Why the “Web-enabled” App Isn’t Really
a Web App
by Jonathan Hou
You see the words “web,” “cloud,” and “Internet of Things” just about everywhere you go these days. And, even if you were to blindfold yourself, you probably wouldn’t last 10 feet without hearing something about the internet instead (and/ or walking into a wall). Don’t worry, though. There’s probably an app for that, to help vocally guide you to wherever you were going. The thing is, everyone… everything rather is headed in the same direction.
With the mainstream accessibility of broadband Internet and 4G, users can access their favorite web-based and mobile applications wherever and whenever they want. However, not all applications are created equal and the convenience afforded by the internet has different levels attached to it. Other factors like affordability and security considerations appear at the forefront of the ongoing debate between web-enabled and web-based applications. Who comes out on top?
Web enabling is the process of taking an application and providing access to it via a solution like Microsoft Remote Desktop or Citrix. The entire user interface is streamed across the web and looks exactly as it would installed on a PC.
There is an inherent advantage to this approach. IT departments can provide employees with remote access to older, legacy programs to maximize the return on investment on specialized applications deployed across the company. Those same applications may be firmly entrenched within the organization as key components, mission-critical to its processes and subsequent successes.
That ROI takes a hit though with added costs of maintaining a whole Citrix environment, not to mention all the extra network bandwidth usage from streaming video-like graphics across the web. Often, it requires a client plug-in (ActiveX) control to be installed in the background. Plus, integration with web-based systems remains limited because the program in question is still just a desktop application, after all… albeit with extra layers tacked on to enable functionality over the internet.
There are also security risks with incorrectly implemented Citrix servers; Since remote desktop access to Citrix servers requires different permission levels for different users, there is the potential for unauthorized access to certain files on a Microsoft Windows file server.
Comparable to a website both in terms appearance and functionality, a web-based application is written using a language like HTML. It is designed to run directly within a web browser, and, more and more thanks to mobile-responsive web applications that automatically rearrange their layouts to accommodate different-sized screens, on any kind of device.
Meanwhile, one disadvantage is the required standardization of browsers across the company to ensure a consistent user experience. Another is the web in general to ensure a user experience to begin with. Whereas web-enabled applications are based on desktop versions, web-based applications are based on, well, you guessed it. If the internet goes down, so too does the app.
That being said, functioning internet is pretty much a pre-requisite to running a business these days and web-based applications are generally considered to be more cost-effective relative to their web-enabled cousins. For example, because the application runs directly in a browser, there are no additional applications to install. Furthermore, the applications themselves only need to be installed and updated on a single host server instead of on each workstation, which also means tighter security, not having to focus on countless systems (as far as the single application is concerned).
Web-based applications can be hosted by the vendor, as in the classic Software-as-a-Service model, or the client, with several potential arrangements out there. This plays further into the notion that the web-based approach benefits from superior flexibility. Up-front and subscription-based pay schemes exist (although, in terms of hard cash doled out, both tend to even out over time).
Another advantage is that web-based applications can integrate near-seamlessly with the vast ecosystem of other web apps such as Salesforce CRM, Documentum, and cloud-based storage because they are cut from the same technological cloth.
With the growing trend of mobile devices being used as means to access apps remotely, research firm Gartner declared heading into 2015 that cloud and mobile computing will keep on converging, promoting the development of centralized applications for use anywhere. That sounds an awful like a bet on “web-based” moving forward. A few years later, nothing has dispelled the argument that it’s more of a future-proof option… if you’re in the position to have an option between the two, anyway.
Which One Is Better?
Sticking with the mobile device example, deciding between a web-enabled application and a web-based application is like deciding between smart and flip phones. Both can make calls, but you gain access to a much larger ecosystem of integrated apps with your smartphone’s newer technology.
Everything may be headed in the same direction, and web-enabled and web-based applications each take you from Point A to Point B. However, it’s Points C-Z that are the issue. Roads are opening up as we speak and a trusty 18-wheeler representing web-enabled applications might not be able to fit through tunnels out of town. Not like a sleek, mobile-device-friendly sedan anyway.
For more information on this constant debate, please visit, http://thetalentpool.co.in/pdf/whitepaper/Web_based_vs_web_enabled_software.pdf