Category Archives: Tools

Cloud Tools To Help Develop Your Business Startup

Cloud Tools To Help Develop Your Business Startup

Useful Business Startup Tools

Cloud tools and the cloud market are evolving from a focus on technology to solution-specific instruments with practical objectives. Ten years ago, businesses were run almost entirely from local office computers with files and documents being emailed forward or handed over on CDs. Today, for every task that once was bound to a local desktop computer, there’s a cloud-based solution that’s streamlined and accelerated the chore. Initial take-up of technology tends to be slow as people learn new software and migrate processes, but the power of the cloud ultimately makes business management, not to mention life in general, easier. Luckily, the newest cloud applications are easily integrated with straightforward interfaces, providing scalability and effortless evolution.

tools-cloud

Included are a few simple and useful tools to help get you started and on your way.

Admin & Project Management Tools

Anaplan

Anaplan’s “planning cloud” provides a scalable solution for planning needs. With its multi-functionary platform, this tool caters to sales, operations, HR and finance business zones. Says Sue Barsamian, SVP of Indirect Sales, Enterprise Group, HP, “HP is committed to making the sales process as seamless and effective as possible for our partners and our internal sales force… We use Anaplan to help us manage and optimize resource and sales quota deployment in real-time.”

Basecamp

This cloud-based project management tool offers web and app access and allows users to break projects down into tasks, threading related discussions between team members while providing file sharing, date tracking, and daily recaps.

SpiderOak

Promising 100% data privacy thanks to zero knowledge of user data, SpiderOak is a cloud-based sync tool able to sync just about anything, while additionally providing backup and sharing facilities.

Collaboration Tools

Asana

Asana Replaces clunky communication and statusing tools and offers project-specific platforms or workspaces. Individual projects can be created within workspaces to house tasks, and updates, task revisions, notes, and messages, are streamed to a dashboard via the cloud.

Do

Taking the contradiction out of ‘productive meetings’, Do’s visual timeline of meetings, agenda tools, and follow-up tracking ensure efficient team collaboration. Users can also add notes and store documents and presentations with this app available for both desktop and mobile devices.

Mural.ly

A cloud whiteboard that allows users to visually organize their thoughts and gather insights into one space. Features include sticky notes, team projects, and real-time collaboration, and Mural.ly works with Evernote, Google Drive, SlideShare, Vimeo, and YouTube. “Create a clear understanding of your design vision in order to direct the steps you take toward a solution or output.

Security & Monitoring Tools

Pingdom

Everything you need for website monitoring,” Pingdom lets users supervise their servers via the cloud. Providing uptime and response time reports, alerts can be set up to use text, email, and Twitter, and this tool further offers root-cause analysis while handling multi-step transactional monitoring and the ability to check multiple locations, all from one user-friendly dashboard.

Zoho Vault

An online password manager for teams, Zoho Vault lets teams stay connected and secure. With safe password sharing tools allowing variable access privileges, AES-256 encryption, and action tracking, teams have access to in-depth reports tracing user access while ensuring a protected work environment.

By Jennifer Klostermann

Top Trending Mobile Resources – Mobile Apps For Business

Top Trending Mobile Resources – Mobile Apps For Business

Mobile Apps for Business

Expensify’s founder and CEO, David Barrett, testified this week at a Small Business Committee hearing about how app technology is benefitting small businesses, stating that congress is well-positioned to help small companies build products that benefit small businesses by targeting reforms to patent, internet tax collection, immigration, and crowdfunding. As mentioned by Barrett, small businesses are able to profit from smartphone technology growth and the associated mobile apps thanks to their rapid adoption of new technology.

Investing In Mobile App Development

Apps-Top

Today, many customers expect businesses to have their own mobile app, and those without them are considered to be trailing their competitors. Along with brand credibility, having your own mobile app provides direct access to your customers with statistics showing that nearly two-thirds of American adults own smartphones. Mobile applications deliver access to real-time marketing in any environment and give businesses the resources they need to provide top notch service and sales support to their customers. Aside from the resources these applications deliver to businesses, mobile apps also increase customer engagement with your brand and raise interest through easy-to-use, anytime access. Businesses are now able to tap into a much larger market, and provide convenient access to their products and solutions as suits customers, though at incredibly low costs. Finally, the data available to businesses through correct mobile application development and usage is invaluable, and effective apps are providing businesses with as much information as the consumers they target.

Mobile Apps For Business

mobile-apps-business

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Expensify

This expense tracking app allows you to photograph receipts and then stores them in the cloud in expense categories. Integration with QuickBooks, Xero, and credit card accounts makes this mobile application a practical and convenient business tool.

Evernote

Use your smartphone or tablet as a virtual notebook to save photos and documents, record dictation, and write up notes as necessary. With cloud storage, you don’t have to worry about losing any important information, and it’s retrievable from just about anywhere.

DocuSign

No matter where you are, DocuSign ensures you can sign vital documents when necessary. Should you be away from the office, a link is emailed to you, giving you access to the relevant documents and the ability to sign.

Square

Accepting payment is simplified with Square. With an Android and iOS app available, a dongle can be used to swipe debit and credit cards. Additionally, tips can easily be included, and invoices can be created and sent through the app.

What To Watch Out For

As with every potential service, there is also the potential for fraud. Thousands of apps in Apple, Windows Phone, and Android app stores have been found to be running sophisticated and potentially harmful advertising fraud. Forensiq claims to have discovered ad fraud termed “mobile device hijacking” which is legitimate-appearing software that runs in the background servicing hundreds of ads at up to 20 ads per minute. The cost to advertisers is severe, and businesses creating and using mobile apps must ensure their own and their consumers’ protection. Top Trending Mobile Resources for Summer 2015 is available for free to all those wishing to develop and use mobile applications to their advantage.

By Jennifer Klostermann

CDN Performance Report – Month of June – 2015

CDN Performance Report – Month of June – 2015

CDN Performance Report

Each month CloudTweaks will be providing a series of benchmark testing performance reports conducted by our contributing partners. The first in our series will be on (CDN) Content Delivery Networks which is a growing industry whose customers are primarily web based companies looking for that extra layer of site protection and speed. This monthly Performance Data Report is provided by Cedexis

HTTP Latency

In North America we note an increase in Latency for Akamai around the 14th of June that lasted about 3 days. Over the course of the month however, Akamai maintained a clear advantage over the other CDNs measured here.

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Moving to South America we see that Akamai is also maintaining a clear latency lead at 125ms on average for the month vs. their competitors as measured at the 75th percentile.

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In Europe Level3 and Edgecast ran neck and neck for the entire month at the number 2 slot averaging roughly 67ms at the 75th percentile.

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In Asia Akamai ran on average at around half the latency of its nearest competitors at around 37ms at the 75th percentile. Of note was a 3-4 day increase in latency that knocked them to over 160ms for at least 2 days on average.

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In Africa Akamai ran at near 210ms at 75th percentile while the rest of the pack at between 247ms and 251ms at the 75th percentile.

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Now turning our attention to Availability we see that worldwide (5 major geographies: Asia/Europe/N America/S American/Africa) for the month of June Availability on average was between 98.295% and 98.578%. In spite of a significant dip in Availability for Level3 in the middle of the month – they led on average for the month.

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Regionally the story was different. It was only in Europe that all 5 CDNs reached 99% available. In N American not one CDN was over 99% for the month. Other geographies were worse.

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Benchmark testing provided by

cedexis

Using The Cloud Effectively For Your Business Needs

Using The Cloud Effectively For Your Business Needs

Using The Cloud Effectively

Cloud computing offers large and small organizations various benefits, not least of all cost reduction, and Microsoft, believing the cloud to be the future of the company, has been investing heavily in it. Guru Focus reports that those investments are paying off with cloud revenue increasing by 106%. This growth is attributed primarily to small startups that, with the help of the cloud, now have access to tools and resources previously available only to large operations.

Developing Markets

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In developing markets, mobile devices are bridging infrastructure gaps with the help of the cloud. Fortune discusses the mobile usage explosion and how companies focusing on mobile development are making their services easily accessible and top of mind. These benefits aren’t only for consumers though; Deutsche Telekom hopes to double their annual business cloud services revenue to approximately $2.24 billion in the next three years with Light Reading, stealing customers from Google and Amazon.

Forbes’ survey reveals that the majority of companies believe their IT will be completely cloud-based by 2020. It’s clear that the focus is no longer on whether or not to use the cloud, but rather how best to employ it. Tom Kelly has some advice for companies trying to use the cloud for best implementation of their strategies with From Fear to Fortune: Lessons from Leveraging the Cloud.

Don’t Fear The Cloud

Though it may seem daunting, Kelly advises that improving your business using the cloud needn’t be feared. Cloud solutions encourage growth, improve profits and provide unique solutions, and though customized solutions can be expensive, inexpensive one-size-fits-all options are often just as beneficial.

One of the very real benefits of the cloud is work shifting. Telework Research Network found that providing employees with flexibility significantly decreased absenteeism while increasing employee loyalty. The availability of accurate, real-time information, and 24/7/365 financial close processes can also be executed with the cloud, providing organizations with more information, more quickly. The knowledge and flexibility this provides gives many small businesses the tools to compete with much larger businesses.

Read The Report

fear-to-fortuneKelly also points to the benefits of efficient data flow and the transformation of the CFO role. Appropriate cloud adoption helps streamline processes while improving communication, and automating day-to-day transactions gives your financial employees the ability to exploit data to maximum benefit.

Global business management through the cloud provides organizations with real-time team collaboration and simplifies complexities such as currency conversion and local tax compliance. Using a cloud-based global accounting system ensures financial transparency and provides the information organizations need to get into the market at the right time and the right place.

It’s unlikely anyone needs to be convinced of the benefits of cloud conversion, but understanding the advantages isn’t always enough. Correct implementation and manipulation are key, and From Fear to Fortune provides you with the how.

By Jennifer Klostermann

Redis Labs Tops In Independent NoSQL Performance Benchmark

Redis Labs Tops In Independent NoSQL Performance Benchmark

NoSQL Performance Benchmark

In a newly released benchmark established to determine which NoSQL database works best in a specific real-world scenario, Redis Labs Enterprise Cluster substantially outperformed the four other databases tested.

The test, which was conducted independently by Avalon Consulting, LLC, analyzed throughput and latency metrics to assess which of the five databases was best suited for a mockapp that simulated a voting process application. According to the results released today, Redis was way ahead in terms of the application requests per second, and its latency was substantially less than all the others.

The benchmark was supplied by cloud infrastructure specialist eMind, that helps startups and enterprises establish IT operations that are both scalable and secure. The requirement was to support a “real-time voting process” similar to televised election surveys or game shows that involve the nation voting. Voter data had to be anonymous but unique, and scalability had to support request surges.

The benchmark was:

1. Cloud-based to be able to set up a cost-effective infrastructure that could handle massive app-user spikes during the voting event.
2. NoSQL to meet the requirements of scalability and cost effectiveness, and respond effectively to spikes.

In addition there was a strong emphasis on application flow, since high performance optimizes the apps’ user experience. This process used starts with a user’s device, then calls a “stateless application server,” before sending the vote, which is recorded in the database. Avalon noted in its benchmark report that it was important during the application flow that “throughput remains high enough to handle usage spikes, while ensuring low latency.” An HTTP benchmarking tool was used to generate each test load that was configured to run for 60 seconds.

The five NoSQL databases tested by Avalon were, alphabetically:

  • Aerospike
  • Cassandra Open Source
  • Cassandra DataStax Enterprise in Memory
  • Couchbase
  • Redis Labs Enterprise Cluster

test-benchmark

All rest runs were carried out using three servers:

1. WRK server – c4.large EC2 instance – to run the workload and send requests to the app server
2. App server – c4.8xlarge EC2 instance – to run the Go HTTP server and Mockapp server software
3. Database server – c4.large EC2 instance – to run each NoSQL database

When Avalon tested with the c4.large, they found the client server was going to be a bottleneck, but decided to use a larger c4.8xlarge server as the app server rather than additional servers.
For all of the systems tested, Avalon made certain there was sufficient RAM to store the entire dataset in memory. The various configurations are provided in their report. The benchmark process followed for each is also detailed.

NoSQL Performance Benchmark

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Ultimately, the Avalon benchmark results show Redis Labs to be a clear winner in terms of the voting application scenario in which a large number of “write” requests were made. Aerospike was second best, even though their latency results were more than double those of Redis, and application requests per second a little less than double. The other three were way behind.

According to Avalon, the test results they came up with are also applicable to cases where “massive and continuous ‘write’ operations are required.” These include Internet of Things (IoT) applications that receive telemetry data from a large number of sensors, as well as ingestion data-store for a real-time analytics application.

By Penny Swift

10 Prototyping Tools To Help Build Your Startup

10 Prototyping Tools To Help Build Your Startup

Prototyping Tools

We are continuing this week by focusing on startup tools, tips and tweaks that will help you build, design, manage and market your way into the cloud based business that you want to be. Last week we offered a quick startup checklist that contained a few helpful suggestions. This week we’ve offered a few more and will continue to do so throughout 2015.

Working Smarter

In this article, I will show you 10 suggested cloud based tools that you can use at just about any computer, anywhere. Since they don’t require a huge amount of bandwidth, you can work from your favorite coffee shop.

From Wireframes to Bug Reports, these tools will help you develop the idea in your brain into a living, breathing compilation of diagrams, and workflows. I’ve listed in no particular order a few tools to help you work smarter, not harder.

These will help you design and develop well thought out and precise websites and mobile applications.

HotGloo

HotGloo-Wireframe-UX-Prototyping-Tool

This integrates a wireframe AND prototype generator all in one. It boasts an auto-save feature and backups as well. A feature that most do not consider.

Gliffy

Online Diagram Software and Flow Chart Software -Gliffy

 

With Gliffy, you can create a myriad of diagrams, workflows, process flows, and flow charts. They have every shape and flow process imaginable. Since it is flash based, and intensive, the ideal scenario is to use this on a laptop or desktop pc, rather than a tablet, but it can be done either way. Since this web app integrates with Google Apps, WordPress and Chrome, it’s got potential to explode with third party applications, if not already.

Appery

appery.io

Appery is a nice cloud based lightweight system. You can quickly build complete user experiences with jQuery Mobile, AngularJS, Bootstrap, and HTML5 components inside the Visual Editor. They provide an easy to use drag and drop functionality built into the UI. They have been featured on CIO, Infoworld, Techcrunch amongst many others.

JustInMind

Justinmind-Interactive

They offer the ability to create highly interactive wireframes for any application in very little time. You can also publish your entire wireframe experience online and get feedback and reviews from users and customers.

PIDOCO

Pidoco

While the name may be silly, its power to create custom templates, real time collaboration, and mobile prototyping makes this a powerhouse not to be ignored. Their integrated API and specification export allows you to travel further than you ever thought possible.

Proto.io

Proto.io

A nice service where you can create some exceptional prototypes and they also offer a new interactive Material Design UI library. Some of their clients include the likes of BBC, ESPN, Disney and Amazon.

Invision

invision

Invision has taken the art of collaboration and made it into a drag and drop art form. Their interface makes it extremely easy for even the most technically challenged to start a project. They even have a demo right on their front page so that you can test drive the interface.

Cacoo

Cacoo-Online Diagram Software for Flow Chart

Cacoo is a powerhouse for companies dealing with multiple languages to collaborate diagrams and workflows online. It supports 22 languages plus real time collaboration. Of course, you can make your projects private or public depending on your need, and their group pricing is fairly reasonable. While only having 5 output Vector formats to export to even with the paid version, this tool can be invaluable for a collaboration project across the world.

Creately

Creately

While it’s not the language powerhouse that is Cacoo, Creately has a scaleable pricing structure that is handy for the number of users on your team. It also has some desktop software available that may further your development needs. Since they sell this service by the license, it’s cheaper if you need it for a short while.

Protoshare

Website-Wireframes-ProtoShare

You can use ProtoShare for Mockups, Wireframes or Prototypes. They have online webinars for training and instruction, and a very handy and instructional blog.

By Jason Phillips

Methodically Plan Your Cloud Design First

Methodically Plan Your Cloud Design First

Are You Sure You Are Ready For The Cloud: Design

For the last few months, we have been discussing getting ready to go to the cloud. We have covered topics such as Financial and Business Security reasons. We have even discussed the type of knowledge you should obtain.

This month, we are going to take the next step, which is covering:

Design

design

Why is design so important? Cloud is an amazing technology, but if not properly designed, you can loose the ability to access all of your resources that you have paid good money for.

How so? Starting with something as simple as spinning up and server instance. If you assign to many resources to it, and do not effectively use these resources you now have a “committed waste”. As an example, if you assigned 4 vCPUs to an instance, and after looking at your resource usage on that instance some time later, you noticed you never used more than two vCPUs; so now you have waste. Beings you committed 4 vCPUs, two are lost unless you can reclaim them.

In some cloud management software, you will find that this is either impossible, or extremely difficult. On a virtual server side, usually on the hypervisor level, you can add and remove vCPUs easily, but is not normally recommended because it can cause issues with the Guest operating system.

So, lets go back to the Design aspect: the design in itself can be broken down into four main areas with a few sub areas:

  • User Connectivity
    • Web Browser
    • System Level
  • Security
    • Firewalls
    • System Ports
    • Username/Passwords
  • Infrastructure
    • Network
    • Internet
  • Resources
    • CPU
    • RAM
    • Storage
      • Local
      • Volume

Now, lets look at each one of these at a higher level. I am going to start at the bottom of the list first.

Resources

resources

The resources I have listed are extremely basic, and show that this is a minimum to get started, except for the volume storage. You can use local storage depending on the size of your cloud, but larger companies will have separate volume storage, such as NAS or SAN units or other types of external storages like appliances.

The vCPU and vRAM are normally based directly on physical CPUs and installed RAM. Several of the cloud management tools, even open source ones have the ability to adjust the ratio of physical to virtual vCPUs. Such as, if you have 24 physical CPUs, and industry standard of 10ea – 15ea vCPUs to each physical CPUs will give you 240 or 360 vCPUs that can be allocated to your instances.

Infrastructure

Next in the Infrastructure bullet, you will see only two things: Network and Internet. You do not necessarily need Internet access to have a cloud, but it comes in handy if you are spinning up instances and they need drivers or libraries from vendors or various repositories. Of course, the Network is in itself self-explanatory, but I would encourage you to have the fastest and most robust possible for your budget. Why?

Moving instances from one compute node to another takes time, and the faster the wire speed the better. Also, when you get into backups / Disaster Recovery areas, you will really need that speed.

Security

Security is the next bullet, and I broke it down into three sub bullets: Firewalls, System Ports and Username and Passwords. There are many other facets of security of course, but I am only look at the three basic pones here.

Firewalls are self explanatory, while System Ports are not. Several of the open source and commercial cloud management software packages have the ability to wrap each instance with the ability to block TCP/UDP ports from sending or receiving data for each of the IP stack ports. And again, complex Usernames and Passwords are always important.

User Connectivity

The last is User Connectivity. Hopefully everyone reading this article can effectively use a web browser, but direct system connections may be a little harder. If the required TCP/UDP ports are open, then you can connect with SSH, Telnet or RDP depending on your machine flavor.

Knowing where you want to use the resources, security or network will help you take advantage of making sure you can connect to your cloud and be able to effectively use it. Shoot for as much Compute resources as possible, and make sure that you are robust in your network choices, and you will have a lot better experience with your cloud.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Richard Thayer

Cloud Pinup: HappyApps Streamlines Application and System Monitoring

Cloud Pinup: HappyApps Streamlines Application and System Monitoring

HappyApps New Monitoring Experience

This is part of our ongoing CloudTweaks Pinup series featuring new startups. Contact us for more information on how to get involved. 

Happyapps.io is a young yet promising start-up that provides cloud-based, real-time monitoring services for applications across a wide range of platforms. Founded in 2015, the company is a newcomer to the application management game – a game which has seen fierce competition since 2013. In fact, the sheer volume of companies attempting to create their own monitoring services has proven overwhelming for a number of businesses; businesses which, for the most part, are still looking for a clean and simple way to monitor the services and applications which lie at the core of their business.

happyapps.ioThe foremost issue with the current big players in the system monitoring game isn’t their capability – as far as effective and accurate monitoring of applications goes, the big names (companies like Nagios, New Relic, SolarWinds etc.) are more than capable of carrying out this task. The issue is with the clutter and usability.

A well-known problem with certain monitoring companies is the sheer number of notifications that the service sends out. In fact, it is not uncommon for a user to receive upwards of 200 email alerts per day, the majority of which are, for the most part, unnecessary. Such notifications are generally repeating issues that have already been identified, and as such are entirely redundant. Unfortunately, this means that significant energy must be expended to sift through the pile of notifications in an effort to identify the ones which are genuine.

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Most often, the fault of monitoring systems is that they provide their users with floods of raw data – data which requires some degree of technical knowledge to interpret. While high-level software developers and engineers may find this useful, many users are simply not interested. What users really need is a system that provides status reports in a readable, easy-to-consume fashion. The user wants a report detailing whether or not the core systems are performing to the required expectations, not a mountain of graphs representing CPU usage, memory, IO, etc…

That is exactly where HappyApps has focused their approach. Providing a next-generation cloud-based monitoring service, they deliver real-time status updates for core applications, databases, and information systems. HappyApps has the capability to monitor systems over a variety of clouds (including Amazon), where the complexity of data from a multitude of sources is processed and presented in an incredibly user-friendly, understandable format.

Users have the ability to create an easy-to-understand dashboard, where the overall status is visible in real-time across all of their application services. Monitoring checks across a wide variety of systems (including MongoDB, MySQL, Postgres, Web Servers, and many more) can be set up quickly and easily, with the ability to set up and customize groups that can collectively monitor the applications.

Best of all, HappyApps was designed with sophisticated noise reduction technology, ensuring that all notifications that are sent out are meaningful. No more false positives, and no more group incidents that repeatedly send out the same notification.

By Vanja Daskalovic

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