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Zoho has been receiving a lot of press and whenever Google Docs & Spreadsheets is mentioned, so is Zoho. I wanted to find out where these apps come from and where they are going. Even more important to me was to find out how they are protecting my data to make sure that it will be there today, tomorrow, next week and next year. I contacted the Zoho evangelist, Raju Vegesna, and he was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing Zoho.
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Click the start button below to begin the audio interview (or download the mp3):
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Below is a partial text transcript of the audio interview. Please listen to the audio for the entire discussion.
Allen: Let’s begin with a brief bio about yourself.
Raju: I did my bachelor’s in India and I came to the US in 2000 and I joined Adventnet. Adventnet is the parent company of Zoho. I have been in the software field since 1998. I worked as one of the chief architects for Zoho and now I am the Zoho evangelist. I let people know what Zoho is about and educating users about Zoho.
Allen: Alright, now how about some background on Zoho…
Raju: Zoho is about web-based productivity and collaboration for small and medium businesses. Any business which has 10-100 people can go online and get all of the tools they need to start and run their business in just minutes. All at a very affordable price.
Allen: How do you compare yourself to the other online tools like the newly combined Google Docs and Spreadsheets?
Raju: Zoho is a complete suite of applications, not just for documents and spreadsheets. We also have project management and CRM and more applications coming in the future. It is all about taking businesses online and getting all the applications they need. It could be a financial application, a marketing applications. We will be expanding in the future as well.
Allen: How do you compare yourself to Microsoft Office?
Raju: For feature set, we don’t provide all of the features. But we provide 90-100% of the features that are used by 80% of used. We don’t target the advanced functionality that would require the software to be installed on the local machine. Our target are those looking for basic functionality and where collaboration is necessary.
|“All Zoho apps are free for individuals.”|
Allen: What is the pricing like?
Raju: We are looking at $10/user or less than $10/user. All Zoho apps are free for individuals. The costs are per month costs.
Allen: Where are most of the Zoho clients located?
Raju: At this point its evenly distributed – US and Europe are heavier – about 60-70% of the total. But we are getting traffic from asia as well. We are localizing our applications to other languages and we hope we will get more users from around the world after that is live. Zoho X which is our collaboration application is available in other languages like Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian and a few others. And Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show will be available in multiple languages soon as well.
Allen: What is the technology behind Zoho?
Allen: How do you protect and backup my data? Is the data encrypted?
Raju: We have spent three years building the infrastructure to make sure the apps are always up on our grid. That grid makes sure the services are always up, that the data is always protected and that the data is always backed up in three physical locations. Second level of protection is that each grid has a local backup and a remote backup in a remote data center. There are a couple of locations for each backup for every grid. Every tool has a grid. So your data is definitely safe with us. Data security is our highest priority.
|“We have very serious security policies in place.”|
Next comes the security. We have very serious security policies in place. No one but one or two people can access any of the servers grid. No one is allowed to open any of the data. The guy who is has the physical access is not the same person who is responsible for the backup. And even the backup is automated and no one is looking at it. Very soon we will add some new features and one is encryption. You will be able to set a key and based on that the data is encrypted. If you lose the key, you lose the data.
Allen: You are advertising on many of the hot blogs – how has that worked for you?
Raju: Frankly, the only thing we are doing is our advertising on Read/Write/Web, TechCrunch and GigaOM. Apart from that we haven’t done anything. Because we don’t want to spend a lot of marketing money. We have found that people come to us. If you have a good product, people will come to it. That has been the policy for the parent company Adventnet. It has been very profitable and over 600 people working for the company. We don’t spend much but we spend our efforts on improving the product. You won’t find many marketing people in the company. 90-95% of the employees are engineers.
The advertising we are running is working for us. Advertising reinforces the message and we are seeing some good traffic from TechCrunch and the others. Most of the traffic comes from direct users. We give it away to individuals and they tell others. If you offer most of your services for free, people will come and when they need advanced functionality they will upgrade.
Allen: Where is Zoho going in the next year?
Raju: Another 5-6 applications over the next six months. And I expect good integration between our applications. Today you can insert your spreadsheet into Zoho writer and so forth. But it involves 2-3 clicks and steps and we are working to make it much simpler and more integration across all of our applications.
Allen: Where are office products in general going? Do you see more people and companies shifting to web based office products?
Raju: In the next 5 years, productivity applications will be a commodity and I see the productivity applications becoming free. Whether offline or web it will be integrated environment. People are not going to pay for these applications that’s for sure.
Thanks Raju for educating me and the CenterNetworks audience on Zoho.
If you would like to participate in a conversation on CenterNetworks, or if you have any comments or questions, let me know.