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Are Web-Based Applications for Real?

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OfficePro2007 This series looks at the availability and the usability of web-based applications that are becoming more of an option for small business every day.

In the previous article, I asked some questions about applications, and in this article we’ll start by examining some basics.

Let’s start with whether web-based software is right for your small business.

Current Software?

What software are you currently using?

  1. What Office Suite bundled version is currently installed?
  2. What applications are currently in use?
  3. What features are currently in use?
  4. What features do you need to run the office?

Needs Based Analysis?

Did you conduct a needs-based analysis before you bought business software? Most businesses don’t. The relationship usually begins with either pre-installed software or a recommendation from a salesman. Those early beginnings blossom into a full-fledged relationship with money exchanging hands. Then the upgrade cycle takes over, and now and forever, you belong to Microsoft.

Most employees use only the most basic features of their software products—features like bold, italics, or underline. They will manipulate font sizes, columns, tables and occasionally move text around. Very few use themes, styles, or macros.

In spreadsheets, sums, averages, and small flat-file databases (like address and telephone numbers) are the most common uses. Again, most don’t use the advanced features of auditing, data importing, scenarios, or goal seek.

Are Web-Based Applications Real?

Web-based applications are improving in features and speed, and now rival installed software with more and more users. When you start a new document or spreadsheet in Zoho Writer/Sheet or Google Docs/Spreadsheet, it all looks familiar. Presently, Google and Zoho dominate this market.

Here is the toolbar you see when you start a new word document in Google.

GoogleDocs capture

Here is Zoho’s toolbar.

Zoho Writer capture

As you can see, both have an abundance of features available. All the basics of word processing are covered by both of these applications. Other features are available as you enter text and work with your document. Advanced users will like the easy access to tables and columns.

Most small businesses need basic word processing and a simple spreadsheet program. After that, their needs vary, but as you’ll see in the next few days, whether you need a database or presentation software, you’re covered.

Are They for My Company?

Web-based applications aren’t for every company, but most small businesses can benefit from web-based software.

  1. Available from any location
  2. Available from any computer
  3. Real-time collaboration
  4. Remote presentations
  5. Quickly share documents with colleagues
  6. Quickly share documents with clients
  7. Great spam filtering for email
  8. Easy to develop content for the web
  9. Stretch your software budget
  10. Stretch your hardware budget
  11. Reduce learning curve for new employees
  12. Increase productivity
  13. Improve efficiency
  14. Provide an internal knowledge database
  15. Stop paying for software upgrades

Maybe Not?

You might be thinking, “I could never go to a web-based application because I require access to my files all the time. If the Internet connection drops, I’m out of business until it comes back up.” That is a valid issue that needs addressing before we continue the series.

Redundant Connections!

The solution is to take some of the money you are currently spending on installed software and buy a redundant Internet connection or two. With the options most business have (DSL, cable, satellite, FIOS, cellular, T1),there is no reason to be un-connected because of an outage.

Regardless, a redundant Internet connection is a wise investment for companies. Most offices already use email and the web for many of their business functions, and are currently shut-down when connections are lost anyway. With a second connection, this becomes a non-issue.

Are you interested in learning more? Good!

Next: an overview of the variety of software available.

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