If you're like most people, you probably think of "software" as something
that comes in a shrink-wrapped box of CD-ROMs and that your IT
department has to come around and install on your hard drive. In fact,
web-based software (sometimes called "Software as a Service"
is used by millions of people every single day, and has become as
indispensable a tool as traditional "boxed" software. Do you use an
online email service such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmal for your personal
or business communications? Then you're one of those millions!
One of the key advantages of web-based software is the ability to
collaborate. In a previous post I talked about using online systems to help maintain your membership
records. Unless you're running a one-person show as a membership
coordinator, sharing tasks like following up on lapsed dues or updating
contact records can be really difficult. You're forwarded around
spreadsheets or other files, updating them in different places on
different machines, and running a big risk of having things get out of
sync. Online software simplifies this by letting you designate
multiple people who have the right to edit certain information. That
means you or others can do things like update member telephone number
or payment information. You're days of being the bottleneck could end
in a snap!
Here are a few more advantages of web-based software:
- You need to install and maintain boxed software on your
own systems. Web-based software runs inside your browser, without any
- Boxed software is usually only
available on your own computer, or on your intranet. You can access
web-based software anywhere you can open a browser.
software upgrades needs to be installed manually, and usually cost
extra. Web-based software upgrades happen automatically, and are
Wild Apricot's association management software (AMS) system and many comparable membership software
products are examples of web-based software. Here are a few other
categories of software where there are terrific SaaS offerings
- Office tools - the Google Docs
suite has been around for a while, offering a freebie alternative to
the ubiquitious Word, Excel and PowerPoint - recently Microsoft struck
back with their Office Apps.
- Project management - the folks at 37singals make terrific
web software, and perhaps their best-known product is the project
management system Basecamp. It made people re-think the way they manage projects and helped create the post-MS Project world.
- Graphic editing software - on our sister blog Non Profit Technology @ Wild Apricot, Rebecca Leaman had a terrific post entitled "3 Good (Free) Online Image Editors" -- the name really says it all.
So go ahead, give online software a try. You might be surprised how much you enjoy the freedom from shrink-wrapped boxes.
Originally published by Jay Moonah