Ivan Epstein, CEO, Softline, says that irrespective of the nature or size of your business, selecting the right business software is important for streamlining financial management and business processes. Having a handle on your accounting, inventory control, customer data and the availability to generate powerful reporting are useful when meeting the challenges of today’s business demands.

Opportunities for both web and non-web based solutions continue to abound inSouth Africaand Epstein believes we’re in a good position to embrace our emerging markets, in which the SME sector continues to show strong signs of growth.

“The increasing reliance on systems by businesses of all sizes is driving fundamental change in the way business software is being provided to the SME sector. No traditional software application is immune to web-based competition, so it stands to reason that adopting web application technologies and business practices are an area that local vendors and customers are continuing to adopt.”

Vendors have seen a gradual move in the industry over the past few years, Epstein says. Customers are more frequently adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models wherein web-based applications are explored as an alternative to traditional desktop applications. For the small business owner, perhaps one of the most challenging aspects is simply deciding which application is most appropriate for their business, as well as sourcing reputable options.

“In the past, SaaS offerings were limited to applications such as ERP, CRM, and the like. Today companies, of all sizes, are also looking at online infrastructure services – applications such as backup and storage. Online backup can help small businesses deal with the challenge of exponentially growing data volumes. It presents a new opportunity for small businesses by giving them all the benefits of enterprise-class backup without the associated management complexity and cost. Better yet, as more mature backup vendors start to offer their software through an online delivery model, small businesses can be sure their data is safely in the hands of proven experts.”

The challenge, however, for SMEs in South Africa which are interested in web-based solutions is the country’s bandwidth challenges “This will continue to improve over time”. Also, Epstein says, some businesses, particularly SMEs, are simply not comfortable giving their sensitive data to others to manage. Others have found that a web-based solution may actually be more secure than their current configuration.

“Either way, I would advise business owners to carefully investigate the issue of security in more detail if they’re exploring the benefits of web-based solutions for their business. Leading web-based vendors realise that this is a critical issue, and they have taken significant measures to ensure the security of their customers’ data files. Vendors must provide a secure data environment for their customers,” Epstein concludes.