A growing number of small businesses do-it-themselves when it comes to Web applications. Python, Coghead, and even Microsoft have developed tools to allow even non-programmers to customize applications.
Do-it-yourself webware programs such as Coghead, Python and Microsoft Office Live can be a cost-effective way of building a customized application platform for a small or medium-sized business. These webware applications are run through a Web browser, rather than a desktop application, and include servers, task scheduling, session management, cascading style sheets, and databases. The goal of these applications is to create interlocking computer platforms that are easy to deploy. Popular uses of these applications include database management, customer relationship management (CRM), asset and bug tracking, project and event management.
So why would a small business rely on these D-I-Y technologies rather than hiring an outside consultant or buying a pre-packaged application?
Ownership -- With a D-I-Y software application, you have full ownership and control of the product, so when you need to tweak a servlet, you do not need to wait on someone else.
Cost -- You don’t need to pay an outside programming consultant for the initial set-up; you don’t need to worry about the cost of upgrades, and there is no management fee for your server. A program like Adobe’s ColdFusion runs $1,600 and still needs to be customized, which is costly for the small business.
Time -- These applications will save you the consultant’s programming time since you’re doing all of the work yourself.
No maintenance -- Since these applications are D-I-Y, you or someone on your team needs to know how to maintain the system and fish out the bugs.
No upgrades -- You need to ensure that your codes remain encrypted and secure to prevent hackers and system failures.
How to decide whether to try webware
Aaron Hyde, the founder/owner of BrewedFresh Media.com, a Web content and publishing company in Cary, N.C., says that with these D-I-Y applications users need to know if they are tech savvy enough to manage these applications on their own. “With full ownership comes full responsibility and some small businesses don’t have the time to spend programming and managing these applications,” Hyde says. He adds that these businesses may think that they are saving money, but they still need to know how to install and customize these applications.
Businesses need to also determine whether they can get some of these applications from a vendor or an on-demand software provider. Farming out development and maintenance of your applications may end up being more economical when compared to the value of the time spent in-house developing and maintaining your D-I-Y webware application.
Although the folks in the IT department may look down on those of us who use D-I-Y webware applications, RSS feeds, wikis, mashups, and blogs, they are all part of the Web 2.0 revolution, the second generation of Web applications for the Web user who connects with others and participates in the global conversation. Implementing D-I-Y Web-based applications for a small business makes sense if your company has the right people on board who know what they’re doing so that significant cost and time savings may be achieved.
Coghead is a Web-based application that helps users build and host custom database applications in a much shorter timeframe than traditional software development applications. Examples of Coghead’s business applications include project management, CRM, bug tracking, and dynamic programming. Pricing starts at $49/month for five users and a multi-user account is free for 30 days.
Python is an open-source programming language that can run on Windows, Mac, Nokia mobile phones, and Palm Pilots. Companies and individuals use Python for game development, networking, databases, and bug tracking.
Microsoft Office Live is a hosted service allowing small businesses to customize their own website and Web-based applications. With Office Live, users can store and share documents via online workspaces and can efficiently track projects and company information. Three levels are available at varying monthly subscription rates: Office Live Basics (free), Office Live Essentials ($19.95/month), and Office Live Premium ($39.95/month).