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.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

How Easy Backing Up Data Has Become with Cloud Computing

Backup Need Not Be A Chore

Over the years many of our clients have only started to take backup seriously once they experience data loss or a disaster. There is no need to really discuss the importance of performing a backup as everyone knows this. In the past if a laptop was not connected to the office network it could not be backed up. And as expected, very important data may well be located on a non-connected device. So when that device is lost, stolen or simply damaged this can cost your business big time!  Moreover, if you were out of the office and needed to recover a file this would also be impossible because you were not connected to the office network or not the IT administrator. Mobile devices with business data and photos on are also now an important device to backup and manage. 

Cloud Based Backup Changes Everything

Cloud Backup solutions have changed the ease at which backups can be performed. Simply open an account with a provider, download an agent for your PC (Windows or MAC), and within minutes you can be backing up your data.

Cloud Solutions offers Backup2Cloud.  Simply register your interest and an account will be opened for you and an email sent with your login details and password.

Follow the instructions in the email and login to the portal. First step is to install the software agent of choice. You can select from Windows, MAC, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android, and Windows Servers.

The installation is only a few clicks and within 60 seconds your backup agent will be installed. The next step is to review the default settings.

Keeping the default settings should work for you however you can adjust the performance and bandwidth sharing, to continue or stop backing up when you are working and how many versions of files to keep. Source folders can be selected however by default the following are selected; My Documents, Desktop, Internet Explorer Favorites, Outlook, Windows Mail. Google and Firefox Favorites are also included if the agent identifies these are installed.
In addition Proxy server settings defined, block out periods (when not to perform a backup), exclude certain file formats, and to manage the open files plugin. Normal files such as PDF, Doc, XLS, HTML, JPEG, TIFF etc will be backed up. Outlook PST, Quickbooks, MYOB and other files are also supported. 

Block Out period could be set for Monday to Friday say 9:00 am to 6:00 pm so files are not backing up when you are working. Alternatively you can enjoy Continual Data Protection by simply leaving the backup running all the time. 

The agent will perform a scan of your PC to identify all the files that need to be backed up. This process will take a few minutes and then the backup itself will start encrypting the files with 448 bit Blowfish Encryption and transferring them to the Cloud for safe keeping.  

You would only backup your data rather than all your programs or applications. You may have 10-15 GB's of data including your Outlook PST file. This would take more than 24 hours to send to the Cloud. However once the first backup has been performed only changed and new files need be sent to the Cloud. 

Reports are available on how the backup has been running and warning emails will be received if no backup has been perform within the past couple of  days. 

The User Portal allows the user to check their own backup data, check if any errors have occurred and download any files stored in the Cloud. While the locally installed agent allows a data restore to be performed, a quick download can be performed from the User Portal. In addition files or folders can be shared with others if required. The ability to recover data by yourself, when and where required is a big advantage over the traditional backup methods. 

"All backed up data is automatically stored outside your office which is the best way" 

The User Portal is well designed and easy-to-use. It is possible to remove files from the Cloud only via the User Portal or share files with others.

The price of the Backup2Cloud solution does depend on the storage space in the Cloud. If you are storing files in the Cloud that are no longer required these can be removed. The backup agent provides a Clean Up Wizard which is designed to search for files that are no longer on your computer, but are still being stored on the Cloud.  You can then choose to either remove these files from storage, or keep them intact for future restores.  This helps you “clean up” your online storage space, and effectively lower your monthly cost.

"No point backing up if you cannot restore!"

Restoring data must be performed with ease if the solution is going to get the thumbs up. Backup2Cloud offers file downloads via the User Portal or via the agent a Restore Utility is available to allow the files or folders to be selected for restore. This is a great way to migrate data to a new laptop by simply restoring all the data from the old laptop. While the applications still need to be installed correctly, moving the data across becomes an easy option.  Chinese named documents are supported; backed up and restore without any trouble. 

"All backed up data is stored with military grade encryption at a data center in Asia"

Agent-less Backup. If you are running a Windows server in your office then the Windows Server agent should be downloaded and installed. This will allow you to create backup sets for Files, Exchange, SQL, SharePoint and VMware ESX. A primary Windows server can be used to backup Windows PCs, Terminal Server Desktops, and other servers without installing the agent locally on the machine. A very useful approach for an IT manager. A laptop and mobile phone may be the only devices where an agent need be installed otherwise everything can be controlled from a single Windows server.

For an easy to use and understand backup solution for small and mid-sized businesses go no further than Backup2Cloud powered by Data Deposit Box. Pricing starts from USD$19.99 for 60GB of data. Visit for pricing details. Pricing is not based on users. It is based on storage space required. This means several computers or devices can download the backup agent and start backing up. This can include your office Windows PC, laptop, MAC at home, and your iPhone.

Is it time you finally start to protect your business data?

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