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Cloud vs Desktop

Posted on Monday December 2012

Cloud vs. Desktop: The fight

‘You need to get in the cloud’ someone kindly once informed us. ‘You can see Wales from here, it’s great’, they should have, but regrettably didn’t add. Cloud based software is and has been a huge buzz word for a few years now, but what does it mean, is it worth it? Is it on an actual cloud? What if it’s sunny? The official term (well, Wikipedia) is ‘Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid’. No wonder they gave it a catchier name. It’s actually quite an abstract and old (1970s style mainframe) concept, but the theory behind it is very useful: you don’t have to install your own software or configure it, you can use it anywhere and it’s potentially easy to use due to being through a lightweight mobile app or familiar web browser. Unless you have an earlier Internet Explorer, in which case it’ll be a hundred times harder.

Clik Service 4, you may have noticed, is a powerful beast of a program. It’s also normally non-cloud based as is installed on your own pc/server and you use it without going through the Internet. The same goes with NICEIC Certification Software. Clik Remote is cloud based, despite you needing Clik Service in your office to run it, but the users of it (e.g. your engineers and customers) do have a cloud based experience. They both have advantages and disadvantages, but we’ll try to cover these with bullet points (I now feel a bit like a history teacher with tweed jacket and elbow pads):

  • Installation:
    Cloud based is the clear winner here, you don’t have to install anything, and it’s all ready to go on your web browser. Desktop based means you’ll have to install it via a download or cd (remember those?) but in our case at least our tech guys can log in and do it for you. 1-0 to the cloud though. Yes, it’s turned into a good ‘ol fashioned abstract-concept fight, and things could get messy.
  • Adaptability:
    Desktop based is always going to be more tweakable and adaptable to your business. For example, changing fields and layouts for your jobsheets can easily be done on Clik Service. For a cloud based system this is a whole world away in difficulty. The cloud is more rigid (ironically), although this can be an advantage if you want a no fuss solution. 1-1, just. Good jab from the desktop, cloud not overly bothered.
  • Usability and speed:
    Probably the biggest one, this is where it gets interesting. Cloud software usually means via a web browser, which means it’s only as powerful as the browser itself. For example, Clik Remote now allows you to store jobs offline, so you don’t need an Internet connection whilst you’re out onsite. Quite a big deal if you’re in a bad area or underground, or you simply aren’t allowed one (e.g. in a science lab). However, this has only become available since web browsers have been able to store the jobs in its memory, which is literally within the last year. In terms of actually using the software day to day, this is the single largest factor in the whole debate. Desktop systems still have a far greater speed and intuitive interface than using software through a web browser. Although this has improved through faster Internet, and will only get better with the dawn of 4G, it still lacks that smoothness and functionality you need when running a service related business. For example, could you imagine this: creating a customer, raising a jobsheet, scheduling an engineer, adding parts and labour, checking stock levels, raising a purchase order and then sending or printing the job, through a web based system? Suddenly, web browsers seem a bit clunky. For simpler tasks though, such as viewing and creating jobs, this is where they can really come into their own, hence Clik Remote. And this obviously suits a web solution due to customers needing a simple and restricted interface and engineers being out onsite, hence the next point. (2-1 desktop).
  • Access:
    Initially a big winner for the cloud, you can access it anywhere, at any time and by anyone. It’s like an uplifting Orange/T-Mobile advert, or anything with Sean Bean. However, if you lose Internet, you have nothing, unless you have the software on a mobile app (like the NICEIC/GasCert iPad apps for example). But the cloud is a spritely newcomer and basks in the glow of its own buzzword-ness. So it’s 2-2 and getting tasty.
  • Cost:
    Typically cloud based is a monthly rental charge, with desktop an upfront cost for the software and an annual support cost. This is of course initially cheaper for the cloud, but as time goes on it may get far more expensive, as the monthly payments outweigh the initial cost for the desktop program. It does vary a lot, but cloud based is generally more expensive unless you have a huge outlay initially. Clik Service and the NICEIC are quite reasonably priced though, and in comparison you will eventually feel the burn in about year 2 or 3 of a cloud based adventure. 3-2 desktop, cloud starting to run out of steam after a promising start.
  • Ownership/Trust:
    This is a huge issue that is often completely overlooked. The company providing cloud ‘only’ software basically controls and, amazingly, actually owns your data. If they have had enough of supporting the software, or decide to increase costs for running it by 5 times, or don’t like you, or just disappear, you lose everything. Essentially, you’ll be up the creek without a paddle, or at least with a broken paddle, possibly going around in circles. This is where it can become high risk. With office based, you own the data and will always have the software, it’s yours for life. 4-2 desktop, a heavy blow from the retaining champ, knocking the cloud to the floor. It’s put up a good fight though.

So in conclusion, they both have big pros and cons, but in terms of actually using it to run your business, desktop programs still have that speed and intuitive nature that you just can’t get with web based software. Not to mention data and adaptability issues. They are great for simpler programs on the move though. As time moves on, browsers and apps get more advanced and the Internet gets faster, things may change, but not quite yet. The trick is with us; we have both, and can move in either direction.

Ed Gunner

 

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