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Run to the Cloud: Practical low-cost applications for small business

Thursday, 9 June, 2011

Central data hosting of business applications can be traced back to the 1960’s when IBM created a “service bureau” business by offering computing power and database storage to organizations. Just over four decades later with subsequent advances in modern technology and web based application development, this same service idea re-invents itself and is now coined “SAAS” or “Software as a Service.”

SAAS is generally referred to as a software platform delivered over the Internet having all related data hosted centrally in the “cloud” (over the Web) and typically accessed by users through a web browser. SAAS programs range in size and scope and at that site most commonly cover business applications such as accounting, project management (PM), customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), content management and human resource management.
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So what does this all mean? Well, now more than ever small businesses can take advantage of world-class delivery systems for their everyday business needs. The solo entrepreneur can ease the invoicing and collections process through automation, a start-up distributor can use an intuitive ERP system at a fraction of the cost and creative agencies can pool resources efficiently throughout project management solutions.

Typically these web-based software solutions operate on a monthly access fee basis, some as little as $10 per month, dependent on application depth and scope offered. Here are a few examples of the top SAAS platforms in use today to get you started:

www.salesforce.com – an all-encompassing cloud platform that can help companies manage sales operations, customer service, social media management, CRM and custom app development for the force.com platform.

www.freshbooks.com – now even the smallest business can have professional invoicing complete with basic bookkeeping, account aging, tax summary and expense reporting.

www.basecamphq.com – brought to you by the creative and mindful people of 37 Signals, Basecamp is the benchmark for online project management and collaboration.