Web Applications vs Desktop Software
Copyright 2006 Sharon Housley
There has been a long running debate about web applications replacing desktop software applications. While some functions are better suited to web applications. It is my belief that security concerns and legacy systems will prevent desktop software from becoming obsolete.
Some argue that the debate between web applications and desktop applications is pointless; as their is no clear answer. While still others argue that the issue at hand is as much a business and marketing issue, as it is a technological issue.
What Defines a Web Application Vs a Desktop Application?
A web application is an application delivered to users from a web server like the Internet. Some businesses run web applications on an intranet, as well. Web applications are becoming more popular due to the widespread use of the web browser as a client.
Some applications are better suited and more likely to become successful as web applications. Web applications designed specifically for search engine optimization, have become increasingly popular. It is easy to understand why web applications that relate to the Internet would prosper, while business applications may have less appeal in a web environment.
A desktop application is a self-contained program that performs a defined set of tasks under the user control. Desktop applications run from a local drive and do not require a network or connectivity to operate or function properly, though if attached to a network desktop applications might use the resources of the network.
Pros and Cons to Desktop and Web Applications:
Easily Accessible Web applications can be easily accessed from any computer or location that has Internet access. Travelers especially benefit from the accessibility. This often means that if a traveler has access to a computer, phone or handheld with Internet connectivity they can utilize the web application.
Low Maintenance & Forced Upgrades.
Desktop applications need to be individually installed on each computer, while web applications require a single installation. Many web applications are hosted by a 3rd party and the maintenance fall under the applications hosts responsibility. The ability to update and maintain web applications without distributing and installing software on potentially thousands of client computers is a key reason for the popularity of web based applications. This can be a blessing and a curse as users of web applications on hosted systems are at the mercy of the host, if an upgrade does not go well, or the individual user doesn't want or need the new features the upgrade will still go forward.
Increased Security Risks.
There are always risks involved when dealing with working online, regardless of how secure a host might say a web application is, that fact of the matter stands that the security risk of running an application of the Internet is more significant than when running an application on a standalone desktop computer. Some applications require more security than others, playing Sudoku on a web application would cause little concern, but dealing with sensitive corporate formulas or accounting details in a web environment might be determined risky.
Over the life of the software use, web applications are typically significantly more expensive over time. Desktop applications are purchased outright and rarely is their a recurring fee for the software use. Some desktop applications do have maintenance fees or fee based upgrades associated with them, but rarely is there a subscription fee associated with the software's ongoing use.
Many corporate web applications use a different model, users typically are charged monthly service fee to operate the software. Fees are considered "subscription fees". If you fail to renew your subscription you may be unable to access the data stored in the web application.
Web applications rely on persistent and unmanaged connectivity. If you do not have an Internet connection or if your host does not have Internet connectivity you cannot access the information. Critical applications or businesses that are time sensitive cannot risk denial of service attacks or power outages to interrupt their operations and access data that is sensitive.
Web applications that rely on the Internet to transfer data rather than a computer's local hard drive, may operate slower. The speed may also vary based on number of users accessing the application.
Backups & Ownership.
Regardless of the platform, companies need to be sure that their data is appropriately backed up. When using a web application that are hosted by a third party, companies should clearly determine who owns the data housed in the application, and be sure that privacy policies prevent that data from being used by the web host.
Ultimately the accessibility of web based applications make them very desirable. Web applications have some fundamental limitations in their functionality, and are better suited for specific tasks. Understanding the pro's and con's to each business model, will help users determine whether a desktop application or web application will better suit their needs.
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About the Author: Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage
a wireless text messaging software company.
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