HomeDigital MinistryManagement (ChMS)Web-Based vs. Installed Church Management Software

Web-Based vs. Installed Church Management Software


Web-Based, Installed or Hybrid?

The age old question that business and churches alike need to answer as they look at new systems is “web-based”  vs “installed.” Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each solution as well as some available hybrid solutions.

Web-Based Church Management Software

There are many advantages of using web-based software.  The most obvious is the ability to access the software from any computer or mobile device that has an internet connection.  So if you want to use your iPad, no problem.  Want to use your Windows 10 machine, no problem.  As long as you have a browser and internet connection you will be able to access your system.  This also gives you the flexibility to use the software from home, the office or even at Starbucks.

Another advantage of web solutions is the low maintenance on your end.  The software provider is responsible for all upgrades, backups and maintenance of the software.  This can translate to significant savings on IT staff and computer hardware.

Alothough it sounds like a walk in the park, things aren’t always perfect with web-based solutions.  There are some downsides as well.  The most obvious is that if you have no internet connection, you are completely out of luck.  If you have spotty or very slow internet connections you may want to look at different options.  Many churches also worry about the security of their data on a web-based platform.  Who will have access to the data?  Can it be hacked?

Many web-based products are also not as sophisticated as their “installed” counterparts.  Many times it is much easier to search and report on data in a traditional installed piece of software.  And for many data entry intensive applications, an installed application may provide a better user experience than with a web-based solution.

Installed Church Management Software

Many of the churches that we talk to are looking to have complete control of their data.  In this case an installed solution is perfect for them.  They install the software on their own local area network and are good to go.  We also hear from many churches that want a one-time fee for their software.  Again installed solutions are good for this and there are typically no recurring fees when purchasing this type of software.

Probably the biggest downside of this type of installation is the lack of remote access.  The pastor is out on the road and he needs to look up an address or a small group leader needs to record attendance from home.  This is much more difficult with an out of the box installed software application.

Hybrid Church Management Solution

Wouldn’t it be great if you could realize the benefits of both?  Many church management software providers are now offering a web portal into your installed database solution.  With this type of solution, you’d be able to have the robust functionality of an installed solution, but also the flexibility to do many functions using a browser.  For example, your members would be able to log in and give online, update their profile information or view an online directory.  Your staff would be able to look up members contact information, record attendance for group meetings, view a variety of reports and enter visitation notes.  Examples of this type of hybrid solution are Roll Call Connect from By the Book,  Access ACS from ACS Technologies and Web Ministry Tools from CDM+.

Whether web-based, installed, or a hybrid solution is for you and your church, working with a company that is dedicated to churches is key. While many software companies in the industry have sold their business in recent news, By the Book is committed to serving the church as a family-owned, privately-held business.

Kim Conley
Kim Conleyhttp://www.bythebook.com
In addition to supporting churches that use Roll Call church management software from By the Book, Kim enjoys being a parent to two amazing teenagers alongside her husband, David (who happens to also work within shouting distance). She may be spotted in the wild hiking, biking, skiing or snowshoeing.


  1. A couple of counter-points:

    First, on security: of course, there is some concern about web-based databases being hacked. The reverse of that, though, is that unless your “installed” database is only on one computer in the office that has no network connection, it’s also vulnerable. For churches using their own local server to house an on-premise database with multiple workstations, your server is often the same server hosting email, the office dropbox, and other networked services, making it vulnerable to multiple lines of “attack” from an outsider. So an installed version is no more “safe” than a cloud-based service. In fact, the big security advantage a cloud-based service might have over a local install is that your provider is likely putting a lot more resources (time, money, infrastructure, expertise) into securing their servers than your church can afford to do on its own.

    Second quibble: installed solutions may advertise themselves as a one-time fee option, but read the fine print. Frequently, when they roll out a major update (which, eventually, you’ll have to move over to), you have to pay for the upgrade. May not be as expensive as repurchasing the whole system (and may still be cheaper than the monthly fees of an web-based solution), but be aware that it will add up over time.

    • Hi Alex –
      Thanks for your response. I completely agree with you on the security issue. If a church is putting their ChMS on a LAN that is also open to the internet, they will be opening themselves up to the same potential hacking as a web based system.

      Again you are correct, although installed software solutions are one-time cost models, there can be additional fees for support and upgrades. Each church will need to weigh those potential costs. Our software Roll Call uses that model. We charge a one-time fee.. and extra for version upgrades if you want them. We have many customers that will skip 3,4, or 5 version upgrades. That means for many years they are using that software without any additional cost. We just heard from a customer that bought our software 10 years ago … and are just now deciding to upgrade it.


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