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Document Management 101

Remote Applications vs. Web Applications for Document Management: A Quick Guide

When you’re researching a document management solution for your business, the details aren’t as important as how they affect your experience. Here's a breakdown of how web applications stack up against remote applications for document management systems.

Closeup of a screen with computer code

When we talk about ‘cloud computing’, it evokes an image of data floating around in the ether—information we can access from home but that lives ‘out there’. But, of course, it’s not that simple. 

Cloud computing could refer to private, public, or hybrid clouds. It could also mean the difference between SaaS (software as a service), IaaS (infrastructure as a service), or PaaS (platform as a… you get it). Or maybe you mean web applications vs. remote applications. It’s a lot to wrap your head around. 

When you’re researching a document management solution for your business, the details aren’t as important as how they affect your experience. So, in terms specific to document management, let’s break it down.

Why does it matter for document management?

The computing systems we refer to as cloud computing have different configurations that are, by and large, determined by two things: where your data lives, and how you access it. Different set ups have different answers, and those answers significantly affect your computing experience. 

When you’re considering management of company documentation, these elements are key:

  • Compliance: Does your setup allow you to comply with legal requirements?
  • Security: How vulnerable is your data to theft or attack?
  • Speed: How quickly will you be able to find what you need, when you need it?
  • Functionality: Can you accomplish complex tasks or will these break the system?

The two main options for document management are web applications and remote applications. Here’s a breakdown of those choices, and what they mean for your business.

What are web applications?

To use a web application, you open a browser, go to a website, log in, and access your data. Think about internet banking and you’ve got the idea. You can log in from any internet-capable computer, there’s usually a limited number of tasks you can choose, and it’s often inexpensive.

In the workplace, whether you’re talking about a project management app, a contact resource management app (CRM), or even Google Docs, your data is stored on the web app’s servers (along with the data of hundreds of other companies). That’s where it lives. To access your data, you send commands over the internet to give and receive information. In other words, all your information travels back and forth between you and the host server. 


Most businesses that collect sensitive information are required, by law, to store this data in a secure and dedicated environment. Web apps don’t separate your data from the data of other clients so, depending on the relevant privacy laws, they may not meet compliance standards.


Remember that data on a web app travels constantly between you and the host server. This leaves it vulnerable to attack while it’s in transit. Your information will also be hosted in a shared environment with other clients, meaning more people have access to the server. That raises the risk of bad actors accessing your data. 


When multiple users are trying to access company data at the same time, it slows down the transfer of information, which is frustrating. If you’re looking through a limited number of small files, you probably won’t notice any difference in speed. But as soon as you’re searching through thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of records, you’re sifting through terabytes of data. This is the case for most business document management, and it will significantly reduce the speed of retrieving and opening files. And, of course, if your system is hosted on a shared server, the server speed changes depending on how many people outside your company are accessing their information at the same time.


Web apps are operated by transferring information: data, commands, and scripts, for example. In addition, all that information needs to be wrapped up inside security protocols. The sheer amount of data that has to travel back and forth puts limits on the kinds of tasks you’re able to do at a reasonable speed. Complexity lends itself to error because the list of things that can go wrong grows exponentially. 

What is a remote application?

Remote applications let you access a remote computer from anywhere. The experience feels a lot like a web application because you log into an app on your machine. But the data and software are stored and running on a standalone offsite computer. Structurally, it’s like a non-internet connected desktop application—think of the calculator or file explorer that’s installed on your machine only. 

So if it’s all running elsewhere, how do you access it? A remote application lets you take control of the offsite computer with your mouse and keyboard, as though you’re sitting at that computer. All the processing happens on the remote computer; you just tunnel in to take control of it.

DocuXplorer’s hosting environment is set up with a remote application because that’s what makes sense for document management. Here’s how it breaks down. 


Every client is hosted on their private server. That means no one else’s data is stored with yours, which helps you to meet compliance requirements. Those include the U.S. SEC, SOX, and HIPAA requirements.


With a remote desktop, your data is never transmitted across the internet. Think of it like a screen share; the only data passed across the internet is a live visual representation of the page you’re looking at. This significantly lowers the risk of information hijacking. And because your data is stored in isolation, no other company can get into the server. In addition, only approved devices are allowed to access your server, so you have complete control on who’s allowed near your data. 


Because you’re not sharing your environment with others, your machine can be set up to suit your needs, whether that means hundreds of users accessing 50,000 documents a day, or three users adding 20 documents a day. You can scale your processing power and storage to keep up with organizational changes—which puts you in complete control of your speed. So when searching through terabytes of data, you get what you’re looking for in five seconds instead of 50 seconds (which is a costly eternity when it happens several times a day, for several employees). This level of control also protects you against denial of service attacks that could eat up your bandwidth.


Remote applications run on one computer, so commands travel within that machine instead of over the web, and the processing is done right there. This setup is simpler and more stable than a web application, with fewer things to go wrong. Stability allows for more functionality, so you’re able to accomplish more complex tasks at greater speeds.

Key takeaways

Web application pros:

  • Work well with lightweight applications and a limited number of tasks
  • Common enough that most people understand them
  • Easy to access anywhere

Web application cons:

  • More prone to data breaches and attacks
  • Not as feature-rich as remote apps
  • Slower if there’s a large amount of data to process
  • Vulnerable to browser compatibility issues

Remote application pros:

  • Easier to meet compliance regulations
  • More secure than web-based apps
  • Fast—can handle working with a large amount of data
  • Able to include rich functionality and offer robust operations
  • Easy to access anywhere

Remote application cons:

  • Less common, so there can be a learning curve when you’re getting started