In the true sense, a web-based application is any application that uses a website as the interface or front-end. Users can easily access the application from any computer connected to the Internet using a standard browser. This contrasts with the traditional desktop applications, which were installed on a local computer. For example, most of us are familiar with Microsoft Word, a common word-processing application that is a desktop application. On the other hand, Google Docs, probably the most well-known among web-based apps is also a word-processing application but users perform all the functions using a web browser instead of using software installed on their computer. This means that it is a web-based application.
It is worth pointing out that almost any desktop software can be developed as a web-based application.
With web-based applications, users access the system via a uniform environment—the web browser. While the user interaction with the application needs to be thoroughly tested on different web browsers, the application itself needs only be developed for a single operating system. There is no need to develop and test it on all possible operating system versions and configurations. This makes development and troubleshooting much easier and for web applications.
Unlike traditional applications, web systems are accessible anytime, anywhere and via any device – with an Internet connection. This puts the user in charge of where and when they access the application. Hence, it has opened up exciting, modern possibilities such as global teams, work from home and real-time collaboration. The idea of sitting in front of a single computer and working in a fixed location has become a thing of the past with web-based applications.In addition to being customizable for user groups, content can also be customized for use on any device connected to the internet. This includes the likes of PDAs, mobile phones and tablets.
Web-based architecture makes it possible to rapidly integrate enterprise systems, improving work-flow and other business processes. By taking advantage of internet technologies you get a flexible and adaptable business model that can be changed according to shifting market demands.
With the web-based applications, installation and maintenance becomes less complicated too. Once a new version or upgrade is installed on the host server all users can access it straight away and there is no need to upgrade the PC of each and every potential user. This also means that the rolling out of new software can be accomplished more easily too. Users simply have to update browsers and plugins.
Web-based applications are typically deployed on dedicated servers, which are monitored and maintained by experienced server administrators. This is far more effective than monitoring hundreds or even thousands of client computers as in desktop applications. This also means that security is tighter and any potential breaches will be noticed far more quickly.
Web applications can use a number of technologies and still provide desired results. Any of three core technologies can be used for building web-based applications, depending on the requirements of the business. The Java-based solutions (J2EE) involve technologies such as JSP and Servlets. The newer Microsoft .NET platform uses Active Server Pages, SQL Server and .NET scripting languages. The third option is the Open Source platform (predominantly PHP and MySQL), which is best suited to smaller websites and lower budget applications.
Web-based applications are evidently easier to develop, more useful for users, easier to install, maintain and secure too. They have the capacity to scale as your business grows!
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