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October 8th, 2009

No matter what kind of business you’re in, you have projects to manage and tasks to complete. Over the centuries many systems have evolved to keep you on track, on schedule and on budget. Project management tools are now primarily software-based, although they can run as applications locally or reside on a Web server.

Desktop applications

Project Management Software Desktop software like Microsoft Project, Primavera Project Planner and OmniPlan is installed on your PC. These typically are the most responsive programs, and offer familiar, graphically sophisticated interfaces. If you are just “test driving” a time-limited free trial, you can avoid a lot of headaches by getting a computer rental so you don’t have to worry about uninstalling various packages you try.

Desktop-based project management software normally stores data in files, although applications that allow network storage often store data in centralized locations. If you have vast amounts of customer or inventory data to include, you may need an Xserve RAID array from CRE to store it all. Users can even share file-based project software data as long as it’s on a networked drive and is accessed by only one user at a time.

Web-based solutions

Other project management solutions—Workspace.com, Smartsheet, QuickBase—are implemented as Web applications, hosted on your own firm’s intranet or the solution provider’s server. This gets you the normal pluses and minuses of web programs. On the up side, users have access from any computer (Mac, PC, Linux), no software is installed on individual PCs and there is only one installation to maintain.

On the down side, Web-based applications respond slower than desktop ones, and project data is available only when users and servers are online.

Types of applications

Single-user systems assume that just one person will have the project file open at any one time. This works for small companies and firms where just a few people are doing “top-down” planning. Most desktop software is in this category, and some applications (especially inventory-related ones) are optimized for pen-based computing. During your trial phase, consider a Tablet PC rental, too, so you can test-drive these specialized applications.

Collaborative systems support multiple users that may need to edit different sections of a plan simultaneously. Users update and edit their particular part of the project plan, which is then integrated into the whole. Web-based tools, on your intranet or the Internet, usually work this way. So you needn’t be online all the time, some tools offer a “Rich Client” for desktop PCs. This sends updated, individual project data to every team member via a central server when users connect to the network and/or perform certain tasks. This keeps files updated and synchronized.

There is a very handy project software comparison chart at Wikipedia that may help you decide how to proceed. CRE’s expert Account Executives know just what you need in the way of a laptop rental, desktop rental  or storage solution when you decide to try out various project management solutions. Get a rental quote now.

CRE would love to hear from you about which project management software you use. Leave us a comment.

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