Zoho: The Pros and Cons of the “Full Stack” Approach

Are Control, Independence, Data Privacy (and more) worth the Cost?

Zoho is serious about software. If you go out to its website to learn more about the company and its products, one of the first statements you encounter is, “Software is our craft and our passion. At Zoho, we create beautiful software to solve business problems.” While this type of mission statement is certainly not unique in the world of enterprise applications, the approach Zoho takes, along with the results it has achieved, are just that: quite unique. And impressive.

And its customers will attest to that differentiation. If you speak to some of its (more than 50 million) users, you are struck by some of the terms you hear – terms like peace of mind, seamless, simplicity, certainty, powerful, predictability, and “It just works.”

The uninformed might assume this level of seamless simplicity comes from overly simplified, lightweight functionality. And they would be wrong. These descriptors are the direct result of Zoho taking a full stack approach. The Zoho philosophy: “To provide this seamless, superior customer experience, we need to own all core aspects of the technology stack.” That stack includes everything from the applications themselves, the services, and middleware software, to the hardware, infrastructure, network, and data centers.

This full stack approach comes at a time when most other native Software as a Service (SaaS) solution providers are choosing to leverage tools and technology from public cloud providers like Microsoft (Azure), Amazon (AWS) and Google, in order to focus their efforts on their core competency, which is the application itself. Some do create their own development platforms, while others turn to giants in the industry like Salesforce and its Force.com platform. They do organically develop new features, functions and new products. But they also plug gaps in functionality and expand into new markets through acquisition and partnerships. And in doing so, they also sacrifice a level of independence, control and sometimes performance and data privacy.

Zoho is unwilling to sacrifice any of this, and is also committed to providing seamless integration and a single, unified data model. But that comes at a price. There are no shortcuts. Zoho must develop everything itself. While this might appear to be a serious constraint, its solution stretches well beyond the usual boundaries of enterprise applications to include productivity tools like Mail (think Outlook), Sheet (think Excel), Show (think PowerPoint), Writer (think Word), Meeting Bridge (think Microsoft Teams or Zoom), and much more, totalling 47 apps today and growing. Plus it continually innovates its products, embedding new technologies like natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). And it somehow manages to deliver an average of five new products a year.

Look for the full report coming soon!

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