SMB system management SaaS-style with Paglo

Another day and another conversation with an interesting company offering large-company services to a small-business market. I've already written about Splunk, and there will be more to come soon, but Paglo is doing the same sort of thing through a SaaS model. I'm working on a review of Paglo (OK, and we're working on a review of Splunk, too) but I thought it would be interesting to share some of the conversatio

Another day and another conversation with an interesting company offering large-company services to a small-business market. I've already written about Splunk, and there will be more to come soon, but Paglo is doing the same sort of thing through a SaaS model. I'm working on a review of Paglo (OK, and we're working on a review of Splunk, too) but I thought it would be interesting to share some of the conversation I had with CEO Brian de Haaff and CTO Dr. Chris Waters. Brian and Chris know their product, of course, but it was their understanding of SMB issues that I thought was most interesting.

Brian and Chris told me that Paglo's offerings are built on two principles – that business is becoming more complex, and that more business is being managed by SaaS processes. When they looked at how the SaaS management is happening, they decided that developing and retrieving information are still fragmented systems for most businesses – companies are struggling to keep up. Many processes and applications are still isolated silos. Getting at the information in many of these silos still requires clicking down through menu hierarchies. Paglo wanted to let people get at information easily and quickly. I didn't hear anything in this part of the conversation that surprised me.

There are a couple of things I keep hearing about SMB IT that makes this sort of understanding pretty much inevitable. The first is that small companies want the same sort of IT features and services that large enterprises have been getting. The second is that SMBs tend to have a staff that ranges somewhere between small and non-existent. Put them together and you have a requirement for systems to generate usable information and make it easy to get at.

Paglo is, to put it simply, a search engine for IT. You can search it in an on-demand fashion, and it collects tons of information for an IT infrastructure. At the time of our conversation, Paglo had more than 750 users, and had been in testing since January with an explicit goal of reaching the SMB segment. Paglo is based on three core pieces of technology: The first, Paglo crawler, is downloaded and installed on any one computer on the network. It gets system and network info, then uploads it to the technology (two, the Paglo Search Index). The third technology piece, the Web-based user experience, will then let the IT professional log into Paglo and do search and analytics online.

Brian and Chris said that the concepts that drive Paglo started with the understanding that IT professionals do three core things: The first is fire-fighting, responding to emergencies. A person can go into the community and find searches that others have created, so that all searches don’t have to be built from scratch. The searches – not results or information about any customer - are shared.

Now, this idea of community is quite central to the Paglo concept. In theory, users will share the search parameters they've put together and talk about how they're using the service. On the one hand, it's a logical extension of social networking into the professional IT space. On the other hand, I've seen (and been part of) a number of attempts to put together professional communities over the past 25 years or so. Trying to create a successful community is hard, but the return can be quite high. I think that Paglo's ultimate success will rest, to a certain extent, on the ability to put this community together. The early beta testers have made a good start on the community, but it will be interesting to see how it progresses.

Now, the next part of an IT professional's day, in Paglo's model, is ongoing monitoring. Paglo has dashboards that show all kinds of information and any search can be added to a dashboard. Alerts can also be created, similar to Google alerts that can be written, the results notifying you via e-mail when a new result is found. I think the ability to put custom searches in the dashboard, creating a custom screen for your critical issues, could be very nice. I'm looking forward to experimenting to see how easy it is to make this happen.

The third part of the Paglo day is special projects. The discovery process and the community should once again help professionals build the dashboards and searches to provide information that will help with projects (dashboards are also shared, along with searches, as part of the community.) Collaboration and social networking is valuable for SMB IT guys who may not have specific expertise in every area of the organization’s IT need. This is a very cool-looking capability that will be more less valuable depending on just how active the community becomes.

The public beta launched on May 27. Companies can sign-up and start searching very quickly -- it really doesn't take very much in the way of IT skills to get up and running with the tools. The service will be free, at least through the summer, so it's a decent time to see if Paglo can offer you and your IT folks a reasonable tool. Paglo will ultimately go to a SaaS but plans to offer a free version always. As I said earlier, I'm starting a review process, so keep an eye out for more on Paglo.

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