You could haul water from the river every morning and boil it on the stove for bathing and drinking. You’d have to wake up alot earlier than you do now in order to get to work on time.
But think of all the money you’d save!
Well, I guess it wouldn’t be that much.
Your water company provides all the processing and piping that makes water a usable and convenient resource, all for a monthly fee, saving you the trouble of finding and cleaning your own steady supply.
Application Service Providers work in much the same way by bringing costly, high maintenance software directly to your business. ASPs pipe applications in through the internet to you at a yearly, monthly, per-use, or sometimes zero charge.
The ASP Advantage
The biggest advantage of ASPs is their low and sometimes no cost of entry, as well as their short setup time. The pay-as-you-go providers are often signifigantly cheaper for those who don’t use the service daily.
Another advantage of using ASPs is their ability to reduce the number of people on your payroll. Especially the IT people, who tend to be expensive and highly specialized. (No offense, ITs)
In addition, ASPs can eliminate all the costly IT infrastructre for storing and supporting applications. If you wanted to utilize an Oracle database, you’d have to support both Oracle and the application you intended to run.
Bandwidth denotes the amount of data that can flow through a given internet pipeline. If you’ve got a wide pipe flowing into your computer, you can download lots of application data quickly and get your PC cranking. If, however, your computer’s not the swiftest boat on the ocean, ASPs could cost time and your patience.
Since most homes access the internet through dial-up modem connections, as opposed to cable modems or DSLs (Digital Subscriber Line), the growth of some ASPs is slow. Offices, with typically swifter access, often use ASPs regularly.
(free) ASPs in Action
MorMed Services is a family owned and operated business in Whitehall PA that “offers medical & dental claims filing, billing & collections services for physicians AND patients.” They use a variety of ASPs.
One such service is Paltalk. They bill themselves as “the total internet communications solution that combines the best of instant messaging and internet telephony.” They offer technologies that allow you to communicate with other Paltalkers around the world for free.
Another service they use is Spellex, who provides medical terminology spellchecking software. The ASP Spellex provides is spellchecker for your website – a tool that could increase repeat traffic to your website.
PayPal provides some of MorMed’s payment options. Paypal “enables any business or consumer with an email address to securely, conveniently, and cost-effectively send and receive payments online.” Paypal does get a small cut of your fees, but they don’t get paid until you do.
And finally, to provide their customers with the finest in MorMed merchandise, they use Cafepress.com. Cafepress makes MorMed tshirts, mugs, mouse pads, tote bags, and even a commemerative stein.
The best part is that Cafepress provides all the production infrastructure. They offer shirts at a base price of $13.99, which you can choose to increase to, say, $15.99, and earn a cool two dollars per shirt.
At the enterprise level, there is a great deal of talk about Web Services. A Web Service is, according to Jason Levitt of Information Week, “software that can communicate with another application over a network by using a specific set of standard protocols.”
The application that keeps track of your dental records in Ohio could communicate with your dentist’s cell phone in New Jersey.
Though Web Services now typically target large corporations, it won’t be long before providers look at how they could make themselves useful to everyone.
Garrett French is the editor of Murdok’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.