Ah, the age-old question – a traditional desktop application or a centrally hosted software as a service (SaaS) system? Ok, so it’s not the age-old question. But it is a question that many of our customers are increasingly having to face.
The popularity of cloud-based services has increased significantly over the last few years. Desktop applications seem to be falling out of favour. Nevertheless, many developers still hold a soft spot for desktop app development. Is it a case of out with the old and in with the new? Or is there a place for both in the future?
There are two ways to look at user access. Installed desktop applications will be available regardless of internet connection. This may be a big selling point, particularly in areas with poor or patchy broadband coverage. On the other hand, desktop applications restrict the user to an installed device. SaaS applications can be accessed on any device with an internet connection, giving greater mobility and flexibility.
Start-up and maintenance costs will inevitably be a major factor in your decision making process. SaaS applications are often cheaper to develop, as the server hardware is provided by someone else. With no installations, patches or upgrades to apply, the ongoing maintenance costs of a SaaS application will be cheaper too. In fact, upgrades can be pushed out to the users instantly (with no cost implications), leading to a much better user experience. The complexity of developing upgrade services to a desktop application requires much more thought and time.
Privacy & Security
There’s no doubt that desktop applications can offer more in terms of security. If your application is used for sensitive data, desktop may be the best way to go. In this privacy and data protection world that we’re living in, data security is paramount. Keeping sensitive data in the cloud can lead to uncertainty. Who owns the data? How secure is it, really? These are questions which cannot be ignored. Desktop applications mean complete control over your user data, however this also puts the emphasis on you to protect the system and provide a layer of security.
Developers are generally very good at learning new skills on an ongoing basis. After all, if technology is your business, it’s necessary to keep up. Having said that, most developers will have strong preferences about what kind of coding they prefer. When building a desktop application, it is necessary to write platform-specific code. With SaaS, there is no need. This increases development time and productivity. The skillset and experience of your development team will no doubt impact the type of application you decide to build.
In the end, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Your next build should be delivered on a platform that’s right for you and your business. At Blend we believe that Desktop and SaaS will continue to coexist for some time to come, however we do prefer SaaS application development and we would be happy to explain why.