One way to implement an online project management system is to create a client/server architecture using an intranet. Unlike the Internet, which is the internetworking of computer systems around the globe, an intranet is a privately owned and maintained computer network. Intranets and the Internet use the same protocols, which are sets of rules and procedures, to send and receive information. In a way, an intranet behaves like a miniature Internet. It might connect all the offices within a company together, but it usually has very limited access points to computer networks outside the company.
In such an approach, centralized servers store the system's management software. Employees access the software through networked computers, which in a client/server system are the clients. Some systems require that people store part of an application on each client in the system. Others store all the programs on just the servers.
One advantage of this approach is that it's almost completely an internal system, which makes it more secure. While it's still possible for a creative hacker to gain access to an intranet, it's not as easy as hacking into a system connected over the Internet. Another advantage is customization. Project management system providers who use this approach can sometimes tweak features and functions to better suit a particular customer's needs.
The client/server approach works well for companies that focus mainly on internal projects. If there's a need to collaborate with other people or organizations, such a system might not work as well. If the other person or organization uses a different system, the two systems may not be compatible. Many companies are also cautious about allowing external entities access to their intranets.
An alternative to the client/server approach is a Web services online project management system. In this approach, the project management service provider hosts software as a series of Web services on the Internet. Customers log into the system remotely from any Internet-connected computer. This gives customers more flexibility -- they can log on from work, home or anywhere else that has an Internet connection. It also makes it easier to collaborate with other people and companies. Since a third party stores the applications and information, companies don't have to worry about opening up their own intranets to outsiders.
On the other hand, entrusting sensitive and critical information into the hands of a vendor makes some people nervous. Internet security is a growing concern for everyone online. Providers must prove they are secure and trustworthy. Otherwise, no one will want to use their services. Most services use various forms of encryption and password protection to minimize the risk of a security breach.
As companies look for more ways to consolidate and offload computing services, online project management and related techniques will become more prominent in the market. Of course, these systems will only be beneficial if customers use them properly. No one should look at these systems as a magical solution to any problem.
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