It's hard to believe, but what we now call the “dot-com boom” began 10 years ago — an eternity in technology years. Yet remodelers still worry about the dangers of “working online.” Here's the truth behind some of the common misconceptions I've run into about Web-based applications.
Myth: It's more reliable to have my software or files installed on a server in my office than to use Web-based applications.
Fact: The small-office server is an endangered species. Today most Web-based applications and data storage services lease space in modern facilities that are the digital equivalent of Fort Knox. Redundant connections to the Internet and the power grid, automatic roll-over generators, biometric physical security, and expert staff on duty 24/7 are impossible for the typical remodeler to duplicate. Your Internet provider might drop the ball from time to time, but unscheduled outages at the data center where the software lives are nearly unheard of.
Myth: Web-based applications are slow and difficult to use compared with “real” software.
Fact: Not every kind of software works in a Web environment (there's no online CAD … yet), but today's Web-based applications are “real.” Try Google Documents & Spreadsheets (http://docs.google.com), or any of the popular Web-based e-mail clients such as Yahoo or Gmail. Thanks to new programming techniques, they're remarkably close to their installed cousins, as are many other Web-based applications. And, even if you do have to sacrifice some speed, the convenience of “working from anywhere” is a worthy trade-off.
Myth: The Internet isn't safe; I'm going to get “hacked.”
Fact: Online safety is a concern, but the good news is it's no tougher to secure your Internet connection than it is to lock up your tools at night. A little understanding and a few simple, inexpensive precautions will keep you safe online. Look for those in a future column. —Joe Stoddard is an industry consultant and the director of builder operations for Dynami Solutions; www.joestoddard.com.