Shop Management Software - Desktop vs. Cloud-Based


Desktop Ro writing software has been around for many many years. 12 years ago no one ever dreamt of being able to store enough data and access it quick enough to make a cloud or web based auto repair shop management system viable. Profitboost were the first company to offer totally web based systems. So when your pc breaks down you do not lose any data, you just move to a new pc/laptop or tablet and login.

The decision to change yours software system is huge; choosing from the options available is sometimes mind-boggling and can stop you in your tracks if you don't know which questions to ask software providers when you are investigating your options. Major considerations are:

1. How does the initial cost of desktop software and web-based software compare and how is it installed?

Initial cost for desktop software varies tremendously - it can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Some desktop systems still make it sound like they are a one off payment and you own the whole system, in fact they all charge a fee for support on top of the initial charge.  The companies that never charged maintenance fees are all out of business. Without regular income they can not afford to update and maintain the software.

When you install the program directly to one of your computers, you usually have to install it on one machine that acts as a server and then other users in the shop have to connect to that server. So the server has to be maintained, every windows update causes issues and every mysql update has the risk of a crash. It may be possible to install it on more than one computer, but in many instances, this involves additional cost to purchase licenses for each user and/or computer. 

Desktop repair order writing software only works on Windows Pc's, so no mac users, no ipads, no android tablets.

Web-based software solutions are not purchased outright. You are actually paying monthly to access a powerful software that resides on the internet (QuickBooks online is a common example). This charge is known as a recurring subscription fee, paid on a monthly basis.  This monthly income allows the software companies to maintain and upgrade the software regularly.

Because it is a fully online system you can access the program anywhere there is internet service, from any computer that uses a compatible browser. So it doesn't matter whether you are a Mac shop, a Windows shop or a mixture you can use your RO writing system anywhere at any time.

2. How do I receive updates?

You may or may not have to pay for any updates to desktop software, they are normally tied into your monthly support plan,  you are generally responsible for installing those updates yourself, whether it's a download from the internet or from a CD. This carries a risk, lets be honest most mechanics and shop owners are not computer nerds so there is always a chance it can go wrong. Updates are not done as often as with web-based programs, simply because the logistics are prohibitive of frequent updates.

With web-based software, updates are more frequent (sometimes as often as every few weeks) and are invisible to the user. The updates are done on the remote server, usually overnight orover a weekend. Most updates are small in nature so they do not disturb your work flow.

3.How easy is it to access my information?

Desktop software is installed on a PC that lives at a desk or counter;that is the only place it can be accessed unless additional programs like PC Anywhere are used or you have an IT person(additional cost) devise a fairly elaborate system to share that data. When you start piecing together solutions, with different providers, different people with different skill levels, the potential for problems grows. The one thing your shop can not afford is down time and the more layers of complexity that you add to the invoice writing software process the more likely you are to have down time.

For auto repair shops that have more than one location, or business owners that want to access the business data from anywhere (home, on vacation, other shops, traveling for business, even at the local coffee shop), web based solutions really are the only efficient option.

4. What happens When my computer crashes?

In the IT world there is a saying, "it's not If your computer will crash, it is WHEN will it creash". Admittedly Windows in particular has improved it's reliabilty over the years but it is still a reality. Even Macs have problems so no one is totally exempt from problems.

This is where web-based software shines. When one of your computers crashes, you simply fire up another computer, get online and get back to work. No data loss, just the few minutes it takes you to switch computers. Your data is stored on remote, secure servers, it is backed up regularly to servers that are stored at totally seperate remote locations.

A computer crash with desktop ro writing program is a guaranteed headache! When did you last do a backup? Where is that backup? What do you do with it-how do you get that information up on a computer to use it? You're probably going to need to buy another computer and could possibly need to hire an IT person to set that up. If the backed-up data can be restored, the transactions that occurred after the time and date of the backup will need to be re-entered. Chances are your IT professional will advise you to look into web-based software to avoid this problem in the future.

5. What does the future hold?

The reality is that Desktop mechanics software will be around for several more years, at least, for those with no internet access. But other than that the world is moving towards cloud based software in every market.

Auto repairs are going to carry on becoming more complicated, technicians will need help diagnosing and repairing the more complex cars that are coming down the pipeline.

Web-based software will continue to be the predominant choice because of the speed of updates and the options it gives you as a user. The ability for a technician to have an ipad with him where he can not only communicate with the service writer but look up parts and fixes for issues he has never encountered before is going to carry on being vital for every repair shop.

Cloud Based Software is great for jobs that are not anchored to a desk; for businesses that have several employees scattered around one physical building - Technicians out the back, the service writer out the front, book keeper upstairs and the repair shop owner moving around between them all.

As a business owner or manager, your time is best spent focusing ON your business rather than the time-consuming chores of managing PC's, resolving IT issues, performing backups and installing downloads. Choosing the correct software system for your needs can help eliminate many of those problems as well as provide your employees with the best tools to do an exception job.

Posted on October 17, 2016 in Auto Repair Shop Technology

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