The progression of client / server technology to cloud-based internet solutions
Client / server solutions
Traditionally we have developed bespoke software for the Microsoft Windows platform. The client server model meant installing a bespoke database on an on-site server, which was then networked to Windows client desktop computers which in turn had our bespoke software installed on each machine. This worked well as it allowed businesses to organise and centralise their data in a structured way, making it available to all authorised staff, and giving IT staff a central point for the storage and backup of key business data. It made data storage, retrieval and reporting much easier than before. A number of our bespoke systems using this technology have passed the test of time and are still in use after 15 years, albeit having undergone numerous hardware and operating system upgrades along the way.
An example of this type of system is used at Truslit (Bury) Limited, as shown on our projects and case studies page – Case study coming soon.
Web-based intranet solutions
The growing popularity of Apple Mac computers and other web based devices such as tablet computers meant we shifted our software development focus towards platform independent web-based systems. This provides many significant advantages. Software is developed using web-based technology, but still uses an on-site server to supply the central database and web pages to the client computers and devices. This setup is generally called an intranet. The difference is that the software that was previously installed on each computer is now stored on the central server as web pages, meaning no software has to be installed on the desktop computers and a more varied selection of devices can be used to access the system. It also means easier replacement of computers and the use of more cost-effective devices such as Google Chrome boxes in environments where a full computer isn’t required. Updating the system is also easier as updates are performed centrally rather than on each machine. Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) can be used to link up physical locations or sites into a larger network, and remote control software can also be used to allow access to the computers on the local network.
An example of this type of system is in used at Trevon Industrial Finishers Ltd, as shown on our projects and case studies page, a recently developed system which is planned to be expanded in the months and years ahead.
Cloud-based internet solutions
A further iteration in the web based solution came in the form of cloud-based systems, which have increased exponentially with the advent of more readily available, faster and more reliable internet connections. The difference here is that the central server holding the database and web pages is moved entirely off-site to professional hosting. This negates the need to manage an on-site server, which is ideal for those companies without an IT department or with overstretched IT staff. As these systems operate over the internet rather than on the local network, the communication is usually secured by way of SSL certificates to provide encryption between the client and the server communications. Other key advantages include the ability to access the system from anywhere with an internet connection, reducing the need to rely on VPN’s or remote control software, making it much easier to roll-out the system to new locations.
The progression we have seen through the years with the use of these systems has been unrelenting. When you look at the benefits, it’s little wonder that there has been a large shift toward web and cloud-based software development, with large organisations such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and many other Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) all offering the infrastructure, known collectively as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), as well as an ever-increasing number of applications and services being provided as cloud-based solutions, known collectively as Software as a Service (SaaS).
If you have any questions relating to what type of software development might be suitable for your own project and organisation, and you’re in the Manchester area or the North West, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.