Small businesses must make important decisions in order for their operations to be successful. Rent your office space or buy it? Buy new or used office furniture? Hire a receptionist or use an answering machine?

Another decision that small businesses may have to make is whether to implement a traditional or cloud-based appointment scheduling system. With many differences between the two technologies, it is important for small business owners to analyze their specific needs and do extensive research on which software packages would work best for them.


Appointment scheduling systems are software programs that allow small business owners and organizations, along with their staff, to more easily book and manage their scheduled appointments. Without scheduling software, most homeowners rely on the more traditional way of scheduling their appointments: a paper appointment book, a pen, and a receptionist or staff member taking appointments by phone or email. Some may also use basic computer software, such as a database, to keep track of their scheduled appointments. In addition to taking appointments, some businesses and organizations also inform their clients, students, and patients of their scheduled appointments with some form of reminder, such as a phone call, email, or card sent through the mail. In most cases, this process is inefficient and requires a lot of staff time to manage properly.

Additionally, a company’s office hours often dictate when a person can schedule an appointment. Considering the number of people who perform their personal tasks online, the above appointment process is inflexible and does not allow a person to schedule their appointments when it is most convenient, such as after hours.

With the right appointment scheduling software, these essential but often time-consuming tasks are handled automatically and with little effort on the part of the user. However, like many software platforms, there can be many differences between vendors. Case in point: Cloud-based appointment scheduling software offers features not found in traditional appointment scheduling software packages.


Before discussing the differences between the two, let’s first describe the general features of each. Cloud-based programs are a type of Software as a Service (SaaS) whereby users access software online as a service on demand. As with most SaaS programs, online scheduling services are usually hosted online on a secure server. Plus, many don’t require software to be installed or downloaded. All it requires is an internet connection to access the software.

More traditional appointment scheduling software programs are just that: retail packages available in stores and online that require installation on every computer where staff will access. Think about a word processor or accounting program for your home computer that you buy and install. They can also be software purchased and downloaded online, but without direct access to online databases, features and services. It is basically the software package purchased through the internet rather than from a retail store.


Although both varieties of dating software may offer similar scheduling capabilities, it’s important to note the differences found in each. It could have a dramatic impact not only on your business operations, but also on your expectations of the product.

• Accessibility. This is probably the most important difference between the two. An online appointment scheduling system gives you the ability to access your account anywhere, anytime. All you need is an internet connection. Traditional software that you install on an individual computer is usually restricted to that device. While you may have a schedule that allows you to access from outside the office, it creates extra steps and isn’t an efficient way to manage your appointments.

• Self programming. More and more companies and organizations allow their clients, patients and students to schedule their appointments online at their convenience. In fact, those who do not offer this service may be missing the boat, as some people simply will not choose a service provider that does not allow online transactions. Many cloud-based companies offer this feature, which is a natural fit for a SaaS program. People simply schedule their appointments in the same way as other online services, like buying travel or managing a bank account. It’s efficient, it’s easy, and people can schedule their appointments outside of normal business hours. Traditional programming software can offer this, but it will most likely be an expensive alternative to Web-based technology, given the extensive programming and configuration procedures required to enable this functionality in existing computer networks and systems.

• Cost. With budget constraints being a major factor in most business decisions, the cost of a new online appointment scheduling system is another consideration. Prices vary widely, from free to tens of thousands of dollars (for custom programming). Web-based software is generally the most affordable option and provides the best “value for money.” Additionally, some SaaS scheduling providers offer month-to-month service contracts without requiring a long-term commitment. This can often be the best option, especially for businesses and organizations with limited budgets or changing future needs.

In the world of online appointment scheduling systems, it usually comes down to two options: web-based or non-web-based. Make sure your business or organization looks at your specific needs before deciding.

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