want to use the software
but only one requires modifications,” states a McKinsey Quarterly report on software-as-a-service.

9. Beware the overhyped market.

Software-as-a-service is popular, so nearly every vendor wants a piece of the market. Unfortunately, many simply take existing
software and place it on the Web without giving any consideration to ease of use.

“Some existing software vendors are bastardizing the term,” Kaplan says. “All they’re really doing is hosting the same old
applications with all of their limitations. . . . SaaS applications are built to reside on the Web and therefore they ought
to be easy to access. They ought to have an intuitive interface that’s easy to use. Most importantly, they should have the
ability to have multiple users collaborate in real time with that application.”

10. Is that “throat to choke” virtual or human?

Find out before signing up whether an application is “self-supported” via the Web or if the vendor makes live customer service
reps available to users. “Some of the more simple, straightforward applications . . . where software is relatively intuitive,
there may be minimal tech-support services available. Therefore, there could be a lag in response times,” Kaplan says.

11. You still need in-house support.

Software-as-a-service expenses are often justified by vendor promises to deliver better services than customers receive with
traditional software. But to get the full benefit of improved services, IT shops must match service-level guarantees and make
internal commitments to business users and their own customers.

“For example, if a software-as-a-service vendor guarantees a service level on invoice-processing speed, the IT department
must ensure the availability of the purchasing department’s infrastructure system that supports this function,” the McKinsey
report states.

12. Size matters – sometimes.

Software-as-a-service is often billed as a good solution for small- and medium-size businesses (SMB) who want to control costs and lack extensive IT staff. But many proponents say companies of any size can benefit.

“When you put software up on the Internet . . . who will use it depends on what the software does, how good it is and what
it costs. The size of the company doesn’t actually enter into the equation,” Wohl says.

But software-as-a-service-shopping SMBs face a different decision process than large enterprises, one that should favor application
suites rather than individual tools.

NetSuite is very much of the belief – and we agree with them – that the suite-oriented approach for an SMB customer makes a lot of
sense,” McNee says. “SMB customers don’t have a lot of IT staff, they don’t have a lot of time and expense to integrate all
these applications.”

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YouTube blocking native video API from TV devices | Electronista

November 20, 2009

YouTube drew controversy with word this week that it has begun limiting the use of its native video API on devices. Reflecting new terms of service, any device that connects to a TV must have a license from YouTube to get fully native video support. The move will ban smaller-scale devices like the Popcorn Hour C-200 from directly accessing YouTube videos, although it will still allow them access using Flash.

The move will restrict TV viewing to devices from companies that can afford the license, such as the Apple TV, TiVo DVRs and a growing number of TVs. iPhones and other handhelds aren’t covered by the ban.

No explanation has been given for the reversal of policy, although YouTube has increasingly allowed long-form videos and has been striking deals with major content providers that themselves have attempted to ban video playback from digital hardware connected to TVs to protect deals with cable and satellite providers. Boxee has repeatedly been excluded from Hulu for this reason despite Hulu’s own support of the TV-friendly media interface. [via Engadget]

Now this is just a mess. Figures that I get rid of cable and satellite and then the YouTube and Hulu start to get all freaky over where I consume bits. They were also (not so long ago) pioneers and outcasts. Now they are media companies.

Business Blogging: Why You Should Do It

November 20, 2009

Blogging can be a great benefit to your business if done well. In this post I will explore the benefits a blog can offer your business and why you should consider taking part in this method of direct communication with your audience.

What is a Blog?

Just to bring everyone up to speed…a blog is either a website or a section of a website that is updated regularly with posts from one or several “bloggers” or authors. Blog posts are often more casual in nature and offer the ability for users to leave comments, thus creating a conversation.

There are several free blog software options available to power a blog. Some of the most popular free blog software services available today include Blogger, Type Pad and Moveable Type just to name a few.

Why Should Your Business Blog?

Join the Conversation
No longer is the web a place to simply consume content, today users are content creators. Blogs in addition to other Web 2.0 services (e.g. ratings, reviews, media sharing, etc…) have helped this shift take place. This shift towards social media has resulted in millions of conversations happening on the web every day.

Blogging offers you and your business one path for participating in and creating conversations with your audience. For most businesses that conversation will be with your customers and/or industry colleagues. For many companies a blog is a great way to share and demonstrate your knowledge and experience in your industry. With time this can really enhance the reputation of the company and the blogger. A blog can also enhance a traditional business website by offering users a way to interact with your brand and share their experiences with your product. In both of these cases a blog can serve as a way of reaching out to an audience and engaging them with valuable and insightful content.

Get Feedback From Your Users
Once you are up and running and participating in the conversation you will naturally gain insights from user feedback. This is true of all social media platforms. User feedback, whether positive or negative, can be used to your businesses advantage. For example you might gain insights into what your business is doing right or wrong. What works? What doesn’t? What do your customers need and why? All of this information combined with other sources of collecting customer feedback can really help refine your product or strategy. Feedback from your audience also serves as valuable user generated content. This content will not only increase the overall value of your blog offering, but can also serve as trusted word of mouth marketing to new and potential customers. Authentic user feedback is pure gold!

Increase Search Engine Traffic
A blog will help increase your search engine traffic! One reason for this is due to the fact that blog software platforms almost always publish search engine friendly content pages. Secondly, search engines (especially Google) tend to favor blogs. Google will often return to a website or blog that is updated regularly, which all blogs should be. So this will help increase the frequency that Google visits your site looking for new content thus adding your pages to their index faster. Thirdly, a blog allows you to expand your keyword base. A traditional business website does not change often and has only a limited number of content pages to optimize your content for your targeted keywords. Blogging allows you to publish supplemental content targeting a wider basket of terms including new and related keywords that your website might not speak to. Your blog will become a new channel for customers to find you through search engines.

Promotion and Distribution with RSS
RSS feeds have become a great tool for bloggers to get their content distributed across a variety of blog networks and search engines. Many web users regularly visit sites such as Technorati which aggregate blog content across a variety of topics. Aggregation sites are a great resource for finding articles and content. By distributing your blog content through RSS feeds you open more gateways for new users to find you.

Have Some Fun
Last but not least blogging can be fun. If you choose the right people to blog for your company, and they are willing and able to do it, a blog can offer some nice variety to a person’s work routine. Blogging is also a great way to stay engaged and informed with your industry.

If you are considering if a blog might be right for your business I would suggest you give it a try and see what happens. Blogging might not be for every company (or everyone), but until you try it is impossible to know.

Happy blogging and thanks for reading!

Steve McQueen’s 1940 Indian Chief at Auction

November 11, 2009

Steve McQueen’s 1940 Indian Chief at Auction

by Jared Paul Stern (RSS feed) Nov 11th 2009 at 8:01AM

Steve McQueen‘s magnificent 1940 Indian Chief motorcycle, one of the most prized among his collection, is being auction off on Nov. 14 during Bonhams & ButterfieldsClassic California sale at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The King of Cool was pictured with the beloved bike on the cover of the book Steve McQueen: The Last Mile. The actor had the classic moto meticulously restored by Southern California’s Starklite Motors in the ’70s and used it to zoom around the Hollywood Hills. It’s estimated at an extremely reasonable $55,000 – $65,000. Also on offer is McQueen’s original condition 1949 Chevy pickup which he used to travel incognito around Beverly Hills, wearing sunglasses and a big cowboy hat to dodge the paparazzi; it’s estimated at $20,000 – $30,000.

[via Duncan Quinn]

Dogfish Head & Sierra Nevada’s Collaboration Ale, Life & Limb, Coming Soon – Young & Hungry – Washington City Paper

November 11, 2009

Life-limb-bottle

If you read our posts you know we have a soft spot in our livers for a handful of things, and Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione and collaboration beers are two of them. Now that Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada are producing what will be each brewery’s first collaborative effort, Life & Limb (and companion beer Limb & Life), we seem to have hit the blog jackpot.

The supportive atmosphere and camaraderie among American craft brewers is often commented on,  so it should be no surprise that brewery founders  Sam Calagione and Ken Grossman decided to make a beer together over a couple of cold ones at last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference in Boston. In early September, just months after Grossman initiated the idea, the two met to brew at Sierra Nevada’s pristine facilities in Chico, California.

The beers were designed to show the personalities of each brewery and the men behind them. We think they have done just that. According to the Life & Limb website:

Life & Limb is a 10% ABV strong, dark beer that defies style characteristics— brewed with pure maple syrup from the Calagione family farm in Massachusetts and estate barley grown on the Grossman “farm” at the brewery in Chico, CA. The beer is alive with yeast—a blend of both breweries’ house strains—bottle conditioned for added complexity and shelf life, and naturally carbonated with birch syrup fresh from Alaska. Life & Limb is dedicated to the family of beer drinkers and enthusiasts worldwide who continue to support the little guys, iconoclasts, entrepreneurs, and pioneers who risk life and limb to shape the vibrant craft-brewing community.

Limb & Life is a ’small’ beer, made from the second runnings of the larger brew, Life & Limb. Limb & Life has a roasted malt flavor reminiscent of dark roasted coffee and toasted bread, combined with a pronounced hoppiness from the use of bold and aromatic American hops. Limb & Life is an easy drinking ’session’ beer – an antidote to the heavy sippers, and a beer that begs for another glass. It is balanced yet flavorful, hoppy yet not without strong malt, and drinkable but still complex.

Limb & Life came out in October, and Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont Circle was lucky enough to get one of only 75 kegs released. According to bar manager Greg Jasgur, they are all out but will be getting Life & Limb as soon as it is available. Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont Circle is having a Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada brunch on Sunday, December 6. The Lagerheads have a sneaking suspicion not only that Life & Limb will find its way onto the menu, but judging by the inexplicable popularity of the event without much promotion, “brewery personalities in attendance” could mean the beer legend and the rock star brewer will be there themselves.

We have heard that Whole Foods, Chevy Chase Liquors, The Brickskeller, RFD, and Birch & Barley will also be good places to look for Life & Limb on draft or in 24oz. bottles starting next week. With only about 11,000 gallons out there we suggest snatching some up, especially since the beer is supposed to be great for aging.

You might also like:

“What would I do? I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders.” – Michael Dell, October, 1997 – Sachin’s Posterous

November 11, 2009

I know marketcap is a relatively meaningless stat, but Apple’s is truly an astounding figure. With today’s surge, the company is worth roughly $178 billion. That’s more than Google ($175 billion) and General Electric ($165 billion), the parent company of this fine network.

In fact, only Microsoft is worth more in the tech space.

More interesting, Apple’s market cap is now greater than Dell’s and Hewlett-Packard’s combined ($145 billion), even though those two companies comprise 40% of the market share for personal computers, compared to Apple’s paltry 4%.

Apple commands 15% of the market for smart phones, and 4% for all cell phones, but its total value is still twice that of Research in Motion’s and Nokia’s combined ($88 billion).

So basically, in the most simple terms, Apple is worth just slightly less than one RIMM ($38 billion), one Dell ($30 billion) and a Hewlett-Packard ($115 billion).

And yet to some, the company still looks downright cheap.

“If you look at earnings and valuation, you’re talking $280,” said Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, who noted that Apple’s quarter was slightly constrained by the fact that it couldn’t build enough iPhones, a trend that could bode well for the holiday season.

“As good as the quarter was, it’s gonna get even better,” said Munster. 

This quote from Michael Dell comes up every time Apple has a jump in stock price. So much has change in just 12 years.

Some people look up to Michael Dell. Yes, he’s a great business man and built a huge company. But I don’t want to be him. I’d rather build great products like Apple.

And in case you missed the announcements, Apple has beautiful new iMacs and a new Macbook. Getting less press, but equally gorgeous are the new Apple Remote and Apple Magic Mouse.

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Drupal wins 2009 Open Source CMS Award

November 10, 2009

From the announcement:

We are pleased to announce that Drupal has won the Best Open Source
PHP CMS Category in the 2009 Open Source CMS Award. This category
featured a very close contest between the top three, Drupal, WordPress,
and Joomla! in which Drupal ended up as the overall choice for the
judges and the public.

While Drupal and Joomla! have always consistently featured among the
top three in this category, WordPress made its way into the top five
for the first time. The fact that it was outranked by Drupal by a very
slight margin indicates how popular it has become with users as well as
developers over the past year.

Runners up this year were WordPress and Joomla! who each were granted $500 prizes.

Congratulations to Drupal and it’s developers.

Ultracentric Race at Northshore | DORBA

November 6, 2009

Normally, as President of DORBA, I am writing to help promote and advocate cycling events and activities in our area and on the trails that our members volunteer to build and maintain. It’s a big part of what we are about as an organization. However, when an event threatens to make the relationship between a landowner and DORBA more problematic, and could threaten public access to that trail in the future, as an organization we must take a strong position against those type of events.

Recently “The Ultracentric Experience” was a thread started to promote an event being held on the Northshore trail. The feedback on last year’s event and promoter went downhill fast with many of our members claiming mismanagement of the event and even unpaid winnings to those that were promised such. In many cases this can be attributed to “misunderstandings” or “sour grapes” and many of those issues were handled and resolved by the Race Director. However, there were some things about this situation that caused us to have even deeper concern about this event.

When an activity is held on a DORBA maintained trail and with a landowner (in this case the Army Core of Engineers, ACOE) that DORBA has diligently worked to create a long standing and positive relationship with, as an organization, we cannot condone any activity, event, or race that does not have the following in place:

1. Written permission from the landowner in the form of a permit or other document,

2. Written proof of insurance for hosting the event, and copies of that insurance in the possession of the landowner and DORBA,

3. A written plan to help and assist DORBA Trail Stewards in the repair efforts to bring the trail back up to conditions prior to the event.

Additionally, any public claims of sanctioning by USAC or other sanctioning bodies, when that sanctioning does not in fact exist, could also reflect poorly upon DORBA because of our relationship with USAC, even though DORBA has nothing to do with the event.

I think it is important to bring these to your attention as there has been a lot of discussion about the Ultracentric Experience event being held at the Northshore trail. DORBA is not in any way affiliated with this event, nor will be in support of any event that does not have a minimum of the above listed criteria in place.

As the organization that is responsible for the stewardship of the Northshore trail, we do have a vested interest in how events are run. I and the Board both felt that it was important to communicate this to you as members and volunteers that help to keep public access to the Northshore trail available and as a destination location for the North Texas community. Our primary mission is to provide for the enjoyment of trails and land access for our members and the public. The current state of this event poses a threat to that mission.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Rich

President, Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association

Dirt Rag Magazine: First Impression: Giant XTC 29er 2

November 6, 2009

giants-side.jpg

Giant’s entry into the world of twenty-nine inch wheeled bikes comes in the form of an aluminum hardtail. The XTC 29er begins with a stiff looking hydro-formed ALUXX SL tubeset with rectangular seat and chainstays, a rectangular tapered top tube, oversized tapered head tube, and hexagon-shaped down tube. It’s finished off with two 9-speed build kits resulting in two models— the top spot XTC 29er 1 ($2125) and the base model 29er 2 ($1350), which I’m testing.

head-tube.jpg

Giant uses their new line of house brand components for the saddle, seatpost, stem, and handlebar, Most impressive are the deep-V Giant P-29 rims laced with 32-spokes in a 3-cross pattern to a Formula rear hub and a Giant Tracker 15mm thru axle front hub. I’m excited to put some trail miles on the wheels to see how the rims hold up and perform. A Marzocchi Forty-Four TST2 29″ fork with a tapered steerer supplies 100mm of forgiveness up front. The fork has a nice big lockout switch on the right upper and a plastic rebound adjustment on the lower left. The fork feels a little sticky but I’m hoping it becomes smoother with more use.

I’ve ridden the bike a few times, but am still dialing in the roll of the handlebar and placement of the Shimano Deore shifters and Alivio brake levers. I’ll also need to swap the Kenda Karma 29×2.0 tires soon for something more aggressive, because the trails in this part of the country are already covered with leaves and the mud is sure to follow. Both wheels have Alivio hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors that are breaking in nicely after my initial brush against a tree on the first downhill I encountered.

giant-side.jpg

This size large XTC 29er 2 has a 71.5° head tube and 72.5° seat tube angle with a 24.2″ top tube and fits me well. So far the bike feels flex-free and stiff while climbing and heading downhill. It takes corners well and the 17.3″ chainstays brings the rear around quickly. This Giant registered 28.9-pounds with pedals on our scale, which is on par for an entry level 29er. It’s available in two colors— brushed smoke (pictured) or black and seems like a decent bike for the price. The full review will be in one of the early 2010 issues of Dirt Rag, so keep an eye out. Giant is online at www.giant-bicycles.com.

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A wearable 1080p camcorder!

November 6, 2009

VholdR 1300 ContourHD1080p Full HD Wearable Camera


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


at
7:37 AM


Posted by
Amiruddin

VholdR 1300 ContourHD1080p Full HD Wearable Camera
Other products by VHoldR

VholdR 1300 ContourHD1080p Full HD Wearable Camera

The VholdR ContourHD 1080p Wearable Camcorder is a full 1920 x 1080p camcorder for recording all your adventures on land, in the air, on the side of a mountain pretty much wherever you feel the need to explore. The ContourHD 1080p not only records in 1080p, but also offers up 4 other resolution choices depending on your needs: 1280 x 960p at 30fps, 1280 x 720p at 60fps, 1280 x 720p at 30fps and standard definition 848 x 480 at 60fps. Record whatever your heart desires with this extremely lightweight and easy to use 5MP camcorder. All your video is captured to microSD memory cards (2GB card included) up to 16GB for easy flash memory recording and transfer. When using a 16GB card you can record for up to 8 hours! Considering the built-in lithium-ion battery lasts for 4 hours on a single charge, that’s pretty awesome. And you’ll capture all your adventures with the fixed focus 135° lens that keeps the entire scene in focus without over-distorting things. A built-in microphone rounds out your video by capturing the sounds that go along with every adventure. Ease of use is another hallmark of this wearable camcorder. Even with gloves on you can start and stop recording with just a touch of the switch. And, because it weighs only 4.3 ounces and is mountable to just about anything, thanks to VholdR’s patent-pending TRail Mount system, you’ll be able to shoot without being distracted or weighed down. In addition, dual lasers, along with the 180° rotating lens

For more details about this product, please click here.


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4 hours of battery life and up to 8 hours of recording capacity with a 16G SD card!