Cloud Computing Automation Platform: OS33 Webtop Review

Cloud Computing Automation Platform: OS33 Webtop Review
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OS33 is best described in its own words as an “IT-as-a-Service” Platform.  Basically OS33 provides an integrated platform comprised of infrastructure, service and application delivery, and brandable web-based desktops (Webtops) with which Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can deliver their clients cloud-based IT resources from a single source, sold as-a-monthly service.  The model allows businesses to buy their IT resources based on consumption, similar to the way utilities are purchased by residences.  In other words, it is a pay-as-you-go plan for the IT resources needed at a particular moment in time.

OS33 Webtop


For the end-users, MSPs can provide their clients with web-based desktops (Webtops), that provide unified access to all the different software applications, tools, email, files and more needed to run their businesses, all hosted on cloud-based infrastructure, and managed by the MSP, as-a-service. This allows the end-client or business to scale their IT needs to the exact applications necessary, for a particular project or assignment without having to invest in additional software, licenses, hardware, or IT staff to make it work.  In addition, a business would not need to spend time or money maintaining the software or to deal with the many issues that come up when running software on its own computers or devices.

Webtop Flexibility

Because of today’s mobile workforce, MSP’s need to give their clients access to applications and, more importantly, their business data no matter where they are or what device they are using to access that information.  Today, more and more businesses are using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, not just computers (desktops and laptops), to access business resources.  Are you, as an MSP, using a platform that allows your clients to access their data no matter what device they are using or where they are located at the moment?

With the OS33 Webtop, the client can access their IT resources using anything from a desktop or notebook, to a thin client, iPad, Android or any device that is compatible with Citrix.  In essence, as long as businesses and their employees have an internet connection using one of the many web browsers, they will be able to access and edit their business data as well as create new data.  According to OS33, all data centers where the hardware and software infrastructure are housed are commercial grade, providing reliability to clients.

Flexibility for MSP’s and their clients is key with the OS33 platform.  Since the OS33 platform is geared towards any type of business, MSP’s who do have certain business niches can turn IT resources on or off depending on their client’s needs.  The OS33 platform also allows any compatible application or software to be added by the MSP.  Lastly, the OS33 cloud platform allows the MSP to serve clients worldwide with no location restrictions.

Additional Webtop Features

End-User Self-Service Tools

With any type of IT resource, one of the biggest headaches is maintenance and support.  The OS33 Webtop comes integrated with various methods of support to the end-user.  There is a self-help function as well as email support, session-based support (control my computer), and chat support capabilities.  In addition, MSP’s can set up the OS33 platform so that their client’s local IT staff can provide lower level support while they themselves provide higher levels of support to the client.  As stated before, flexibility is a key component of the OS33 platform.

Webtop Gadgets, Customizations, and iGoogle

Accessed through almost any browser connection, customization of the platform by the client’s users is simple and intuitive because it mirrors something a lot of users have experience with – the iGoogle interface.  Actually, the user has the capabilities to add a variety of Google gadgets to the OS33 Webtop interface, including RSS feeds, search, financial, business tools, and other gadgets.  In addition, with OS33 iGoogle integration, the reverse is also true.  Users can add OS33 gadgets to their iGoogle interface so they can access their corporate IT resources directly from their personal iGoogle page.

Internet Connectivity

According to OS33, the Webtop user interface does not require the client to have a high bandwidth Internet connection.  Only those clients who are using the platform for video streaming may require additional bandwidth resources.  Basically, a residential DSL or better internet connection will allow the user to have a quality experience.

Session Continuity

As stated before, the flexibility built into the platform is convenient for the MSP, but it is especially nice for the end user.  If applications are open and being used by an end user and, for some reason, the Internet connection is lost or there are hardware issues with a device, the user can simply go to another device and log back into the OS33 Webtop interface.  They will be greeted with a message asking them if they want to reconnect to the applications that they were using.  This is possible because the local device is not running the application nor is it storing the data.  The end user can simply reconnect to the application and continue on using or editing the data through a different device or connection.

Company Intranet

An employee directory tab allows the end user to view all registered users within their company as well as send email and messages to those listed under the employee directory.  The end user can also set up shared and private shortcuts for external resources, files, and folders.  Shared shortcuts are convenient since they allow for collaboration between company employees.  Lastly, the OS33 Webtop interface allows the client or the MSP to send announcements to the end user.  This way, the end user can easily be informed about upcoming events or support-related issues on an on-going basis.

OS33 New Features

OS33 Cloud File Manager and Cloud Drive

The OS33 platform allows the end user, through the Webtop interface, to access data resources either using the native Webtop file manager (under My Programs) or, now, through the Cloud File Manager.  Data resources can include drives that are shared by members of a group, public drives which are visible to everyone, locally stored files, and a drive where the end user can view data from another user’s personal folder.

Either one of these file managers will allow access to data resources, but the new Cloud File Manager allows the end user to open and edit files directly from the browser without opening a separate application.  The Cloud File Manager also allows the end user to easily upload to the cloud or to download files so they can be used locally.  In addition, the end user can drag and drop files through the Cloud File Manager if they are using a supported browser.  Integration with Amazon S3 and SharePoint files can be achieved fairly simply with the OS33 platform and the Cloud File Manager.

The Cloud File Manager also allows the end user to map their local device to the Cloud Drives as well as mapping a Cloud Drive to their local device.  This is a nice feature that allows the end user flexibility in accessing and using their data resources.

Conclusions

The OS33 Webtop interface is very intuitive and should be fairly simple for most end users.  The platform supports most end user devices including Windows, Mac, and Android devices.  Also, most of the common web browsers are supported.  One negative noted during the review process was that the Internet Explorer browser does not currently support the drag-and-drop capabilities provided by the Cloud File Manager, but all other browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and Safari do support this feature.

One other item noted during the review was that files opened through the Cloud File Manager using the web browser sometimes opened more slowly than those opened through the hosted version of the application.  Since this was not a consistent event, it may have had more to do with the internet connection speed at that time.  Both the hosted and web versions of the application opened the file and allowed editing of the file.  On the upside, new files can be created through the Cloud File Manager, and the interface on the Cloud File Manager is simple and straight-forward and should be easily understood by most end users.

Editing a Word document with text boxes and drawings is not supported in the browser application versus the hosted application.  Since the end user has the choice of opening a file using either option, however, it did not take much effort to open the file using the hosted application when editing was necessary.  Also, this turns out to be a Microsoft limitation with the web-based version versus a limitation of the OS33 platform.  Most likely, this feature will improve as the web-based applications features improve.

Overall, the OS33 Platform is something Managed Service Providers should look at if they want to provide a web-based desktop, access to software applications and cloud-based infrastructure as a single service providing easy access to cloud-based IT for their clients.  The end user’s interface (Webtop) is easy to navigate, has a nice feature set and, most of all, the flexibility of the OS33 Platform will allow clients and end users to access and use their business data no matter where they may be and no matter what device they may be using to access the information.