Self-­hosted or Cloud-based Project Management Tool? Here’s a Way to Choose

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OK, so you have decided that you need a project management tool to run your business. But when you started to search for the right solution, you came across a major obstacle ­- “Should I use a self­-hosted or a cloud based project management tool?”web based vs installed

By being in the business of developing and selling a project management tool for more than five years now, we will give you some tips on the matter mentioned above, based strictly from our experience. When we started working on our project management software, we started off with a self­-hosted solution only. However, we have recently decided to start working on a cloud based project management software as well. We have faced both sides of the dilemma and we have a few insights to share with you.

When people start making a choice between a self­-hosted and a cloud based project management tool, they usually have a few major concerns:

Security of the data

The last thing that anyone wants is to get the important info on their business disclosed to a wrong person, or to the public.

  • Self­-hosted solutions are placed on your own servers, where you are in control. If you have an in­house server, that’s even better. You can be the boss of your setup, bandwidth, storage space… you are the one who is in ­charge and the level of security is in your hands. If you are the kind of a person, or have such a business that requires total and full control, then the self-­hosted option is the one for you. In the 5 years of doing business in this market, we have often been met with customers who had a really strict data exposure and storage policies. Such rules narrowed their choice to the in­house tool, in order to manage their projects.
  • With Cloud based applications, security is something that the vendor company should be taking care of. If you choose the right company, with good recommendations, you can rest assured that the team of experts will take care of your business “secrets”. Such companies are giving a lot of effort, in order to make the data safe and secured (after all, their business is dependant on that). There are a large number of users who just wish to log in and start working, leaving our team to take care of their data and other security related tasks.


This is another big issue when it comes to making up your mind on a self-­hosted or a cloud based tool. Like any other software, project management apps can also be a bit tricky to handle.

  • With a self-­hosted app, you are the one who needs to do the update each time and take care of the release cycle. The fun fact in this is that some customers really enjoy doing this. Of course, there are others who do not like to do the upgrade themselves due to some issues that can arise. Even if the tech support team is there to help, upgrades can be a pain in the neck and they can cause a lot of frustration.
  • By having a cloud project management tool, you will not even notice (unless you get a notification about it) that the upgrade has been done. You will be working in the latest and in the most stable environment. If you are not a tech savvy person, or if you don’t have enough time to take care of the maintenance issues, the cloud version is the right approach for you. The only thing that needs to be maintained, in this case, is the clutter in your projects.

Storage Space

This mostly concerns creative industries, but it can be a big issue to the other branches as well.

Companies working within the design, architecture, marketing or similar fields, are often working with a large number of files (that can be really massive in their size), so the storage space can give them quite a headache from time to time.

  • In our case, the self-­hosted edition has no limitation in the size and in the amount of files that you can have within your projects. We came across setups with huge data sets (tens or even hundreds of gigabytes in some cases). So if you are in need of a large storage space, then you should look for a similar solution.
  • Most of the time, cloud services are limited in their storage size. But if you don’t work with massive files, such packages can fit you just fine. Some systems even offer the possibility to get more space on demand, or a reward of some kind. This approach can be great because you can expand your storage if necessary and if your projects become more demanding.

Number of Users

This can be a crucial point when making up your mind. You need to have the ability to include all of the important people to collaborate with you on your projects. After all, they are the most important asset that you have.

  • The self-­hosted solutions are limiting the number of users in some cases, but they are usually not limiting in this field. The option to bring everyone aboard can be really great and it can help you get your projects done more efficiently. Just be careful because you don’t want too large of a crowd in your virtual office. Users with diverse teams and a great number of sub­contractors are the ones who value this option the most.
  • Cloud based solutions, on the other hand, can limit the number of users involved. If you work with a small team of people, this is not an obstacle. Sometimes, such project management tools can make a difference between the role of the user inside the system (so you can have a staff member, client, sub­contractor, etc.) and offer different pricing, or even the option to include a certain group of users for free. In this way, you can increase the number of users as your team grows.

Cost ­

The final and most important question: “How much do I have to pay for this?”

  • Pay more money at the start and use a self-­hosted solution. At least in our case, this kind of a license is a one time fee. Usually, but this is not a general rule, this type of licensing is preferred by large organizations and companies with specific business needs. You might prefer to pay and “own” the tool that you will be working with all at once and you have that option, with the the self­-hosted licences.
  • For the cloud based versions, you pay as you go a monthly subscription tailored for your current needs. Small and medium size businesses are usually up for such solution, but we can’t say that it’s always the case. Such companies are quite flexible and can switch to the other packages as their business evolves much more easily than large corporations can. But there are exceptions, so it’s really up to you to choose the option that fits your pocket best.

Based on our experience, these are some of the most common issues that (prospective) customers have. If you have similar concerns, the best way to make the decision is to be rational and to consider all the aspects of your business.

After all, project management is all about organization, and you can start getting organized by making a right decision on the type of platform that you wish to have -­ self-­hosted or a cloud platform.

We can’t really make a single conclusion and tell you what kind of platform to choose for your project management tool. We can recommend you to consider all of the criteria mentioned above, and to give each one a thought. After a short while, it will be clear which one to choose.

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About the Author


Ivana Sabo

Ivana Sabo is a book worm and a geek girl. If you have ever contacted the activeCollab team, there's a good chance that you have talked to her - she takes care of the customers and deals with public relations at A51. She likes to travel, explore new sights and play around with her family.



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