Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Can online scheduling services save time and money?

Appointment Quest is just one of dozens of online scheduling programs available on the Web.
Appointment Quest is just one of dozens of online scheduling programs available on the Web.
©2008 HowStuffWorks

As people have become more familiar with the Internet, Web services have flourished. Whether it's the explosion of social networks or the evolution of the software as a service (SaaS) business model, people are using the Web more than ever. Companies are taking advantage of this trend in many ways, one of which is online scheduling.

At its most basic level, online scheduling is an interface in which multiple parties can make appointments or schedule tasks over an Internet connection. It can take many different forms. Coupled with services like e-mail and calendar software, online scheduling can streamline administrative duties and free up employees to attend to other tasks.

There are two major categories of online scheduling: internal and external scheduling systems. Companies use internal systems to allocate resources and assign tasks for work within the company itself. By contrast, an external system serves as an interface between a company and its customer base.

Many companies rely on third party vendors to provide online scheduling services. In some cases, a company will purchase software and run it on its own computer servers. A few companies commission customized systems designed for their specific industry's needs. Other companies subscribe to services hosted on the vendor's own Web servers.

There's no shortage of online scheduling vendors on the market. Each company offers a suite of applications designed to make scheduling simple and organized. Some focus on specific industries, while others take a more general approach. There are proprietary products as well as open source approaches available. Some have subscription fees, some have a one-time purchase price and some are free of charge. It's up to the customer to research products and compare them against his or her needs.

For some companies, the most important consideration regarding online scheduling is financial. Can online scheduling save money? If leveraged properly, a well-designed online scheduling system can help administrators cut costs and make better use of their resources. The key is to implement a system that's easy to use and maintain.

How are companies using online scheduling systems to handle complicated internal scheduling? Keep reading to find out.