Sunday, 15 May 2016

Cloud Solutions now offers Cloud PBX servers in Tokyo, Jakarta and Sydney.

Cloud Solutions has been offering a fully outsourced and managed Cloud hosted VoIP PBX service to Asia based businesses since 2012. CloudPBX is an Enterprise featured telephone PBX service delivered across the public Internet at a small monthly subscription.

Cloud Solutions currently offers servers located in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. With an increase in demand from regional offices to connect their branches together via a single system, Cloud Solutions is now extending their server locations and SIP trunk sourcing services to include Tokyo Japan, Jakarta Indonesia and Sydney Australia.

Servers in each country have been interconnected via a secure backbone thus allowing local users to be connected to a server locally thus improving performance while still being able to internally dial their colleagues located somewhere else in Asia, at no cost. This results in improved call quality because of the reduction in the internet latency from localizing voice traffic.

André Meyer, Cloud Solutions Director explained, “for example, a business located in Sydney Australia can now use our CloudPBX hosted and managed services in Sydney and their branch office in Singapore can also use our service and because both servers are interconnected, calls can be made to each other at no cost and the team can work together without the traditional costs associated with such geographic differences”.

Cloud Solutions has formed close working relationships with SIP trunk providers in most Asian countries enabling the sourcing of telephone numbers to also be provided. SIP trunking can be provided for Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Auckland. In addition trunks can be provided from North America, UK, Europe and South America based countries, all connected to a local CloudPBX server.

“We currently have customers located across Asia and we have proven our market differential is offering a regional focus for our Cloud PBX hosted and managed service rather than a single country focus which is where the rest of the market is today. Ask a provider in Sydney to organise a new trunk and telephone system in Bangkok or Shanghai in 4 days and they will simply scratch their head. This is where our market experience is paying off” Mr Meyer commented.

As demand continues to grow servers will be added to other locations including Shanghai and Auckland New Zealand.

Today our customers also enjoy mobile phone and laptop integration to ensure travelling employees can remain connected no matter where they are located.

Cloud Solutions CloudPBX services includes the sourcing and supply of SIP trunks along with IP phones. Softphones are also supported.

About Cloud Solutions:
Cloud Solutions is headquartered in Hong Kong and offers Cloud services to regional businesses including Google Apps for Work, Office 365, Cloud Storage, Cloud Backup, Zoho CRM, Cloud Accounting from Xero and Quickbooks Online and Inventory Management from Unleashed. CloudPBX hosted services is currently the fastest growing market.

For further information please contact Florence Chow at +852 39733848 or You can also visit and

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Zoho CRM integrated with SMS Text Messages

Adding SMS text messaging to your Zoho CRM system can offer some valued business functionality.

Zoho CRM can integrate with a few SMS gateway providers. Some offer both in and outbound SMS messages while others only offer outbound.

We integrated Zoho CRM with SMS-Magic. The integration is outbound only and is provided via a webhook script. SMS-Magic therefore works with both Zoho CRM Enterprise and Professional Edition.

There are several ways SMS can be integrated from a functional point of view, these include:
  1. adding a field on a Lead / Contact screen so you can enter the text message you wish to send to the person.
  2. creating an SMS module (only Enterprise Edition), to allow messages to be tracked and connected to a Lead or Contact in Zoho CRM.
  3. customise the webhook message script to automate messages for reminders such as subscriptions or maintenance renewals falling due, sending a happy birthday message, chasing where an invoice is unpaid, the correct webhook would be triggered upon a specific condition being true, e.g. expiry date is today.

You would make the message send via a trigger. We used a tick box. Once ready you would simply "tick the box" and the message will be passed to the webhook script and this is then posted to the SMS-Magic gateway. 

In addition the SMS-Magic portal allows you to monitor the message has been successfully sent or if there was an error. 

The SMS module we designed in Zoho CRM included support for template driven messages combined with a custom message. This allows standard reminders to be quickly sent. Message can be designed in a way that additional text can be added such as date, time or invoice number.

In addition, this allows SMS history to be tracked against a Contact. The SMS-Magic portal provides a reference number and confirmation the message was delivered. Our SMS module tracks that in the delivery log. The Senders ID can be sent in the webhook script to simply say SMSProvider so your customers do not reply to the message as it is simply a reminder.

SMS messages can add value to your business when used and managed correctly. SMS-Magic requires both a monthly subscription and a credit purchase for messages. Monthly subscriptions start at US$19. 

Contact Cloud Solutions if you require assistance in enabling SMS with your Zoho CRM system. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Cloud Accounting Systems Xero, Quickbooks, Kashflow

The productivity gains Cloud Solutions has seen by adopting Xero Cloud Accounting even surprised us! The amount of time per week spent performing accounting duties has been effectively reduced by as much as 70%. If you do not believe in the Cloud then you are missing the biggest opportunity of your working life time.

Businesses in Asia could do much better with productivity but the inability to adopt change keeps businesses and their staff well behind those countries that embrace technology and change. 

To enjoy these productivity gains there are a few key changes every business needs to make. These are:
  1. Stop using Excel. It is a dead end. 
  2. Capture quotation or order data as early as possible in your business process and enter this into a CRM database system (we use and recommend Zoho CRM).
  3. Use the CRM to automate quotation and email delivery via templates.
  4. Ensure data is only ever entered ONCE into any system in your company. Ensure data flows from sales through to finance and back again. This ensures data is accurate with no double keying required.
  5. Adopt a modern Cloud Accounting system such as Xero, Quickbooks Online or KashFlow. In my opinion the current offering of MYOB is outdated and should not be considered.
  6. Integrate the CRM solution with your Cloud Accounting system to ensure data flows between these applications.

So Why Now?

Accounting has not changed much over the past 20 years however what has changed is the Internet. We now do banking online and can use PayPal to sell goods and services to customers all over the world and have the money in our bank account in seconds. This is the big change. However many businesses have not embraced this 24x7 connection or may be do not appreciate what is possible. The bookkeepers continue to manually enter data into their outdated systems and have not really embraced how technology can help their productivity.

With Cloud Accounting systems like Xero, your business bank accounts along with PayPal can be integrated in the Cloud. This allows all bank account transactions to be automatically uploaded to your accounting system pending your reconciliation and coding once a day. This ensures data is accurate and efficiently captured.
Improved productivity means increasing your capacity to grow with the current resources or continue at the same level with less resources, that is, less staff and smaller offices, e.g. increasing profits.

A Simple Example

Let me explain a simple sales process and how this will affect the accounting system and the resources required to manage this entry in our company.
  1. Prepare a quotation for say 10 hours of Consultancy Services for Zoho CRM. Prepare this in the CRM, it takes say 60 seconds. It is emailed to the customer via a template driven email. Another 15 seconds.
  2. Once the quotation is signed and returned to us, we would create a Sales Order (Sales Contract) and then send an Invoice. This takes no more than 30 seconds as the quotation is converted to a Sales Order and Invoice. No data is re-entered. The Invoice being created in the CRM system.
  3. Later that evening the Cloud based CRM communicates with the Cloud based Accounting system (e.g. Xero), and sends all Invoice data across automatically. Any Purchased Order initiated or created in the CRM will also be sent to the Cloud Accounting system.
  4. The customer pays our invoice on-line via PayPal.
  5. The same day the payment is received the Cloud Accounting system (Xero) will communicate with PayPal and import the receipt of the funds as a new transaction. 
  6. Up to this point the bookkeeper has not had to do a single thing. Has not keyed in a single entry. Even new customers are created automatically.
  7. Each morning the bookkeeper need only match the invoice with the receipt so they can be reconciled, the one-click OK confirms the suggested match is correct. 
  8. Once the invoice is settled in the Cloud Accounting system the Invoice status is changed to PAID and this is reflected back in the CRM system on the next data sync.

Count how many mouse clicks it takes your business to confirm a Sales Order, Create an Invoice, Record the Receipt of funds and then Reconcile the Bank account.

Every small and mid-size business Cloud Solutions helps sees productivity gains in a short period of time. However the business owner must be 100% behind the change and is key to drive this process throughout their organisation.

Asia Limitations

While Xero offers a long list of Bank import feeds, not all Asia banks are supported. If your bank is very local and has very poor on-line facilities then this is another cost to your business that you have to accept or consider working with a bank that is modern and can offer your business the productivity gains discussed above. When Asia businesses are so happy to continue to use Excel and use outdated processes and systems, local banks have limited need to change their systems either if the market is not demanding it.

In Hong Kong Xero and Quickbooks Online provides integration or bank feeds with HSBC Corporate and Personal Accounts. This covers 70% of the local market. Other banks would require a csv file upload. PayPal and a number of other payment gateways are supported. Credit card integration is also supported.

Your future is in your hands. For some of us, the future has already arrived.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Zoho CRM Label and Badge Printing

We are often asked how to design and produce mailing labels or name badges from Zoho CRM. The below video covers the steps.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

ZOHO CRM Connectors to Accounting Systems

Zoho CRM is becoming very popular in the market and we are getting more demand to connect Zoho CRM with a company's existing accounting system. The advantage of this is to reduce the errors and costs associated with double data entry and to also ensure customer data is in sync between both systems. Of course when a lot of customer related data is isolated in the accounting system the sales executive or account manager often has little idea on the current financial status of their customer. Providing up to date financial information in the CRM is very important to a sales person.

While Zoho offers Zoho Books, this may not be appropriate for every customer as they may have been using accounting systems such as Quickbooks, MYOB, KashFlow, or Xero and have no desire or need to change. The implementation of CRM for the sales team can be derailed if the project focus shifts to accounting. So it is often best to get the Sales team working well and then decide to either integrate the accounting system via connectors or consider the upgrade alternatives if your accounting system is old.

In this context, "old accounting systems" refer more to Cloud Accounting Systems or not. This means if you have been using Quickbooks or MYOB Windows for many years then many of the connectors between Zoho CRM and the accounting system may not be available. The modern connectors are offered as Cloud to Cloud. This means Quickbooks would be Quickbooks Online and not the traditional application installed on your accountant's Windows PC. More recently released accounting systems such as KashFlow or Xero only have a Cloud based offering. 

If your company is starting from scratch then Zoho Books should be considered first as it makes sense to review this if you are a Zoho CRM user. If your accountant prefers to use KashFlow or Quickbooks then you would need a connector that works between the two systems. 

The standard connectors in the marketplace offer basic mapping of data from one system to the other allowing data to flow both ways. For example, if an invoice becomes PAID, the status change will be pushed from the accounting system back to Zoho CRM. If not all fields required to be pushed from Zoho CRM to the accounting system are supported by the connector the vendor can be requested to enhance their connector to your exact requirements. The demand is now high enough that a company can focus 100% on just providing connectors to the market. The price being charged is up to US$20 per month and this is much cheaper than playing around with API's yourself unless you are a real expert in both systems. The vendor will also maintain the connector as systems upgrade.

Cloud Solutions has used Cloud based Connectors to sync data between Zoho CRM and the user's accounting system. Our lead consultant's background is in accounting so this is a strength of our consulting business. 

Contact us to for more information.

Some interesting data released this month - Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is in high demand. Gartner predicts that CRM software revenue will reach almost US$24 billion, with cloud revenue accounting for 49%. So if you have not considered CRM before, now is your time. With a growing availability of Cloud based connectors your complete business can be integrated. Email, CRM and Accounting.

Below is a video showing how Zoho CRM and Xero can be integrated

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Zoho CRM Birthday and Anniversary Auto Emails

I have read a number of frustrated posts about trying to do a simple thing like send an email out to a customer on their birthday or anniversary etc. I have spent quite some time on this and am pleased to say it works perfectly. First issue is you must use Enterprise Edition to allow the triggers to send out the email on the birthday to your contact.

Zoho CRM Birthdays

The approach I took was as follows:
  • use the Date of Birth field on the contact record of CRM
  • created a new field called "Next Birthday"
  • as an option, I also calculated the Age of the contact so created a field called "Current Age".(this may be important if you wish to market different products based on age to the contact)

To make this all work you DO NOT use Formula fields. You must use Custom Functions. These can be found under Set Up | Workflow | Custom Functions.You will need 3 customer functions. The reason being, once you create the record the first time the Next Birthday and Age can be calculated as part of the Create Record triggers however what happens next year? How is the system going to move the Next Birthday date forward one year once the current year's birthday passes? How will the age automatically click over one more year? So while you can make some of this happen by editing a record you cannot do this for thousands of records in the database. So using the Date condition trigger in the workflow, you can run the update checker each night to refresh the age and next birthday of a contact either one day after their Next Birthday or on the actual day of their birthday.

Not sure you are following me so far?

Given we have the Next Birthday Date calculating correctly and updating once a year, then an email can be automatically send out when the NEXT BIRTHDAY = TODAY. 

So as discussed, I needed to write 3 Custom Functions and link these to 4 different Workflows prior to the final workflow which was the Email Alert / Template. Which was the easy part.

The following are the Custom Functions Built;

  • Create calculate "Next Birthday from DOB" -  used when record first created. Simply work out the number of years since the DOB and add that back to the DOB and you get this year's birthday.
  • Update Next Birthday Year to Year - for this I just checked if the Next Birthday was yesterday, and if it was I added one year to the date. So this would run each night. 
  • Update the Age. Same concept, just check the Next Birthday. It is a little tricky. You need to get the comparison to the date right as someone can be in their 30th year but not yet 30 because the birthday is still in the future. So age is still 29 until the Next Birthday has passed. Then you update the age. This would be triggered on the actual birthday where as Next Birthday update can happen the day after (e.g. Next Birthday + 1).

Once these Custom Functions are created I used 4 workflows to trigger their execution.

  • First Workflow Trigger was an event based trigger on new Contact Creation, if the DOB was entered then execute Custom Function 1. Calculate Next Birthday.
  • Copy this workflow and use it to also calculate the Age on first time record creation. Just replace the Custom Function 1 with Custom Function 2. A single workflow could be used but I like having them separate so I can better manage each process.
  • Next workflow is Time based and it would be triggered on NEXT BIRTHDAY = Today - 1. This means the birthday was yesterday. On this basis run the Next Birthday updater (Custom Function 3). This will push the year forward one year. So if today was 3-Mar-2015, all Next Birthday fields that were 2-Mar-2015 would become 2-Mar-2016. You would set a time this rule would execute so say 3am. So in the morning all records are now updated.
  • Last workflow is also Time based, when NEXT BIRTHDAY = today, then run the Age Update function. As your age increases on your birthday not the day after. Use Customer Function 2 again and just ask it to recalculate things so you should get a bigger number. Once again, kick this off at 2:00am and then in the morning the ages will be right for all contacts.

As discussed above, the Email Template for the HAPPY BIRTHDAY message, would be connected to a Workflow Alert with the Contact being nominated as the receiving party of the email. (you can select a number of email addresses to send this to if required). You create the Final Workflow, to trigger when Next Birthday = today, and you associate the Alert created to this trigger. Lock it, then you are good to go. Sit back and the automation will start.

This does all work. There is a little involved I am sure you realise. Our consultancy is offered to those who would like assistance in this area.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Great Database Development Tool - Zoho Creator

Eventually Excel Does Not Fit the Bill

Everyone uses Excel to collect and store data. Sharing however becomes a little more challenging with team members. 

Once you realise the limitations of Excel it is time to consider Zoho's Creator. Creator is a tool to convert Excel files into business applications. Zoho Creator provides you with a drag-and-drop builder to customise business applications or databases. And the best part is, it is mobile ready!

Zoho Creator is designed for non-programmers in mind. While there is support for some scripting to achieve more complex processes you do not require this to get started. 

If your business has developed your work processes around a number of Excel files, you may not realise but you already have the foundation to start using business applications such as Zoho CRM and Zoho Creator. And if you use Zoho CRM already then Zoho Creator is already integrated. If you need to connect an Account to the record in Creator, simply drag-and-drop the Zoho CRM connector onto the screen layout and define the module, e.g. Account. Contact, Sales Order etc.

Getting started is as easy as importing that Excel file into Zoho Creator to start building your business application. Just define which columns are dates, lookups, check-boxes, etc. Then import the data and you are ready to start to use.

Being a web based application you can now share your data with users in and outside the office. Using a mobile phone app is now also possible. So within 20-30 minutes you can turn that single user Excel file into a Cloud based business database that is now accessible via your mobile phone after installing the free Zoho Creator App.

Images can also be uploaded and stored in the database, so building product related databases is easy.

Sharing data with China based factories, suppliers, customers or business partners is now easy. While Excel was a great place to start, eventually you will realise the limitations and it is time to upgrade to Zoho Creator and a great business application builder.

Cloud Solutions works with Zoho CRM and Zoho Creator everyday. Providing advice and consultancy services.  Contact us for assistance.