Cloud Connected

"The only difference between Cloud CMS and your current on-premise document repository is that you don't have to worry about software or hardware installation and upgrades any longer."
Jeff Potts, Founder
Metaversant Group
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Cloud CMS Web and Mobile Forms

One of the things that Cloud CMS does really well is forms - specifically, web and mobile forms.

If you’ve ever worked with the development of forms before, you know they’re pretty tricky to put together. You typically have back-end code that is responsible for taking a data structure, validating it and writing it to a database. And you also have front-end code which does user-facing data validation that is cosmetically appealing (pretty red boxes) and helpful. You need to think about customizing the front-end controls (using JavaScript typically) to offer a compelling end-user experience while also offering an intuitive layout. Form elements need to interact together such that changes to one part of a form automatically update or validate with other parts of the form.

It gets more interesting as the requirements grow. For example, you may be asked to have your form work across multiple pages. Perhaps there is a need for a wizard with previous, next and submit buttons. Or perhaps there is conditional logic such that certain sections of a form only appear if a user selects something. Or perhaps the next button should take you to a different set of pages depending on your form’s data (such as having to fill out certain income schedules for a tax payment submission).

And across all of that, there is the question of validation and making the user interface intuitive to end users as data changes. End users should be informed of when they are allowed to proceed to the next step in a form and be shown what updates are required or how they can fix things.

All of this is usually very challenging to deliver, particularly since it requires so much front-end and back-end code that needs to be kept in sync. As such, it has been a hard problem to generalize until very recently.

In the past few years, we’ve seen some new innovations that have made this easier.

One of these innovations is JSON schema which provides a descriptive way to structure your content. You can use JSON Schema to express forms, their data attributes and how they should be validated. With JSON Schema, you can singularly describe the constraints and validation logic of your form and then have that validation run on both the client and server side. You just write it once and it applies in both places.

Other technical innovations include modularized JavaScript and JSON document databases. Modularized JavaScript and other improvements to JavaScript (including EcmaScript 5 and the pending EcmaScript 6) allow for flexible development of intelligent controls that run in the browser. This effectively allows the browser to be much more intelligent about it’s rendering and enables it to make late decisions about how to lay out the controls onto the page or bind them into wizards. This process can be driven entirely from configuration (also a JSON document) while still allowing for JS controllers and methods (packaged up into AMD modules).

Using HTML injection to build user interfaces or forms has really grown up in the world. Popular frameworks like Angular.js or Ember.js work this way. Instead of generating HTML on the back-end and passing it over to be shown in the browser, the front-end generates its own HTML using JSON data retrieved from the back-end. This allows for really beautiful user interfaces that are customized on-the-fly, per user and per device.

Cloud CMS builds on all of this to deliver really intuitive and easy web and mobile forms. We provide an open-source, JavaScript-based Cloud Forms engine that runs entirely on JSON Schema. It builds forms for you on-the-fly, using a configuration-driven approach. And it saves your form data right into Cloud CMS so that you can collaborate around it, report on it and leverage it within your business.

Several years ago, we decided to open-source our forms engine under the Apache 2.0 license so that anyone could use it within their projects. No strings attached and no funny stuff. We’re big believers in open-source. It’s not just that we want to give back, but we also believe that the open-source process is the best way to build a fantastic product.

The result was Alpaca Forms. We put a web site up and promoted releases, along with documentation, examples and community forums. The result has been amazing! We’ve watched as Alpaca has been used in all sorts of interesting projects, ranging from education and government to the entertainment and medical worlds. We’re so glad that it has helped people to deliver amazing applications!

And beyond that, we’ve really enjoyed working with the community. Such great people with interesting ideas and lots of feedback. We’ve greatly enjoyed being in touch with such a great community!

Cloud CMS continues to build and offer Cloud CMS Forms as part of its offering. Each Cloud CMS subscription comes with a fully-engaged content management system that naturally works with Alpaca’s web forms. We offer technical support, bug fixes and production-level SLA’s for Alpaca within live applications.

If you’d like to learn more about Cloud CMS forms, visit our web site or Sign up for a Free Trial.

Thanks for being part of our community!

Public and Private Cloud Subscriptions

When you sign up for Cloud CMS, you get to choose whether you want to sign up for a public or a private cloud subscription. A public cloud subscription runs on a shared and secure cluster of hardware with other customers whereas a private subscription runs on your own private and dedicated hardware.

You can run one or the other. Or both. Cloud CMS lets you replicate data between your environments, pushing and pulling as you see fit.

It’s about Customer Choice

In 2010, we stepped back and started building Cloud CMS with the vision of producing a truly scalable and high performance content backend that took advantage of Amazon AWS and ran on a new generation of database software. We wanted to give our customers the choice of seamlessly running the product on a single server or a whole array of servers. The platform needed to scale effortlessly as web load increased so that our customers could decide how much capacity they needed and how much they wanted to pay for.

At the time, we were thinking about mobile. We wanted a JSON-oriented product that worked really well with mobile devices of all designs, shapes and form factors.

Today, the requirements of mobile applications, running anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, have demanded an elastic and cloud-based content backend. One that runs in multiple data centers and is constantly available to serve as the backend for cloud-connected applications.

Customer choice is important. It gives our audience the opportunity to adapt to a world that is moving very quickly. It lets our customers invest in their data with an assurance that the infrastructure will be there to serve the ever increasing demands of future mobile devices and applications.

Public Cloud

Most of our customers start with a public cloud subscription. This is the easiest way to get start and it’s ideal for your first application or project. In fact, it’s priced per application. So for a single fixed monthly cost ($100), you get everything you need to support your application.

A public cloud subscription gives your business a production-ready content API and all of the backend services you need for your mobile app. Your business users can dive in and get started creating content right away using the Cloud CMS user interface. All of the business users tools are there, ready to go.

That way, you don’t have to spend any time on the backend. And instead, you can focus straight away on your iOS, Android, hybrid or web application.

All of the infrastructure and software is managed by Cloud CMS. Our support engineers handle the data backup, maintenance, upgrades, fixes and DevOps for the public cloud so that you don’t need to think about it.

Private Cloud (Dedicated)

A private cloud subscription provides your business with its own dedicated Cloud CMS installation. The infrastructure is dedicated to your business and is not shared across any other customers. As such, it purely scales according to the needs of your business and its applications. You only pay for what you use.

A private cloud installation has all of the features of our public cloud. It consists of multiple servers running Cloud CMS, Mongo DB, Elastic Search and more. It’s fully powered and runs in the data center of your choosing.

Cloud CMS support engineers manage and provide all of the DevOps and IT management for your private cloud cluster. That way, we are able to give your business a peace of mind guarantee and a service level agreement to support your production applications. Our engineers manage the data backup, maintenance, upgrades and fixes according to the scheduled needs of your business.

Unlike a public cloud subscription, the cost for a private cloud subscription is determined on a per-customer basis. We will work with you to figure out your exact needs and billing requirements. And will provide a reasonable and compelling quote.

Learn More

We’re really happy to be able to offer our customers the choice between public and private cloud subscriptions. It offers a lot of product authenticity that we feel is important in evaluating and trusting a platform. Cloud CMS lets you set your own pace and approach the platform one application at a time.

If you’re new to Cloud CMS and would like to give it a shot, please sign up for a Cloud CMS trial account. If you have questions about our dedicated private cloud offering, please contact us for more information.

Content as a Service

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a series of blogs that talk about the merits of Content as a Service and what it means in terms of driving a Content First approach to mobile and web application design at Cloud CMS. We’ll dive into how it enables our customers to get serious about the value of content within their business. We’ll also touch on industry trends and where we think it’s all heading.

Cloud Content Platform

Imagine all of your mobile and web applications connected to a fast and secure content backend that provides real-time publishing and instant insight into how your customers use your applications.

Imagine not having to build that. Instead, you’d sign up for it as a service in the same way that you’d sign up for SalesForce, GitHub or ZenDesk. It’s cost effective and it scales really nicely across all of your apps.

It’s content as a service. It provides a backend with all of the tools and applications needed so that your business users can create, manage and publish content to your mobile and web apps. It lets you get serious about your content, modeling it once so that you can create things once and publish them everywhere.

In the end, this makes it possible for a business of any size to manage 2, 3 or 100 sites worth of content… all from one place.

Today this is reality.

That’s what we’re up to at Cloud CMS.

At Cloud CMS, our goal is to provide all of the backend hard stuff that enterprise content management software has been doing for years… but at only 5% of the cost.

To us, that’s content as a service. It’s taking CMS – everything from web content management to document management, from records management to content analytics – and packaging it up behind a cloud service so that small businesses can use it to bring value to their customers.

We’re innovating in the cloud to do things that were never possible before. In doing so, we let small businesses get their hands on amazing tools to create content once and publish it across all of their applications.

Why the Cloud?

We’ve been at the cloud for a few years and so we know about the value it delivers. At its core, the cloud is a mechanism for reducing costs and giving your business better repeatability and reliability for its business infrastructure and processes.

You can think of this like a utility. Kind of like the electricity that flows into your home. You don’t really have to worry about how it works behind the scenes. The utility company might completely rearrange how they manufacture or distribute energy. As long as it works when you plug your lamp into the wall, it’s fairly transparent to you.

Software that is designed for the cloud is less expensive. It is elastic in nature which means that it can run on a single server sometimes and more servers at other times depending on your traffic needs. You only pay for what you use.

Cloud-based software, when properly implemented, can be priced much lower than traditional enterprise software. That’s why HelpScout, MailChimp, Cloud CMS and many others are able to offer the same features as older enterprise companies but at a fraction of the price.

In addition, software that is well designed for the cloud has the potential to span data centers all around the world. In fact, you can think of it running everywhere, all at once. Your mobile and web applications can simply request content, at any time, from anywhere and the infrastructure responds. 24/7. Anywhere in the world. And in any language.

The conclusion here is a simple one. Don’t spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for enterprise software. You’re being taken advantage of. Instead, go with modern software that was built for the cloud. Not just installed in the cloud. But instead, designed to provide you these advantages. You’ll not only get more features, but you’ll pay much, much less.

More to Come

That’s it for now. In our next blog entry, we’ll dive further into Content First and take a look at the impact to mobile devices and responsive design. We’ll also dive into cloud-connected applications and look at how content as a service is used to deliver amazing experiences that span multiple devices.

If you’d like to check out how all of this works in action, please visit Cloud CMS and sign up for a free trial. We’d love to know what you think.