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Biggest concern about switching to online applications

by Marc Bennett CNET staff/forum admin / May 2, 2006 7:20 AM PDT

What is your biggest concern about switching to online applications (word processing, spreadsheet app, and so on)?

Security/privacy (please explain)
Loss of files/data (please explain)
Less control (please explain)
Cost (pay per use)
Other (what is it?)
No concerns; they're great!

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All of the above...

1.) Working on documents online gives hackers just one more opportunity to 'acquire' your data. Unless it's all done over secure connections, it's an open book. Even if it is secure, the increase in data being transmitted will draw more attempts to tap into the connection, especially for those wishing to get a peak at confidential corporate and governmental documents.

2.) The ones hosting the applications have access to the files you are working on, and I don't consider them completely trustworthy. Consider Apple executives using Microsoft Word online through Microsoft servers...I doubt Microsoft wouldn't be tempted to take a quick peak at what it's competitors are doing. (Industrial espionage.) That could also extend to the general public, if they were so inclined to do so.

3.) Right now you can purchase a word processing application and use it for as long as you have the copy of the software and a computer to run it on. I still have a copy of Microsoft Office 95. With online software, though, you have to pay a monthly/yearly subscription fee instead of a base fee, which would work out to a substantial loss if you normally keep the same software for a number of years.

4.) What happens if their servers go down? You're out of luck. Everyone is. However, if you have your own private copies of the software installed on separate PCs, simply use another one...use another one at the company, use a friend's computer, etc to get the job done. I just don't like the idea of being that reliant on someone else.

5.) I'm sure those still using (likely stuck with) dial-up would love to use online applications...just think of the potential load times going from seconds to minutes.

While the ability to access the software from just about any computer (that's connected to the net) certainly does have it's benefits, especially when you are using a computer without the apps, and the prospect of not having to install (and upgrade) the software on possibly hundreds of PCs is appealing, I just see too many issues that would not make this proposal a valid replacement for the current software setup. It may garner a lot of users, but we won't stray far from software installed locally.

Just my two cents.

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I agree
by tyco49 / May 2, 2006 10:13 PM PDT
In reply to: All of the above...

I would worry about all of the above as well. I don't care how much security/backup software they include. Hell no

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I agree completely
by Themisive / May 2, 2006 11:32 PM PDT
In reply to: All of the above...

The internet has been proven time and time again that it is not secure - either from hackers who just want your personal data, or people who insert malicious viruses and/or spyware and malware to the files.

As John also rightly says - what happens if the servers go down, and there is then the problem of industrial espionage to consider.

No, all my files, be they Word, Excel or any of the other Office files are kept on my computer - some on an even more secure flash drive (it's more secure because I do not connect it when on the 'net) - that way I can be sure nobody is poking through my files without permission - I alone use the computer, so again, no-one can log on without my express permission as I have the Administrator rights for this machine.

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Timesharing all over again?
by majaka / May 3, 2006 12:01 AM PDT
In reply to: All of the above...

People actually used online aps effectively back in the 1970's and 1980's, before personal computers were common. It worked too, even though connectivity was at speeds that are inconceivably slow today (110/300/1200 baud). Here is why it worked:
- No software was downloaded, since users had ''dumb terminals'' and a modem - no local storage or processing ability. Communications were limited to plain ASCII text. As we used to say, most people can't read at 100cps, so speed was not an issue in this environment.
- Connectivity was dial-up either directly to the server site, or via a secure packet network, often X.25 based in later years. This architecture basically limited hacking to password attacks.
- Most timesharing vendors, such as CompuServe, had very secure sites with UPSs, backup generators, and multipath datacom connectivity, so availability was not a problem.
- You could access your files from any place with telephone access. You also might have to lug around something like a TI Silent 700.
- At the time, this was the only way to play. No one expected or needed WYSIWYG word processing or spreadsheets; this was such an improvement over doing things manually that people loved it.

OK, so how does this apply to today? The Internet is basically insecure, server architectures are full of reliability and security holes, and user expectations require high-speed connectivity which is not universally available. But I just want to point out that online aps WERE done reliably, so it can be done again... but not with today's off-the-shelf Internet and operating systems.

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thats the problem in a nutshell
by lkuney / May 9, 2006 9:20 AM PDT

thats the problem in a nutshell but you did not menchion the fact that some of us on highspead adsl have bean unable to conect to the internet for several days becouse of line problems (after all adsl dose not have high tolerance for bad phone wirers). One more thing, carefuly planed redundancy on the part of the aps providers means that reliability whould not realy be a problem.

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by ChuckMc219 / May 4, 2006 12:50 AM PDT
In reply to: All of the above...

Anyone who's ever had to use networked applications at an educational institution will also add speed and performance to the list...

Hmm, has anyone tried to use Netscape e-mail lately? The refresh rate seems to be event driven rather than real-time...

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Many of the places I work do not have on-line access
by avanabs / May 2, 2006 11:39 AM PDT

While the idea of software as a service, rather than something I have to pay (and pay and pay and pay) for may seem compelling, there is one major limitation not even listed in your choices. I have to do lots of work in remote locations (seat 35-E in the back of coach, for example) and on-line applications are useless until I have almost universal access.

Until universal access is available, fat client applications are a "must have".

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Availability, availability, availability
by rcardona2k / May 2, 2006 11:39 AM PDT

The largest sites all had problems staying online during high usage:, ebay, salesforce. you name it. My biggest concern is slowdown and downtime during high usage -- probably when I need it most! or at 2am. My local apps never fail to load at the same speed, reliably and regardless of my internet connection or location.

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by davidallenakins / May 2, 2006 12:02 PM PDT

I'm afraid to start something, get used to it, it good at, want an upgrade, get into cost not planned, lots of other issues. I've enough complications. I'll bet cost per use, uprgades, enhancements, and the final package will make allot of people back track.

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Security is very important
by ranron / May 2, 2006 12:14 PM PDT

For those in the US, the Administration is passing all these privacy-violating acts that allows the government to subpoena an online provider into giving up your private information. If people use online applications, the government can essentially monitor, confiscate, and take anything deemed legal by law.

For example in emails, if the federal government suspects a email account of criminal activity, then they can demand the email provider give up the information. In this sense, the documents are not safe. Say a student writes a paper on chemical warfare, and Homeland "In-"Security utilizes a bot to flag any document online that contains information on chemical warfare, then the student can be arrested and possibly criminally charged. Although the student's intention was solely academically based, once the information is online, the safety of the information can no longer be guaranteed and therefore insecure. Although it is possible to encrypt the metadata of a document, but this encryption would still be crackable unless the user uses tokens and certificates. However tokes and certificates became necessary, then the cost-benifit comparison would make the online applications too expensive to maintain.

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All of the above
by victlee / May 2, 2006 12:22 PM PDT

Yes, the security of file access, potential of network loss, cost are all concerns.

But there are times I'm literally out in the middle of no where (think poor cell phone connections) so if I want to do work on my laptop/PDA I'd be SOL if tied to only doing it when in an urban setting wirelessly or wired to the net. I find so many companies touting their wireless network, but it only applies to the urban environment, and sometimes only major metropolitan venues.

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Private data on the Net?
by mwyatt / May 2, 2006 12:23 PM PDT

From a work standpoint, I deal all the time with companies' census data, including SSNs, names, addresses, and so forth. I just talked to my brother last week who works at one of the 3 largest banks in the country in ACH. They had a laptop stolen last year with the same data on file; total cost to the company for that one itty bitty laptop: $20m (pretty close to priceless, I'd say). I'll keep my data local, thank you.

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Think what would happen if hackers, worm, or Viruses attack the "on-line software & data folders. They would have data on thousands of users instead of just one.

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No Thanks
by SpiderJ / May 2, 2006 1:08 PM PDT

Exactly what advantage do I gain from having my apps available online? Oh yeah, I can no longer use them as long as I want unless I continue to pony up the bucks. Translation: I have even lessliscence to use them. I suppose that is somehow an advantage. Or maybe its so that I no longer need to deal with complicated anti-piracy schemes... no I'm sure those will still be there and lets be honest, those anti-piracy schemes are the fault of the same companies that claim to be coming to our rescue with this online solution.

The only thing that I see here is an excuse...

An excuse to change things so that more money can be extorted from users. I see no advantage aside from short term cost savings. However, over time it will cost more anyway.

Companies like Microsoft are dying for ways to get even more money from users. This one reeks of a cash grab with no real advantage for the average user.

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Online Applications
by bigjim01 / May 2, 2006 1:28 PM PDT

I think that really under Intranet solutions, this might be an option, until the network dies. At least with local application you have the option to saving the file to local storage in the event of network failure. Actually with online application my thoughts center around (slightly modified) "Take those online applications and shove it!"

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Dumbing down computers!
by awwall / May 2, 2006 1:28 PM PDT

Okay, your first 4 categories are:
Loss of files/data
Less control
Cost (pay per use)
Your information online can be made public by an outside or inside attacker.
You will need one heckuva great guarantee that your stuff will not be lost in a power outage (I'm looking at you, California!).
You don't get to say "It's MY "insert application here".
Finally, pay per use? Why would I want to pay to do something that has been free up to now?

The reason this has come about is because the companies want to make computers easier to use. THEY take care of all the security, installation, maintenence, etc. GREAT. Just don't expect me, or a lot of other people who really know computing to jump on board right away! Convince me that I NEED this. Until then, I like my files where I can see them, I like owning the app, and I like my own "terms of use", which is free!

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no way!
by Jim Dodds / May 2, 2006 1:28 PM PDT


we spend millions of dollars of IT time trying to keep people from phishing our data...

and then we put all our correspondence on some server on the web where anybody who wants to can hack into it??


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Security is so obvious!
by kathyables / May 2, 2006 1:38 PM PDT

No doubt, I feel as many others about using an online word processor because of the security issue. How private is your information, and can hackers break into the servers where the information is stored? I doubt that I would use the program to discuss some highly important and private information. If the info can be encrypted, then this may provide some degree of confidence. Otherwise, I can see the benefit of writing about some matters that if made known to the world wouldn't make a bit of difference.

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internet = security = oxymoron to the max
by ncbugman / May 2, 2006 1:51 PM PDT

- enough said

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It shoud be free!
by jj0523 / May 2, 2006 1:55 PM PDT

on line word processing should be,AND WILL BE FREE!I look for Google to beat Microsoft to the punch

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I greatly value my privacy and don't want to risk sharing my
by renossance / May 2, 2006 2:11 PM PDT

files with people I don't know. I'm a writer and the last thing I need to worry about is whether or not my projects are safe from anyone. I want as much control over security as possible, and online word processors take away lots of control

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Poll on online applications.
by pkasper / May 2, 2006 2:22 PM PDT

There's no way I would do any applications online that I don't absolutely have to, given that I'm unwilling to pay for more than one 28.8K line which my internet access shares with my voice phone which I need to keep free for incoming calls from 8am to 9pm daily.

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Without security, what's the point?
by bubabobob / May 2, 2006 2:57 PM PDT

No mater how good and application works or how cheap it is or how much you can control the interface,if it is not secure there is no point in using it. If you use it online someone will find a way to steal it and then use it against you. Remember, even the big credit card companies who spend millions for security get hacked. You mean to tell me that won't happen here? Nice try.

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by ARYEHBY / May 2, 2006 3:13 PM PDT

What about the speed of the connection and the application. I don't feature going back to the days when you could type a line and wait for the computer to catch up. Is speed a trade off for bells and whistles? Lot's of us only use a fraction of what is available in Word, but automatic spell check is a great boon to me as is automatic numbering and renumbering. Security is less of an issue for me, but I think I will keep working with an applicatoin which can correct my mistakes.

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Security is way too important
by ehalpe / May 2, 2006 3:16 PM PDT

There have been so many valid concerns already brought up in this discussion that I don't know if I can actually add anything new.

Security is just way too important an issue for me to risk using online applications. I mean, who do you trust? I have an email address, I send to only 2 people from this address, one of them is my husband. I know they don't send my messages any further, yet I'm getting oodles of spam... why... I suspect the provider has sold my information, regardless of the fact that they claim never to do so. So, who do you trust? Can you really trust online application vendors if this sort of thing is still going on? I won't be.

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The internet infrastructure does not exist for this to work
by wyv3rn / May 2, 2006 5:42 PM PDT

If I had a 100% reliable, high speed, fully secure, available-worldwide internet connection, I might be tempted to use online apps instead of local apps. But since such a situation does not exist today, and is unlikely to exist in my lifetime. Forget it!

To use an online application requires that my computer is connected to the internet ALL THE TIME. That is not the case today, and will likely not be the case for a long time to come. To make this happen will require 100% wireless assessibility worldwide, I don't see this happening for a long time.

In addition, I will need an internet connection that is 100% reliable, fully secure and with total privacy and security for my files. I also don't see this happening for a long time either.

Until full reliabiity and security is available worldwide, Internet access is something that I turn on when I need it, and turn off when I don't. And I don't need it, or want it, all the time.

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by ddanguish / May 2, 2006 6:45 PM PDT

How do you use the word processing application when traveling or when the connection is down and a signal is not available?

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by Wolfie2k5 / May 2, 2006 7:00 PM PDT

My main issue - besides the obvious security and availability issues - is these online apps do not play with other apps natively like Word does.

A lot of what my clients and I do relies on links written that go between Word and GoldMine. For dumbed down basic "throw a document together" kind of things, I'm sure these online tools are probably ok. But when I need to say, merge 30 fields of data into a custom form, these things just won't cut it for the forseeable future.

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The Bad with the Good
by J Tench / May 2, 2006 7:18 PM PDT

As it has been pointed out online programs may well be the way of the future and yes there are quite a few things to completely iron out before we reach that point.

Security, offline work and cost of "ownership" or licensing are certainly issues that will need to be taken into consideration.

But the major benefit of a tool like this is its online collaboration tools/ability that is severly lacking in MS Word. For me to be able to write a report with other students from my group, at the same time on the same document while we may well be on the 4 corners of the globe is fantastic!

Think of the benefits and not just the negatives.
And yes it does have some way to go

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by 9mmammo / May 2, 2006 8:56 PM PDT

Now,PLEEEESE. Look at your budgets,look at what software sells best, these will lead you to your network management problem area. Security, is what is always changing, and topic for seminars, discussions, software/hardware apps. Will I key a legal doc into some unknown secure area?...I don't think so.

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