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Interesting Articles

Information for the application development community

If you have any comments, reaction or contributions to the articles below, please feel free to contact us with your views.


Interesting Articles - Developers

Here are a collection of interesting articles related to the developer community. If you have any comments or reaction to these articles, please feel free to contact us with your views.

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back to topManaged Service: Generating incremental revenue from existing applications

The traditional way to sell your applications is on a licence fee basis where the customer gets the right to use the software on their own hardware and network infrastructure for a defined period of time.  In exchange, you the developer, get a single lump sum and quite often a small ongoing revenue stream to cover software maintenance.

The upside for you is getting the licence fee up front, the downside is the need to constantly find new customers to generate cash flow for future months.

The upside for the customer is the single licence fee allows them to run the software for an extended period of time, the downside is that they need to provide all of the hardware, networking, backup and support staff at their own cost. And, they may have to pay an upgrade fee in the future when the software changes version.

Breaking with tradition

But, there is an alternative approach that you can use that gives improved upside to both the developer and the customer.  It’s called Managed Service.

In a Managed Service relationship, the customer doesn’t own the software licence, nor the hardware, infrastructure or support staff that are needed.  They merely pay a fixed and regular (often monthly) subscription to use the service as a whole.

This has the upside for them of no initial licence fee to fund, no new hardware or infrastructure to purchase (or no impact on their current systems), and no technical support/admin staff to fund.  The downside … if there is one … depends heavily on how the customer accounts internally for IT system costs.  If they only look at the managed service fee over a period of years compared to the one-off licence fee then they would feel that managed service is expensive.  But comparing the true costs of both approaches would give them a different view.

From the developer’s perspective, you can generate more revenue in total over the life of a customer implementation as you can receive income each and every month regardless of how long the systems is in use, which also helps greatly with cash flow.  In addition, you can receive increased revenue for your support services as you are delivering higher-value than simple software bug-fixing.  Against this you will need to balance the costs of delivering the extra services.

In this context, you might have a cash-flow model that requires the licence revenue up-front and may not want to offer the additional support service level.  That’s no problem. You can always work with a partner who specialises in this area and has developed an appropriate financial model.

Partnering to reduce risk

RapidHost is such a company.

RapidHost delivers managed services on behalf of many software developers and can easily construct an arrangement that meets your needs.  For example, we can buy the software licence and provide the additional support services for you.  That way you needn’t risk your cash-flow or take on any extra support responsibilities.

Either way, the upshot is a compelling financial alternative to offer your customers to the traditional licence purchase as well as the opportunity to generate incremental revenues over the full lifespan of the customer system.

Interested but not sure?  Give us a call and we can talk you through the Managed Service business model and see where the opportunities for you are.

back to topBackup: Keeping track of customer-specific application versions

Despite your best intentions at the outset, as a developer you often get drawn into creating customer-specific versions of your application software.  Whilst this gives the customer a more personal service, it gives you … a version control issue to manage and potential upgrade and maintenance headaches!

Adding to this situation is the problem of knowing where the relevant backup copies of each version are.  And as is the way – you only need that backup copy when you are under pressure because things are going horribly wrong.

One solution to ease this problem is to use a remote backup service like RapidHost’s Rapid Backup.  With Rapid Backup your backups are available directly online, which is especially handy if you are on customer site when the problems occur.  They are also centralised, so from a single browser interface you can sift through all of the copies to decide which is the most suitable version of the specific files that you want.

And if the selected ones don’t fix the problem you can keep going further back in time until you find the files that do – all from the internet, wherever you are and whatever the time of day.

Whilst Rapid Backup won’t solve all of your customer-specific software problems, it will help you overcome one of the biggest and most urgent. 

Call us today and see how we can help you manage your backups better.

back to topSoftware as a Service: Delivering FileMaker applications on a rental basis - the TimeHarvest case

There is much talk in the industry about SaaS (Software as a Service) as the way forward for IT systems deployment.  In truth, this subject has been discussed for many years.  But it seems that interest in this approach is gaining new ground.

One of the reasons for this change in attitude is the emergence of server virtualisation which allows hosting companies to deliver near-dedicated server robustness at much reduced prices.  The combination of the high level of control that Virtual Private Servers (VPS) gives the software owner along with the reduction in pricing now makes SaaS deployments much more attractive.

A good example of this change in attitude in practice is FileMaker developer TimeHarvest.  They are a specialist software builder focusing on the professional digital printing industry.  Founded in 2003, the company employs six staff developing and delivering a suite of quotation and production management software, including DigiQuote, JobControl, FileFix and PrintCALC.

They had been selling their software products in the traditional way since the very first release, but felt that they could offer their customers a good alternative if they had a ‘hosted rental’ approach as well. Working with RapidHost they defined a suitable VPS and network configuration and set about proposing the solution to their customers.

Face Creative Systems, TimeHarvest's largest customer, took up the offer and now runs their software on a managed service basis.  The solution has worked well.

According to Bill  Harding, Director of Face Creative Systems, “We are very pleased with the level of performance and reliability that TimeHarvest and RapidHost have delivered. And we’ve got an additional benefit that we hadn’t previously thought about.  We can now work with the system wherever we are as long as there is an internet connection.  I could even do my job from ‘down the pub’ … if only!”

TimeHarvest are similarly pleased with the outcome of this change in offer. “We are confident that next year we’ll sell as many managed service configurations as we do traditionally purchased software licences,” said Geoff Stephens, Director,  TimeHarvest.  “And the year after I wouldn’t be surprised if the clear majority of sales are delivered on a rental basis.  This is good for us and our customers, and it’s down to the confidence that we have in RapidHost and their hosted FileMaker expertise.  Between us, FileMaker and RapidHost, we make a very good team indeed.”

Read the full TimeHarvest case study here

Find out more about how RapidHost can help you deliver an SaaS offer for your products on this page.

back to topMobile Applications: Using FileMaker on iPhone and iPod Touch devices

US developer FMTouch has technology that allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to access multiple FileMaker databases directly from these devices, whether connected to the internet or not. 

The software is continually being enhanced and has a raft of pre-built applications that can be used alongside it. More details from the FMTouch website.

back to topPHP in Windows 2008: A new focus

Microsoft is committed to offering the best possible Web experience to developers and that includes solutions developed in PHP. The company has been very active in this area recently;

  • Microsoft has been working closely with the PHP.NET community, making technical contributions to widely-used PHP projects, such as the ADOdb database library
  • Windows Server 2008 with IIS 7.0 provides an open platform for hosting ASP.NET and PHP applications from a single server, using a common set of administrative tools for management
  • The release of SQL Server Driver for PHP v1.0 makes it easier to use SQL Server as your database of choice for PHP applications. Get the source code for the driver posted from CodePlex, Microsoft's open source project hosting site
  • Microsoft Expression Web 2.0 gives you powerful design tools and task panes to design for ASP.NET, PHP, and XML. Open and edit PHP pages directly in Expression Web 2.0 and apply the full range of standards-based design tools to PHP
  • The Windows Web Application Gallery provides streamlined ways for users to explore, discover, and install ASP.NET, PHP, and Open Source Web applications on the Windows Web Platform. It also provides a simple way for developers to offer their applications to millions of Windows users worldwide

To help PHP developers better understand how the Microsoft environment can be beneficial they have set up four Virtual Labs that provide in-depth information;