Complete biz solutions: Make someone else do the dirty work

Instead of spending valuable capital and IT resources creating, setting up, and maintaining complex applications, pick an ASP to do it for you. That sounds easy, but in practice, it's much more complicated.

The theory is great: Never buy software again. Instead, rent it from an application service provider, or ASP. Instead of spending valuable capital and IT resources creating, setting up, and maintaining complex applications, pick an ASP to do it for you.

That sounds easy, but in practice, it's much more complicated. Where ASPs once housed basic software applications--like e-mail, for example--today's breed of ASP goes a lot further, providing Web development, customer relationship management (CRM), collaboration, data management, enterprise resource planning (ERP), management information systems (MIS), and networking and telecommunications services.

Do you have any ASP success (or horror) stories to share? YES

Simply put, with ASPs a company can pick and choose the software it needs--from the simplest e-mail program to a sophisticated, customized database that tracks, for instance, the daily change in your company's sales figures by store or ZIP code, and delivers this information to wireless laptops anywhere in the country. And for a monthly fee, these service providers will handle the management of the programs and the network.

Yet there are horror stories among ASP users as well. Some ASPs have gone out of business, leaving companies with little time to move their information. In other cases, the ASPs haven't been able to offer the flexibility a company needs.

Before you decide to go the ASP route, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your company need a technology solution faster than your team can build it?
  • Do you lack the IT resources to implement a new project?
  • Do you prefer a fixed monthly cost, as opposed to a long-term capital outlay?
  • Do you lack the in-house resources to provide guaranteed 365/24/7 service?

    If you answered yes to most of these questions, you're a likely candidate for an ASP. In general, companies in this group are smaller businesses.

    For more information on outsourcing applictions, and on how ASPs compare, check out our review of outsourced software in the April 3 issue of PC Magazine.

    Is an ASP the right answer for your business? Do you have any ASP success (or horror) stories to share? TalkBack to me.