Microsoft Excel has an incredibly intuitive user interface for designing calculation models, albeit for finance, insurance, or sales. It’s one of the most preferred tools for many companies when it comes to the creation of business models, structured data storage, or calculators. Businesses experts invest much time and effort into building these applications and – naturally – they want to utilize them to their full potential.

In many cases, the most preferable means of exposing these models is over the internet, either through integration with existing tools or as standalone applications. The typical approach for this type of transition is a from-scratch development process that requires a code-based implementation of each individual aspect of these models (user interface, database integration, and the calculation logic) in traditional programming languages like .NET, Java, or PHP.

However, this is often a costly and time consuming endeavor. Even with a Content Management System (CMS) in place, this approach takes control over the development and maintenance away from the business users, effectively making it more difficult to make changes to the underling logic.

SpreadsheetWeb offers an alternative, allowing Excel-based tools to be turned into full web applications with little-to-no programming experience.

 

Custom Development Projects

Based on our past experiences, most spreadsheet models can be categorized into three subsections based on the complexity of the requirements and overall functionality: simple, moderate and complex.

Simple applications mostly consist of calculation logic. Calculators, aid tools or timecards are typical examples. When developing custom solutions for these types of applications, the UI and the backend logic needs to be coded, but there is typically no need for database programming or third-party/external component integration. Implementing this type of custom solution will require the time and effort of UI and back-end developers, as well as a testing unit.

Spreadsheet models of moderate complexity are typically used for data collection, in addition to running calculation logic. These applications may incorporate a more complex user interface and more advanced calculation algorithms. The addition of data storage also adds the requirement of database programming to the business requirements. These moderately complex models usually won’t work in conjunction with other applications, meaning that they don’t require any integration with external systems. Being a more complex task, these projects need to employ UI, database, and back-end developers, along with project managers and a testing unit.

Complex spreadsheets involve lots of complicated calculations. Just like moderate-complexity models, they also require UI and database programming. The real challenge is rewriting the advanced business logic that these types of applications tend to require, as well as integration points with other systems. A project of this scale will require the collaboration of UI, database, and back-end developers, along with project managers, software architects, and a testing unit.

Assuming the use of the Microsoft stack (.NET and SQL development), let’s take a look at the costs of custom development projects. Again, based on our experience, a simple web project takes approximately 3 weeks, moderate 2-3 months, and a complex project may take 6-8 months.

Considering that the three project types will require employing the aforementioned composition of teams and using interpolated average salary data provided by glassdoor.com to project hourly rates (1,253 hours in a year as proposed by hueniverse) allows us to generate a close estimate as to the costs of these various projects. Using these figures, we approximate the costs below:

  • Simple project – $45,040
  • Moderate project – $242,000
  • Complex project – $703,200

Furthermore, we must consider hosting and software licensing. Since Amazon’s AWS services are amongst the most popular hosting services, we calculated estimated costs for maintaining these running servers assuming a C3 series server (for adequate processing power), which – as of 12/2/2016 – calculates to the following annual prices (including Windows Server, SQL and hosting):

  • Simple: c3.xlarge – $5,655/year
  • Moderate: c3.2xlarge – $11,312/year
  • Complex: c3.4xlarge – $22,631/year

Without deployment expenses, the final costs (including upfront costs for development, hosting and licensing) add up to:

  • Simple: $45,040 upfront plus $5,655/year hosting and licensing
  • Moderate: $242,000 upfront plus $11,312/year hosting and licensing
  • Complex: $703,200 upfront plus $22,631/year hosting and licensing

 

SpreadsheetWEB

Using SpreadsheetWeb, Application development for the web takes a slightly different form. Coding is almost non-existent and most web applications can be deployed within a very short period of time, relative to full application custom development.

A simple application will only require the spreadsheet to be converted and tested. Typically, a simple project can be completed within a day. This type of applications can cost around $800 to develop and $9,600 per year to host on the SpreadsheetWEB public cloud, including all licensing fees.

A project of moderate complexity might require some customization on top of the conversion and testing tasks. Such applications usually take about 1 or 2 weeks. Development will cost about $6,000 and the annual private cloud licensing fee will be $18,000.

Complex applications tend to include some VBA logic that may require additional customization. These types of applications can typically be implemented within 1 or 2 months. This amounts to a one-time development cost of approximately $24,000, while private cloud fees will add up to approximately $24,000 per year.

With development in SpreadsheetWeb, the final costs add up to:

  • Simple: $800 upfront plus $9,600/year hosting and licensing
  • Moderate: $6,000 upfront plus $18,000/year hosting and licensing
  • Complex: $24,000 upfront plus $28,000/year hosting and licensing

 

Conclusion

Let’s compare the costs and time requirements for the two approaches. Over a 3-year period, the total costs savings are shown below;

Project Type Custom Development SpreadsheetWEB Savings
Simple $62,005 $29,600 53%
Moderate $275,936 $60,000 79%
Complex $771,093 $108,000 86%

Naturally, applications can be created and deployed more quickly with SpreadsheetWeb – in some cases, up to 20 times faster and 86% more cost-effective than custom application development.

Please note that we didn’t consider ongoing maintenance or deployment costs in our calculations. The simplicity of making updates to the Excel-based calculation logic within the native Excel environment is a factor that also adds to the beauty of development and deployment with SpreadsheetWeb.

We’ve created an online calculator for your convenience. See how much you can save by avoiding a tedious custom development process.