A web application (or web app) is application software that runs on a web browser, unlike software programs that run locally and natively on the operating system (OS) of the device. Web applications are delivered on the World Wide Web to users with an active network connection.
Web-based applications offer a range of business advantages over traditional desktop applications.
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 traditional desktop applications, which are 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 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.
Google apps are probably the most well-known among web-based apps. Magic Web Solutions has developed an online project management tool called Kanbanchi that is integrated into the Google ecosystem.
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 that use a Flash front end testing and troubleshooting is even easier.
Unlike traditional applications, web systems are accessible anytime, anywhere and via any PC with an Internet connection. This puts the user firmly in charge of where and when they access the application.
It also opens up exciting, modern possibilities such as global teams, home working and real-time collaboration. The idea of sitting in front of a single computer and working in a fixed location is a thing of the past with web-based applications.
The user interface of web-based applications is easier to customize than is the case with desktop applications. This makes it easier to update the look and feel of the application or to customize the presentation of information to different user groups.
Therefore, there is no longer any need for everyone to settle for using exactly the same interface at all times. Instead, you can find the perfect look for each situation and user.
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.
This further extends the user’s ability to receive and interact with information in a way that suits them. In this way, the up to date information is always at the fingertips of the people who need it.
It is possible to achieve a far greater level of interoperability between web applications than it is with isolated desktop systems. For example, it is much easier to integrate a web-based shopping cart system with a web-based accounting package than it is to get two proprietary systems to talk to each other.
Because of this, 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 approach 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.
Rolling out new software can be accomplished more easily, requiring only that users have up-to-date browsers and plugins. As the upgrades are only performed by an experienced professional to a single server the results are also more predictable and reliable.
Increasing processor capacity also becomes a far simpler operation with web-based applications. If an application requires more power to perform tasks only the server hardware needs to be upgraded.
The capacity of web-based software can be increased by “clustering” or running the software on several servers simultaneously. As workload increases, new servers can be added to the system easily.
For example, Google runs on thousands of inexpensive Linux servers. If a server fails, it can be replaced without affecting the overall performance of the application.
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 is the case with desktop applications.
This means that security is tighter and any potential breaches should be noticed far more quickly.
Any of three core technologies can be used for building web-based applications, depending on the requirements of the application. The Java-based solutions (J2EE) from Sun Microsystems 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.
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