New and Improved Salesforce.com?

by David Miller

Salesforce.com enhances on-demand offerings, service and support.

Salesforce.com is expanding its horizons. The company's new "Unlimited Edition" is no longer centered on customer relationship management applications for the mobile sales representative. Now users can run all of their business apps over the Web.

The company also promises that it's working hard to address the service outages that plagued users over the past several months.

Salesforce.com's Unlimited Edition looks to be a new and improved version of the company's hosted software solution. New features include the ability to add and run an unlimited number of applications on the platform, enabling customers to extend on-demand CRM capabilities to finance, legal, human resources and IT applications.

These applications can be internally developed, or customers can take advantage of more than 100 third-party applications developed by customers, independent developers and Salesforce.com partners.

Applications can be developed or installed directly from Salesforce.com's AppExchange, an on-demand development platform.

"I think the focus of this product is first to attract development and developers who would normally first think of using PC-based development tools or spreadsheets to create simple tracking applications," said Denis Pombriant, an analyst with Beagle Research.

"It will attract new users and for the first time in a long time it is growing demand by growing the available pool of target customers."

Companies can use the "Salesforce Sandbox" to work with applications in a fully replicated production environment to ensure new software plays nicely with all the existing components of their system before actually deploying it.

Kendall Collins, vice president of product marketing for Salesforce.com, said that with Unlimited Edition, users will be able to create and deploy applications as easily as they can write a blog.

But ease of use won't affect security, he added

"We run an extremely secure data center," Collins said. "And we devoted a lot of time to developing our security policies and processes around security. We worked with outside experts, and allowed companies like Merrill Lynch to have their own experts to try and hack into the system."

Collins also said the company has ensured that the outages that recently frustrated its users have been addressed. Obviously customers want their on-demand applications to be available on demand.

One Salesforce.com user has set up a blog Gripeforce.com to document problems with the service.

"We've made great strides with availability," said Collins. "Our track record has been solid. Our availability has been 99.7 percent in February. And we are doing a variety of things to make it better."

Collins cited Salesforce.com's new Web site, which displays the network's status, as part of the company's attempts to communicate clearly with its users who have complained that Salesforce.com isn't as forthcoming as it should be regarding service availability issues.

"We're putting all the uptime information right out there," said Collins. "I think this level of transparency has given customers more confidence in our commitment. We are holding ourselves accountable for the whole on-demand market."

The new Unlimited Edition gives users access to 120MB of storage per user -- a six-fold increase from the Enterprise Edition. The Unlimited Edition also includes "Premium support," with a specific assigned support representative and administrator for each company account.

Unlimited Edition is available now for $195 per user per month. Enterprise Edition, Salesforce Sandbox and Premium support and administration are included in Unlimited Edition and are also available separately.

Salesforce.com customers include AMD, AOL, Avis/Budget Rent-A-Car (Cendant Rental Car Group), Dow Jones Newswires, Nokia, Polycom and SunTrust.

  This article was originally published on Monday Mar 6th 2006
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