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Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study
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Formotus Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Case Study

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  • 1. Microsoft SQL Data Services Customer Solution Case Study Forms Automation Company Uses Cloud Storage to Lower Mobile Data Access Costs Overview Country or Region: United States Industry: Professional services—High tech Customer Profile Formotus provides a fast, easy, and affordable way for companies to deploy rich business applications to Windows Mobile® devices. Based in Bellevue, Washington, the company employs 27 people. Business Situation Formotus wanted customers to have a low- cost, standards-based data storage service that would enable small businesses with- out big storage infrastructures to use its mobile forms service. Solution Formotus designed its offering so that it works out of the box with Microsoft® SQL Data Services as a cloud-based data storage alternative for customers needing affordable, scalable storage for mobile business applications. Benefits Affordable mobile data solutions for customers Rapid deployment Data access from anywhere, any time Pay-as-you-grow scalability “Customers … now have a cost-effective way to connect a storage infrastructure to the forms that we deliver. SQL Data Services is the perfect complement to Formotus Software + Services.” Joseph Verschueren, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Formotus Formotus helps make mobile workers more productive by giving them ready access to line-of-business data. Using Microsoft® Office InfoPath® 2007 and Formotus Software + Services, companies can quickly and cost-effectively deploy forms-based business applications that run on Windows Mobile® devices. Formotus recommends Microsoft SQL Data Services, a cloud-based data storage service, as a safe, cost-effective data storage solution. By choosing SQL Data Services with Formotus Software + Services, customers can get mobile applications up and running in a day, eliminating the up-front cost of creating a massive storage infrastructure and expensive software development work. Field workers get anytime access to business data without the need to establish virtual private network connections. Businesses get pay- as-you-grow, on-demand scalability without the capital expense of physical storage.
  • 2. Situation Many companies have focused their auto- mation and productivity efforts on office information workers, while workers in the field are often cut off from corporate systems and left to use paper-based forms and manual processes to do their jobs. Eager to automate the ”last mile” of their operations, many businesses are now outfitting field workers with handheld mobile devices and software applications that provide the same automated efficiencies enjoyed at the office. Formotus, of Bellevue, Washington, is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes provide their mobile workers with fast, easy access to business data. Using Formotus Software + Services, organizations can quickly generate and deploy business applications to Windows Mobile® devices in the field. Formotus takes advantage of the Microsoft® Office InfoPath® 2007 information-gathering program to deliver its services. A nontechni- cal business user can create an electronic form on his or her desktop computer using Office InfoPath 2007, and then upload it to a Formotus account. Formotus then converts the desktop form to a Formotus form that will run on any Windows Mobile device. Formotus forms can pull and push data from any data source using XML Web services. Businesses do not have to write a single line of code to Web-enable their line-of-business programs. When Formotus designed its service, it was committed to XML Web services as a data- exchange standard and looked for an Internet data storage service that customers could use. “When we started in 2005, there weren’t many data stores that exposed Web services,” says Joseph Verschueren, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of Formotus. “Salesforce.com, Amazon, and a few other companies claimed that their solutions were exposed to Web services, but many were too complex to access from Office InfoPath 2007. If you wanted to access data on mobile devices, you had to hire a developer to expose those services.” Consequently, nearly all Formotus customers stored data on expensive infrastructures consisting of on-premise database software, servers, and storage. “It was a very high barrier of entry for small businesses, which limited our ability to sell into that market,” says Adriana Neagu, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer for Formotus. Plus, companies with on-premise storage had to have field employees log on to corporate databases using virtual private network (VPN) connections to upload and download data throughout the workday. The procedure was complex and time-consuming, and often required technical assistance. Solution In early 2008, Formotus learned about Microsoft SQL Data Services, part of the Azure™ Services Platform. The Azure Services Platform is an Internet-scale cloud services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services for creating a range of flexible, cost-effective solutions. SQL Data Services is a scalable, distributed relational database service in the cloud that is used for storing and querying structured and unstruc- tured data. “We liked the service’s strong adherence to XML standards, which would enable us to connect to SQL Data Services without any code modifications to our software,” Neagu says. “It would also enable our customers to build mobile database applications without any coding. In the cloud, it’s all about interoperability, and SQL Data Services is a very good cloud citizen. Microsoft has taken the XML standard very seriously.” “It’s all about interoperability, and SQL Data Services is a very good cloud citizen. Microsoft has taken the XML standard very seriously.” Adriana Neagu, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer, Formotus
  • 3. Shortly after Microsoft announced SQL Data Services, Formotus created a proof-of- concept. “Our development work consisted of opening Office InfoPath 2007 and creating a new data connector for SQL Data Services,” Neagu says. “We simply entered the SQL Data Services Web address and specified the entity that we wanted to query. That was it.” Formotus customers sign up for SQL Data Services through Microsoft when they open a Formotus account. Instead of field workers accessing data from on-premise corporate databases, they pull data from SQL Data Services. Formotus expects many of its customers to adopt SQL Data Services. Visiting nurses, inspectors, salespeople, maintenance personnel, service technicians, delivery drivers, and any other employee who fills out forms in the field can benefit from Formotus Software + Services and SQL Data Services. For example, one Formotus customer that delivers home heating oil has 20 trucks that travel around one western state making deliveries. The company replaced clipboards and paperwork with ruggedized Windows Mobile devices, Formotus forms, and data stored in SQL Data Services. After making a delivery, the driver completes an electronic form, captures the customer’s digital signature, and then submits the form to headquarters, which bills the customer even before the driver returns. Visiting nurses working for another Formotus customer take vital statistics in a patient’s home, record results on a Formotus form, and then transmit the form to SQL Data Services for storage. The nurses can also use their Windows Mobile devices to pull information needed to complete the form from a hospital SharePoint® site. They can then post the form to another site on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 where built-in workflows forward the form to a physician or billing department. An equipment maintenance company uses SQL Data Services to give maintenance staff access to GPS location data that is too voluminous to store on handheld devices. When a maintenance technician enters the address of the facility to be serviced, the Formotus application automatically downloads and populates the GPS coordinates from the SQL Data Services cloud. Benefits By offering customers Microsoft SQL Data Services as a data storage option, Formotus Using the Formotus software-plus- services delivery model, field workers complete forms on Windows Mobile devices using data stored in Microsoft SQL Data Services. They can then submit the forms to Office SharePoint Server 2007 sites.
  • 4. is able to greatly expand its market to include small businesses, which need an affordable way for field workers to access company data. Formotus was able to connect its service to SQL Data Services with very little work, and customers can do the same to gain access to any kind of data, any place, and at any time. Affordable Mobile Data Solutions for Customers Using Formotus forms and SQL Data Services, companies of any size can create affordable mobile data solutions. “We’re excited about SQL Data Services, because it solves a similar problem on the back end that we solve on the front end,” Verschueren says. “Customers, especially small businesses, now have a cost-effective way to connect a storage infrastructure to the forms that we deliver. SQL Data Services is the perfect complement to Formotus Software + Services.” “It’s a huge benefit to us to give our customers access to this kind of service,” Neagu adds. “Our partners will be able to sell a hosted solution for a small monthly fee, instead of selling an expensive database server that requires monthly maintenance. It’s an inexpensive way to solve a problem that small businesses have been unable to solve, and it helps us penetrate the small business market.” Rapid Deployment Because SQL Data Services is based on open standards and Web services, it worked “out of the box” with the Formotus service and with Office InfoPath 2007. “We didn’t need to make any changes to our code to use SQL Data Services,” Verschueren says. “Within an hour, we created a test form that requested data from SQL Data Services, added rich information, and submitted the information to a SharePoint site. With virtually no develop- ment cost, we added a significant enhance- ment to our service.” Nor is there development work for Formotus customers to use SQL Data Services. Custo- mers simply sign up for Formotus, make minor modifications to a Formotus template, deploy it to their Windows Mobile device, and sign up for SQL Data Services. Customers can create their own form using Office InfoPath 2007, use one of several Formotus forms, or have a Formotus partner create one for them. “Without Formotus and SQL Data Services, companies would have to hire developers and spend thousands of dollars creating a custom application and building data connectors to expensive back-end databases. With our solution, a customer can push and pull data to their Windows Mobile devices within a day,” Verschueren says. Data Access from Anywhere, Any Time Using the Formotus service, mobile workers have access to forms and data any time, from anywhere, without the inconvenience of establishing VPN connections. Authorized users can also easily modify forms without contacting the IT department or hiring programmers to change the database schema. “With SQL Data Services, mobile workers have easier access to line-of- business application data,” Neagu says. “It’s much easier to connect to data in a cloud than to data behind a corporate firewall.” Pay-as-You-Grow Scalability Customers can start with a form that requires only a small amount of data and expand the data capacity of the form as their business needs evolve. There is no need to make modifications to the form or to the data connectors. “SQL Data Services scales to fit our customers’ needs,” Verschueren says. “Both Formotus and SQL Data Services are services with no up-front costs. Companies can start out small, with no capital invest- “We didn’t need to make any changes to our code to use SQL Data Services. … With virtually no development cost, we added a significant enhancement to our service.” Joseph Verschueren, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Formotus
  • 5. ment. With the storage infrastructure in the cloud, companies can explore new ways to streamline their business processes without incurring big up-front costs. They pay only for the resources that they use.” Azure Services Platform The Azure Services Platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding product and service offerings. The Azure components include:  Windows Azure. Windows Azure is a development, run-time, and control environment that is scalable, flexible, secure, and interoperable.  Microsoft SQL Services. SQL Services is a suite of cloud-based SQL Server data platform capabilities. The first of these capabilities is SQL Data Services, which offers Internet-facing database service for relational queries.  Microsoft .NET Services. Microsoft .NET Services is a suite of Web services for customers with integration and business- to-business collaboration requirements. These services include workflow, access control, and service bus connectivity.  Live Services. Live Services is a comprehensive set of Web services that represent the core functionality of Microsoft Live Search and the Windows Live network of Internet services, including Windows Live Messenger. To learn more about the Azure Services Platform portfolio, go to: www.azure.com For More Information For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426- 9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568- 2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of- hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com For more information about Formotus products and services, call (206) 973- 5060 or visit the Web site at: www.formotus.com This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published January 2009
  • 6. Microsoft SQL Services Microsoft SQL Services extends SQL Server capabilities to the cloud as Web-based services. SQL Services enables organizations to store data from structured, semistructured, and unstructured documents. SQL Services will deliver a rich set of integrated services for relational database, search, reporting, analytics, and data synchronization with mobile users, remote offices, and business partners. The first of these SQL Services is called SQL Data Services, which offers database services in the cloud. For more information about SQL Services, go to: www.microsoft.com/azure/sql.mspx www.microsoft.com/sql/dataservices
  • 7. Microsoft SQL Services Microsoft SQL Services extends SQL Server capabilities to the cloud as Web-based services. SQL Services enables organizations to store data from structured, semistructured, and unstructured documents. SQL Services will deliver a rich set of integrated services for relational database, search, reporting, analytics, and data synchronization with mobile users, remote offices, and business partners. The first of these SQL Services is called SQL Data Services, which offers database services in the cloud. For more information about SQL Services, go to: www.microsoft.com/azure/sql.mspx www.microsoft.com/sql/dataservices

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