Deciding Between Cloud-based & Local Apps

For a long time, when given a choice between using a cloud-based SAAS app vs. running one on my computer, I opted for the latter. (E.g., although I use Gmail for my email, I read it with Apple’s Mail app.)

There are two reasons for this. 1) I like to “own” my data — i.e., have local copies to backup, etc., and 2) I like to “own” my apps — i.e., buy a license for a specific app version I can use in perpetuity. I guess I’m old-fashioned in this.

For a long time this distinction has been clear. Of course, there are pros and cons beyond the licensing model and locus of user data — e.g., cloud-based apps tend to be better at collaboration, local apps are better integrated with the OS, etc.

But over time, more local apps are moving to 1) a subscription-based model and 2) hosting their data in the cloud. For some, the transition is rather awkward.

Increasingly, the primary benefit to local apps boils down to UI responsiveness and OS integration. And while cloud apps aren’t as tightly coupled with the local OS, they’re better integrated with other cloud apps through services like Zapier.

As I said, I’ve opted for local whenever possible. But as more local apps adopt SAAS licensing and data models, the decision is less clear.

So, I’m reevaluating core elements of my personal information ecosystem. Moving to SAAS-first is a stretch for me. But ultimately, the central question is: given that these domains’ key distinctions are blurring, where am I most productive?