Microsoft has entered the Software as a Service (SaaS) market in a major way. While Google Apps is just trying to get people to try their service, Microsoft has opened up the doors to hosted Exchange, Sharepoint, Communications, LiveMeeting, and CRM software. Just their brand, much less their marketing machine, is enough to get them plenty of customers, but the prices they have announced ($15 per user per month) seem very reasonable when compared to the hardware, management, and software costs of running the services in-house.
Microsoft Climbs Higher into the Cloud (Tech News World)
Smaller vendors are also in the SaaS market, which some analysts estimate at $160 billion in the next three years, and some are trying to bridge the gap between in-house and cloud computing. One other concern about the cloud is locking your documents into someone's proprietary format. Security is also a concern, although the trust factor with Google and Microsoft is probably pretty high in most enterprises.
Three Startups to Solve SaaS Integration Problems (InformationWeek)
Avoiding Lock-in in the Cloud (News.com)
What Does Cloud Computing Mean for You? (PC Magazine)
I have been toying with the idea of using SaaS in some capacity in my business but hadn't really considered it for a production environment until today. Sharepoint is high up on my wish list, and if my cost analysis shows a benefit to using the hosted service, I will have to seriously consider it. However, I will have to look at the issues of security, data portability, and various other aspects before I decide that the cloud is where my head belongs. Do you see the cloud in your enterprise in the near future?