For SMBs this last week was always going to be dominated by the release of Office 2010, but in the fuss the beta release of the new Hotmail service has been overlooked by many. Google has also expanded its Google places tag listing to include the entire US after its initial 11 city launch last month.

Microsoft Goes To Beta With New Hotmail

You may remember that last month Microsoft (news, site) announced it was going to resurrect Hotmail by adding some new features. Well as of this week it’s more than just a promise as Microsoft has begun beta testing the new release. It's relatively limited for the moment as it will take some time before it will be applied across all Microsoft servers.

Explaining the tardy roll-out Mike Schackwitz Hotmail program manager said on the Microsoft Windows Team blog that:

Our Hotmail servers are grouped into clusters, and we have hundreds of clusters. We start by upgrading a single cluster, wait to make sure that it's running smoothly and that we didn't miss anything during testing, and then we continue on to the next cluster.”

Microsoft claims 360 million hotmail users who swap 350 million Office documents and 1.5 billion photos every month as many SMBs are using it as their email service.

Last month, when it outlined the new features it would be adding it listed a “sweep “ function that would help users manage email boxes as well as integration with the new Web Apps.

Google Expands Reach Of Places Tags

More follow-up to news from last month. You may remember that Google introduced local tags that gave small businesses the possibility of enhancing their Google search listing on both and Google Maps.

The new service, for a US $25 monthly fee, enabled small businesses to add a yellow tag with information about the business and a map to their search. However, at the time the tags were limited to 11 US cities.

This week though, they’ve announced plans to expand the trial to the entire country. The rollout will start with states where tags are already available in select cities (California, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Washington and Colorado). Listings will be updated as additional states go live.

In addition, tags now appear on mobile web searches, while Posts -- a new kind of Tag that enables business owners to create a custom message --  is also live. These messages can be changed as often as the business owner wants.

However, there would seem to be a little bit of confusion as to what exactly the US $25 does as Google also warned that tags do not affect the ranking of the listings on search pages.

New Cloud-storage Release From Asigra

For SMBs with storage issues, Toronto-based Asigra has just released Asigra Cloud Backup v10. The latest edition extends the reach and performance of the Asigra platform across the broadest range of computing environments, from small businesses to the Global 100.

Improvements include comprehensive protection for laptops, desktops, servers, data centers and cloud computing environments with tiered recovery options to meet the most stringent Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs).Features include:

  • DS-Mobile support to back-up laptops in the field
  • Deployment as a virtual appliance within virtual infrastructures
  • Advanced FIPS 140-2 NIST certified security and encryption of data
  • New backup sets for Exchange, SharePoint, SQL, Windows Server Hyper-V, Oracle SBT, and Sybase

Asigra Cloud Backup is designed to offer backup and storage efficiencies unavailable with traditional backup architectures by allowing users to capture less, ingest less and store less data thereby reducing the amount of backup software cycles and storage hardware required to deploy and maintain high levels of data protection.

Microsoft Gives Office 2010 Away

More from Microsoft and just to show that it’s not all about money! Microsoft has said that it will be offering a complimentary copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 to technical beta testers.

Thanking participants in the program during the week Microsoft said they were giving a copy of Office Professional 2010 as a downloadable ISO with a product key to the users involved in the testing.

Office 2010 went to RTM on April 16 with the home user and SMB user editions released last week preceded by months of beta testing since November of last year. The professional edition retails for US $499 boxed. Something for nothing can only be a good thing.

UK SMB’s Unclear About The Cloud

If cloud computing adoption in the US was going through growing pains, in the UK it must be absolute agony if the results of new research are anything to go by. Sponsored by GFI Software, the research shows that high proportion of senior business decision-makers and IT professionals are still unclear about Cloud Computing.

Key perceptions that low cost will be prime selling point and security threat will be a big weakness was not backed up by the research. In fact, the degree of understanding of cloud computing terminology is lower in the business sector than in the IT security sector.

It showed that 62% of senior business decision-makers in the UK have never heard of cloud computing and that as many as 24% of IT professionals have never heard of cloud computing or do not understand the term either.

The flip side of this is that only 15% and 11% of senior business decision-makers have not heard of managed services and hosted services respectively.

Given these terms are practically synonymous with cloud computing conceptually, it would appear there is too much emphasis on jargon, and not enough on the basic components of cloud-based services, the report says. Other figures show that:

  • 86% of companies of 100-249 are deploying cloud computing technology, but only 69% of companies of 10-99 employees and 39% of companies with fewer than 10 employees have done so.
  • While security is widely seen by the IT industry as the main barrier to adoption, only 12% of respondents who have actively elected not to pursue this model cite security as the main reason for not doing so, showing a clear disparity between perception and reality.
  • 44% of those companies that have decided not to deploy cloud computing cite too high cost as the main reason.

If you’re interested in cloud computing in the UK and the wider EU, there really is a wealth of information here and is well worth a read.