Web-based (Hosted) and Installed Reservation Systems…

Do you know the difference and which type is right for your reservation system?

by Tina Nelson 6/06

edited by Eddie Nelson 6/06



What Web-based/Hosted means

Let’s see, web-based means that you are signing up with a Webmaster ~ usually the Author of the software.  It’s not a typical situation where you have to ask your Webmaster to do stuff and then wait for a long time.  A web-based reservation system is set-up and maintained in real-time by you, the customer. From wherever you are sitting on the globe, you can log on to your web page and look in on things.  It’s like logging onto to Hotmail or Yahoo and checking your email.


How Webmasters do it

You sign up for their service, they make room for you on their server and in their database, and they assign you a number/code to use to as a tag for your information to keep it separate from everyone else who has signed up for their web-based reservation service.  And, don’t forget that super-clean data center in Seattle or Atlanta where your information is probably residing. 


Security issues

Web-based reservation systems should be feature-rich.  Heck, it’s easy to write shopping cart, email, and calendar type functions in JavaScript, PHP, .asp, .NET (.NET is fast replacing Active Server Pages (.asp) as that type of language), and a plethora of other programming languages that lend themselves to a true ecommerce web site.  A lot of that programming is also easily breeched.  That’s why the Payment Card Industry does not want a Level 3 merchant (20,000 or more ecommerce transactions a year) to use a web-based system.  Ask a banking information security officer about interjecting code and watch him/her turn white.


The cost of web-based/hosted

For some reason, web-based/hosted programs are expensive. There are probably a lot of man-hours in maintaining a database with several different companies’ data all loaded in together.  Then there is the expense incurred by the Webmaster, either in paying for hosting services at a data center, or setting up their own hosting system in their home/office.


What Installed means

The short story:  1.  go to Dell’s web site ~ 2.  order a server (in our business, we make this easy for you by being on the other end of the phone and on the same web site stepping you through the buying process) ~ 3.  have software ready for installation.  A domain can be created (the web server is the daddy) and all the workstations in the building joined to that domain.  This is very secure for creating footprints through the system and tracking where everyone has been and what they are doing.  We will tell you right now that you will not have a good experience if you try to use a web server as a workstation.  They are not designed for usual graphic interface.  Even a very small business can now afford one web server and one workstation to fully exploit the simplicity of an installed critical application. 


In-office web server systems are CHEAP!

Have you priced your own web server, lately?  Can you believe they are around $1,000! That’s a Dell with a Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition operating system and tons of every kind of memory and power (except graphics memory ~ servers are not for surfing the web or working in Photoshop).  Do you remember when they were $8,000, $9,000, $10,000?  Uninterrupted Power Supply devices are getting less expensive, too.  A 1500-watt APC UPS is only around $350 these days (by the way, these things not only provide emergency electricity to your machine, they also condition the electricity that is going in the machine which greatly extends it’s life) and would probably run a server with no monitor for about 4 hours without electricity.  Routers ~ whoa, did they get cheap, or what? You can get a sweet little Linksys for around $80.  Workstations? The latest and greatest workstation from Dell is only about $600.  Can you believe that means a very nice set up (Server, Workstation, Router, Uninterrupted Power Supply) for a little over $2,000?


Where’s your stuff?

Do you mind not knowing if your data is in Seattle or Atlanta or in someone’s home/office in Ohio?  The folks that we know who run installed reservation systems are very happy to know all their information is located safely in their office ~ behind their own firewall, humming merrily as it dishes up their data to every user in their office and every requesting surfer on the web.  The only way to know for sure


Sounds like they’re the same

So, if a web-based reservation program is very similar to an “installed in your office” system in features, what would be some major differences that you need to consider when selecting the system to operate your business?  When To Work (www.whentowork.com) is one example of a great web-based/hosted application.  There are some applications that are perfectly adaptable to being a hosted system. 

But while hosted is great for scheduling employees, maybe it’s not for storing who’s checking in tomorrow and thousands of payment card numbers.


More layers of security with an installed system

The more paranoid the Payment Card Industry gets, the more insane they become about how they dictate to you how to handle your credit card numbers.  One really nice advantage of storing your own data is that you are in complete control of how many layers and what types of security are surrounding your information.


An installed system is not dependent on your Internet

This is almost a “bottom line”.  Your Internet access can depend on environmental situations a thousand miles away or two miles down the road.  Fancy data centers in Seattle and Atlanta sell themselves on the fact that they have redundant power and Internet, yet they will never proclaim “100% Uptime”.  If you are using a web-based system and your Internet goes out… well, you have an online booking program out there like a runaway train.  The rest of the world can access your data, but you cannot.


If your Internet goes out and you are operating an installed system, you can access your data but the rest of the world cannot.  We like this scenario best when it comes to a reservation/online booking type of operation.


It’s just not rocket science, anymore

Your car, refrigerator, stove and toaster can have aspirin-sized servers that cost a dollar.  No kidding.  Servers are computers designed to blaze through multi-tasking without being dragged down by graphics and computer fluff.  Utilizing a server in your office as a centralized location for your files and everyone joined to your office domain enhances production and security.  It’s only one more task to ask your server to provide online booking pages to the world while handing the same data out to your reservationists.


A database and a program installed on “a server in your office” set up is the main reason we tout TCSReservations software as “Really Real-time Online Booking”.  There is no upload or synchronization ~ because it’s all one database.  It would not take much to turn our system into a hosted system, and we could probably make more sales; however, we are concerned about security and privacy in the industry of overnight vacation rentals and we remain convinced that Dynamic Link Libraries and installed programming are the best system for so much sensitive and critical data. 


Click Here to download and print a picture of four network examples.

(Hint:  It’s best printed in Landscape mode.)



Further Reading:



This is an article on sales force software, but it offers an excellent discussion on when an installed system is appropriate and when a hosted system is OK.



This is a link to a Google page with several interesting articles about the aspirin-sized server invented in early 2002 by Hariharasubrahmaniam "Shri" Srikumar (I bet his American friends called him “Hari”).



We hear concerns about maintaining web server type of hardware.  Nothing makes you appreciate a working network like one that does not work.  Make sure your technology person is keeping up with the times, just like your doctor or real estate agent.  Technology should hum quietly in the background with the only the occasional hiccup caused by environmental factors.  It can be done and less is more.



This is a “Silver Paper” rather than a “White Paper” because I have interjected my opinions, theories, and reasonings.