7 Tips for Evaluating Web Based Tools and Services

As we turn towards web based tools to run our digital lives, I find it important to utilize a set of criteria. Using these seven criterion, you can reduce the chance of turning your digital life into a digital nightmare.

1. Collaboration

If you are working with at least one other person, consider how the tool handles collaboration. Is there an account management system, where each user has an account? Does the system have a permissions system so that I can control what certain users have access to? Can the system track the history of each user?

2. Mobility

If you and your team use mobile devices regularly, find out how the system works on those devices. While you may not have full access through your mobile device, make sure you have enough usability to be productive on the road.

3. Availability

Are there any uptime guarantees? Search through their forums and around the web to discover any down time complaints and how they were handled. Systems that allow for off line syncronization are a plus, provided the system does not cause frequent data conflicts.

4. Data Security

Does the web site use 128 bit encryption? Some websites charge a premium for this, but it is essential if you want to protect your data. Also, consider the reputation of the firm itself, after all, you are storing your data on their servers in most cases.

If your data is especially sensitive, consider encrypting it before uploading or run your own server if possible.

5. Data Control

How easy is it to get your data out of their system? Ideally, you should be able to download all data yourself. Make sure you are not granting any type of ownership of your data.

6. Integration

Do they have an API? How robust is that API? Do they have a thriving community? How fast do they respond to help queries? All of these questions can usually be answered by examining their website and the developer forums. Ask some developers utilizing their API for an opinion.

7. Stability

Is this a stable company? Do they have a sustainable business model? Do they have funding? If you are going to make a long term investment in an online service, take some time to reasonably estimate whether that business will still be alive for the term you will be using the service.

What criteria do you use to evaluate web based tools and services?

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