Web-based software for running your business has become fairly popular in the last five years. With it have sprung up several myths surrounding security and reliability.
What happens if I lose my internet connection?
Losing your internet connection can be a real concern, or at least it was. When the internet was fairly new, back in the 1990s, it was a fairly common occurrence. But these days it is something that rarely happens, and if you have this issue then you really ought to consider changing service providers. For an extra level of reliability, you can buy a cheap prepaid 3G connection to plug into your computer or have a 3G iPad, but I have never heard of anyone needing it.
What if the internet service provider crashes?
Unfortunately, servers crash and systems go down, it's a reality of using computers. But ask yourselves this, is a computer situated in a state-of-the-art server host, with multiple levels of redundancy, around-the-clock monitoring, and top-of-the-line equipment more likely to experience problems than a single server or desktop sitting under a desk in the back office gathering dust or under your reception desk. I think you know the answer to that. And if that dusty computer dies, how many days until you have an operational system again?
What happens if the software provider vanishes?
Companies do go bust which is why it is important to do due diligence, phone them up, and ask for recommendations. It is very rare though for companies to disappear overnight, I don't know of any business software providers where this has happened. And if they do shut down they will normally give you a good period to extract your data and find something else. Even if you are using desktop software it does not protect you against the company shutting down, being left with no support, outdated software, and possibly no means to get your data out.
Is my data secure?
A good web-based system is much more secure than a desktop system. It's a bit like keeping your money under the mattress rather than in a bank. Cloud software has the best servers, with redundancy, housed in advanced data centers, and firewalls protecting any hackers from entering. Desktop software does not protect you from hackers, all you have is consumer-grade protection that came with the computer, where downloading the wrong file from an internet site could leave your computer in disrepair.
But the most important, but hard, thing to remember is the biggest danger to your data is your staff. They can easily plug a USB into your computer and walk off with your whole database to help set up their own business. There have been too many cases where disgruntled employees have done damage to a business, so keep your system in a secure location and use the proper security mechanisms built into the system.
What if I want to get my data out?
Any software, whether web or desktop based should give you the ability to easily export your data in a common format such as text or Excel files. If you need to contact the provider to get your data out, be aware, it is not in their interests to help you. And using desktop software does not guarantee you can export your data as they often use nonstandard databases that only experienced technicians and programmers know about. Ask about this before signing up.
Remember who is trying to sell you the software, they probably have some vested interest in their particular way of doing things. Ask around and do your independent research.