I am looking for cost-effective software-as-service solutions. Help!

I am in the middle of launching an online business, that will have multiple locations long-term and staff that will be located across the globe in all the major ski resorts of the world. I am currently trying to find a Cloud SAAS solution that is cost effective and has these functions: document management, CRM, sales forecasting, tax management and joint calendars.

This is becoming a common scenario today as smart people realise they do not need to own infrastructure to get global software solutions up and running fast.


Clearly you need a powerful but customisable email solution, document authoring and collaboration tools, document storage with a structure to it and a CRM tool that will expand to cover your vast terrain.

For online email for business I do not think you can go past Gmail where you can register your own e-mail domain and use Gmail to offer unique email addresses to each of your staff or licensees immediately. There is a very small cost for this but it will give you what you need for a fraction of the cost of other solutions.

There may be other solutions out there but I have not spent time investigating beyond Gmail as it ties in with Google Apps which we support as a business. This will also lead you towards Google docs where you can create and share documents with your global team setting access levels as required for collaboration. Gmail and Google apps will also give you the shared calendars you are after.

I would be pushing the shared calendar through to Salesforce.com which is the CRM application we sell. Here you will run into cost issues as Salesforce.com is not the cheapest solution for SaaS CRM.

Salesforce.com also integrates nicely with Google docs and Gmail, as the two company founders are doing deals to support their mutual drive to build the cloud argument for software as a service. This tool will instantly give you graphical insight of the stages and progress of sales of each of your sales people globally. The reporting out of Salesforce.com is one of its strongest features as it is easy to design reports and simple to represent them graphically.

Please note that there are a number of hosted solutions you should look at include Sugar, Sage, SAP, Microsoft CRM.

I hope readers will add their personal preferences in the comments below so we can pool our knowledge on the vast array of products that are coming onto the market in the SaaS space.

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David Markus is the founder of Melbourne’s IT services company Combo. His focus is on big picture thinking to create value in IT systems for the SME sector.

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