Web based software can offer business a number of advantages over traditional PC based programs but, like many technological advancements, there is another edge to that sword.
Modern web technologies have enabled web developers to create web based alternatives to many of the software packages you would normal expect to install on your PC or server. While most people agree that this is likely to be the way the software market goes over the coming years, there are a couple of big disadvantages web based software need to overcome.
Both web based and PC based software have to run on a machine somewhere. With PC based software the machine running the software is usually yours but, web based software is usually run on a web server which is owned and run by the software provider. Because web based software usually runs on a web server, more often than not that will also be where all your data is stored. If your using an online client management system for example provided by a third party, they will be the ones responsible for storing all your client data and keeping it safe.
When you are using software that is installed on your PCs, the only people who will have access to your data will be your staff. With web based software you will have to trust the provider as you will have no choice over who they employ or allows access to your data, potentially allowing them to read, copy, edit or delete your data. Most reputable software providers will have security in place to ensure any of their disgruntled employees cannot do anything malicious but there is still a big element of trust. This becomes an even larger concern when dealing with industry specific software where your competitors could be using the same software provided by the same company.
Often, but not always, web based software relies on your internet connection to work. There are some which provide an offline mode but this generally involves having a PC based version of the web based software installed on your PC. Even if you have an internet connection, its speed will have a direct influence over the performance of the web based software. If you do not have fast and reliable broadband you may find web based software frustratingly slow.
With software you install on your PC, the performance will be based on things that are not influenced by anyone other than you (the spec of your machine, other software you are running at the time etc). The performance of web based software is heavily reliant on your internet connection which can vary as can be influenced by others. Many shared offices split their internet connection between everyone in the building. If someone else in the building starts using the internet heavily you will find the performance of your connection start to drop. Even when you have your own broadband line, you could find the performance of your internet connection improving and falling dependant on the overall demand in your local area.
Most web based software runs from one central location which means there is only ever one version of the software. Unlike PC based programs where you can choose if you want to apply a new update or can role back to a previous version, with web based software the provider will apply updates and you have to just deal with it. If they make a change you do not like or the new version is not as reliable, you have no choice but to stick it out and hope the next one improves things again.
Because there is usually only one actual instance of a web based program which everyone uses, there is usually only one database which contains all of every ones data. All your client details along with the client details of all that providers other customers are all stored in one giant "clients" table. Again there are exceptions to the rule and providing the software is well designed this should not cause a problem but it is still something some business owners may not be entirely comfortable with.
Web based systems are the future and you can expect many popular PC based software providers going this way. Web based software is still in its infancy and as such still comes with some serious draw backs. In time many of these problems will be resolved but for the minute you will need to balance the pros of web based software against the potential risks.