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If you follow our blog regularly you probably remember that my last post was dedicated to Sitecore CMS. This time I decided to represent for your review one more powerful at the same time arguable CMS – Magento. Magento as well as Sitecore CMS is meant to build big things but this time in the world of ecommerce: helps to create online stores.

As the field of ecommerce is tending to grow and develop continuously IT solutions try to meet the needs and offer the best solutions to make it extremely innovative, make the managing process easier for holders and of course attract as many customers as it is possible. There are many CMSs for this purpose like PrestaShop, OpenCart, osCommerce, phpShop, Spree, nopCommerce and others. The choice of CMS depends on what kind of eCommerce/business you intend to go on. You need to take into account such aspects as the size of your firm, whether you haveB2B, B2C or you’re retail, what management system you use or you will use ecommerce platform for that, connection of you websites with other sales channels, your programming skills: PHP, .NET, etc.

So as you may see there are many CMS available today, the choice depends on what type of business you have and type of software you use. Nevertheless, beyond the rich variety Magento is considered to be one of the front runners.

Almost all claims that Magento is rather complicated system as it is built on Zend framework; however has a lot positive aspects. Generally it is characterized as big, complicated and powerful CMS/platform that provide excellent and multiply options to grow you website.

Magento is also very serious CMS and there is no doubt that it is not for everybody. It is tool for professional rather than for amateur.

-It rather complicated to use and work on it for its coding style, so be prepared to spend/charge from your development team twice more hours than usual. Also if you’re not experienced in coding or working with this CMS we would offer to hire skillful developer/development team with proven past experience to help you with that. Based on our experience working with Magento you should be prepared that the development process could take much more time as you will need to learn all the curves that CMS has.

- Magento is extremely powerful offering a wide range of customization options. It is easy-editable gives an opportunity to improve the code regularly by making updates and fixing bugs. And what is important here is that code itself doesn’t require any changes!

- One more aspect is the rich variety of features that makes Magento so flexible. Let’s now review the key features of Magento:

  • International support – multiple languages and currencies, list of allowed countries for registration, purchasing and shipping, localization;
  • Site Management – control of multiple web sites, multiple languages.
  • Catalog Browsing – easy navigation, advanced product filtering system, product comparison.
  • Catalog Management – inventory management, batch import and export of products, different tax rates per location, additional product attributes.
  • Analytics and Reporting – integration with Google Analytics and offers different reports.
  • Payment – different payment methods: credit cards, PayPal, Authorize.net, Google Checkout, ePay, etc.
  • Marketing Promotions and Tools– coupons, discounts and different promotion options.
  • Encryption Key – security storage of the sensitive data in the script’s database.

 

It is also scalable and it grows with your business. That’s the point why it is mostly recommended for mid to large size vendors.

Additionally it should be said that Magento team offers 24/7 live support. Of course it is not super fast but at least it works and you never know when you will need immediate help. Moreover it has video tutorials, good knowledge base, webimars, user guides and support forum. As Magento has three versions the opportunities of each version differs: Community Edition (downloadable version, you will need to find hosting and security for your store), Magento Go (cloud based of hosted Magento CE, preferably for small retailers) and Enterprise one, the last is complete ecommerce solution, fully supported and it is not cheap. Here it should be noted about technical support: Community version has an access only to the forums that are not so active mainly because Magento is relatively new and don’t have yet many followers. So there is no guarantee that you get an advice you need.

And at last as Magento is open source CMS it is free and you don’t spend your money to download it. But you will need to invest if you want to have store live.

At the same time (there is always the other sideJ) there are gaps (that make this platform a bit vulnerable and look unfinished) that need to be improved too. We have a made a short list of them:

  • Slow – Many reports that the software is clunky and suffers from slow load times.
  • Expensive – Even it is open source and free it will end up costing you after you add up hosting, security, and developer fees.
  • No Customer Support – Magento CE users have no access to technical assistance with the exception of a forum.
  • Requires Coding Experience – it requires users to have technical skills and experience in order create and launch stores. It is not for amateurs or hobbyists.

Some more aspects to consider:

  • Confusing and hard to learn.
  • Difficult to implement templates.
  • Not much themes to choose.
  • Software updates don’t work always properly.

To use Magento or not?

In my opinion Magento is proved to take one of the leading positions and has potential to save it. It has many positive aspects and if your business is well developed and you have large list of items to put online, you need to consider Magento and invest money in it. But of course be prepared for serious work with all the curves if you don’t have much knowledge in programming or take care to choose the development team wisely. And certainly don’t forget about tech support, Magento CE don’t have it.

In case you still considering whether adopt Magento for your business or not, feel free to share your personal experience with us leaving your comments below or contact me directly if you need assistance with your ecommerce shop to discuss the details.

Thank you for your attention!

Katerina Bulavskaya

Katerina Bulavskaya
Katerina.Bulavskaya@altabel.com
Skype ID: katy.bulavskaya
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Software-defined networking (SDN) is a hot, much debated topic and although still in its infancy, it offers the potential to transform how complex networks work. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only yet more industry hype, the era of Software Defined Everything is already upon us. Software is being applied to everything from servers, storage, data centres, right through to arguably the most ground-breaking piece of the jigsaw – the Wide Area Network.

SDN changes the way companies build their IT environments by essentially moving the “control plane” of the network away from each individual device in the network to a central controller that works with all the devices, both virtual and physical. This allows for a single controller to configure or manage the complete network, as opposed to each device managing its own functionality and being programmed individually. The technology has huge benefits for businesses, including reducing IT expenditure and enabling changes to the network quickly and easily.

The importance of the network

SDN deployments are still very limited and at their early stages of development. This is due in part to the fact that today’s corporate networks use open standards such as the IP protocol and Ethernet connectivity, but configuring the networks themselves often requires lots of manual tasks because each device on the network has separate policies and consoles. Making significant changes in the network – even with existing hardware – can be time-consuming, potentially taking a week or two. With the move towards server virtualisation and cloud computing, this has become even more complex.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that SDN is making its way to centre stage. SDN is being tackled from all sides of the ecosystem, from virtualisation vendors like VMWare to the traditional networking providers like Cisco. Not only is it going to fundamentally change the business models of the networking and server industries, but it is also going to escalate the importance of the network.

The value that SDN poses for businesses is immense. It holds greater potential for productivity increases from IT than any other development because of the way it acts as a unifying force between disparate elements – computing, networking, virtualisation, information, and business logic. There’s no doubt that SDN will be a disruptive force across cloud, carrier and enterprise networks, likely in that order. The natural progression of turning hardware into software will result in re-architected networks, data centres and infrastructures.

What the future holds

The integration of everything into the network will become a no-brainer in the coming year and this will essentially transform the network into the epicenter of ICT services. While no one can predict the SDN end-game, we are at the cusp of a revolution in the way global networks are designed, built, and managed.

By providing more real-time intelligence and deep application integration SDN is going to enable enterprises to realise innovation earlier with applications rolled out in hours instead of weeks. Organisations will achieve never-before-seen levels of agility while reducing both capital and operational overhead to the lowest levels ever delivered in enterprise solutions.

As a platform, SDN provides the potential to drive the next generation of IT services. Early high visibility adopters like Google and the recent significant increase in VC funding into the SDN area is fuelling momentum and the emergence of the era of Software Defined Everything looks set to change the power of the network for good. Organisations should be looking very seriously at how SDN can benefit their businesses before their competitors get there first.

Kristina Kozlova

Kristina Kozlova
Kristina.Kozlova@altabel.com
Skype ID: kristinakozlova 
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Cloud computing is one of the most powerful trends nowadays. It offers vast opportunities as for the business profitability so can provide improvements in green initiatives which make enterprises more attractive and eco-friendly. Nevertheless, for every goal of this argument exists opposite opinion. So, let’s verify, concerning major factors of green computing and benefits of cloud computing: could we going green with cloud computing or no?

Defining Green Computing

Green Computing or Green IT as Cloud Computing is one of the cutting edge IT topics today. The key role of green computing is to make the use of computers as energy efficient as possible with minimal or no impact on the environment. As for the businesses it means to find the methods of cutting the consumption of power recourses and IT waste recycling. But that’s where the trouble lies. Adopting eco computing trend, saving energy, you have to be sure you won’t lose in money because the IT is where you always need to consume large amount of energy power. In this case what shall we do?

The benefits of Green Clouds usage: lower costs with high profit

So, here cloud computing is the way to save money and energy for your business. Let’s get into how to save from cloud computing with the benefit for the business both for profit and for the environment. Speaking about cost savings, cloud computing users first of all emphasize Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Using IaaS, users can improve their manageability and facilitate the maintenance of the resources. It means that benefit of business enterprises consists by avoiding spending on software and infrastructure resources, allowing business clients to focus on earning money rather than being weighted down with infrastructure concerns.

As the result, operating this model allows to reduce the consummation of power energy without spending money on running the servers. Moreover, with the absence of hardware to upgrade, no servers to repair and no software to install labor costs are also reduced.

One more aspect of Cloud Computing in order is how to accomplish money savings with a green role of using SaaS (Software as a Service). As it goes a step beyond IaaS by offloading applications to hosted services. With SaaS software accesses usually through a browser based client, meaning that it can be run on virtually any authorized computer, making desktop and laptop resources easily replaceable. Thus, when you also save on the support, it doubles the impact and in fact increases green role in business. For one hand, using cloud computing, there is no need any more for It department structure as the employees can work remotely, travelling and moving from one place to another because they have fast access to the internet and the ability to use all the services at hand, on the other hand it reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and the harmful pollution that results from vehicle emissions as well.

Meanwhile cloud computing offers vast opportunities, as always, every debate has two sides, so there is opposite opinion of the researches considering that cloud computing is just a theory. They consider that using data centers, for example, increases the possibility to get access from any point of the world with more frequency than using infrastructure hosting providers.

Nevertheless, Cloud Computing can still do more and can be more “green”, focusing not only on energy savings but also helps in recycling e-waste, claim the others. Within Cloud Computing we can cut the e-waste production by reduction of hardware and software. In order to optimize the hardware usage, cloud computing dealing with server virtualization that consolidates all servers into a single location, in such a way replacing all hardware by online devices and resources. So, buying or renting access to datacenters we minimize the usage of hardware, at the same time reducing the e-waste. Therefore, this solution improves both environmental and operational benefits.

Conclusion

Cloud green computing is the latest trend today. Balancing energy consummation and hibernating money form saving costs by leaving the purchase of servers, software, datacenter space or network equipment, make the businesses more efficient and attractive. A doubt regarding going green with cloud computing still remains open. So, I will be glad if you share your opinion or business experience of managing with cloud green computing. Thank you for the attention and please feel free to leave your comments.

Best regards,
Katerina Bulavskaya
Altabel Group – professional software development

Windows Azure is considered innovative, simply reliable and powerful platform. The most important benefits of using it include: reduced cost, scalability, flexibility and efficiency. As you may notice, recently many enterprises, service providers, small businesses, and governments who is deeply interested in running their business challenges in efficient and effective manners, are looking for cloud solutions. So, we found interesting to find out what makes it so successful.

The answer for many companies is in the cloud. The Windows Azure Platform offers an increasingly new approach for which makes it trendy and successfully one for running the business. First of all let’s compare a little bit models of cloud computing IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) with PaaS (Platform as a Service). The first one is considered to be the traditional one producing on-premises custom applications. The problem is that such apps require additional spending: upfront costs to purchase hardware and acquire software licenses (database software, workflow, user management, etc.) as they all running on the location or on the server of the company. Windows Azure Cloud Computing is recognized as PaaS platform, it means that all tools to produce applications already exist and needed only the code for running custom apps. Obviously, it highly simplifies the developer’s works that already have the skills working with Windows environment. One more goal is the Azure’s care of all specialist services as Access Control Service, SQL Azure Database, Service Bus all running online and for free, because of having hosting in the cloud, remote location. It also provides you and your company an anytime and anywhere access. As a result, Windows Azure Platform with its services provides the best environment for creative and moneymaking challenges and decisions.

Make my words sound solid, I’ve asked the question to LinkedIn professionals about the growth of Windows Azures’ popularity and also I referred to some comments of enterprises’ experience working with cloud computing.

“…Of course it is also about money. If business thinks they can save 10% or 30% or more by moving their products into Azure then surely it makes it attractive option. …..Since there is so much business potential in the cloud I’m pretty sure the demand for azure developers is going to increase. I wouldn’t be surprised to see software companies trying to acquire best azure talent from all over the world. Think about it. If your company has lot of talented azure developers you have pretty good position when competing from project. Any project. Anywhere in the world. Systems from corporations, governments etc. Huge systems”.
Toni Parviainen

“Any business that uses Microsoft’s development technologies and builds/owns/operates enterprise systems needs to quickly get up to speed with Azure. From an empirical perspective, at the Microsoft developer conference in Las Vegas last March, a small minority of all developers present at the conference were currently developing on Azure. So at least in the short term, my view is that the demand for experienced Azure developers is likely exceeding the supply”.
Matt McLoughlin

Every time after working with cloud computing the enterprises tell their success stories of using this new technology which make their businesses more competitive, challenging and help to achieve better business agility. Let’s see what representatives think about their experience.

“Windows Azure enabled us to harness more than a decade of experience in producing, managing, distributing and licensing digital media to build an enterprise-class digital asset management system — in less than 12 months — that can compete with the best and biggest in the digital asset management industry”
David MacLaren, founder and CEO of VRX Studios and now of MediaValet
“With only 11 employees, we run very lean operations and employ agile development methods. By using Windows Azure, we can achieve critical levels of scalability without compromising our efficiency. We have a dynamic infrastructure in place that leaves us well-prepared for our future growth and expansion”.
Vincent Vergonjeanne, Chief Executive Officer at Kobojo

“Development and deployment was very straightforward. We used our existing skills and development tools, including Microsoft Visual Studio development system, to migrate the website to the Windows Azure platform. Plus, we won’t have to change the way we work going forward. We now have a viable cloud-based solution that we can offer to our customers. By using Windows Azure and the Umbraco accelerator, we can meet our customers’ complex content management needs and their desire to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud”
Paul Hernacki, Chief Technology Officer at Definition 6

The reviewed comments, demonstrate new horizons and new opportunities with the help of Windows Azure Cloud Computing for small to midsize businesses. If you have something to add, be sure to leave a comment on this post.

Best regards,
Katerina Bulavskaya
Altabel Group – professional software development

Agile development seems to have received more than its fair share of media attention in recent years. Yet it is still sometimes criticized for not being “robust enough for serious organizations” from time to time. Other comments suggest that it may get a project started off rapidly, but ultimately in the long term it’s more costly.

Martin Cheesbrough is CTO of financial services and energy trading software development company Digiterre. Cheesbrough maintains that the problem here may be that some organizations simply don’t understand Agile. A simple truth is that unlike other approaches, Agile doesn’t come with a weighty 300-page book of what to do, and what not to do. Instead Agile is based on a set of guiding principles that fit onto one A4 sheet.

“Problems often occur when ‘process-orientated-people’ think that delivering a project using Agile involves following an ‘Agile process’. Agile advocates a little and often approach with the development team given complete autonomy over their tasks. The feedback loop is ongoing and concise. This ensures that you stay on track and collaborate but also guarantees that the project keeps moving and remains relevant to the business. That’s the theory – and it makes perfect sense. But when putting it into practice something seems to break down. Agile isn’t about becoming a slave to process; instead it concentrates on getting the most out of the development team and playing to each person’s strengths. Smart, creative individuals that are able to break out of the process mould and embrace the Agile philosophy are fundamental to its success.”

Cheesbrough suggests that just because Agile is light on supporting paperwork that it is deemed insubstantial, lightweight and risky.

“Agile tools and techniques promote transparency and expose how the project is developing each and every day. This means that any bumps in the road can be smoothed out before they become obstructive to progress. Companies such as Flickr are demonstrating that little and often improvements negate the need to get bogged down in ongoing projects. Each day the site makes small changes that enhance the service it offers. Isn’t this the flexible IT environment that will power the businesses of tomorrow? It’s been a long time coming, but the revolution engulfing IT to make it faster and better is demanding significant changes to development. Say goodbye to prescriptive process and hello to the more free thinking future of development.”

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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