Aug 2010

The Ongoing War between Desktop Applications and Web Based Applications

Posted By - PLAVEB

A web application is software that uses a web server to get delivered to the users. Web applications can also be run on intranet, which many businesses do. The main reason that can be given for the growing popularity of web-based applications is the widespread use of web browser as a client .

A desktop application is a self-contained program that performs a specified set of tasks under a user’s control. Desktop applications don’t require a network or connectivity to operate or function properly and run from a local drive. They can be used offline. However, they might use the resources of a network if attached to it.

Desktop Apps Vs. Web Apps
How do these two types of apps stack up against each other? Let explore their strengths and weaknesses.

AccessibilityWeb applications can be easily accessed from any computer, device, or location that has Internet access. Travelers especially benefit from this type of accessibility. But desktop apps work fine offline – you don't even need Internet connectivity.

Maintenance & Upgrades – Desktop applications need to be individually installed on each computer, while web-based applications just need a single installation. Many web applications are hosted by a third party and the upgrading and maintenance fall under the responsibility of application host. This can be a blessing and a curse both as users of web applications on hosted systems are at the mercy of the host; if an individual user doesn't want the new features, the upgrade will still go forward.

Security –  There are always risks involved when dealing with online working. Regardless of how secure a host might say a web application to be, the matter of the fact stands that the security risk of running an application on the Internet is more significant than that running on a standalone desktop computer.

Cost – Web applications are typically substantially more expensive over time. Desktop applications are purchased outright with rarely having a recurring fee for the software use (though some do have a fee for maintenance/upgrade, but rarely any subscription fee associated with an ongoing use). Many corporate web applications, on the other hand, use a subscription model where users are typically charged monthly service fee to operate the software.

Internet Connectivity – Web applications rely on persistent, unmanaged connectivity. Critical applications or businesses that are time sensitive cannot risk denial of service attacks or power outages to interrupt their operations. But as they can benefit from connectivity with the Internet, they are wonderful tools in businesses that rely on access to latest data.

Performance – Web applications may operate slower. The speed may also vary based on how many users are 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.

So, What's Better for Your Business?
Some applications are more likely to become successful as web applications. Web-based applications designed specifically for search engine optimization are becoming increasingly popular. It is easy to understand now why web applications that relate to the internet would prosper, while business applications may have less appeal in a web environment. If you need to access latest data on a regular basis, web apps are for you.

Ultimately, the accessibility of web-based applications makes them highly desirable but not monopolizing as they do have some fundamental limitations. I believe that security concerns and legacy systems will still prevent the obsolescence of desktop software packages. For tasks that do not require any online connectivity, desktop apps are perfect. For instance, you don't need your word processor app to be connected to the web app the time.

Understanding the pros and cons to each business model will help users determine whether a desktop software application or web application will better suit their needs.

Posted Comment
Sylvain says on Aug 12, 2010 at 04:59

This is well-explained. Nice post. We operate a directory of web applications because we believe in this model. However, web applications are not perfect and suitable for all kinds of businesses, as you mentioned. Lots of government, military or medical agencies don't want (or just can't) use web-based systems, for security reasons. Furthermore, only a small percentage of web apps providers offer an intranet version of their products. Hence, many of those organizations must select desktop products for that matter.

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