How do cloud apps, desktop apps and web apps differ? Very often the terms “cloud app” and “web app” are used interchangeably – but each has unique strengths and weaknesses. Desktop apps, meanwhile, are considered in some corners to be passé. Yet even desktop apps have certain advantages.
Let’s take a look at each type of app in turn. Which is best for your business?
A cloud app functions in a cloud computing infrastructure, where data is stored on internet servers instead of your computer. Convenience and reliability are the main benefits of cloud apps. Since data is stored on remote servers, you are less prone to lose data. But you can’t neglect privacy settings, because the cloud makes it remarkably easy to share information or files with others.
- Quick and easy access from web browsers or custom-built apps for mobile devices
- Very high uptime
- Focused mainly on rich user experience
- Direct response to user actions
- Reliant on internet for data transport
- High bandwidth needed for calls to the cloud server
- Users might hesitate to store sensitive information on third-party cloud service providers’ servers
Desktop apps run on a stand-alone basis on a personal computer. In most cases, they don’t need an internet connection, but they can only be accessed if you have your computer within reach. Desktop apps typically offer the most secure experience.
- Total control over user experience
- Allows comprehensive integration with the desktop to save information locally for security reasons
- Difficult to use remotely
- Challenging to deploy to thousands of users
- Need to be updated periodically
- One-size-fits-all does not work, as apps need to be developed for multiple platforms (Linux, Windows, Mac)
Web apps are designed to be accessed from a web browser. They use a combination of server- and client-side script to function.
The obvious benefit over traditional desktop apps is that web apps are accessible from anywhere via a web browser. Poor user experience can be an issue, though, because of internet connectivity issues and browser restrictions. Web app users may also encounter slowdowns due to heavy data traffic.
- Do not need installation and updating
- Remote storage of data
- Browsers are very convenient – can be accessed at your fingertips
- Updates are usually handled on the server side
- Can be more expensive than desktop application (often carry a subscription or license fee)
- Require constant internet access
- Remote servers could be compromised
Each type of app has pros and cons. In choosing business apps, you must weigh cost-effectiveness, agility, time-to-market advantage, and software development complexity. So which kind of app is best for your business? As is so often the case with technology – it depends!
Originally published Jul 11, 2013, updated Apr 18, 2021