The Pros and Cons of Online Database Software

It is no secret that I’m a fan of online database software. But to help you make your own opinion, this article explores the pros and cons of online database software in comparison with an installed solution.

Advantages of online database software – the PROs

I see many advantages of a web-based solution but here are my top three reasons why I think online beats installed by a long shot.

1. No installation required

With an online database software, you create your account and users and you are instantly granted with access. There is no need for a technician to visit your office, no need to install the software on all the computers you and your staff may use. For a rather large group of users, the time and money saved with an installed solution is substantial.

2. Work from anywhere, including mobile devices

Since you don’t need the software to be installed on your computer, you can access your account from virtually anywhere. All you need is an internet connection and a computer and you are ready to login into your account and work. Some vendors will have you sign in on their website but many will have a customer portal with a custom domain. For when you are out of the office but you still want to be connected to your data, most online database software works as well on your mobile device or tablet as it runs on your desktop.

3. Don’t worry about upgrades and versions

With an online database software, the vendor is responsible for all the upgrades and versions. With most vendors, you won’t even be aware that a new version is live before you receive their newsletter announcing the bug fixes and new features. Worst case scenario, you will have to click “Upgrade” and wait a few minutes just as you would have to do for an app on your mobile device. This represents huge savings in time and money compared to an installed solution. Upgrading each and every single computer takes time and having to buy the new version a few years down the road represents a lot of money.

Disadvantages of online database software – the CONS

Of course, installed solutions also have their benefits. Consider these three points before settling for an online database software.

1. No internet connection = no access

Online means… online. If you don’t have a reliable internet connection to support your online database software, you don’t have a reliable access to your data. It’s sad but true. If you are dealing with very sensitive data and you can’t ever be out of touch with it, I suggest having a backup internet connection from a different provider. This is what I personally do. An installed solution sure can be considered, but you won’t have access to it unless the software is installed on the computer you are working on. There sure are remote desktop software, but they too need an internet connection!

2. Subscription and per user pricing

In terms of pricing, an installed solution represents one big lump sum when you acquire the software. You sure need to prepare a while in advance to fit this in your budget but once it’s paid, you are good until you have to buy the next version. When it comes to online database software, there is no huge initial cost of acquisition but you still have to plan ahead since the fees are recurrent on a monthly or yearly basis. You have to be careful when you price your online database solution since the price is usually related to the number of users and applications you will require. The bigger the team, the pricier it gets. Same for your apps, the more you need, the more you pay.

3. Cost of extra storage

There is one last point to consider in the negative column in terms of pricing if you are going for an online database platform. With virtually all vendors, you will face a cap when it comes to storage space and/or number of items you can create. If you are only creating text items without large attachments, don’t loose sleep over this, you will never see the end of the storage your vendor is allowing you. But if you are attaching heavy files such as screenshots or multiple PDF’s, you could want to consider linking your account to a file hosting such as DropBox or Google Drive to lower your overall costs.


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