To go online or local? That is the question.
One of the most popular questions we face these days as church consultants, is whether we think online software is better than installed software.
As unpopular as it may be, the answer is, “It all depends.”
The main benefits of online church software, or web-based church software are:
1. No software to install or update. Once you sign up and establish an account, your users can log in from any web-enabled device that can load a web browser.
2. Small upfront fee (sometimes). Some of the web based church software programs have no start up costs, you simply start paying the monthly fee.
The main benefits of premise based, or installed church software are:
1. Speed. Locally installed software using a local database will always outperform online church software.
2. Customizable. Local software can be customized to match your particular needs, while with web based software you are forced to use what the other thousand or so clients are using, because you are all logging into the same “instance” of the program.
We recently spoke with a church that was using Fellowship One online church software. On the one hand, they were simply blown away by all of the features and functionality of the program. They loved it, and it was truly helping them accomplish more ministry than they could without it. However, they were very quick to add that it was both very expensive and extremely difficult to train staff to use. Essentially, were they not a mega-church, they most likely would not have had success with Fellowship One.
Another church we spoke with not long ago was using Power Church software. This church was very impressed that they could get the features that they wanted at such an affordable price. Again, the program was honestly helping them do ministry. They were frustrated, however, with the fact that only a limited number of people could have access to the program since it was installed on their network, and they had managed to set up a work-around using GoToMyPC to allow folks to log in while they were away from their desk.
Online church software:
Average cost: $3,000-$5,000 initially, then $100-$1000 per month
Time to deploy: six months average
Learning curve: Very steep. expect your staff and volunteers to need a lot of hands on help and guidance.
Main benefit: can use from any computer, anywhere as long as there is an internet connection
Installed church software:
Average cost: $500-900
Time to deploy: 1 week
Learning curve: Fairly low. most staff and volunteers can learn by trial and error, or with a decent user manual.
Main benefit: fast, easy, customizable
In the end, your decision to go with web based church software or locally installed church software will be determined by what is MOST important to you.