Forget desktop: Here’s why you should choose a cloud-based inventory management system 

Get more digital commerce tips

Tactics to help you streamline and grow your business.

Plenty of great software began its life as a desktop application. Heck, even Linnworks started there — and look at how far we’ve come. 

Desktop inventory management applications were once the cutting-edge of sophistication, and they unlocked growth for ecommerce retailers all around the world. 

But innovation has marched on, and the revolution brought by cloud-based software has changed the way organizations operate, unlocking great potential — and efficiency.

In this article, we’ll journey through the evolution of cloud computing and consider whether cloud vs. desktop is more fitting for your inventory management needs. 

How did businesses operate before the cloud? 

Before the cloud computing revolution, businesses relied heavily on physical hardware and localized software solutions. This era was characterized by the use of in-house data centers, standalone servers, and personal computers to manage, store, and process data. 

This infrastructure often required substantial capital investment. For example, for businesses who chose to build their own solution, this required hardware such as servers, storage devices, and networking equipment, along with the physical space to house these resources. It also required ongoing investment for maintenance and upgrades. 

Data management and storage were primarily handled through onsite servers or computer systems. Data backup and recovery processes were also managed internally, often involving physical backups on tapes or external hard drives that were stored offsite for security and disaster recovery purposes.

In this model of operating, software applications were generally installed and run on individual desktops or on servers located within a company’s premises. This meant that software updates and patches had to be manually applied, requiring IT staff to spend time maintaining each computer and server. Licensing models for software were usually inflexible — often per-seat or per-device — and businesses had to purchase individual licenses for each user or machine.

What are the challenges of desktop applications? 

Desktop applications present far more challenges than benefits. Ranging from reduced convenience and functionality to creating single points of failure, relying on desktop software is no longer a wise choice for ecommerce businesses. 

The most significant downsides of desktop software include: 

  • Limited scalability
  • Security and business continuity risks
  • Reduced functionality

What’s more, data backup and recovery processes are often cumbersome and prone to risks such as data loss due to hardware failures or disasters. 

Another core challenge of desktop software is reduced efficiency. Collaboration and data sharing among employees are primarily facilitated through internal networks or by physically transferring data using removable media. Remote access to company resources is limited and often requires complex VPN setups or direct dial-up connections, which are slower and less secure than other — more modern — standards.

Thankfully, innovative solutions have emerged in response to these challenges. Enter: cloud-based software. 

Why — and how — did cloud-based software evolve?

The journey of cloud-based software began in the 1960s with the concept of time-sharing and resource-sharing to optimize computing power. However, the real momentum for cloud computing started in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the explosion of the internet. 

Salesforce, founded in 1999, is often credited with pioneering the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website. This model laid the groundwork for software as a service (SaaS), a key component of cloud computing.

The evolution accelerated in the mid-2000s when Amazon launched its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), providing small businesses and individuals with access to a scalable cloud infrastructure. This period marked the transition from traditional on-premises software to flexible, internet-based services. 

Google Apps (now Google Workspace), Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud further expanded the cloud services ecosystem, offering a range of solutions from platform as a service (PaaS) to infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

According to Aaron Delp of The Cloudcast, “businesses were saying, “our previous delivery system wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t scalable enough, wasn’t flexible enough, didn’t give us enough room for experimentation.” And that really defined what the cloud was, right?” He continues, “On-demand pricing, on-demand resources, somebody else manages some aspect of it for you, API access to systems, this sort of wide breadth of different levels of services, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, and so forth.” 

The proliferation of high-speed internet and the increasing demand for remote access to data and services have fueled the growth of cloud-based software — which has been meteoric. The industry is projected to reach almost $950bn by 2026 — which is almost double the size of the market in 2022. 

Today, cloud-based software encompasses everything from data storage and web hosting to sophisticated business applications — including (you guessed it!) inventory management systems.

How has cloud-based software impacted inventory management? 

When it comes to inventory management, cloud-based software has changed the game. Processes that were historically complex and labor-intensive are now streamlined and efficient. This change has been driven largely by the cloud’s ability to offer real-time data, scalability and enhanced collaboration. 

Some of the most significant changes include:

  • Real-time inventory visibility: Ecommerce businesses can now monitor their stock levels, sales and orders as they happen, allowing for more accurate and timely decision-making. This helps companies avoid overstocking or stockouts and enhances a business’s ability to manage its supply chain more effectively.
  • Scalability: Traditional systems often required significant upfront investment to handle growth, but cloud solutions allow businesses to scale their operations up or down based on current needs. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for businesses with seasonal demand fluctuations or those experiencing rapid growth.
  • Integrations: Cloud-based inventory management has also enabled greater alignment and integration with external partners — like marketplaces, shipping providers and suppliers. Information can be shared seamlessly and securely in the cloud, ensuring that all stakeholders have access to the most current data. This enhanced integration leads to more coordinated procurement, sales and fulfillment processes, reducing delays and improving customer satisfaction.

Why is cloud-based inventory management superior to desktop?

Cloud-based inventory management systems offer significant advantages over traditional methods. According to Delp, thanks to the cloud, “[entrepreneurs] could build a business in which the technology they use to support it could be more scalable, could be more experimental, could be more pay as you go.” 

The advantages of cloud-based inventory management systems over their desktop-based alternatives are significant and varied. They include: 

Remote accessibility 

Firstly, the capability for remote accessibility stands out as a major benefit. Cloud-based systems are not tethered to a single location, unlike desktop systems. This flexibility allows businesses to oversee inventory from any location, making it easier to manage operations across various sites without physical constraints.


Cloud-based systems are highly scalable, allowing businesses to easily adjust their usage based on inventory size or seasonal demand. Adrian Luna, Senior Director at Webscale, explains, “cloud technology has the inherent elasticity if built correctly and if managed correctly to be able to accommodate for things like traffic fluctuations to make sure that a storefront maintains performance as it scales.” 

Automatic updates

Another key advantage is the automatic update feature provided by cloud services. These systems are continually updated by the service provider, guaranteeing that the latest functionalities and security measures are always in place. This automatic process eliminates the need for manual updates, ensuring businesses operate with the most current system without extra effort.

Disaster recovery

Disaster recovery is also a critical aspect where cloud-based systems excel. As Peter Allsop, Senior Product Manager at Linnworks, explains, “If you’re a small business, and you’ve only got one dispatch PC, and that PC dies, what are you going to do?” It’s an important question. 

With cloud-based inventory management, you have comprehensive backup and disaster recovery options, protecting against data loss due to hardware malfunctions or other unforeseen incidents. This level of data protection is difficult to achieve with desktop systems, which may be more vulnerable to such disruptions.

Enhanced collaboration

Cloud-based systems also enhance collaboration across the board. They provide a platform for team members, vendors, and partners to access and share real-time inventory information. This shared access fosters better coordination and efficiency among all parties involved, leading to improved overall operations.


Cloud-based inventory management systems can seamlessly integrate with other business applications, such as accounting software and e-commerce platforms, facilitating streamlined operations and data consistency across different business functions. According to Heather Smith, cloud-based apps expert, “when you’re thinking of your stack you kind of want it to work like Lego bricks and that everything kind of plugs in nicely.” 


Reputable cloud service providers invest heavily in security measures, including data encryption, firewalls, and backup recovery systems, ensuring that sensitive inventory data is well-protected against breaches and losses.

How to choose a cloud-based inventory management system

Selecting the right cloud-based inventory management system requires careful consideration of several factors:

  • Business needs: Assess your specific inventory management needs, including features like tracking, forecasting, and reporting capabilities, to ensure the system aligns with your operational requirements.
  • Integration capabilities: Look for systems that can easily integrate with your existing business applications (e.g., accounting software, ERP systems) to ensure smooth workflows and data consistency.
  • User friendliness: Choose a system with an intuitive interface and user-friendly design to minimize training time and enhance adoption rates among your staff.
  • Scalability: Ensure the system can scale with your business, accommodating future growth in products, transactions, and users without significant additional costs or complexity.
  • Support and reliability: Consider the reputation of the provider, the level of customer support offered (including training and troubleshooting), and the system’s uptime record to ensure reliable operations.

Transition to a cloud-based inventory management system today 

In the arena of inventory management, cloud-based solutions mark a significant leap forward from the traditional desktop systems you may be familiar with. This evolution brings with it myriad benefits tailored to meet the dynamic needs of modern ecommerce businesses. 

Cloud-based inventory management systems offer flexibility, efficiency, and scalability, setting a new standard in how we manage operations today. If you’ve trusted and grown with Linnworks’ desktop application, the move to our cloud-based platform is not just an upgrade — it’s a transformation. This transition promises not only efficiency and enhanced security, but also a leap in operational agility that could redefine the way your ecommerce business operates. Contact your Customer Success Manager today to find out how to switch. 

If you’re new to Linnworks, then starting your journey with our cloud-based inventory management software will be like night-and-day from your existing solution. Learn how Linnworks’ cloud-based solution will revolutionize your ecommerce operations and book a demo today.  

Ready to see Linnworks in action?

  • Unrivaled ecommerce data accuracy
  • 100+ integrations with global sales channels
  • Up and running in 40 days on average