Poll: Is it practical to run your business via online subscription services?

Microsoft Office 365 is now available and ready to help you run your business, but is it folly to think that you can run your business entirely via online subscription services?

Editor's note: I am surprised by the lack of response to this poll. When I ask these things in the Google in the Enterprise Blog I get some very passionate responses. So I am taking the point of view that the original blog post was overlooked, and I am re-asking the poll question and looking for a larger sample of voices. Note that Office 365 is out of beta and is a fully functional service now.

When I took Accounting 101 way back when, we used paper, pencil, and adding machines. The personal computer was still mostly an interesting concept with not much practical use. Obviously, all that changed rather quickly. Now, not only is bookkeeping computerized, everything from international finance to lunch plans are computerized.

But as one of the older generation Business Management graduates, I find myself extremely wary of this concept of running a business via an online subscription service. This came to the forefront of my mind this week because I was invited to participate in the beta version of Microsoft Office 365. I have also launched the Google in the Enterprise Blog this month, which covers Google Business Apps and everything that goes with that universe.

For clarification, I think both Office 365 and Google Business Apps are very well-constructed systems, and I can certainly understand the appeal. If you are a small business, being able to pass off much of your typical information system infrastructure for just a few bucks per person per month sounds like a great idea -- at least initially. However, the idea that some third-party has access to the physical whereabouts of my livelihood is disconcerting to me.

But maybe that is just my age showing; maybe an online subscription service is the way to go for a small business. Maybe my concerns are unfounded and based on the false presumption that physical access implies more security than it actually does.

I am curious about what TechRepublic members think about online subscription services that provide email, messaging, meeting calendars, and other collaboration tools. Are these services a good idea for specific circumstances? Are they practical when it comes to running a small business? Is it too soon to tell?

By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.