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Sage moves into cloud with online SMB accounting package

Bustin' out of the shrink-wrap

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Business software company Sage launched a new web-based accounting product today targeted at individuals and SMBs.

The Newcastle-based FTSE 100-listed firm developed the software, which was built on the Ruby-on-Rails open source web application framework, as part of Sage's effort to focus on what its North European boss Paul Stobart described as an "emerging web strategy".

Many tech companies, whose revenue has relied for years on shrink-wrapped software being sold and then installed on computers, are now switching to cloudier options.

So it's hardly surprising to see Sage finally spinning out its own Saas gear for punters.

The UK-only product, dubbed SageOne, comes in three different flavours. The 'Cashbook' version is the basic package and will set a sole trader or small biz back £5 per month, plus VAT.

An 'Accounts' edition costs £10 per month, plus VAT, and comes with additional invoice creation tools among other features.

There's also an 'Accountant' version of SageOne, which will set bookkeepers back £250 per year, plus VAT, or will be free to existing Sage accountants' club members.

The company is also offering customers 24/7 online, email and telephone support, though it said it could not guarantee 100 per cent uptime of SageOne.

Sage said that customer information is secured using 128-bit encryption in various data centres throughout the UK.

Today's launch signifies what some will see as Sage's delayed arrival into the burgeoning cloud-based marketplace. Indeed, Stobart admitted at the launch event in London this morning that the company had failed up to now to shout about its Saas strategy.

He said the firm had spent millions of pounds on Sage's newfound love for the internet to ensure its offerings were right for its customers.

"We have been very quiet on what we've been doing on the web," said Stobart. "We haven't communicated that as well as we ought up to now."

He added that Sage planned to apply its Saas biz model to its hugely important mid-market products over the next 12 to 24 months, by "taking those apps to the cloud".

Indeed, Sage's strategy echoes that of rival Microsoft, which is similarly trying to reinvent itself as a cloud-based vendor that just so happens to sell packaged software, too.

Of course, customer perception about both Sage and MS is arguably that both are good at the shrink-wrapped end of the market, and the two software makers will need to address that image problem if they are to have a truly worthy shelf-life online. ®

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