By Sheri Jacobs, Director of Association Marketing and Business Development for SurePayroll.com
Keeping up with the rapid changes in technology is a challenging task for most small- to medium-sized business owners. Many face only two choices: Invest in expensive overly sophisticated systems or outsource various functions and lose control over key operations. However, in today’s Internet economy, small to medium-sized business owners are experiencing rapid growth, leaving them little time to waste on day-to-day business operations. They need a way to streamline business processes without having to blow their budget. In addition, businesses need the flexibility to quickly increase the size of their systems as their business grows in order to maintain strong customer relationships. As a result, these businesses are turning to Application Service Providers (ASP) as a cost-effective solution.
What is an ASP?
Simply stated, an ASP is an organization that hosts software applications either on its own servers or at a remote location. Customers access the application via private lines or the Internet, and pay a monthly “rental” fee. Once limited to software created for large companies by giants such Microsoft, and IBM, the Internet has spurred the development of a second generation of service-oriented ASPs. This second generation is particularly appealing to small-and mid-sized businesses, and to start-ups that typically lack the technology to support the function in-house. ASPs allow small businesses to access big business-style packages, which they previously could not afford to license or did not have the technology to support outright. And they offer customers the flexibility to increase the size of their systems as the company grows.
Should I Choose an ASP?
Today, virtually any software application or service—including e-mail, payroll, word processing, accounting, sales and marketing, enterprise resource planning (ERP), communications and customer service—can be delivered through an Application Service Provider.
But because there are a wide variety of service-level agreements associated with these providers, determining whether an ASP is right for your company can be an extremely confusing process. To simplify this process, a company needs to review all aspects of using an ASP and determine who offers the best quality, reliability and overall return on investment.
Benefits of using an ASP
ASPs give small to medium-size businesses a chance to use the best-of-breed technologies—not having to settle on inadequate applications simply because they are within their budgetary limits.
- Increased focus on the organization’s core business.
- Predictable and manageable costs.
- Access to the latest technology.
- Reduced Risk – With no capital expenditure on software, hardware and IT personnel, businesses can “test” a new technology with minimal impact on their existing environment and bottom line.
- No need to hire, train and manage IT staff.
- Professionally managed secure environment.
- Better, higher quality technical support 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Which Applications Should We Outsource?
Typically, organizations outsource software applications that require a high level of availability or technical expertise; in other words, expertise that the company doesn’t have or has no desire to maintain in-house as a core competency. The best advice is to carefully analyze your business needs. Are security and reliability a top priority, what about ease of use and 24/7 support? The trick is to find an ASP with the knowledge and experience to handle mission-critical enterprise applications, and with a background in systems integration, security and high availability.
For example, payroll outsourcing contains highly confidential and sensitive data. If there is one mistake in the application’s calculation, there is significant risk of government fines, not to mention disgruntled employees. For an application that is as mission-critical such as payroll, businesses want to select an ASP that has reliable network performance and dependable security.
Questions to ask an ASP before you dive in.
- In terms of security, has the ASPs taken extreme precautions to ensure their Web-based applications are secure enough to handle mission-critical and confidential information, such as HR and payroll records.
- As your business expands, is the ASP equipped to grow with you?
- Will the costs and service levels of the ASP provide significant savings in time and money over handling the tasks in-house?
- Does the ASP provide the necessary customer support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week if needed?
- Are lengthy contracts involved in using an ASP?
Where do I get more information?
Before you outsource to an ASP, decide what applications to farm out and what to keep in-house. Look for someone who's providing a specialized service that doesn't make sense for you to provide yourself. For more useful information on ASPs check out these sites:
- WebHarbor.com (www.webharbor.com)
An ASP Industry Portal that delivers information, news, ASP links, directories and solutions for small and large businesses.
- ASP Industry Consortium (www.aspindustry.org)
The Consortium’s mission is to educate the marketplace, provide a forum for discussion, promote best practices, and sponsor research.
- ASP News (www.searchasp.com)
Search over 2000 pre-screened ASP sites. Includes, news, tips, links and a help desk. Links include ASPs providing email, word processing, calendars, accounting, customer relationship management, sales, marketing, IT management and more.
SurePayroll.com offers an Internet-based payroll service that automates the entire payroll process, completely eliminating the traditional processing steps that conventional payroll services providers use. SurePayroll.com allows small and medium-sized businesses and their employees to initiate and access payroll information conveniently from anywhere, anytime, via a completely secure and reliable Internet site. With SurePayroll.com’s exclusive 3-level SecureTrak security system, payroll is completed in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at http://www.surepayroll.comor contact Sheri Jacobs directly at (847) 681-4400 x231 or via email at [email protected].