You all know that "hosted applications", "software as a service (SaaS)", or cloud computing (however you wish to call it) is increasingly being used by more small (and large) businesses.
Installing software on a server, rolling it out to dozens of computers and worrying about how to keep the data synchronized is a thing of the past with hosted applications.
One of the frustrations with hosted applications is that one often has to use various applications throughout they day, with various logons. One of the benefits of a service like Infostreet's Street Smart 7 is that it offers you 12 applications for one fee ($10) per month, per user.
The application, although not revolutionary and certainly not "hip", but quite functional and useful for day to day operations of a small business include: address book, calendar, CRM, email, email archiving, employee directory, file sharing, knowledge base, portal, sync, tasks and web site publisher. (The $10 per month does not include CRM or email archiving).
Street Smart reminds me of Zoho's quite extensive suite of online software, almost 19 in fact and competitively priced as well.
When comparing online software suites, or any technology, don't just shop for it comparing the number of features and cost. What you need to consider is what software do you need to productively manage and run your business. No software will give you 100% of what you need. However, when you find the software that has most of what you need, consider that software for you.
The other thing to consider is how easy (or not) the software is to work with. Imagine two cars. At the outset both cars look good and seem to operate the same.
However, when you start using them on a day to day basis you find that adjusting the driver's seat is a 30 minute process. If adjusting the driver's seat is important to you, then this feature (seat adjustment) although seemingly small, could be a deciding factor in which software you'll choose.
If you're annoyed with going through 2 or 6 hosted applications throughout the day, an integrated suite of services, such as offered by InfoStreet's Street Smart could be quite useful and certainly economical.
One downside to the integrated approach is that while each of Street Smart's applications has the most basic functionality it can't compete with a company selling ONE of these applications as it's main offering.
For example, while Infostreet has a task feature, it can't compete with a task solution offered by Attask, 37 Signal's Basecamp or one of dozens of other task solutions.
Ramon Ray is the editor & technology evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com