Our in-boxes at CNET have been getting hit with companies jumping on the hosted solution bandwagon--applications you and your coworkers or employees can access over the Internet rather than have as installed (and expensive) software hosted on your computers.
Google, of course, which keeps galloping out of the gates with hosted applications, is aggregating a bunch of them, along with some third-party material, into Google Pack, which experts predict will soon have word processing, spreadsheets, and other utilities. Microsoft says it'll start offering versions of its Office software online.
There are also a bunch of other solutions, just a few of which I'll mention here. JotSpot, the folks who are bringing the world free wikis--the ultimate collaborative tool--has announced that it's adding spreadsheet functionality so that a bunch of users can manipulate Excel together. There's MioNet, "virtual work place software that allows small-business users to remotely access, share, and back up data and applications to local and remote computers anywhere, anytime" for $6.95 per user per month. There's HyperOffice, a "Web-based software for document sharing and collaboration for small-business owners, employees, clients, business partners, and suppliers." There are hosted phone solutions such as GotVMail, and there are, of course, old standbys such as CRM solution Salesforce.com and HR helpers such as Gevity and ADPTotal Source.
The waves are cresting, and you'll probably want to catch some of them. There are start-ups, some of which will fail, others that will consolidate, and some that will explode into success. Regardless, hosted solutions are an elegant way to use the latest technology to outsource, which is a cost-effective way to concentrate on what you do best and leave the fixed costs for a time when you've grown to the point where you need to bring the systems in-house--even systems that aren't your core business.