Would you rather manage your data locally or allow a third party to host it? Do you prefer to maintain your own server, knowing you will have to replace it when it fails? Are you prepared to upgrade your equipment and devices every few years? One common dilemma businesses face is whether to adopt web-based software or continue hosting their software on-site. As the world migrates to cloud computing, the choice may seem obvious. But there are still many factors to consider when facing your next software upgrade. With seemingly limitless choices, it can be difficult to narrow things down. The first basic question to ask yourself is whether you want to host the software on your own server(s) or contract with a company that will host it for you. There are advantages to each method; the key is knowing which will best suit your business. We’ve used a few common metrics to evaluate both types of softwarehosting. Take a moment to compare them and see which hosting strategy offers the best solution for your business. Web-Based Software Solutions Equipment Requirements Web-based software is stored “in the cloud,” so the only hardware you need to supply are the machines that you and your employees use to access the internet.The software company stores and maintains the product on their own servers. IT Specialists Because web-based software is maintained by the software company, your go-to IT professional can stick to fixing the occasional hardware malfunction and jammed phone line. Data Backup& Recovery The work you create on web-based software (your data) is backed up automatically and stored on the software company’s servers. The software company handles data storage and backup. Software Updates Software is updated automatically by the licensing company. You will not be able to opt out of most software updates. Every time you access the software, you will be interacting with the latest version. Contracts Each web-based software company has different pricing structures and contract renewal terms. Some require businesses to sign on for a year, while others operate month-to-month. It is always important to read terms and restrictions carefully to make sure they fit your business. Speed Web-based software requires a reliable, high-speed internet connection to function efficiently. Without it, you may experience lag time. Cost Set-up costs are minimal; it’s the monthly or yearly subscription fees for the software licenses that can add up.A web-based solution will save you money on your energy bill, since you won’t be using extra electricity to power computer servers. Security You don’t have to worry about securing and insuring expensive pieces of computer hardware since the software company maintains the servers on which the software and your data is stored. However, your data is stillvulnerable to cyber-attack and privacy breaches. No server is 100% secure. Accessibility& Collaboration You and your employees can access web-based software from any computer or device with an internet connection—even from the comfort of home. This is especially useful for businesses that operate multiple locations and conduct business off-site or on a delivery route. Collaboration is easy because files transfer well among users, who access the data from a centralized, web-based location that is constantly synced to reflect the most recent version. Remote access allows for multiple systems to monitor data in real-time, so everyone always has up-to-the-minute information at their fingertips. Conclusion Web-based software is becoming more common, especially among small and mid-sized businesses, for its flexibility and affordability. There is modest upfront investment in the software subscription, but your business bypasses the need for large hardware purchases. You save precious square footage for other purposes because software is stored off-site. Associated IT costs are less becauseupdates and repairs are handled by the software company. What you save in hardware and maintenance, you may pay over the long term in subscription and licensing fees. However, with subscriptions running on a monthly or yearly basis, you have frequent opportunities to switch to a different solution as your business grows. Self-Hosted Software Solutions Although web-based software is growing in popularity, and most companies do at least some cloud computing (think email), there are still some advantagesin aself-hosted solution. Equipment Requirements You will need to supply computer servers so the software can be stored on-site, as well as any computer workstations or devices that need to access the software. Words of wisdom: Your server hard drive will crash, it’s only a question of when. Additionally, the connections between the server and workstations can weaken over time. These failures require extra maintenance and equipment replacement, often necessitating the purchase of a new operating system and OS upgrades on all workstations. IT Specialists Because the software is stored on local servers, you are responsible for maintaining the hardware and updating the system.Businesses that use self-hosted software usually have an IT specialist on staff or on retainer. The IT specialist will be able to fix most problems at the server level, so your staff is free to continue working on their individual devices. Data Backup& Recovery Most servers can be set up to perform a data back-up each night. Testing is crucial; the system may appear to have backed up the data without actually doing so. If the system fails, the backup may fail with it. Many businesses that use self-hosted software also store a backup off-site to mitigate the risk of data loss. Software Updates Just as you are responsible for backing up your data, any updates to the software will need to be installed on your server(s). You retain control over which updates you want to install and which you want to forego. Network Connectivity You have the option of installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to connect the workstations that use your self-hosted software. This allows your business’s computers to communicate without inviting unwanted internet users to peruse your data. VPNs can also make it possible for employees to access the software remotely. Speed Self-hosted software is typically faster than web-based software because data transmission is not tied to internet speed. Cost The initial investment can be high because you need to purchase hardware, but once installed you own the software and avoid subscription and licensing fees. Maintaining computer servers requires a lot of electricity. You will also want to make sure that the room where the server is located is kept at a cool temperature, which may further increase your energy usage. Security Because software is stored locally, your software is less vulnerable to malicious online attacks. However, uploading a virus onto a server is relatively easy—all someone needs is a thumb drive and malicious intent. The security concerns of self-hosted software are mostly physical in nature—how secure is the building and room where your servers are stored? Who has access to the servers and the workstations where the software runs? This is why it is crucial to insure that your data backups are functioning. That way if equipment is stolen, you still have a copy of your information. Accessibility & Collaboration No internet connection required! Once installed, software can run on a workstation without an internet connection. This is especially helpful if internet service goes down; work doesn’t have to grind to a halt. Collaboration is possible if the workstations share a network (VPN) with the server, but self-hosted software is typically harder to access remotely. Conclusion Self-hosted software affords you more control because you have more responsibility. You own the infrastructure that keeps your software running and your business growing. They are a good option for businesses that need a secure place to store sensitive data, and that operate 24 hours a day. They are also a good solution for larger businesses with a dedicated IT department.