Should ACT! by Sage move into the “Cloud”?

There has been a lot of discussion about "cloud computing" or SaaS (Software as a Service) – even some by Sage management on the ACT! Community Leadership Blog. So I thought it would be a good topic to discuss

With most ACT! users who have modern Smartphones/PDAs now wanting wireless updates. The options for that either require the user to have web infrastructure or use an externally hosted sync server. As most ACT! users (other than Prem for Web) not having the systems and/or skills, those PDA links doing this are using the cloud and charging for the service.

Handheld Contact only offers subscription based, CompanionLink offers it as an option and Sage are looking at their own solution (ACT! Mobile Live)

In a recent discussion in the ACT! Fanatics Group, Sharon Randall of SJR said she, and many of her users, prefer CompanionLink because it's a one-off purchase. Ignoring other feature differences to HHC, this also means it is only a connected cable sync - no updates on the road. It's also the primary reason I've seen when users pick CL over HHC.

This is also one reason a user might choose ACT! over SalesForce. There are many others, but this is a core difference.

But, at the same time, there are users starting to ask for more cloud options from ACT! – and there certainly has been movement in that direction, at least with a deal Sage Australia did with a local host.
See comments below http://blog.glcomputing.com.au/2009/11/supporting-remote-users-with-act-by.html

The ability to share remotely means cloud is nearly always the better option for users with PDAs - except for the single user who isn't sharing their data. But what about other functions? Or even ACT! itself?

I also have a personal interest in your opinions on this... our soon to be released Accounts Master! (to integrate with accounting software like QuickBooks) will also use a subscription model. We did this because:

  • It will work for users where the accounts staff don't use ACT! and ACT! users don't have access to accounts – It will even work with Web versions, Sync users, Term Services and hosted.
  • It means we don't have to explain to users who upgrade ACT! and then get upset that they have to also pay for their add-ons to be upgraded - it does take work to accommodate changes with each new version of ACT!
  • We can roll out enhancements when they are ready, rather than having to wait till we have enough to justify an upgrade fee or having to really a build with bugs to meet a marketing timeframe - this is something I really like about Handheld Contact 

So... after all this: What do you think about cloud/subscription Vs purchase/upgrade?

  • With some users wanting Cloud and others resisting, which camp are most ACT! users in now?
  • Will this change over then next year or two?
  • Should Sage wait for the ACT! user-base to demand this as they mature (if this is the future) or should they lead?
  • If Sage moves to early, it may upset some users... but will it upset enough that it's a worry?
  • Might this be an issue in some areas in the world where internet access, reliability and speeds are not as good?

Alternatively, without the cloud, how would users feel to a subscription model for ACT! in their own office - an annual license key and has to be renewed, but includes upgrades? I guess this is like Upgrade Insurance

For ACT! resellers, I've asked a follow-up in the ACT! Resellers Group on LinkedIN

I’d appreciate any thoughts or comments you might have. Thanks.

Update:

For those looking at a SaaS offering for ACT! by Sage now, see http://glcomputing.actondemand.com/