Partner Marketplace Posts

January 11, 2012

blue dog NETWORK: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from blue dog NETWORK about Hosted Sharepoint. blue dog NETWORK customers are realizing the results that every business wants from their information technology: intelligence, simplicity, and security. They get peace of mind and the agility to add or subtract users or services with just a click 24/7 at a cost savings of 30-50% over current IT services. blue dog NETWORK makes IT an operating expense, and from a financial and business management perspective, the implications are powerful.

EMPOWER your organization with Hosted SharePoint

SharePoint is the next generation of mobility and collaboration. Having access to a calendar or mailbox is one thing, empowering your organization to have all the content, communication, process management and flexibility needed to rapidly respond to business or customer needs is a goldmine ... One that is a simple click away.

Managing documents, calendars and inter-office information can be difficult. Documents get lost, version control is virtually non-existent and daily business functions that can be easily managed often get out of control. The capabilities of SharePoint 2010 work together to help your company quickly respond to changing business needs on an organizational rather than user level.

Using SharePoint 2010, your people can share ideas and expertise, create custom solutions for specific needs, and find the right business information to make better decisions without the requirement of costly technical expertise. SharePoint 2010 helps save time and effort, and focus on higher business priorities.

At blue dog NETWORK, we've found that our least technical clients quickly and with ease adopted Sharepoint as a mainstay for their diverse organizations. It really is the next generation of collaboration that has finally matured enough and is presented in a web interface whose simplicity meets end users' needs without training and learning curves. The two biggest Sharepoint benefits for them: An incredible productivity experience and the flexibility (and visibility) to respond to business needs.

Delivering the Best Productivity Experience
SharePoint 2010 helps your people be more productive. It offers a familiar Microsoft Office experience so your team can quickly and easily access the business information they need to get their jobs done. With blue dog NETWORK, this is available on any device with Internet connectivity (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphones, etc.) on Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix operating systems.

Rapidly Responding to Business Needs
SharePoint 2010 gives you out-of-the-box applications and a platform for customized solutions. You can use the features of SharePoint 2010 just as they are or quickly create secure and easy-to-use solutions for specific business needs. Because all of your information is consolidated in Sharepoint, you also have a one-stop place to track the progress of your projects, and if there are any problems, you'll see them quickly (so you can respond quickly).

Given the success many of our customers have seen with Sharepoint, I could go on and on about the business benefits of the platform. If you want to learn more, check out the details on our listing in the Tech Partners Marketplace. If you want to see a demo of Sharepoint 2010, visit our blue dog NETWORK Sharepoint feature and click "view demo" toward the bottom of the page on the right-hand side.

As Kevin and I talked about in the video interview above, blue dog NETWORK does a lot more than Hosted Sharepoint ... We offer all flavors of hosting for the end users, MSP and ISVs with White Labeling for resale. Given the demand for Sharepoint, we wanted to use this space to share a little of our expertise and experience with that platform.

Woof!

-Dana Viznea, blue dog NETWORK

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
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December 21, 2011

Spot Influence: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Spot Influence. Spot Influence provides businesses with detailed information on who's influential in the world of social media and what those influencers actually care about. This data, accessed via an API, enables companies to react faster with more information and, more importantly, to be proactive and execute a strategic social media plan.

Discover the People Who Drive Your Business

If you're involved in marketing, you understand the importance of monitoring your business's community online. You also probably know that engaging with the "Influencers" who speak to your intended audience can be critical to understanding their needs and spreading your brand's message. But existing tools are limited in their ability to find these individuals. They don't allow you to sift through the noise and discover the people who are already impacting your business online.

Spot Influence is a data service that provides granular, actionable information to businesses about their online audience and the people who are influencing them. With this data, business can discover the key influencers they need to be paying attention to and gain valuable insight regarding their existing customers: their online profiles, where they publish and engage with content, and what they care about.

Solving this problem at scale is incredibly challenging. We deal with vast amounts of unstructured data, processing tens of millions of URLs and creating terabytes of data every day. That's why we're excited to be a SoftLayer customer and a part of the Technology Partners Marketplace. SoftLayer enables us to cost-effectively scale our machines to meet customer needs.

If you're interested in learning more about Spot Influence, please check out the following links and sign up for the Beta on our website!

Website: http://spotinfluence.com/
Blog: http://blog.spotinfluence.com/
Twitter: @spotinfluence

-Dave Angulo and Rich Grote, Co-Founders, Spot Influence

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
November 30, 2011

Kred: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from the PeopleBrowsr team about Kred. Kred is the first social scoring system to provide people with a comprehensive, contextual score for their Influence and Outreach within interest-based communities.

Company Website: http://kred.ly/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/Kred

We All Have Influence Somewhere

The social networking revolution provides the unprecedented opportunity to observe, filter and analyze conversations in real time. For marketers and anyone interested in human behavior, it's now possible to examine the collective consciousness for insights into consumer behavior and detection and engagement with the most influential people.

Increasingly, we find that the elements that determine "influence" in online networks are the same as they are in "real life" relationships: Trust and Generosity within small close networks of friends and subject matter experts. These in turn have become the foundations for Kred, a brand new way to understand anyone's Influence and Outreach across social media and within Communities formed around interests and affinities.

Kred

'We All Have Influence Somewhere,' so Kred sifts through billions of social posts from over 110 million people in real time to uncover who is most influential on any subject, keyword or hashtag. This all summarized in Kredentials, which displays anyone's history on Twitter over the last three years with a single click, including their top communities, most used words, most clicked links and much more.

Kred

Here are just a few of the other ways Kred is an evolution of influence measurement:

Dual Scores for Influence and Outreach
Influence – scored on a 1-1000 scale – shows the likelihood that your posts provoke actions from others. Outreach demonstrates your generosity in ReTweeting and replying to others.

Community
Real influence comes from expertise and passion. Kred is calculated for everyone in Communities that naturally form around interests and affinities.

Complete Transparency
Visitors to Kred.ly can see how all of their social actions count towards their scores - and how their connections' actions affect them as well. Those who want a more thorough accounting of their score can take advantage of our Score Audit feature.

Offline Kred
Kred is the only influence measure to integrate offline achievements with online identity. Visitors can add their accomplishments - anything from academic honors to club memberships - by sending us a PDF from the 'Get More Kred' menu tab inside the Kred site. We will then hand score it and manually add points.

Kred is free for everyone at http://kred.ly and deeply integrated into Playground, PeopleBrowsr's social analytics platform. For those who wish to build custom applications off of our datamine of 1,000 days of social data, Kred can be accessed via our Playground API, Kredentials API and through a standalone API.

Many key unique features of Kred – including score audits, privacy controls and real-time activity statements – are based on feedback from our community of friends and colleagues. What would you like to see in its next evolution?

Give Kred a try and let us know what you think via email: kred@peoplebrowsr.com or on Twitter: @kred.

- Shawn Roberts, PeopleBrowsr

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
October 26, 2011

MODX: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from the MODX team. MODX offers an intuitive, feature-rich, open source content management platform that can easily integrate with other applications as the heart of your Customer Experience Management solution.

Company Website: http://modx.com/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/modx

Free your Website with MODX CMS

Just having a website or a blog is no longer a viable online strategy for smart businesses. Today's interconnected world requires engaging customers — from the first impression, to developing leads, educating, selling, empowering customer service and beyond. This key shift in online interaction is known as Customer Experience Management, or CXM.

For businesses to have success with CXM, they need an efficient way to connect all facets of their communications and information together with a modern and consistent look and feel, and without long learning curves or frustrating user experiences. You don't want a Content Management System (CMS) that restricts your ability to meet brand standards, that lives in isolation from your other systems and data, or that fails to fulfil your businesses needs.

MODX is a content management platform that gives you the creative freedom to build custom websites limited only by your imagination. It certainly can play the central role in managing your customer experience.

Freedom from Hassle & Frustration
The most productive tools are those that simply allow you get your work done. To make life easy for content editors MODX uses familiar concepts like a hierarchical tree – similar to the folders and files on your computer. This allows content editors to relate their content to the overall website structure. But, like everything else in MODX, you aren't limited to hierarchical content and can easily employ taxonomy-, list- or category-based structures.

Similarly, editing documents should be easy. With MODX, anyone who can open a web browser and send email has the skillset to create and edit content in MODX. Most tasks are a matter of filling out simple form fields into which content is placed and is accompanied by a sensible MS Word-like editor for your main content. Furthermore, site builders and developers are able to create custom fields for custom content types and custom data allowing non-technical employees to work in an intuitive, tailored environment.

Total Creative Freedom
Your website is one of the most visible parts of your brand and you certainly don't want it limited by your CMS. MODX makes it possible to do anything that's on the modern web now — you don't have to wait for a year or hack the core to launch an HTML5 or mobile optimized site. MODX can do it all now, and even what's coming next. It outputs exactly and only what you or your site builder dictate.

MODX uses a brilliantly simple template engine that allows web designers to work with what they already know, like HTML, CSS and any JavaScript library they chose. MODX can even output things not typically associated with most content management platforms like XML, JSON or even Comma Separated Value (CSV) files that automatically download to your desktop.

Freedom to Extend
MODX provides all the requisite tools for CMS, but it also functions as a fully capable web development platform upon which you can extend functionality, employ custom applications and do just about anything you can dream up. In fact, the "X" in MODX comes from the word "extensible". Whether you want to build a Member-only website, Client Extranet, Resort Booking and Reservations system or private Social Network, you can do it on MODX.

For developers the fully-documented Object Oriented API and xPDO, MODXs database layer, provide all you need to build almost anything with MODX, even extending or overriding its core functionality. Critically, you can do all this using the API and retain a painless upgrade path without hacking the core. The MODX API architecture provides all the flexibility you or your developer might need to make MODX your own without painting your self into a corner.

Freedom from Bottlenecks
Modern web pages are made up of many component parts – site-wide headers and footers, navigation menus, articles, products and more. At some point, all these pieces need to be put together and delivered to the visitor as a single page that users expect to load quickly or they'll leave your site.

To deliver pages fast, top-performing sites use server-side caching to take all those pieces and pre-process them for fast delivery to a browser. The problem with many CMS applications is that they manually rebuild pages every single time someone visits your site. That's fine if you only have a few visitors, but your site can bog down or even fail under moderate traffic. In these circumstances, it would be disastrous if your website is featured on an industry magazine or website, national media or on a popular TV show. Your site could literally grind to a halt, costing you customers, damaging your reputation and ultimately making a bad first impression.

MODX's native page caching delivers your site quickly by default. Additionally, MODX can use high-end caching like memcache to further improve performance under load. To handle millions of pageviews daily, you need robust servers and you need to optimize your environment ... That's where scaling across multiple servers and replication with SoftLayer works perfectly with MODX.

Free Your Legacy Systems
Keeping your data, content and business information in disconnected silos is ineffective and costly. Accessing existing systems, like an Active Directory or Enterprise Content repository, makes huge difference in getting your work done headache-free. You don't have to worry about data duplication across systems, significant extra work to make everything work or synchronization issues. A new website platform should increase your productivity and enable your employees, customers and everyone else surrounding your business to find what they need and to interact efficiently and effectively.

MODX works with the tools and technology that organizations already have in place. It can easily interact with external web services or data feeds and can drive other applications via RESTful web services.

Security and Freedom to Rest Easy
Website Security is a topic that rarely surfaces during the early stages of a web project and often never comes up until your site has been compromised.

A high-quality hosting environment like those from SoftLayer are the foundation of website security. Your web CMS and its add-ons, plugin-ins or modules should not be a liability. MODX is designed with security at its core to protect your valuable website from malicious attacks. Every input is filtered, and every database query using the API eliminates the possibility of SQL injection compromises. Most importantly, the development team rigorously and continuously audits MODX to make sure its up to date and patching any new issues that may arise.

Freedom in the Community
With MODX and the MODX Community you're not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of websites built on MODX and we have a friendly, active and growing community of raving fans over 37,000 strong to whom you can look for assistance, support, education and camaraderie.

In fact, the MODX Community is one of our greatest assets.

They provide mentorship, assistance and help make MODX software better through active reporting of issues and feature requests and contributing improvements for integration by the core team.

If you're not a site builder or developer, but you want your website powered by MODX, one of the best places to start is with a MODX Solution Partner. Our network of 90+ global Solution Partners enables you to get the right-fit expertise for your project and in many cases work locally. Solution Partners are experts at MODX and know how to do things right.

Get Free
There really is a cure for the all too often restrictive, unintuitive and frustrating experience of putting content on the web. Get on the road to content management freedom with MODX. It's easy to start since MODX Revolution itself is free to download and use.

Learn more at http://modx.com/.

-Jay Gilmore, MODX

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
September 21, 2011

UserVoice: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from UserVoice CEO Richard White. UserVoice offers a complete customer engagement solution that gives businesses a simple process for managing customer feedback and support functions all from a single, easy-to-use environment.

What NOT to Do in Support

The fact that you're reading this blog post means you probably understand social media. You probably also understand why providing great customer service is important, so I'll spare you that as well. What you may not know is that there are much better tools to provide outstanding customer service than the ones you're already using. Here are four big tips for you as you're planning your support channels:

1. Don't build a custom contact form.
Building a custom contact form on your website takes valuable time and resources away from your core business. Instead, sign up and get a widget from UserVoice (or one of our competitors) and in less than 30 seconds you'll have a contact form that supports any number of custom fields you want to add, allows you to append your own customer-specific metadata, supports attachments and, most importantly, will auto-suggest relevant FAQ articles even before the customer submits the form.

2. Don't use shared email for customer support.
It's true that you can take managing customer support via a shared email inbox pretty far. You won't really feel the pain until a couple of issues slip through the digital crack because it wasn't clear who on your team was responsible for following up with the customer. But why go through that? These days you can choose from a number of inexpensive, purpose-built tools, like UserVoice, targeted at companies that want to provide better customer service. Starting at $5/mo you can have a complete support solution that will grow with your business when you are finally ready to add that 2nd or 3rd support rep to your team.

3. Don't waste time gathering feedback on message boards.
Scanning message boards to gather user feedback sounds like a good idea, but it's really painful. Forums are both noisy and insular. Someone posts "I want you to add X" then a few people reply "+1" but then someone else says "I think X is good but only if you do Y to it." Very quickly you don't know what anyone really wants. And you especially don't have an easy way to follow-up with people directly. Worst of all, you're only hearing from a vocal minority. Casual users won't go into your forums and won't wade through 10 pages of +1's to add their voice, they'll just give up.

UserVoice Feedback gives you a better way to harness customer feedback and turn it into something useful. It starts with a simple prompt: How can we make ___insert_your_company___ better? Customers give their feedback and vote up the best ideas. It's easier for customers to get involved and give you feedback, and it's much easier for you to follow-up and keep these important customers in the loop.

4. Don't hide from your customers.
This really should be the first recommendation. The sad fact is, people still don't expect great customer service, and they certainly don't expect you to be ready and willing to listen to their feedback, especially with that small gray "contact" link buried in your footer. Show customers that their experience and their feedback is important, nay, vital to your business. Put a big link at the top of the page, or a widget on the side of it. Something that tells people you're not "business as usual." Show them you really care.

I started UserVoice because I wanted to make doing all of these things simple so that companies could focus on what really matters: building their products and communicating with their customers, not setting up all this stuff. I hope you'll find it as useful as our thousands of existing customers have in getting you back to work. :)

-Richard White, UserVoice

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
September 14, 2011

FaxLogic: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from FaxLogic CEO Eric Lenington. The unique FaxLogic service combines the best of analog fax, Internet fax, and fax servers to create a highly reliable, secure and scalable collaborative environment.

Why the (Right) Cloud is the Best Place for Your Documents

Every business produces and consumes documents — this includes both paper and digital, both those created internally and those received from customers and business partners — all needing to be sorted and organized and most needing to be safely stored and easily retrieved (and ultimately, securely disposed of when they are no longer needed). The vast majority of companies find themselves trying to do this today in highly fragmented ways and usually with radically different approaches for paper documents than with digital ones. Often different departments, or even different groups within a department, develop their own way to deal with "their" documents, a way that "works for them."

Digital documents are usually stored on in-house servers, on "shares" with folder structures that may only make sense to the person that originally built it — not to the person trying to find something in it. And few companies can say that they don't have reams of paper files stored in file rooms or in "personal" file cabinets. FaxLogic helps our customers solve this problem by seamlessly integrating their paper and digital worlds.

We do this by supporting their existing network of fax machines, scanners and multi-function printers (the "gateways" to the digital world for paper documents) and by incorporating key features of current technologies that we are all familiar with – like email and search engines – into the realm of organizing, archiving, retrieving and sharing documents. FaxLogic is a cloud-based service, running on a cloud-based infrastructure, and it uses "the cloud" to safely and securely store our customer's documents (whether paper or digital). This was no accident, and that is what I will focus on in this article, trying to "demystify" the cloud a bit, and discuss why it's the best place for your documents.

What is "the Cloud" and What Value does it Bring?
Wikipedia, one of my favorite sources for good information, defines "cloud computing" like this:

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).

As I said earlier, FaxLogic is a cloud-based service; we are the "application" (document management) that is delivered to the "client" (our customer's web browser). And we run on a cloud-based infrastructure, using providers like SoftLayer to manage the hardware layer that our application runs on and the networking layer that we use to deliver our service to our customers. Leveraging that "best of breed" infrastructure is a huge win for us, letting us focus where we add value – our application – while leaving the "plumbing" to others. Of course, a choice like that isn't made lightly.

From Wikipedia's definition, the term "shared resources" is the key. By leveraging cloud-based infrastructure and platform resources, we are able to use a small portion of a much larger and more robust environment than we could economically build ourselves. But the big kicker is that even though we are using only a small portion of that environment, we get to take advantage of the whole architecture and all its capabilities, just as if we were the only application running on it.

The "80% Rule"
An anecdotal number that's been thrown around a lot, the "80% rule" says that 80% of all businesses fail within some short time period after a major catastrophe, like a fire, flood or earthquake. But this isn't just an anecdote, numbers in the 60-90% range are real and well-documented. A study conducted by the insurance giant Chubb in 2008 put the likelihood of business failure after a fire at 70%. According to FEMA, of businesses without a disaster recovery plan already in place, 80% of those affected by hurricane Andrew in 1992 were out of business within three years. I won't bore you with a long list of depressing statistics, a quick Google search will turn up many more. The point is that data loss, whether caused by natural disaster, human error, or malicious activity, is, more often than not, very difficult to overcome.

Paper files stored in file cabinets, and even digital files stored on backed-up in-house servers, are vulnerable. Ask yourself what you would do tomorrow if even half of the documents critical to your business were destroyed tonight.

The FaxLogic Cloud Solution
Now, I don't want to suggest for one second that FaxLogic is the single solution for surviving such an event or that our platform should be thought of as a comprehensive disaster recovery solution. It is neither. But it is a critical part of the solution. When it comes to disaster recovery, Ben Franklin's "ounce of prevention" couldn't be more relevant. And as it applies to your business documents, that ounce is to get those documents out of harms way in the first place. This is where the cloud comes in.

Companies like SoftLayer provide cloud storage as a service – a highly scalable, secure environment to safely store files of virtually any kind. The architecture that such services are built on and the layers of redundancy they incorporate are beyond the reach of most small and many medium sized companies, but through the magic of cloud computing, we only need a small portion of that shared resource, while still getting to take advantage of the whole thing. The bottom line is that a well-designed cloud storage service will be hundreds or even thousands of times more reliable and durable than anything most businesses could economically build themselves, not to mention more secure.

FaxLogic takes our small portion of that shared resource, and through our application, makes it even more reliable and durable, by doing things like ensuring broad geographic distribution of multiple copies of each file, so there is no single point of failure even in the face of a major regional disaster.

Beyond the Worst Case Scenario
Secure, reliable cloud-based storage is just the basic building block that our application makes useful. Just the fact that your business documents are safer in the cloud isn't the whole story, nor is it the whole value proposition of the cloud. Beyond the worst case scenario, storing your documents in the cloud brings real and tangible benefits to your day-to-day activities. We make it easy to capture both paper and digital documents and store them in the cloud, organize and easily find your documents when you need them, collaborate and share documents while controlling who has access to confidential information, and manage everything from a simple browser-based interface.

Think about how much easier day-to-day activity would be with capabilities like being able to access a shared document library from any Internet-enabled device, instantly find a faxed copy of a purchase order from six months ago by knowing only the name of the sender, or easily pull up a client's latest work order revision without having to figure out who's desk the client's folder is on. We use the cloud to make this possible. By getting your documents out of their hiding places (stacks of paper on people's desks, file cabinets down the hall, or even "shares" on local servers) that information is more freely accessible to those who need it.

Take Action
Businesses of all sizes can and are benefiting today from a wide range of cloud-based services, most of which weren't even available five years ago. The underlying value proposition they all have in common is that they give each customer access to a small piece of a large "shared resource," one that generally wouldn't be economically feasible to build and support in-house. And each customer can take advantage of the scale and capabilities of the whole resource. When it comes to capturing, storing, organizing, retrieving and sharing documents, the cloud's value proposition offers a clear advantage over any on-site approach.

FaxLogic has built a best-in-class cloud-based application on top of best-in-class cloud-based infrastructure and platform services, giving our customers a multiple of that value proposition. By letting our customers leverage their existing equipment and without requiring radical changes to their existing business processes, we make it easy to start taking advantage of the benefits of cloud storage for all of their paper and digital documents.

-Eric Lenington, FaxLogic

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
September 7, 2011

3DCart: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from 3DCart Co-founder and CEO Gonazlo Gil. 3DCart is a technology partner with a robust eCommerce platform hosting thousands of merchants all over the world ... And it's clear they have an enduring drive for innovation and value.

Company Website: http://www.3DCart.com/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/3dcart

5 Must-Have Features in a Hosted Ecommerce Provider

In 1997, the concept that would eventually become 3DCart came into existence. I developed 3DCart with the idea of putting every single ecommerce tool and resource at the fingertips of web entrepreneurs so anyone with a computer could start their own online store. Today, we're still going strong, and we pride ourselves on launching new ecommerce features before the competition has a chance.

The market for shopping carts has exploded over the past decade. If you're considering the ecommerce business, choosing a shopping cart can get overwhelming. Because not all ecommerce software solutions are created equal, we've put together a list of five must-have features for aspiring entrepreneurs to consider when choosing a hosted ecommerce provider.

1. PCI Compliance to Protect Customer Information
You hear about it on the web, on the television, in the magazines: cyber-theft. Recent instances of online fraud (like the hack of Playstation's network) have caused online shoppers to stiffen up when it comes to sharing financial information. For your sake and the sake of your customers, it's important to put the minds of shoppers at ease as soon as they discover your brand.

Born from new rules created by the Payment Card Industry, PCI compliance standards are stringent guidelines for ensuring your online store is up to code in terms of security. The last thing you need as an online storeowner is responsibility for losing sensitive personal data to fraudsters. Beyond general culpability, you run the risk of losing trust in your brand, which could sink your business entirely.

The process for reaching PCI compliance is vigorous and expensive. That's why most ecommerce software providers undergo PCI compliance measures on their own — so online stores can offer security to their customers. It offers a little more peace of mind on both sides of the business relationship and ensures your transactions go through smoothly.

2. 24/7 Phone Support for Peace of Mind
You've worked with software companies before, so the possibility of 24/7 phone support might seem like a laughable service. True: not many software companies are in the business of employing an onshore support staff to have the phones manned all hours of the day. But that doesn't mean they aren't out there.

Not too long ago, 3DCart noticed a chance to further differentiate our company from the competition to offer 24/7/365 phone support for free to all of our customers. The idea behind the value-add was that your direct support lifeline shouldn't end just because business hours are over. It's been an extremely successful service for us, as well as for our customers.

Think about it: an online store doesn't close when the lights go out — especially if you do international business. The ability to connect after hours with a support team in the most extreme cases (downtime, bugs, etc.) is a huge factor and one that many customers cite as a reason for choosing our company.

3. Scalability/Adaptability to Handle Growth
The most successful online stores will inevitably have to scale up their ecommerce offering. Therefore, scalability becomes a huge criterion for finding the right hosted ecommerce provider.

But the ability to scale hosting volume as the business grows organically isn't the only important factor. If your store runs a promotion or gets a mention in a high-profile publication, it'll need to handle heavy traffic spikes. After all, you wouldn't want your store to crash right as it peaks in popularity.

A lot of hosted ecommerce solutions advertise scalability—but how do you know that they're telling the truth? A good way to find proof is to run through the company's case studies, usually hosted somewhere on the site. You're bound to come across one that demonstrates a specific instance of on-demand scaling. If that's not enough, contact the subject of the study directly for confirmation.

Customizability falls under this category as well. The more dynamic the shopping cart, the more control you have over your brand. Simple ways to manage your content are important and should be easy to manipulate with an intuitive CMS.

4. Comprehensive Feature Set for All-In-One Functionality
If you have a good business plan and know what you're going to sell, you probably already have a good idea of what features are going to be most crucial to your business. But that doesn't mean you won't need other features — some of which you might not grasp the importance.

Below are a few features that make the ecommerce experience a much more efficient, connected experience:

  • Autoresponders
    Setting and forgetting autoresponders is a great way to add some automation to your marketing plan. If you sell perishable goods for instance, you can set an automatic email to send to the customer when the lifespan of the product is up. It greatly increases the chances that they'll replace the item through your store.
  • Customer Relationship Manager
    Since you're hosting all of your data in the cloud, a built-in CRM platform is an important part of collecting analytics on customer behavior. You probably won't need all the functionality of Salesforce; a built-in CRM that has a lot of the same functionality automatically collects the data you need through your online store.
  • Great Marketing Tools
    Outside the box marketing tools like "Daily Deals," "Group Deals" and "Name Your Price" features greatly enhance conversion rates and make the selling process even more effective.
  • More Ways to Pay
    If you offer more payment portal integrations than your typical shopping cart, you give customers the option to pay using a comfortable, familiar process that increases the likelihood they'll make a purchase. Popular options include PayPal, Amazon Payments, Google Checkout and Authorize.net.
  • Partner Integrations
    To make a store more efficient, some shopping carts offer integrations with shipping resources (FedEx, UPS), fulfillment services and tax software. A direct data feed reduces manual administration and helps your store stay as efficient as possible, saving you time and money. You might even get discounts for services booked through your ecommerce provider.

5. Low Fees for a Lower Overhead
The pricing for hosted shopping carts usually revolves around bandwidth and feature sets, but there's a pitfall that some online store owners don't notice until it's too late: per-sale fees. There are some hosted shopping cart software platforms on the market that charge a percentage of every sale.

Another cost that new online storeowners run into is a setup fee. It's usually unnecessary and a way for the vendor to collect extra revenue. Pricing should revolve around hosting costs, feature sets and extra services like storefront design, period. Remember to check for hidden fees if you're evaluating an ecommerce software solution.

3DCart's Foundation
The five criteria listed above form the foundation of 3DCart software. Over the years, we've found that our customers have some of the most influential voices in the ecommerce industry. We've built a community on those voices that plays a huge role in defining how we do business.

If you're looking to break into the online retail industry and want a proprietary shopping cart that offers you the insights you need to keep your business growing smoothly, give us a shot for free.

-Gonzalo Gil, 3DCart

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
August 31, 2011

Verecloud: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Verecloud, a technology partner that makes it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to shop for, select, purchase, manage and monitor the performance of their cloud services and related spending.

Cloudwrangler from Verecloud

Ubiquitous Internet access and technological advances in virtualization and IT management have caused an explosion in the availability and adoption of cloud services. Just a few years ago, it would take hours – if not days – to activate a new cloud service for a customer. SoftLayer can now perform this feat with servers in minutes, and other providers of email, CRM and accounting solutions have equally fast turn-up times.

The cloud gives small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) access to enterprise grade technology so that they can compete more effectively with little, if any, capital investment, so those SMBs are prime consumers of cloud services. By moving to cloud services, their businesses gains flexibility and affordable scalability to throttle their infrastructure and services up and down as their business grows, changes, moves locations or becomes more mobile.

Even with all of those benefits, adding a little cloud here and a little cloud there ends up making it difficult for these SMBs to manage all of the disparate services. Who is paying for what? Are they accounted for in expense reports? How can you allocate the costs to your sales, marketing, operations or support departments? Is IT aware of all of the cloud services? What happens if someone leaves the company and you need to deactivate their access and reassign all of their data to other employees?

Verecloud's answer to all of these questions is the Cloudwrangler app store for small businesses. Simply put, it is a single source for SMBs to discover, buy, use and manage their cloud services. This platform makes finance happy since they can properly track and manage costs. IT is happy because they are aware of all the services being used in the company and can manage them from a single control panel. HR is happy because they can monitor and regulate employee access when necessary. Everyone is happy.

Verecloud is proud to feature SoftLayer as a key partner and suppler in the Cloudwrangler marketplace (which also happens to be powered by SoftLayer's CloudLayer Computing). In addition to the infrastructure piece, we offer business class email, backup and recovery, and collaboration capabilities that can be incorporated quickly, seamlessly and affordably into any business:

Cloudwrangler Services

We're staying busy building out more features and functionality to the Cloudwrangler marketplace, and we're excited about the partnerships we'll make as we keep the community growing. If you're interested in learning more about Cloudwrangler, visit at Verecloud.com today.

-Russel Wurth, Verecloud

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
August 17, 2011

SendGrid: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Tim Falls of SendGrid, a technology partner that provides cloud-based email infrastructure for reliable delivery, scalability, real-time analytics and flexible APIs for customers who want to focus on driving their own growth and profitability.

Company Website: http://sendgrid.com/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/sendgrid

Understanding the Value of [Email] Infrastructure Services

The Fall of DIY ... As We Know It
Today more than ever before, businesses depend on third party services to operate efficiently and achieve their objectives. As a business leader, you have countless web applications and software as service solutions at your fingertips, which collectively address just about any problem or demand imaginable. Examples include cloud-based file storage, cloud and dedicated web hosting, recurring billing applications, online HR management portals, APIs for telephony and geo-data, and managed email infrastructure and delivery services. Startups and established corporations alike can utilize these tools quickly and simply with a credit card and a few clicks on a trackpad.

So, what does this mean, and why is it worth recognizing and appreciating? Well, it means that your life is a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. And if you fail to recognize the opportunities and advantages that these resources offer, your competitors will soon leave you in their proverbial dust ... if they haven't already.

The gist:

  • You don't have to do everything yourself anymore ... So don't!
  • Be the best at what you do, and rely on other experts to help with everything outside of your realm.

The Email Puzzle
Let's face it. Email sucks. Not email in and of itself - obviously, it is an essential part of our lives and is arguably one of the most transformative communication tools in human history. But, from a business standpoint, the implementation and maintenance of an effective and efficient email system is truly a nightmare. If there is one thing that web developers across the world can agree upon, it may be this: Successfully integrating email into a web application just ain't fun!

To better understand the challenges developers face when integrating email into their web applications, let's look at an example (fresh from my imagination). Through this discussion, we'll uncover the clear advantages of working with a partner in email infrastructure and delivery.

Let's say you're building PitLovabull.com -- a social, online community for dog owners. Sound lame? Well, it's not ... because it's "different." As the clever name indicates, it's specifically for pit bull owners and advocates. Community members interact with each other and your company in a number of ways: Forum discussions, photo sharing, commenting, direct messages, the "give a dog a bone" button (think "like") and buying cool doggy stuff. Each of these features involves email notifications ... "Sporty's owner just responded to your forum post on Healthy Dog Diets." "Barney's owner just tagged your puppy Stella in a photo." "Thanks for purchasing a new collar for Boss! We'll notify you by email when your package has shipped!"

After six months of grassroots marketing, tens of thousands of passionate pit bull owners have joined your community, and your email volume has grown from 800/week to 8,000/day (that's almost 250k/month!). As a budding bootstrapped startup, you cut costs wherever you can, and you choose to manage your own email servers. You quickly find out that server costs grow substantially as you send more mail, customers are complaining that they aren't receiving their email notifications, and your support team is stretched thin dealing with confused and frustrated customers. The end result: Poor deliverability is directly (and negatively) affecting revenue! What's more: You have no insight into what is happening to your emails - Are they being delivered? Opened? Are links within them being clicked? Have you been blacklisted by an ISP?

Upon deep reflection, you realize that your developers are spending more time on email than they spend building awesome features for the community! Plus, you find yourself, the CEO/Founder of the company, researching mundane crap like ISP rate limits, Sender Policy Framework, DKIM, and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 — a few of the less-than-interesting aspects of email that must be understood in order to achieve optimal deliverability of your notifications and newsletters.

Luckily, you just hired Joey, a fresh, young hacker who's active in the developer ecosystem and always on top of the latest technologies. While exploring PitLovabull's web hosting control panel on your SoftLayer servers, he discovers a better alternative: The Softlayer Email Delivery Service &ndahs; a hosted and managed email infrastructure that's already built for you! Joey signs up with a credit card for $150/month (which covers a full 250k emails/month), changes a few settings on your web application, and within minutes all of your email is being relayed through SendGrid.

May All Your Email Dreams Come True
A few months go by ... Email is in your customers' inboxes. Deliverability is being tracked and displayed on your web dashboard, along with open and click rates, blocks, bounces, spam reports and unsubscribes. Customer Support receives fewer emails, calls, and IM chat requests. Engineering is busy implementing a backlog of feature requests (not doing email stuff). Sales are gradually increasing and overall customer satisfaction is higher than ever.

Empowering Developers
But wait, it gets better! After researching SendGrid's APIs, you recognize the potential for extreme customization, in the form of internal and external features. Internally, the SMTP API allows you to assign a "category" to each of your emails (password reminders, purchase confirmations, etc.) and in turn collect unique statistics for each category. Externally, the Parse API allows you to receive incoming emails to your web app. In a single day, Joey codes up a new feature, and now any community member can email a picture of their pup to post@pitlovabulls.com, include a caption in the subject line, and the picture and caption are automagically posted to that user's profile!

The New Meaning of Do-It-Yourself
We all know it's difficult to trust a third party to handle the critical elements of any operation. With the help of proven SaaS models that employ advanced technology, cloud-based infrastructures and dedicated experts, companies can now feel more comfortable moving into a modern mode of doing-it-themselves: Pay a nominal monthly fee to a service that handles email (or recurring billing, or telephony), and let the service do the dirty work and liberate the brains of your brilliant developers so they can focus on innovating with the tools available to them.

I hope this story helps entrepreneurs and business leaders think smarter as they build their dream. The lessons illustrated in the context of email apply across the board. We're in a fascinating time, where building an internet business has never required less capital and has never allowed for the laser focus that is afforded to companies today. Open your toolbox, work smart, and build something that people love!

-Tim Falls, SendGrid

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
August 3, 2011

CyberlinkASP: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Chris Lantrip, CEO of CyberlinkASP, an application service provider focused on hosting, upgrading and managing the industry's best software.

The DesktopLayer from CyberlinkASP

Hosted virtual desktops – SoftLayer style.

In early 2006, we were introduced to SoftLayer. In 2007, they brought us StorageLayer, and in 2009, CloudLayer. Each of those solutions met a different kind of need in the Application Service Provider (ASP) world, and by integrating those platforms into our offering, DesktopLayer was born: The on-demand anytime, anywhere virtual desktop hosted on SoftLayer and powered by CyberlinkASP.

CyberlinkASP was originally established to instantly web-enable software applications that were not online in the past. Starting off as a Citrix integration firm in the early days, we were approached by multiple independent software vendors asking us to host, manage and deliver their applications from a centralized database platform to their users across multiple geographic locations. With the robust capabilities of Citrix, we were able to revolutionize application delivery and management for several ISV's.

Over time, more ISV's starting showing up at our doorstep, and application delivery was becoming a bigger and bigger piece of our business. Our ability to provision users on a specific platform in minutes, delete them in minutes, perform updates and maintain hundreds of customers and thousands of users all at one time from a centralized platform was very attractive.

Our users began asking us, "Is it possible to put our payroll app on this platform too?" "What about Exchange and Office?" They loved the convenience of not managing the DBs for individual applications, and they obviously wanted more. Instead of providing one-off solutions for individual applications, we built the DesktopLayer, a hosted environment for virtual desktops.

We deliver a seamless and integrated user experience utilizing SoftLayer, Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop. When our users log in they see the same screen, the same applications and the same performance they received on their local machine. The Citrix experience takes over the entire desktop, and the look and feel is indistinguishable. It's exactly what they are accustomed to.

Our services always include the Microsoft suite (Exchange, Office, Sharepoint) and is available on any device, from your PC to your Mac to your iPad. To meet the needs of our customers, we also integrate all 3rd party apps and non-Microsoft software into the virtual desktop – if our customers are using Peachtree or Quickbooks for accounting and Kronos for HR, they are all seamlessly published to the users who access them, and unavailable to those that do not.

We hang our hat on our unique ability to tie all of a company's applications into one centralized user experience and support it. Our Dallas-based call center is staffed with a team of knowledgeable engineers who are always ready to help troubleshoot and can add/delete and customize new users in minutes. We take care of everything ... When someone needs help setting up a printer or they bought a new scanner, they call our helpdesk and we take it from there. Users can call us directly for support and leave the in-house IT team to focus on other areas, not desktop management.

With the revolution of cloud computing, many enterprises are trending toward the eradication of physical infrastructure in their IT environments. Every day, we see more and more demand from IT managers who want us to assume the day-to-day management of their end user's entire desktop, and over the past few years, the application stack that we deliver to each of our end users has grown significantly.

As Citrix would say "the virtual desktop revolution is here." The days of having to literally touch hundreds of devices at users' workstations are over. Servers in the back closet are gone. End users have become much more unique and mobile ... They want the same access, performance and capabilities regardless of geography. That's what we provide. DesktopLayer, with instant computing resources available from SoftLayer, is the future.

I remember someone telling me in 2006 that it was time for the data center to "grow up". It has. We now have hundreds of SMB clients and thousands of virtual desktops in the field today, and we love having a chance to share a little about how we see the IT landscape evolving. Thanks to our friends at SoftLayer, we get to tell that story and boast a little about what we're up to!

- Chris M. Lantrip, Chief Executive, CyberlinkASP

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
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