June 29th, 2009 by The Clio Team
Even the most dependable services experience the occasional unforeseen outage, and the Internet is no different. Whether due to human error or an act of God, responsible professionals are obliged to consider the worst case while hoping for the best, and for this reason, some prospective Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) users are hesitant to take the plunge out of fear over data accessibility in the event of a prolonged Internet service outage. To help abate the concern over the inherent reliance of SaaS on the Internet, many providers are leveraging the power of new technologies such as Adobe Air, Google Gears and Microsoft Silverlight which blur the lines between traditional desktop applications and Software-as-a-Service by remaining fully functional independent of the state of the Internet connection.
Dubbed Rich Internet Applications (RIA), these applications download and store a fully functional copy of the program data and controls which are then synchronized with the online data at the earliest availability of a reliable internet connection. With RIAs users need not worry about the consistency or quality of an Internet connection, and can rest assured that whether on a plane, in court or any other circumstance where the Internet is not available, access to their data is still close at hand, and will be transparently backed-up once internet service is restored.
Another method of achieving offline access is via synchronization of data with desktop products. For example, the calendar for many SaaS applications provide an iCal synchronization capability with desktop application counterparts (Microsoft Outlook or Apple iCal, for example). In the event of an Internet outage, it would be possible to retrieve your calendar via Outlook or iCal – as soon as your Internet connection is restored, the desktop applications will update as appropriate.
Google’s recent addition of Gmail offline functionality is an excellent recent examples of how SaaS applications are evolving to minimize the risk of Internet down-time. Now users can browse, search, and compose emails while offline, allowing continued productivity irrespective of connectivity. Similarly, Clio’s recent addition of Clio Express marks our first foray into the world of RIAs and offline functionality with the aim to provide Clio users with continued productivity independent of circumstances. Clio Express is an Adobe Air-based activity tracking application which allows all Clio subscribers to continue working with a logging time and expense slips regardless of Internet availability.