SaaS adds up better with eXpresso's hosted solution for Excel collaboration

Using native Excel components, eXpresso's product allows the spreadsheet owner to invite other users to view, edit, and update a spreadsheet, while retaining control over the permissions that each user has, right down to the cell level -- something current online collaboration tools, such as Google spreadsheets, don't currently offer.

With over 150 million business users worldwide, Microsoft's Excel has become a de facto standard for vast sets of business information and collaboration points.

Problems arise, however, when users and managers try to share spreadsheets and coordinate updated internal Excel information, sometimes from hundreds of far-flung users. Those seeking ease in distributing the contents of spreadsheets often bemoan the closed and brittle nature of "spreadmarts" -- the burgeoning assemblages of spreadsheets, usually amid multiple versions of each.

eXpresso Corp., Menlo Park, Calif., has introduced what it says is a unique hosted solution that provides broad functionality while eliminating the cost and need for the IT department's involvement for even minor Excel support, access and customization. Using native Excel components, eXpresso's product allows the spreadsheet owner to invite other users to view, edit, and update a spreadsheet, while retaining control over the permissions that each user has, right down to the cell level -- something current online collaboration tools, such as Google spreadsheets, don't currently offer. Because it's a SaaS, hosted system, users don't need to download software or involve IT departments, something that would be required with such solutions as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. The hosting also allows collaboration outside the firewall, something that can present problems with in-house collaboration solutions. A bonus comes with eXpresso's ability to track changes, provide an audit trail of who changed what and when, and even to allow the spreadsheet owner to roll back the data to a previous version on an individual user basis. Email alerts can notify users when changes are made. Currently a free offering, in October eXpresso will begin charging $15 a month per user for advanced features, while the core functions will remain free.

As more features and utilities, rather than the usual whole applications, become available via SaaS, the productivity and acceptance of on-demand services grows and propels even more entrants to the ecology.

eXpresso provides a great example of potentially high productivity at high convenience and low cost. We should expect to see a lot more services and widgets like this. I wonder if they could use FaceBook -- or other social networks -- to distribute knowledge and even the use of this service?

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