evolution of the webThe Evolution of Web Services

Remember the dot-com days of the Internet?

Ah, the heady days of Altavista and Netscape, of <blink> tags and home-pages, when the Internet was a way to bridge the gap between your employees and your customers… The Information Superhighway exploded at the seams with sites dedicated to everything from kids and cats to restaurant menus and online retail outlets. Back in the days of Y2K, we were—it seemed—on the cusp of a technological revolution akin to Gutenberg’s press.

Then the bubble burst.

We all know the rest of the story. Many e-businesses that lacked fundamental planning went out of business. While it was happening, it almost seemed as if the Internet itself was in trouble. At the time it was pretty scary, but looking back on it now it’s evident that we were in the middle of a darwinian evolution of the Internet. It was survival of the fittest; only the best and strongest survived.

The Internet has evolved to be better and stronger. A part of that evolution has been a paradigm shift regarding web services. These days, ‘web services’ has come to mean providing much more comprehensive web applications for customers—essentially allowing your customers to take care of themselves.

As a business owner, Web 2.0 applications make perfect sense. you’re lowering your overhead while increasing your capacity and level of service to your customers. Back in the old days, connecting customers to employees was the goal, now web services that allow customers to take care of themselves is a part of what is known as ‘Web 2.0.’

Customers are now starting to expect web applications that look and act like traditional applications—such as Google’s Gmail, Flickr, or services like Netflix. In order to be successful in Web 2.0, your business web services need to have the same kind of user experience that the big guys like Google have in theirs. But how can a small to mid size business owner expect to afford the kind of development it takes to create a web application like Gmail?

The answer is in the magic of application frameworks.

Application frameworks and virtual private servers compliment each other perfectly to provide the very best Web 2.0 experience for your customers at a fraction of what traditional web applications and hosting cost.

Application Frameworks

hundreds of hoursWeb 2.0 provides better customer services through web applications that use frameworks like Ruby on Rails. Using a framework is like letting your developers stand on the shoulders of giants. All of the heavy-lifting that used to be required in order to get a web application up and running is included for free. You get hundreds of hours of development time without paying a dime.

For a business owner, using an application framework means your business applications have shorter time to release and can be more agile and adaptable to changing needs. Where your developer used to spend the majority of their time working just to to get the application running, now they can work on getting the application running the way you want it to. Frameworks allow you and your developers to concentrate more on the application functionality, interface and usability and less on how to get the application working.

what’s the catch?What’s the catch? The only problem is that web application frameworks require a much more specialized server installation than is found in traditional web hosting. Using a web application framework is not like uploading PHP or CGI pages on a web server; the server needs to be configured to use your application framework.

Traditional hosting companies have a very difficult time hosting web applications that use application frameworks because they use the old shared hosting model. Everyone is sharing the same infrastructure, so there’s no customization ability. Because of this, your choice of hosting providers for an application framework can be a difficult one. Oh, and did I mention that there are nearly a hundred application frameworks available to choose from? But even if you do find a provider that does support your application framework, there’s no guarantee that your application will be compatible with their installed application framework support. Even worse, there’s always the chance that your application may someday be incompatible if the provider upgrades the server installation. Suddenly the web application stops working and no one knows why.

Don’t worry though, there’s an easy way to get your application framework up and running. The best way to ensure that your application will work and will continue to work is to use a server exclusively designated for your Web 2.0 application. That means getting a dedicated server, or using a virtual private server.

As we saw last week a Virtual Private Server provides more server for your money. It’s cheaper, more scalable, and easier to upgrade, meaning that a VPS can provide exactly what you need to develop your Web 2.0 application for a fraction of the cost of a dedicated server. This clearly makes a Virtual Private Server the best choice available for developing and running your Web 2.0 application.

Many of our Spry/VPSLink offerings have performed as application framework servers for years. We’ve had clients using virtual private servers for application frameworks as different as Apache Struts (Java), Mason (Perl), Zend (PHP) as well as Zope (Python). Because our VPSLink Ruby on Rails server is a full-fledged ready-to-roll Ruby on Rails application server, one of the more popular application frameworks we support right now is Ruby on Rails. These virtual private servers are designed to get you up and running quickly, and allow you to fully customize the server to fit your needs. But no matter what your choice for application framework a Spry/VPSLink virtual private server can provide the perfect platform for your web 2.0 application server.

handinhand.jpg Application frameworks and virtual private servers go hand-in-hand. Each enhancing the strengths of the other—creating a much stronger foundation for your Web 2.0 application. One of the greatest strengths that web application frameworks provide is the ability to quickly deploy and iteratively improve your product. In the same way a virtual private server provides the ability to quickly deploy a system and iteratively upgrade your server. Using a virtual private server means that you can easily do things like replicate and re-deploy a production system in a cluster, or have a cheap development environment that exactly matches your production system, yet won’t affect your customers.

Choosing a virtual private server for your Web 2.0 application is an easy choice, once you consider all the benefits that a VPS provides your business.

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