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Dec

11

Is software-as-a-service important to you?

 General

There is a big media "buzz" these days about the end of software.  Instead of installing software on your PC, these writers say that soon you will just use web sites and web services that do the same things.  If you want to edit a photo don't install PhotoPerfect, just visit a photo-editing site.  If you want to play music, you stream it from an online music station, instead of running Zortam Mp3 Media Studio.

Why use software as a service?  Proponents mention certain advantages:

  • You can use the software from anywhere that you have an Internet connection, on any computer.
  • You don't have to worry about installing software on your PC.
  • Upgrades and bug fixes are automatic.

However, even though mega-company Google has moved into this area, software as a service has not taken the world by storm.  Providers are seeing growth, but the stand-alone software industry is also doing well.  So why do many people and companies still prefer to use software programs installed on their own computers?

For one thing, there is the issue of security.  If you use an online document-editing program, your data will be travelling across the public Internet, and will be stored on servers that someone else owns and someone else maintains.  If they miss a security problem, your information is now vulnerable.

Performance is often still an issue.  Even with a fast cable modem or corporate high-speed Internet connection, editing a document by connecting to a server over the Internet can be much slower than working on that same document stored on your own PC.  Of course, if you are disconnected, for instance on a plane, you simply can't use these services.

If you are using a service to edit and store your data, what happens to you if they shut down and stop providing that service?  For instance, if all your photos are stored on a photo service and the owner of that service has a problem, all your photos become unavailable, maybe forever.  One day, you try to work on your photos and they're just not there.  Software installed on your PC is much less likely to simply vanish, and your data will always be where you can get at it.

Stand-alone applications offer much more variety—FindApp has over 40 choices in Photo Albums alone!  In general, applications will have a more mature, polished feature set.

None of these points says that software as a service is always a bad idea.  I believe that it's especially useful for team and group applications.  If people have to share information, having it stored on a central server has huge advantages. 

Just don't believe the hype. Stand-alone software isn't going to be going away any time soon.

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