We love Windows Phone but we still won’t be using it yet in-house

Windows PhoneFirstly let me point out that here at Storage Made Easy, we like the Windows Phone. We were one of the first vendors to have an App for it and we have continued to support it and we see it as an integral part of our product set. However we don’t use Windows Phone internally and this begs the questions why so we gave some thought to this and the reasons why and we outline these below.

Firstly, we probably would categorise ourselves as power users of mobile devices. We are a startup, we can do a lot of interactions and work on the move using mobile devices. However I do not think we are any different than any other business who is relying more and more on mobile devices and whereas, whilst a consumer may consider us a power user, I don’t believe other businesses will.

Missing Features:

Email – There is in “Send as” facility from the email. This means if you consolidate your email inboxes like we do that you cannot reply “Wearing a different hat” ie. from your personal email or directly from support for example. Android, BlackBerry and iOS all support this and for us (and I believe for many others) it is a critical business feature.

Sharing /Integration – The sharing integration, although improved in Windows Phone 8.1 still lags behind iOS and Android. If you have multiple Twitter accounts for example you cannot share a web browser post with your chosen account. You have to use one account you set with the device. On Android you can simply choose the App and use their handling of this. On iOS, it supports multiple Twitter accounts. Another example is Apps like Instapaper or Evernote. There is just no integration from core apps to share the way you want to.

Sandboxed File System – We have users internally who use iOS or Android. The power users use Android. Why ? Because they can use their Phone exactly like a small PC with complete access to files from either the native storage or any SD Card. Both iOS and Android lag behind here.

Google Integration – Like many businesses we use a lot of Google Products to help us run our business. Prior to Windows 8.1 Windows Phone was almost unusable with regards to being able to use these on the device. Windows 8.1 improves this hugely. The calendar can be integrated into Google, email integration works well (albeit without the send as functionality) but other Google features such as Google Tasks, Google+ etc are not that well supported.

Lack of Available Apps – This is getting much better but it still prevents us rolling out the device internally when a lot of the key Apps we are use are missing, such as Server Density, Pingdom, HootSuite, decent BaseCamp App etc.

Windows Phone is a strong platform. The user experience can at times be exceptional. Some of the devices on the market, such as the Nokia Lumia 1520, are really fantastic devices and it is shame that some of these core things let the device down. We believe it does not take much to resolve them and we think there would be a big jump in market share as from the people we speak to, the reasons as to why the do not use the Windows Phone are very similar to ours.

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Cloud File Manager for Windows Phone updated: Unify access to your Cloud Files

We recently updated The Windows Phone Cloud File Manager. Features include:

– Instant access to unified Cloud files anytime, anywhere direct from a WP7 device.

– Assign lengthy tasks and operations to the SME Platform Tasks Engine (PTE). Use your phone while tasks are completed in background. Check progress at anytime in cloud tasks.

– Manage multiple Clouds in a single view. Easily move files between different clouds, done in background.

– Advanced Cloud Search feature that can search for files across multiple clouds.

– Unique Cloud Clipboard feature enables file management from different clouds in batches, without downloading & then uploading.

– Unique Direct Upload uploads files from web directly, no need to download and then upload, just enter file address and our servers will upload it in background.

– Open files in the phone in Microsoft Office, MediaPlayer etc.

– Share and collaborate – share files to social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Windows Live, etc.), over email or with users groups.

– Record audio (even with screen locked), take notes and 2-way sync with chosen Cloud(s). No need for another recording App.

– 2-way sync pictures with different Clouds. Integrated with Pictures hub. Pictures can be uploaded (shared) directly from the hub.

We have seen a recent surge in business customers wanting to use the Windows Phone with our Cloud File Server SaaS and hosted hybrid appliance and expect this to continue with the recently announced windows phone business features.

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Cloud federation and governance will dominate in 2012

It’s seasonally topical to write a blog post that will draw a close to the old year with some predictions for the New Year, so read on for a post that fits with that trend…

2011 has been an eventful year for SMEStorage. On the business side we have always been a privately owned self funded company. We have never been VC backed and we’re profitable and have needed to be to be self sufficient. To enable us to expand the founders took a decision to raise some money to enable the company to continue to grow and expand the company. To this end Vehera, the owning entity of SMEStorage sold a small amount of equity enabling Vehera to raise a million dollars to fund the companies push for 2012. This will give the ability to add some more staff to enable us to grow the opportunity we see for our technology with ISP’s and the Enterprise.

On the Technology front we continued building out our support for Cloud’s resulting in SMEStorage now supporting over 35 Storage and SaaS Clouds. We also released a native Windows Phone Client,and also the first versions of Mac and Linux Cloud Tools and we enhanced our native browser plug in’s with support for Google Chrome and Safari. We also enhanced our iOS App for iPhone and iPad many times over the course of the year as well as releasing a native Android client for Phones and tablets. In addition to all of this we also improved our core offering with a myriad of new features which included adding protocol adaptors that exposed Clouds mapped to SMEStorage over WebDav, FTP or the Amazon S3 API, even if the underlying Cloud does not natively support these protocols.

So what for 2012, well, firstly we’ll continue to add more services that can be federated and managed. Shortly we’ll be announcing support for SugarSync, and the UbuntuOne Cloud. We’ll also be adding services less traditionally associated with file stores. The first of these will be BaseCamp, which will be followed by some CRM SaaS services and we have in mind another project / collaboration SaaS tool.

We’ll also be adding even more Cloud governance and e-compliance features. If your interested on our take on Cloud Sprawl and governance please see our prior blog post on this subject.

We intend to push out our revised Cloud Appliance in early 2012. This will give any customer the ability to have a hybrid Cloud governance application that deals with Cloud and local data and service federation that they fully control and own. Customers will be able to host this in their own data centre as it will be available as a VMWare, XEN or KVM appliance. As an alternative we intend to enable easy access to an Amazon EC2 based instance. We also intend to make it easy for resellers to get their ands on it and offer it as a value add to their own business.

It’s our firm belief that with the greater adoption of Cloud, and the increasing array of Cloud Services that 2012 will be the year of Cloud Federation and governance as companies struggle to manage and control the Cloud services deployed in their organisation. We believe that with our advanced service features, comprehensive access clients, and Hybrid on-premise Cloud Appliance that we are well placed to help companies who struggle with these issues.

For general predictions, we’ll make just one, and that is that the “free lunch” is coming to an end. In a volatile economy services that offer “free” may look appealing, but all businesses need to make money to survive and free eventually needs to become paid, and companies need a solid business model to survive. Hoping to capitalise at some point on a large user base of free users is not a business plan. There is room for some element of freemium, we use it ourselves, but our belief is that it has to be underpinned by a solid business plan. If you’d like to read more about this, see this post which goes into a little more depth.

All that remains to be said is to wish you all a “Happy New Year” and we hope all your hopes and dreams are realised in the forthcoming year.

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Bring your own Device is changing Enterprise IT

In the not to distant past most companies had a unilateral policy on cell phones. You were given one by the company and it was a BlackBerry, or it was a Windows Mobile etc, and there was a mandate that you had to use it. The company provided it, you used it, and more often than not you walked around with another personal phone that you actually wanted to own and use.

Today, more and more companies are adopting a BYOD or ‘bring your own device’ approach. The Apple iPad was pinpointed, by research Forrester did on the subject, as what started to consolidate the shift that was preceded by the iPhone, as company executives brought it with them to the office and challenged IT to support it.

Far from IT departments having the ability to strictly dictate the mobile of their ecosystems, they are being challenged by personal smartphone preference. The Forrester report cites 59 percent of companies that were surveyed enabled employees to bring their own phones to work.

Another factor is the rise in remote or on-the-move working. Whereas in the past company workers had found themselves logging onto the corporate VPN from a laptop or PC, many companies use Google Docs or Hosted SharePoint making access easier to “just connect” using web security protocols such as OAuth. Many analysts and government bodies are predicting this as being the future of IT.

We’ve long been an advocate of this ‘martini’ anytime/anywhere type policy of working with data from mobile devices. It’s the future, plain and simple. This is why we very early built out a comprehensive mobile strategy that focused on supporting all the major mobile devices ie. iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

It’s also the reason why we’ve concentrated on providing governance and e-compliance features that work against what we believe will become the real challenge of corporate IT, that of the sprawl of public and private Cloud Services.

We will continue to focus on this throughout 2012 and broaden not only our supported data cloud offerings but we will also also release support for other SaaS services, some of which are in beta now with some of our customers.

We will continue to expand governance options and integration with Corporate IT, and best of all if you want to host all this in your own data centre, you can using our Cloud Appliance which supports VMware, XEN, and KVM environments.

We believe 2012 will be looked back on as the year that two key themes converged in corporate IT, that of mobile working and Cloud Computing, and we are looking forward to working with existing and new customers to support it.

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Office 365

We’ve had a quite a few requests now for SMEStorage to offer integration with Office 365, Microsoft’s online offering for small businesses. We’re doing some analysis to see whether we can add connection to Office 365 so that users can work with data from iOS, Android, and BlackBerry (with Windows Phone coming soon), as well as, of course, Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Office 365 has built in access to files folders via integrated SharePoint capability and unfortunately the SharePoint in 365 does not seem to have any means to connect via WebDav for users.

We’ll post an update when we have more news on our work to add Office 365 integration.

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