ASPs remain an enigma to SMEs

The majority of small businesses are unaware of the role played by Application Service Providers (ASPs), according to a new...

The majority of small businesses are unaware of the role played by Application Service Providers (ASPs), according to a new survey by the Computer Software and Services Association (CSSA).

The CSSA polled 200 IT managers at companies with between 25 and 500 employees. It found that the ASP model was not understood by small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), while the majority of managers could not accurately identify named major ASP vendors.

In a statement, the CSSA said, "The ASPs themselves have failed to provide a compelling value proposition."

However, the survey's findings did not come as a surprise to some analysts, such as Bloor Research's Graham Fisher. "The fact that the ASP message has failed to get through to SMEs is quite easy to see, simply because of the cultural issues," he said.

Some 73% of respondents claimed they were familiar with the term "ASP", but the survey found that there was often confusion as to its true meaning. Some IT managers from SMEs defined ASPs as being providers of "uncontracted software".

Some 13% of respondents claimed to be using, or thinking about deploying, an ASP-based model. However, many of those polled had confused the term and were actually referring to services from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the CSSA claimed.

When it came to naming ASPs competing in the UK arena, responses were low. Some 85% of those questioned could not name a single ASP.

Fisher added that broadband alone could make the ASP proposition attractive to small businesses. At present, many SMEs use a dial-up modem for online operations, meaning that renting software via the Internet would not be possible.

"The ASP model was massively over-hyped when it first started," explained Fisher. "The delivery of desktop applications through the Internet was obviously not feasible. Now it's calmed down and the model has matured, the crux of the matter is connectivity."

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