Buying software and software upgrades for your business can put a serious dent in your budget. So can outsourcing key tasks, such as payroll processing and billing. Thanks to the Web, there's a more affordable alternative that's especially suited to small businesses and startups: application service providers (ASPs).
ASPs are easy-to-use Web-based programs that provide the same features as pricier software and many of the same services as outsourcing firms. ASPs lower costs by:
- Reducing the need for high-priced IT specialists to install and administer programs.
- Eliminating the need for costly software upgrades.
- Eliminating the need for expensive equipment.
- Reducing training time.
Web hosting and email servicesThe ASPs most commonly used by small businesses are Web hosting and email services. These services eliminate the need for expensive servers and IT staff.
Ecommerce storefrontsASPs make it easy to launch an online store and save you from the costly and time-consuming development process.
Fax servicesWith an ASP fax service, you can eliminate the cost of buying a fax machine and maintaining it.
Ad managementWhether you want to place banner ads on other Web sites or host ads on your site, ASPs can simplify the process — sometimes for free.
CRM, sales and marketing solutionsThe cost of developing customized CRM, marketing or sales software is usually prohibitive for smaller businesses. But several ASPs offer the flexibility required to meet to your needs.
Accounting and financeMany small businesses outsource complicated and time-consuming accounting chores, such as payroll processing. ASPs, however, provide an inexpensive alternative to outsourcing that also lets you maintain control of your accounting processes.
Inventory managementInventory management software is notoriously expensive and can easily run into the tens of thousands, and sometimes even into the millions. But several affordable ASPs are available to help you track your inventory.
HR tasksStreamline your HR efforts with ASPs that offer solutions for benefits administration, performance reviews, recruiting, scheduling and tracking time.
All-in-one solutionsSome major providers offer a host of Web-based programs to fill all your business needs, including accounting, inventory management, sales and marketing.
- One of the benefits of ASPs is that you can access them from any computer anywhere in the world.
- Cost structures for ASPs vary and include pay-as-you-go models, monthly fees and annual fees. Some are free, but require you to pay for additional plug-ins or modules.
- To help you ramp up, most ASPs provide online training and phone support.