Web Based Software vs. Desktop Software

Which software platform is better for you?
Web based vs. Desktop has been a topic of debate for a while now.  Only you as a user can choose a clear winner since you are the one that has to live and work with the decision.  There are several key factors to keep in mind when making the decision.
Data Access
The key question is where do you want to be able to access your data?  Do you like to do your work outside of the office at times, and would you like to be able to simply see your schedule quickly from anywhere?
The desktop version of software might be your better choice if you don’t care about seeing your data outside of your office. In addition, if you are worried about connectivity, or simply don’t have an internet connection, this may be another reason to purchase a desktop system.
Maintenance and Upgrades
With a web based software application, you will have access to the most recent upgrade to the software without having to do a thing.  Web based applications can be updated from the central server often adding features you find the next time you log into your application.
With desktop applications, owners of the software will need to do an upgrade to the software on their time, and typically with their own resources.  Some companies may offer support to help with upgrade, but you may be charged for that service.  
Security Risks
There are risks involved when dealing  with an online version or a desktop version, so it is simply a matter of which risk you consider greater. Working online, presents security risks that are prepared for by the host company such as firewalls, 256 bit encryption and other network security measures.  However, since this is their business, most have much stronger security than you may have at your home or office.
As the host of your own application on your own computer, you can run the risk of someone hacking through your firewall or simple stealing your computer.  You also have the risk of your computer crashing and you losing the information on it if it has not been backed up recently or correctly.
Over a long period of time, web applications may be more costly than desktop applications.  It may depend on licensing fees or annual support fees.  However, the key difference is not having to come up with an up front cost.  So depending on your situation, it may be much easier to pay a small subscription fee each month than to pay a large fee to start.
Upgrades and features may also be a part of the cost decision.  If you have a desktop version and need to maintain the data, do the back up, conduct the upgrades, that may take more time than you are willing to give. You may be losing out on revenue by not being in front of your customers due to having to spend time on your home based desktop system.  A web based system is there and ready with upgrades and potentially different features that can provide cost savings over time.
Using the web for applications and the internet to transfer the data rather than a computer’s local hard drive, may operate slower. If you are using a mobile device like a web enabled phone, or an iPad, this information can be accessed in seconds vs. having to start up your computer and open a program…if you are even near your computer at the time.
Backups  and Data Storage
This may be one of the biggest debates in the web based vs. desktop discussion.  Where is your data and how is it stored?  With a desktop application, your data is stored by you.  That means you need to back it up, know how to access it, and also know how to secure it properly.  Because it is hosted by you, you have the ultimate responsibility for the security.
Just because you back up your data on a jump drive, and or keep it on a different hard drive, doesn’t mean it is secure.  Is the data encrypted, do you keep the data in the same place as your computer, so if there were a physical disaster, all of it will still be destroyed?  These are just a couple of questions to ask.
In a web hosted environment, the hosting company not only holds the data in redundant form (multiple servers), but also backs it up, and then stores it in multiple locations so there is always data there to retrieve.  Many hosts use co-located server farms that are hundreds or thousands of miles apart in case of a physical disaster.  From an up-time perspective, most hosts will guarantee up to a 99.9% capability.
   These are just the key factors to think about when determining which software platform is best suited for you.


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