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Is on-demand software the future?

In 2006 Microsoft announced a beta release of the online business productivity suite. A fundamental shift for Microsoft, away from installed pre-packaged software, to a software-as-service model presents a more manageable monthly subscription for customers. Salesforce.com is a pioneer of this 'on-demand software'. Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, insists the days of installing software are numbered and the internet based solutions are the future. Certainly after Microsoft's beta program announcement it would seem Bill gates in in agreement.

Business IT Online was launched in 2005, by Farrelsoft. Joint Managing Director, David Cruickshank, said the positive response to the launch has him agreeing about the future software shift. “It's clear that small businesses find software to be an expensive and inconvenient headache but at the same time it is a necessity for running their business,” says Cruickshank. “On-demand providers are able to deploy our software without the traditionally high costs that customers associate with multi-user software. The service includes local servers & networking, maintenance, and support contracts, version upgrades, IT services expertise and multi-user licences. The software is affordable and, being web-based, users are familiar with the browser interface.”

So what should be looked out for if wanting to make the transition to internet based software? Cruickshank gives four important tips for online software use.
  1. Check for security. All security measures used to protect your information and business online should extend to on-demand software. Check the software provider is using secure technologies by verifying their digital certification. Review their supplier's seal of approval, which should be visible on all web pages where sensitive data is entered. Double-check the security by finding the locked padlock, or unbroken key symbol in the bottom of the browser window.
  2. Use the free trial. If there is no free trial offered, ask yourself why. No cost should be involved to try a service. Also, ensure any free trial is obligation free ad you can unsubscribe if you choose to once the trial is finished.
  3. Once you've checked the digital certification and given it a test run, check user feedback. Most have a user forum and you can always Google them. Keep an open mind and remember not everyone will be happy with the service, there are bound to be some complaints. See when these were made and check back to the provider's recent forum or blog activity to see if issues have been resolved. If you use the service for a while give feedback to help others.
  4. Online software moves quickly in the world of upgrades and modifications. So even if some features aren't presently offered they may be available in a few weeks time.
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