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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Cloud Computing – The Paradigm Shift with Siamak Farah, InfoStreet

December 19, 2012 No Comments

Although Cloud Computing has been a “hot topic” for some time, there are still many organizations that have been slow to embrace the cloud.

In the below interview, Siamak Farah from Infostreet emphasizes the valuable role cloud computing plays within the enterprise today, and outlines ways in which organizations can quickly and seamlessly take advantage of the cloud.

  • Q. How have you seen Cloud Computing change over the last 15 years?

A. Fifteen years ago, the word Cloud, and acronyms such as SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) were not coined.   Going back far enough, to 1994 when InfoStreet was founded, even the concept of the Web being more than brochure-ware was foreign to most. As the industry matured, much of the previous words went through a metamorphasis characteristic of most technologies in their early days.

Even as recently as three years ago the word Cloud had a different meaning. Then, Cloud Computing meant using a provider’s ready-made hardware (servers) in a data center complete with ample bandwidth and redundant power.  This hardware could be used for a variety of reasons, but in almost all cases you would install your own software and manage its interaction on a day-to-day basis.  In effect, Cloud Computing could have been dubbed “Hardware as a Service”.

Today, however, thanks to all the online and offline magazines, TV shows, and advertising, “Cloud” has a more simplified definition. There now exists a dichotomy: a server in an office is on-premise; otherwise it’s in the Cloud. In many ways, Cloud has encompassed a broad description of all solutions accessed via the Internet.

  • Q. Do you think that there will be an eventual paradigm shift to Cloud Computing being the primary solution supporting modern business functionality?

A. Throughout history, when a breakthrough happens, the question on everyone’s mind is: “Is it a paradigm shift or a fad?”  However, as the shift happens, the common thought is, “how did we ever live without this?”

A few decades ago, if our parents or grandparents were expecting an important call, they would be sitting in their office, glued to their desk so that they would not miss that call. The idea that the call can reach them wherever they happened to be was unfathomable. To our children, the idea of not receiving a call when and where you want it is unfathomable. That paradigm shift has taken such a strong hold that now the common thought is “how did we ever live without mobile phones?”

The Cloud is a perfect parallel. You don’t have to be tethered to your desk to get your work done. You can work wherever you are, during the hours that you want. What makes it more of a paradigm shift than other technological breakthroughs is that you don’t necessary need to be away from the office to use the Cloud. Due to the abundance of high quality Cloud-based software, many organizations are using the Cloud even if all their employees are under one roof.

The paradigm shift has happened and the Cloud is here to stay.

  • Q. In your opinion, what role do software vendors play in this evolution?

A. Much has been said about the benefit of the Cloud for the small developer. Cloud is the great democratizer enabling smaller developers to compete with their larger brethren. What has not been discussed much, however, is the huge benefit to already large, existing software developers.  For example, a very successful software company offering shrink-wrapped software was able to capture more than 90% of its market.  Unfortunately, the point has come where this company cannot expand the market anymore. Existing users don’t want upgrades due to the headaches, learning curve, and disruption involved.  In addition, traditional sales are dead. Almost all voicemails go unanswered, unsolicited emails are marked as spam, and the price point is too low for suits and ties. However, since the Cloud is so popular, by converting their market to use the Cloud version, the company can consistently count on recurring revenue as opposed to the hit and run “software upgrade” sale. In addition, upgrading, supporting, and maintaining the Cloud version will cost less for the software developer.

As a result, almost all software developers have shifted their focus to the Cloud, and of course users know that the Cloud is where they can get the latest and greatest solutions.

  • Q. How do you think BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has affected the rapid growth of Cloud Computing?

A. In many ways BYOD and Cloud have helped one another. In the past, when it came to devices used by employees, most companies, especially large organizations, had a very controlled environment. There were even companies that did not adopt newer versions of an operating system (e.g. Windows Vista), in fear of the learning curve involved with users and the internal support costs it may create. However, BYOD provides a benefit both to the employer and the employee. Employers spend less on hardware and need not be as concerned with learning curves; employees work with the device they are comfortable with. In the end, the employer’s interest is for users to be more productive, not in adhering to a strict device standard.

Prior to the Cloud, BYOD was not very practical, as all devices had to be compatible with the system the company used. With the Cloud, the operating system is irrelevant, and most PCs, Macs, Tablets, and Smartphones work with the Cloud. Therefore, employers can allow employees to bring their own device, without the fear of the device not being compatible with the company systems.

  • Q. InfoStreet recently announced Sky Desktop, a free Cloud-based desktop where all files and apps will exist within one easy login management system. How does this new Cloud 2.0 service work to increase efficiency for small businesses?

A. In the early days, Cloud companies were spending much of their effort on educating users about the benefits of the Cloud. Today, however, there has been a wide adoption of Cloud-based solutions, and their benefits are well understood.

The success of the Cloud has now brought users to a point where they have multiple Cloud solutions. As such, they have to go to one site to use their CRM, another to use their accounting solution, yet a third site to access their files, and the list goes on. In addition, for each site, users have to remember a login and password.

Since its early days, InfoStreet has focused on providing a Web-based operating system, so all apps and files can be accessed via a browser, rendering the underlying device or operating system irrelevant.

InfoStreet’s vision of a Web-based work environment is now realized with a metaphor that users are already familiar with. InfoStreet’s patent-pending SkyDesktop is a Cloud-based Desktop where users can access all their apps and files in one place. Users can select from quality Cloud apps in InfoStreet’s SkyAppMarket.  With one click, the app’s icon will be placed on their SkyDesktop. Just like what they are used to on their desk computer or their laptop, users can click on these desktop icons and immediately start using the apps. There is no need to log in to each of the apps, as the apps in SkyDesktop are all connected via a single sign-on solution.

Gone are the days of going home only to realize that you emailed yourself the wrong file to work on. Or perhaps you mailed the right file, but the version of the app at home does not match the version at the office.  Users’ time is so valuable that any minute spent on making other devices match their work environment is a minute wasted.  The environment should be the same regardless of the location, completely secure and personalized to that user. This is where major efficiencies are gained, and what SkyDesktop is designed from the ground up to do.
•    One location for all your files,
•    One trusted source to find Cloud apps,
•    One bill to pay,
•    And only one support contact

The SkyDesktop Cloud 2.0 suite is the business owner’s fastest way to seamlessly take advantage of the Cloud.

Siamak Farah is founder and CEO of InfoStreet and widely regarded as the pioneer of Cloud-based Apps.  InfoStreet introduced its first business software via the Cloud in 1995, with its flagship productivity application, StreetSmart.  Mr. Farah’s years of experience as a software developer affords him unique hands-on technical knowledge, while his work at NeXT Computer, side-by-side industry visionaries like Steve Jobs, gives him the marketing and management insight that has helped propel InfoStreet’s growth year-over-year.  Siamak is a frequent speaker at conferences that focus on the Internet and SaaS such as ISPCON, INBOX, SoftLetter and more.

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