Business Objects jumped into the world of subscription-based, on-demand software on Monday, announcing an online version of its Crystal Reports product that lets customers share business reports over the Web.The service is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, which will be able to widen their use of Crystal Reports without buying extra software licenses or assigning additional IT staff to maintain it, Business Objects said.Called crystalreports.com, the service lets employees create Crystal Reports documents, upload them to the Web and create a list of authorized employees, customers and partners who can access them. Those authorized users then log onto crystalreports.com to view the documents.Until now, many companies have shared Crystal reports by sending them as e-mail attachments or hard copies, which takes more time, is less secure and can lead to conflicting data, Business Objects said.The service is offered in two versions\u2014a free, Basic service, available now in North American, and a Premium service, paid by monthly subscription, that will be offered in North America later this quarter. Both services will be offered globally in the second half of the year, said Business Objects, which has headquarters in Paris and in San Jose, Calif.The Basic service includes 10 user licenses and limits the number of reports that can be shared to 60. It comes as a free extra with the latest version of the Crystal Reports software product, Crystal Reports XI.The Premium service is for bigger companies that want to share reports externally with customers and partners. It covers an unlimited number of reports and supports additional document formats like PDF and Excel. It gives all users the ability to publish reports as well as view them. The Premium service also has tighter security, allowing companies to segregate reports and provide access at the folder level, Business Objects said. It didn\u2019t provide pricing for the service Monday, and officials couldn\u2019t immediately be reached for more details.Pioneered in the business world by Salesforce.com, the delivery of software as a service has grown more popular with the availability of faster, more reliable networks. Proponents say it cuts down on up-front costs in software and hardware, as well as the need for dedicated IT staff. Some businesses have expressed concerns about storing important or sensitive company data outside of their networks.More information is available online.-James Niccolai, IDG News ServiceCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.