I originally interviewed the founder and CEO of eGuard Technology Services, a managed service provider (MSP) in Washington, D.C., with the idea that he might be an appropriate subject for my Next-Gen Partner column, which focuses on cloud integrators and solution providers.
But eGuard's approach to the cloud is actually better aligned with the small businesses and midsize company IT executives that visit this Small Business Matters column for updates on technology developments.
That's because it's one of the companies behind TOGLcloud, an SMB cloud offering that was developed by a group of MSPs that didn't feel that traditional offerings were quite the right fit for smaller companies.
TOGLcloud allows small businesses to run their desktop and server applications within a secure cloud-hosted infrastructure; it includes multi-tenant Active Directory, SharePoint, Exchange and Citrix services. The service is hosted in multiple SSAE16 data centers.
The central TOGLcloud tool is a "Webtop" that gives users a workspace where they can access all of their applications, such as Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other cloud-specific services like Office 365, Salesforce.com or Zendesk. The image below shows an example:
What makes this particularly appropriate for small businesses? For one thing, the service was developed by 17 different IT services firms, VARs and technology solution providers with a long history of serving small businesses, including eGuard.
"To invest fully in a cloud solution for our clients was pretty hefty," said Khaled Farhang, founder and CEO of eGuard, and one of the TOGL partners. "We didn't want to go with anyone else's cloud offering. This allows our clients to dip their toes, and it provides us with something we can control more easily."
Among some of the features that have proven especially compelling for TOGLcloud users is the tight integration with SharePoint 10, which facilitates collaboration. The look and feel can be customized for individual companies through OpenSocial gadgets (the same widgets currently used to organized iGoogle).
"Many solution providers are experimenting with cloud offerings. Some are home grown while others are disparate solutions assembled from multiple vendors; isolated systems that may or may not work well together. There is little automation or efficiency leading to higher costs of support and lower value to the client. TOGLcloud offers a single solutions that aggregates everything to run a business through one simple interface.
The company doesn't publish pricing on its Web site; rather, it sells the service through a network of VARs and solution providers, including the original founders.
TOGLcloud is the one primary cloud offerings where eGuard focuses its services: earlier this year, it reported a significant increase in cloud-related sales, recording a 350 percent increase in cloud services revenue between 2011 and 2012. "eGuard receives inquiries regarding the SMB cloud offering on a daily basis," Farhang said.