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Outside the Box - How web-based software makes collaboration easier for your association

Lori Halley 06 July 2010 0 comments

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" or SaaS) 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 additional software. 
  • 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.
  • Boxed software upgrades needs to be installed manually, and usually cost extra.  Web-based software upgrades happen automatically, and are usually free. 

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 available:

  • 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

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 06 July 2010 at 11:58 AM
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