The Case for Web Based Applications-Part I

 

I’m old.  Don’t get me wrong I love being old.  It gives me a wonderful sense of history.  Decades ago when I first started working with computers all the company’s information was stored on a central computer.  Computer wizards managed the complexity of the equipment.  They roamed in and out of locked air-conditioned rooms with serious looks on their faces.  Outside these rooms, the users either read the information on printed reports or used a dumb terminal that revealed the data on command.   

All these things changed in the 1980’s.  The personal computer let people store and manipulate information on their desktops.  This gave individuals greater control and improved efficiency.  But there were drawbacks.  Information was duplicated.  Two people who worked on the same data might have different copies on their local machines.  Neither one was sure who had the current copy.  Backups sometimes proved unreliable or were not done at all.  Software updates had to be installed on every computer when a new version was released.  

We are now swinging back to the earlier model of data stored in a central location.  Three trends are allowing this to happen. 

First, the internet supports access to databases.

Second, it is easy to access the internet from just about anywhere.

Third, the number of devices that have access to the internet is increasing. 

People can reach the internet not just from home and the office but from the coffee shop, hotel and any place that offers a wireless access point.  The variety of tools is growing.  Besides desktop and laptop computers there are handheld devices such as PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), cell phones and pocket PC’s.  The infrastructure is in place to get data anywhere, anytime.  What is missing, and the key to future ease and flexibility, is the software.    

Most software developers, who concentrate on small businesses, are still thinking in the 90’s.  Databases are designed to run on local servers that sit in the office of the small business.  This requires companies to have at least one person with some IT skills.  

These employees have a host of duties.  They need to understand how to do simple maintenance on a server, rebuild database files and make sure backups are running properly.  The small business pays thousands of dollars to purchase the software and then shoulders the hidden cost of maintaining the network installed at the office.  The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is much higher than the purchase price.  

While business books tout the benefits of outsourcing and concentrating on core competencies, software developers are forcing businesses to do just the opposite.  The goal of software vendors should be to reduce costs to the clients, not give them more work. 

By having the database on a server, owned and maintained by the company selling the software, costs are dramatically reduced.  This service is known as hosted applications or ASP applications.  The customer only needs enough equipment to access the internet.  The information is available at anytime, anywhere, on any smart device. The data will not be stored on the device, but on a central server.  For example, you might work on a document on your home computer and continue editing it on your smart phone during your commute.  When you reach your office, you add the finishing touches and e-mail a link to the document to the necessary people. There is never more than one copy of the document.

Not only will these applications give businesses better access to information, they should also cost less.  Workload and training costs at the business site are cut.  Businesses will pay only for the capabilities used.  It will be easy for the vendor to turn on or off features as needs change. Most importantly it lets businesses concentrate on their business needs not the technology.

Now let me describe the benefits of punched cards.  


The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been. Madeleine L'Engle (1918 - ) 

 

Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality. -Peter Drucker

 

I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones. John Cage (1912 - 1992)

 

It would appear that we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in 5 years. -John Von Neumann (ca. 1949)

 

Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear. -Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign, 1999

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