As a technology specialist and small business owner I am often asked the question “what technology should I invest in?“. The answer is generally it depends on the answers to the following questions.
- What technology resources do you have?
- What do you want to achieve?
Lately, technology options for small business has become alot more accessible because of the increased products delivering technology via software as a service (SaaS).
Software as a Service (SaaS) is where an application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer’s burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support. Conversely, customers relinquish control over software versions or changing requirements; moreover, costs to use the service become a continuous expense, rather than a single expense at time of purchase.
Therefore investing in SaaS allows small businesses to get the features and functionality normally only companies with significant resources can afford. SaaS allows small business to you use the software without the complex and expensive infrastructure requirements.
Below is a list of reasons SaaS makes sense for small business.
- There is a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), especially important at the moment is lower upfront costs of the user pays model.
- Zero or low maintenance and upgrade costs.
- In the current economic crisis owners like the pay as you go option. This is seen as less financial risk.
- Extensive broadband penetration within the ANZ market.
- Quick & Easy deploy - plug and play.
- IT press has been hot on the topic for a number of years.
- Certain SaaS vendors like Saleforce.com have reached such a size, with large numbers of customers that the technology is no longer seen as “risky”.
- Big players are all developing product offering which have legitimised the industry. Eg Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle, SAP.
- More incentive for software publishers to invest in the core product in subscription licensing vs perpetual licensing. This resulting in better quality products over time.
What technologies should you look at?
The following list of technologies I have tested or used personally and are happy with. I am not affiliated with any of these companies other than being a customer.
Salesforce.com - is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and is considered the largest SaaS company and most talked about when people refer to the SaaS industry. Salesforce.com was founded in 1999. I have been using Saleforce.com for 4 years and I think its an excellent product.
Netsuite - offer CRM, ERP/Accounting and E-commerce on-demand or SaaS product offerings.
Saasu.com - this is an Australian based company offering easy online accounting.
Google Apps - this is a messaging and collaboration tool for small business. We use this at Style after moving from a in-house managed Microsoft exchange server. Google apps provide a full list of features including spam handling.
For a full list of SaaS products by product and category I found this blog. Most of these product offerings are for micro to small business.
Final points - even though at Style we have the technical resources to go with either Software as a Service or software installed on our servers I much prefer the SaaS option because they are generally cheaper, less of my time, more features and more secure.
The one downfall with SaaS is if you want to integrate the system with another system integration is complex unless a plug-in has already been built. This would be a benefit on going with the larger SaaS vendors.