The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model
Entrepreneur Will Lovegrove demonstrates how it's possible to get your business up and running fast using Cloud solutions
Part 5: How reliable are cloud-based business platforms?The early movers into the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market created a new and compelling marketing strategy to help business customers migrate from their old IT systems to the new cloud software.They made their software free to use in a limited capacity but reserved some features which would be available for a premium. The idea was that as long as a certain percentage of their free use customers upgraded to premium then their business model would function and be profitable. Add ‘free’ and ‘premium’ together to get ‘freemium’. A term you have probably already heard of.The practical upshot of the seismic shift in availability and business model behind computer bandwidth, hosting, server and application technology is that Enterprise quality business applications are available to individuals, start-ups and SMEs either free of charge or for very small sums of money.Put another way. Cloud technology means you can get your business up and running extremely quickly (saving you time) for practically no money (saving you precious cash) and without the need for specialist IT skills (removing the need for IT expert resources).Let’s dive in and look at some real world examples.
- Need a telephone system? Don’t bother. Get Skype.
- Need an e-commerce store. Don’t build one. Open an eBay Sellers account.
- Need email, a calendar & a contacts book AND want it on your smartphone? Get Google Apps.
- Need to make documents and presentations? Use Google Docs.
- Want to share & send documents and files? Use Dropbox, or Box, or Google Drive, or SkyDrive.
- Want to advertise? Use Facebook ads or Google Adwords.
- Still queuing at the Bank? Start using you bank’s online banking service.
- Want to send marketing emails to your customers. Use MailChimp.
- Need to send a Fax? Don’t. Use DocuSign to electronically sign your documents.
- Want a marketing video for your business? Make it yourself with PowToon then store it on YouTube.
- Need a timesheet solution for your staff? Use Harvest.
- Need a basic website? Use a web builder such as MoonFruit, or just use Facebook.
- Want an online chat/support tool? Use Zoho.
- Want user feedback forms? Use UserVoice.
- Want a back-up solution? Try CrashPlan.
The list of helpful business applications available from the cloud is seemingly endless. Many of them are available with a freemium business model. Everyday a new start-up offers a high value business application for free or a relatively small micro-payment. As a small business owner you would be foolish to purchase any business app without searching the web for a cloud alternative.
But cloud apps come with a health warning: think carefully about which cloud technology vendor you work with. Yes, many of them are free to try. That’s because they want you to use their service, make their product part of your business and then hope you will buy into more advanced features that they offer. A common saying in tech circles right now is: ‘If there’s a service that’s free, then you are the product!’
There’s nothing wrong with that. But as a business owner you need to understand what you are getting yourself into.
This article is part two of five. You can read part three – How to select a cloud provider of business services – by clicking the arrow links.
Will Lovegrove runs an award-winning mobile app software company called Release Mobile. He has just launched a new cloud-based data sharing platform, Datownia, aimed at helping small to medium-sized businesses connect their data to mobile apps and business systems.