For a long time now, software-as-a-service companies have been championing the benefits of no-software and minimal computing infrastructure on the desktop. These companies see a world where the desktop computer is less significant and computing power has moved to powerful internet-accessible servers. In their ideal world, cell phones, smartphones, internet-enabled TVs and other devices replace computers. On the other hand, traditional software vendors continue to champion the importance of traditional software and operating systems on computers and other devices. Now these two sides have started to trade places.
The benefits of hosted applications, compared to traditional software, are that there is no software to install and the software and data are easily available by any authorized user with an internet connection. The software-as-a-service companies are beginning to enable their applications to be used with no internet connection, while traditional software companies are increasingly enabling more and more of their applications to be used online.
As you consider what type of software your company should use, the importance of access to the software and data if there is no internet connection should be considered.
Traditional software has the benefit of giving you physical access to the software and data. If your connection to the internet goes down, you can keep working normally because your individual computers can access your server where the data (and possibly the software itself) are located via a traditional corporate network. If you are using a hosted application and the internet connection goes down, you can't access the hosted application or data until the internet connection is restored.
With a hybrid model of local data, synchronized to remote servers via the internet, you have the best of both worlds. While the internet connection is working, as it will be in most cases, you can access your data via the internet. If the internet connection should go down or you're somewhere with no internet connectivity, you can still get work done.
For many hosted application vendors, using their products in an offline mode is not an option, but you'll see more and more of these vendors offering offline modes.
As you consider the importance of an offline version for your hosted applications, consider the following guidelines:
- How important is the application that is being served via the internet?
- How often has the provider's connection been working properly? As close to 100 percent is what you should look for.
- How reliable is your business internet connection? Does it go down frequently? Should you purchase a backup internet connection?
- If the online application does go down, what happens? What are your contingency plans?
As more and more businesses use software via the internet, a stable internet connection and contingency plans are important considerations.
Ramon Ray is Entrepreneur.com's "Tech Basics" columnist and editor of Smallbiztechnology.com. He's the author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses and serves on the board of directors and the technology committee for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.