Online product demo environment for Windows applications


I'm looking for a way to allow potential customers to try my application before they buy it.

The product is a windows forms application that requires an SQL Server database to operate.

Although I have a functional demo that the customer can install on their network, I want to make it easier for them by have them "play" with it at my environment.

I remember Microsoft had (has?) something similar. I was testing Visual Studio a few years ago in a virtual environment where I was connecting to a server at Microsoft.

Any suggestions?



asked Apr 23 '10 at 01:32
Stefanos Tses
981 points
  • I'm interested in how you install SQL Server. From what I've read it is not a trivial matter to install it for a demo. – Smart Company Software 14 years ago
  • Adrian, in production they must have have SQL Server, otherwise they can't use my application. For the demo, what I'm trying to avoid is exactly what you said: install SQL Server Express and such to run it. Also to show the power of the application, I'm using AdventureWorks as the demo database. So, as you can see is a bit or work to setup an environment at the client side, that's why I'm looking of having the client play with the application on a pre-configured server on my side. – Stefanos Tses 14 years ago

3 Answers


Have you considered packaging SQL Server Express with your installer? You can give the customer the option of connecting an existing SQL Server or installing SQL Server Express (which is royalty free) during your setup process. If you go this route, I'd recommend a high level of automation during the setup process where your installer installs SQL Server Express, creates the database, grants permissions, etc. without requiring the user to understand the setup process.

This link might help

answered May 8 '10 at 00:00
Adam Perlow
11 points
  • Adam, the issue is not in the installer. If they get that far, they purchased the product already. I want them to "play" with it in a real environment before they decide to buy it. – Stefanos Tses 14 years ago


I have a similar problem, but instead of installing the application, I am offering them to watch demos of the application. There are pros and cons of offering a demo or watching a demo. Getting them to watch it, I can show them the application features instead of them clicking aimlessly around.

I have played around with SCREEN2SWF and it is quite good.

answered Apr 23 '10 at 12:14
Smart Company Software
1,190 points
  • I have 5 demos videos that explain the functionality very well..I just want to give the client the opportunity to do it himself, to be interactive. – Stefanos Tses 14 years ago


Do you have a good demo video/walkthrough? If not you are getting ahead of yourself. Have a video first. Then if you are getting requests consider providing a virtual machine, which is what you are remembering from the VS demo. You can also set up a machine that they can use remotely as part of the sales process once they are in contact with you.

answered May 7 '10 at 21:21
236 points
  • As I said above, I have 5 very well written demos. Using a VM is what I'm thinking of doing finally.. I can use LogMein to have user logging into the machine to play with my application. Do you know any VM hosting providers? – Stefanos Tses 14 years ago

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