Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Startup in the Cloud


This post was the source of a BusinessWeek article by Rachael King.

There is a remarkable difference in the method and cost of startup infrastructure between when I started ActiveGrid in 2003 and wdgtbldr in 2007.

Back in 2003, we still had to buy our own servers and hire IT people to get some basic services. This mindset prevailed into 2007, where to upgrade our Wiki into something much more functional, I learned that IT had physically installed two iterations of wikis on our servers. It was beyond me what features we would get from our own installation vs. a hosted one, so I suggested a policy of only using hosted infrastructure moving forwards. This led to a suggestion of having some meetings to discuss the concept, which in my experience means "not going to happen." :)

Starting with a clean slate at wdgtbldr, there is definitely an "everything must be hosted" policy, and I am amazed at how cheaply and easily all of the functions of a small business can be set up and shared between employees. There are no servers, no VPN to get to the servers, no software to install, configure, and maintain, and definitely no part time IT people. Everything works as advertised, since it is not our installation of Bugzilla/wiki/etc. that has to be maintained, rather proven infrastructure shared by many other companies.

Following is a list of wdgtbldr's hosted vendors and monthly cost. In every instance, we got to check out for free what we were going to get before purchasing a monthly plan with additional features. Everything other than hosting costs <$400/mo, and with dedicated hosting <$800/mo!

Function
Vendor
Monthly Cost
CRMZoho CRM$0
Conference CallingFreeConferenceCall.com$0
Site AnalyticsGoogle Analytics$0
Email ForwardingGoDaddy$1
Digital FaxPacketel$4
Forum HostingSiteGround$6
Wikipbwiki$10
AccountingQuickBooks Online$20
Mail + Calendar + AppsGoogle Apps$20
Source Code Control + Issue TrackingCVS Dude$30
Email CampaignsConstant Contact$30
QASoasta$250
HostingOC-48, Dedicated~$400

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why Microsoft Can't Keep Up

Remember how Microsoft would take over a market? Just keep cycling through a product until they got to the magic v3 and in the meantime use some nice monopoly muscle to shove competitors out of the way? We saw it happen to the Mac OS for GUIs, WordPerfect for word processing, Lotus for spreadsheets, Netscape for web browsing, Netware for file/printer sharing, ccMail for email, etc. In each case Microsoft took on an entrenched product and essentially copied and improved that product until they won, the aggregate result is really remarkable in hindsight.

So why isn't this working now against Google? Live Search is just as good as Google. Live Maps is gorgeous. But Windows Live pales in comparison to the network offect of Google's array of products. The law of accelerating returns has finally hit software services in a big way with the innovations of web-based software delivery and atomized services. Microsoft is running its old playbook and is trying to copy Google, but by the time they get to their magic v3, Google is already on v10 of 10 different mini websites.

The only decent innovation out of Microsoft in the past few years is Popfly/Silverlight, one thing they really do understand better than anyone else is developers. But without the credibility of Bill Gates pushing a change like he did with Internet Explorer vs. MSN in the mid-90s, I do not see how Microsoft management is going to be able to turn the company towards delivering software in the new Web 2.0 model. Something different needs to happen over there, for example have a free, ad supported version of Windows with a bunch of Internet and collaboration enabled applications. Or they could buy Zoho. SOMETHING!