Traditional software applications like Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, Quickbooks, and Contact Management, like ACT! are installed locally on the Computer. One downloads an installation program or inserts a CD/DVD to load the software application to the computers’ hard drive.
Slimmed down versions are available via “The Cloud” in a format called “Software as a Service” or SaaS for short. Examples of Word Processing, Spread Sheet, Presentation, and Email applications, entirely web based would be Microsoft Office365, Microsoft Live and Google Docs. SalesForce and SugarCRM are examples of full featured Contact Management and Sales Cycle software that are entirely web based. Quckbooks and TurboTax have complete Online Versions as well.
There are definite advantages to both types of offerings depending on the circumstances. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are usually completely inaccessible if there is no Internet Access. For the true “Mobile Warrior” traditional, locally installed applications may still be the way to go as they guarantee access to applications and data at all times. Many SaaS offerings have or will have shortly, applications which can be installed locally that will provide the ability to access data when not connected to the Internet.
If one has a number of desk based employees coupled with a number of incidental technology use employees such as shop floor personnel, call center staff, and anyone else who should have Corporate Email and perhaps some Word Processing capability to stay connected, but the cost of a dedicated computer is prohibitive, then Software as a Service may be the optimal solution. If the average Office Application Suite costs approximately $300 (Microsoft Office Standard Edition) per seat, then it starts to make economic sense to look at a Software as a Service Online Application Suite in either the Free or Nominal Monthly Subscription cost basis.
A number of factors affect the pricing but many Small Businesses can get by with the Free Editions of the Suites (Google Docs and Microsoft Live) and for those that need more features prices start as low as $4 for Email or $6 or $8/month for a Basic Suite and go up to $22/Month for a Microsoft Premium Suite which include a fully licensed copy of Microsoft Professional 2010 and Voice Integration with the Microsoft Communications Server. All Microsoft plans include access to a custom RIM Hosted version of the Blackberry Enterprise Server for seamless Blackberry Connectivity and full Active-Sync support for Android and Apple IOS (iPhone/iPad/iTouch) devices.
Google Docs (Apps) are free for individuals and small teams while Google Apps for Business start at $5/month ($50/year) for the Full Featured Suite (Gmail, Docs, Calendar) or $10/month which includes the addition of email archiving, retention policies, and E-discovery which can be beneficial to companies that must follow compliance policies.
The key philosophical difference between Google Apps and Microsoft Office is that Microsoft wants their offering to be an extension of the Microsoft Office Servers and Applications already installed in your corporate environment. Google Apps just wants to make you instantly more productive with zero capital infrastructure cost outlay.
Cloud Office Application Suites
Microsoft Live – http://www.live.com – (Consumer Oriented)
Microsoft Office365 – http://www.office365.com
Google Docs – http://docs.google.com – (Consumer Oriented)
Google Apps for Business – http://www.google.com/apps/business
Cloud Accounting Applications
Quickbooks Online – http://quickbooks.intuit.com
TurboTax Online – http://turbotax.intuit.com
Cloud CRM – Customer Relationship Management
SalesForce – http://www.salesforce.com
SugarCRM – http://www.sugarcrm.com
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