Category Archives: SaaS

Could Indie Gaming Grow Into A Challenge For Big Game Publishers?

Could Indie Gaming Grow Into A Challenge For Big Game Publishers?

Could Indie Gaming Grow Into a Challenge for Big Game Publishers?

steam-gaming

I will be the first to admit, I am a Steam junkie. The sheer number of different games available for purchase or demo is staggering, providing choices no matter what budgetary constraints I am under. All of the industry staples are here, including giants like the Elder Scrolls, Bioshock and Total War franchises. No matter what mood you are in, you are sure to find tons of good titles to satisfy it using the Steam service.

Whilst poking around the other day looking for a new game to master, I noticed the Indie section for the first time. It caught my eye, mainly due to all of the hype that has surrounded this category of games in recent news. While big-developer games are still the reigning champs of the gaming world, indie producers are fast making serious inroads and claiming their slice of the pie.

What Are Indie Games?

Indie games set themselves apart from traditional games in that their creation and development is done by private individuals or small teams. This is a sharp contras to traditional games, which usually have hundreds of people to work on them and millions of dollars to spend creating them.

This production process produces games, which while usually less graphic-intensive than their mainstream counterparts, can actually have a heightened feel of creativity to them. In addition, due to the absence of the immense operating costs of big-game publishers, indie games are usually much less expensive to buy.

What Is Available Now?

If you want an example of just how successful an indie game can be, look no further than Minecraft. The designers of Minecraft took the simple activity of building and turned it into one of the most loved and lucrative games currently available.

Minecraft is not the only game that has caused industry experts and players alike to sit up and take notice. In fact, two staples of the mainstream gaming industry, Sony and Microsoft, have already professed their love for indie games. Each of these behemoths recently announced different features and packages designed specifically with the indie game in mind.

What Is on the Horizon?

Obviously, given that technology is changing and evolving each and every day, we are by no means at the pinnacle of possibility when it comes to indie games. In fact, independent developer, Octav, predicts that many current gaming models used by industry giants will fall by the wayside, clearing the way for more indie games to rise to prominence.

The creativity previously mentioned that is so prevalent in indie games is also expected to turn the tide in their favor. Big game developers have a narrow look when developing a game, usually constrained by the ever-present need to turn a profit. While indie game developers do want to make money, many times the driving force behind their creations is turning a good idea into a cool game. This will lead to a much more diverse landscape to choose your indie games from.

While indie gaming has certainly begun to enter into its own, the possibilities and potential it holds signals a true rise in prominence for this genre in the coming years. If you enjoy cloud gaming, as well as an inexpensive and diverse menu of different options to choose from, indie gaming may just well be your perfect niche.

By Joe Pellicone

Why SMEs Should Do Their Accounting In The Cloud

Why SMEs Should Do Their Accounting In The Cloud

Accounting in the Cloud

2014_US_tax_infographic

Cloud-based accounting software for SMEs has been exploding recently. The ever increasing complexity of tax laws, the growing need for regular dialogue with a company’s accountant, and the importance of being able access a company’s financial records with ease have provided several companies with the opportunity to become the new leader in a sector traditionally dominated by expensive desktop programs.

After founding as recently as 2006, Xero is already one of this new generation of leaders. They are a global company with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and specifically cater to the ever-changing accounting needs of SMEs.

The 2014 edition of Xero’s annual survey of 400 accountants showed why they are becoming so successful in this new cloud-based marketplace – their software neatly addresses the leading financial reporting problems facing SMEs today.

One of the survey’s main findings was the importance that accountants place on the importance of year-round communication between themselves and their clients. Indeed, 32 percent of respondents believed that the most common mistake made by small business owners was only talking to their accountant during ‘tax time’, and a staggering 65 percent of respondents believe SMEs should talk to their accountant at least once per month.

The other major problem faced by SMEs was the lack of financial insight and real-time accounting. 20 percent of respondents said that business owners not having real-time understanding of their company’s finances was frequently an issue, with 38 percent stating that out-of-date financial records was the biggest mistake SMEs made. Unsurprisingly, 75 percent believe they could significantly improve the quality of their advice if they had access to real-time data.

Xero’s cloud-based software focuses on these concerns in a way that traditional desktop software cannot. Their real-time provision of a company’s finances blended with the ability to constantly collaborate with accountants and bookkeepers means that business owners are perfectly placed to avoid the two most common accounting problems for SMEs.

Cloud-based accounting lets expenses, payroll, purchase orders, invoices and financial reports be tracked and edited in real time from anywhere in the world. This allows both the company and accountant to access permanently up-to-date records and, therefore, means the likelihood of problems occurring and audits taking place is greatly diminished.

The survey also revealed the rapid growth of the cloud-based accounting industry. In 2012 just 32 percent of accountants planned to offer cloud services to their clients in the following year – in 2014 that figure has jumped to 55 percent. On the client side the numbers paint a similar picture, with 25 percent of accountants now having at least three quarters of their clients using online accounting services. Indeed, Xero are so confident about the growth of the industry that they boldly predict every accountant questioned will be offering online accounting services by 2018.

Do you work in an SME? Does your company use cloud-based account software or traditional desktop programs? What do you think the future holds for accounting in the cloud? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Using Big Data To Prevent World Hunger

Using Big Data To Prevent World Hunger

Using Big Data To Prevent World Hunger

big-data-hunger

Hunger and famine are two of the leading indicators of serious poverty. In October 2013 the Global Hunger Index released its latest report, indicating nineteen countries suffer from levels of hunger that are either ‘alarming’ or ‘extremely alarming’, with one in eight people suffering from chronic undernourishment between 2010 and 2012.

(Image Source:  meunierd / Shutterstock.com)

Helping Farming

Although farmers today produce three times as much food as they did fifty years ago, farmers still have to significantly improve their productivity to help feed a world population of 9 billion in 2050. Leaders of the G8 believe an important step towards solving the problem is to allow farmers, scientists, and entrepreneurs unrestricted access to agricultural big data.

Big data analysis can increase crop yields by helping farmers make better decisions about when to plant, manage and harvest their crops. Beyond broad data sets on topics such as rainfall levels, signs of pests and diseases, and anticipated prices at local markets, there is also the highly specialised and specific data sets such as plant genomics and local weather conditions.

The Climate Corporation operates a cloud-based farming information system that takes weather measurements from 2.5 million locations and combines it with 150 billion soil observations to generate 10 trillion weather simulation data points. This information allows farmers to know information as diverse as when is the best time to spray fields to getting an accurate estimate of the value of fields they may be considering buying.

The end goal is to help improve productivity in Africa, the worst performing agricultural producer. The CGIAR Consortium in France hopes to develop an app which uses all the available data to allow African farmers to identify their local soil type, the planting and harvesting requirements of each specific field, and then direct them to where they can locally purchase the seeds needed.

Predicting Famine

Using big data to aid the battle against hunger isn’t a new idea. The Famine Early Warning System has been in operation for 25 years to help international aid groups predict where famines in remote regions are about to occur and thus target the $1.5 billion of annual food aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The system relies on a blend of social and scientific big data from federal agencies as diverse as NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Agriculture to create hydrological models, food-economics forecasts, weather and climate simulations, and food-borne illness predictions. The output from these models is increasingly accurate and allows the world’s political leaders respond quickly and effectively in the early stages of a famine.

The Future

What is the future of big data in farming? Is it naïve to believe that data sets alone can solve the issue of world hunger, or are they the developed world’s best hope of fighting famine? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Cloud Infographic: Big Data Retail Revolution

Cloud Infographic: Big Data Retail Revolution

Cloud Infographic: Big Data Retail Revolution

We’ve been covering Big Data a fair bit over the years on CloudTweaks. Most recently we’ve taken a unique look at Big Data in a whole different light. Such as Big Data in the Film Industry, Sports and even in Space. Which leads us to one of the largest areas of interest in which Big Data can be applied, and that being the retail industry.

Provided is an infographic by the group at Wipro, that reveals some interesting survey results such as 54% of survey respondents believe that Big Data has brought gains in multi-channel sales.

Retail-BigData

Infographic Source: Wipro

10 Excellent Cloud Applications For SMEs

10 Excellent Cloud Applications For SMEs

Cloud Applications For SMEs

Cloud applications and services are rapidly replacing traditional desktop apps in the workplace. To new users the number of apps available can be overwhelming, with hundreds of choices on everything from CRM software to Budget Management. As part of a new series here at CloudTweaks, we take a look at ten ‘must-have’ apps for SMEs. We will review each in detail over the coming weeks.

Asana 

Good project management software is typically very expensive, but SMEs can eliminate that cost with Asana. The free app styles itself as a ‘collaborative information manager’ and allows users to manage work projects, personal projects, and events in a well-design and easy to navigate interface.

MailChimp

Mailchimp is a cloud-based service that manages e-mail marketing campaigns and newsletter production. The app is supported by Google Analytics to aid performance measurement, and it also integrates with other popular SME apps such as Batchbook CRM, Zendesk and Shopify.

Evernote

No list about useful apps for SMEs would be complete without the ubiquitous Evernote. The app is widely considered to be the best the best organisational program available, allowing users to store and sort their notes and files whilst indexing them for easy search and retrieval. The app syncs across all your devices, meaning your information will always be close to hand.

Mozy

With six million users, Moxy is one of the best-known alternatives for cloud backup. Although not free, the service continuously backs up the files on your computer or server, meaning SMEs will always be protected from potential data loss. Files are also encrypted using military-grade 256-bit AES key security, making then one of the most trusted names in cloud backup.

Capsule CRM

While it may lack so of the features of Salesforce, Capsule CRM is also considerably cheaper. The full version of this app is only $12 pcm/per user, compared with $75 pcm/per user for its better-known cousin. Features include the ability to store 50,000 contacts, categorise data, track activities, and manage ‘sales pipelines’. Capsule CRM is also fully integrateable with Google Apps.

Skype

Again, no list about apps for SMEs is complete without the industry-leading VOIP service. Skype users can call other Skype subscribers for free, and for a small cost can also call external phones, conduct video conferences, and receive in-bound telephone calls.

FlashPanel

Flashpanel is a cloud management and security tool for Google Apps. Administrators have access to a range of security settings, including the ability to manage passwords, control user access, set and enforce email settings, and control users’ sharing of Google Drive files.

Expensify

Expensify helps users track and categorise their expenses, and after launching in 2008 now processes over $2 million of expenses every day. You can attach receipts to costs, fill-out expense reports for company reimbursements, and manage business mileage, all while meeting IRS regulations for record keeping.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks is a cloud-based invoicing and financial-tracking app. Users can create invoices, track expenses, produce billing reports and charts, and process payments. Although the app lacks a payroll feature, it is perfect for individual entrepreneurs or small businesses with a handful of clients.

Zendesk

For businesses that require a strong focus on customer service, Zendesk is a must-have.  Widely considered to be the fastest and easiest cloud tool for providing excellent customer service, Zendesk is used by more than 40,000 businesses worldwide. The app has many features, including measuring customer satisfaction, streamlined ticket-views and performance benchmarking.

What do you think? What apps does your SME rely on? Let us know in the comments below…

By Daniel Price

Would You Like ‘Gravy’ With Your Cloud Monitoring?

Would You Like ‘Gravy’ With Your Cloud Monitoring?

Would You Like ‘Gravy’ With Your Cloud Monitoring?

The Hyperlocal antidote to FOLO (the fear of losing out)

CopperEgg and GravyA timely addition to the acronym-laden family tree of modern language, right up there with YOLO (you only live once), and many evolutionary steps beyond the great-grandparents OMG and ROTFL, comes the wonderful term FOLO. This stands for “fear of losing out,” and quite concisely reflects the attitude of many millions of busy and connected people of all ages, for whom 24/7 access to Internet-based information remains a necessity – multidimensional and ever-expanding, with data both incoming and outgoing across a range of social media platforms. For these types of people there exists an appetite for knowledge and awareness that cannot be satiated.

The need to know is a very human one, and hence FOLO, the fear of losing out, of not knowing about every activity or item of knowledge that is out there, is a natural outcome. This desire, at least on the entertainment and leisure side is being answered by increasingly sophisticated hyperlocal mobile apps such as Gravy, which shows its customers every event happening nearby, and which can find solutions for their entertainment wanderlust by using their phone’s geolocation features combined with a smart recommendation algorithm.

Gravy is an aggregator, pulling together more than 1 million events per day from over 100 sources, providing nationwide coverage and presenting them to the viewer in a highly personalized, intuitive and easy-to-use palette. During its infancy, the company was called timeRAZOR. Its dynamic collection of events and opportunities included personalized events such as 15-minute beauty consultations in New York City for its client L’Oreal, who wished to generate greater awareness of its new Vichy beauty line by inviting people to come in and try it out, on their own schedule. Hyperlocal mobile apps such as Gravy thus represent an even fresher approach to the personalization of customer experience, and consequently are an excellent opportunity for retailers and sellers of any type of product or experience to get right in front of individual consumers with tailored suggestions and special promotions.

The data for all these events and opportunities, stored on a number of virtual servers and cloud-based databases, needed a highly dynamic approach to monitoring – one that can spin up rapidly to match demand without manual onboarding of servers, which is why, after assessing several providers, Gravy’s Cloud Hosting Administrator, Ed Ritter, turned to Austin, Texas based CopperEgg to manage the demand.

The behind-the-scenes work provided by CopperEgg represents a type of dynamic and specialized support that is essential for any organization contemplating a move to the cloud, and/or who is looking to partner up with a managed resource provider (MSP) to offload the heavy lifting of data management. There exist a great number of MSPs across the globe who are ready to host, of course, but as CopperEgg’s VP of Customer Service, Mike Raab points out, few major cloud providers offer a whole package. “Niche specialists such as CopperEgg fit into the ecosystem by providing software-as-a-service (SaaS) amenities such as cloud sizing, used by the MSP on behalf of a customer, as well as high resolution Hybrid and Cloud performance monitoring.”

For Ed Ritter’s timeRAZOR/Gravy configuration, CopperEgg’s integration with Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) allowed for the gathering of granular data with real‐time monitoring, and required a simple and quick setup procedure. This allows Ritter to monitor multiple servers at the same time and drill down to high-resolution details of Processes, Disk IO, CPU and Network stats, from the same interface, while knowing he can receive health reports and alerts via email.

The Gravy interface represents a customizable user experience, one which reacts in real time both to the demands of its users as well as to the information being supplied by its clients, either by widget or API. It also represents the complexity of cloud-based data management by highlighting the dynamic, second-by-second nature of information demand – something that needs to be factored in to any cloud strategy: awareness, diagnostics and system alerts – these are subsets that may best be left to niche players such as CopperEgg.

CopperEgg offers a free trial of their monitoring and optimization solutions here.

By Steve Prentice

Post Sponsored By CopperEgg

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Cloud-Currency

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Cloud-Currency

Six Things You Didn’t Know about Cloud-Currency

50-facts-about-bitcoin-infographic

News broke recently about a massive securities failure at leading Bitcoin currency exchange MtGox. Formerly the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, MtGox filed for banckruptcy following a combination of inexperience, gross mismanagement and criminal negligence that saw hackers steal $460 million from its accounts.

With the future of cloud-based crypto-currencies now firmly under the spotlight, we take the opportunity to look back at six little known facts about the online phenomenon.

1. Illegal

While the popularity of Bitcoin has been rocketing in the West, the attraction of an online digital currency wasn’t so attractive to lawmakers in Thailand. In July 2013 the South-East Asian country became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban it, citing a lack of regulation and capital control.

2. Mining in the Cloud

‘Mining’ is the term given to receiving Bitcoins as payment for allowing your computer’s processing power to be used to maintain the company’s software. Cloud mining is a new concept that allows users to form groups and complete all their mining in the cloud via massive data centres, rather than using their own equipment. This removes frequent mining issues such as connectivity problems, electricity consumption and hosting difficulties.

3. Bitcoins vs Gold

Not many things in the world are worth more than gold, but Bitcoin achieved this distinction in November 2013 when a single unit of the crypto-currency was briefly more valuable than an ounce of the precious metal.

4. 21,000,000

Bitcoins are more akin to a finite commodity than a currency. Only 21 million Bitcoins are ever going to be made available, leading to a high risk of deflation if the cloud-based money becomes widely adopted as a payment method. Although the release of Bitcoins is designed to continue for a long time, in practical terms the supply will start dwindle rapidly around 2028.

5. Satoshi Nakamoto

Purportedly the founder of Bitcoin – no one knows who he is, his nationality, or if ‘he’ is actually a group of people. Satoshi and his group have had no involvement with the currency since 2010 – yet are believed to be owners of more than 1 million Bitcoins, an amount equivalent to 1.1 billion USD.

6. One of Many

Although it is the most well-known, Bitcoin is not the only crypto-currency available. Competitors include Dogecoin, Litecoin and Namecoin, and each have alternative benefits with different operational methods.

What do you think is the future of cloud-based currencies? Is crypto-money here to stay, or is it a passing fad with no real value? Let us know in the comments below…

By Daniel Price

(Infographic Source: http://www.whoishostingthis.com)

Pinup: Datadog Offers Monitoring Service For Cloud Solutions

Pinup: Datadog Offers Monitoring Service For Cloud Solutions

Datadog Offers Monitoring Service for Cloud Solutions

Datadog_ScreenBoard

A monitoring service designed initially to promote oversight of cloud solutions, Datadog offers users real-time metrics and analytics via a subscription-based software-as-a-service product.

Developed by Olivier Pomel and Alexis Lê-Quôc, Datadog provides a unified picture of the infrastructure of cloud-based and physical servers, tools, applications, databases, and other services. The partners conceived the idea for Datadog while working at Wireless Generation; Pomel led the education technology firm’s engineering department and Lê-Quôc ran its operations unit. Because each of their teams employed different systems, they experienced considerable difficulties when attempting to cooperatively troubleshoot issues related to technology infrastructure and performance. Moreover, these endeavors became increasingly difficult to accomplish when the company opted to migrate infrastructure to the cloud.

Although Datadog was initially conceived as a monitoring platform for cloud servers, the solution is equally adept at overseeing on-premise servers. In fact, many of the company’s clients use a combination of physical and cloud servers. The Datadog product enables development and operations staff to collaborate on maintenance and upgrade efforts while helping them avoid downtime, correct inefficiencies and redundancies, and improve deployment and development projects.

Although the product is proficient at meeting monitoring requirements for on-premise servers, Datadog was designed specifically to address issues unique to infrastructure based in the cloud. Cloud servers are automatically deployed or removed according to demand for computing and data resources. Because these shifts occur spontaneously, information technology and other dedicated staff often find it difficult to monitor all servers. To prevent this problem, Datadog includes all auto-deployed servers in its monitoring system, ensuring that these resources constantly appear on its dashboard and alert systems. Moreover, the product compiles data from all servers into a unified key performance indicator report, making it easier to identify issues.

Datadog_Integrations

In addition, companies often fail to effectively monitor cloud-based and open source services because of diverse performance data metrics. Datadog circumvents problems created by a proliferation of infrastructure components with more than 50 integrations that standardize metrics for each service, allowing them to be monitored and tracked more efficiently. The product also meets challenges caused by acceleration in release cycles for applications that may occur spontaneously or without adequate forewarning with automatic tracking and tagging or each event related to applications and other services.

Released from Beta testing in June of 2012, Datadog currently serves hundreds of customers ranging from tech startups to fortune 500 companies. Today, Datadog monitors approximately 20,000 cloud servers and about 20,000 on-premise servers. On a daily basis, the platform absorbs nearly 30 billion records per day; each record is deposited, graphed, and scrutinized in real-time. The capabilities of Datadog reduce monitoring time while improving monitoring function, allowing information technology staff to focus on forward-looking projects and programs.

Delivered to clients via subscription, Datadog boasts rates as low as $15 per month for each monitored server. In addition to this service, the company will monitor clients’ temporary servers for an hourly fee. The company, which has offices in Boston and New York City, expects to continue its growth to meet the demands of businesses that exclusively utilize cloud servers as well as those that use a combination of cloud and on-premise servers.

By Mary Elizabeth

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