Web Design Tips & Tricks

The Power of Coldfusion for your Intranet

"We have a corporate intranet that many Fortune 500 companies would be envious of."

Upon choosing to work for my current employer I was told, "We have a corporate intranet that many Fortune 500 companies would be envious of." I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical. However, it wasn't long until I realized how impressive this intranet really is. Because it's powered by Allaire's ColdFusion, our developers have been able to launch sophisticated new applications in a matter of weeks. These custom-built applications address the specific needs of our business, so we don't waste time trying to adapt to generic software. Best of all, our intranet is easy use because everything works inside my Web browser.

It's no surprise that Web-based intranets have become more common. The web is an inviting venue for an intranet. Most employees use the internet regularly and can proficiently navigate in a Web browser. With the use of ColdFusion, the Web can become a functional environment custom to a company's unique needs.

ColdFusion is a development environment that facilitates dynamic, database-powered html page generation. Its core benefits can be illustrated with an example of one organization's need for a company directory system. The system needed to be web-based to ease accessibility to telecommuting employees, clients, and business partners.

A static approach to this project would require programming of html pages for each employee and tedious programming of a menu page to each employee record. Changes that effected several employees, such as management or location, could require hours of editing affected employees records.

With ColdFusion, new employees will fill out a Web-based form. Once the "submit" button is clicked the employee's information is stored to a database. Employee records can be accessed through a Web-based search utility. Employees can be marked inactive with a click of a mouse. Management changes only require one correction, rather than several.

The dynamic approach obviously makes managing the company directory system easier and more efficient. The benefits don't end there. The same employee record created for the company directory can also be integrated into an employee time clock, payroll system, or project management system. Due to ColdFusion's flexible security parameters, it is possible to give employees limited access to their employee record to update their home address, personal email address and other information while maintaining limited access.

It is possible to use other programming languages to create a Web-based intranet. However, ColdFusion remains the ideal environment for several reasons. ColdFusion was initially created for the Web and is therefore more efficient and more intuitive than either ASP or PHP, which were derived from Visual Basic and Java respectively. Furthermore, ColdFusion's inherent similarity to html makes it easier for Web developers to learn.

Another edge that ColdFusion has over its competitors is the potential speed of development. Allaire designed ColdFusion to facilitate RAD (Rapid Application Development). So, ColdFusion applications specific to a unique business process can be developed relatively quickly and inexpensively.

ColdFusion is extremely versatile in a number of respects. Its modular, template driven nature allows integration of Web-based applications that are not ColdFusion based. Also, ColdFusion is flexible in that it is compatible with a variety of database types, such as Oracle, MS-SQL, Postgre, Access, and others.

It can be used to create useful applications for any department. It has commonly been used for human resource systems, sales automation and customer relationship management.

ColdFusion can also be used to create corporate-wide communication tools. Examples include message board systems, online suggestion boxes and web newsletter systems. All employees could benefit from time management tools such as a scheduling system or a task manager system. Security options can be set so that certain features can be accessed at any computer (home, office, or on the road) for added convenience.

ColdFusion's ability to tie into mail servers opens up another realm of communication possibilities. It's possible to implement web-based email, individual email, workflow notification or batch-email capabilities.

The potential uses of ColdFusion are endless. It serves as a practical development environment due to its flexible nature, ease-of-use and expandability. Such benefits make ColdFusion an ideal intranet development environment for companies of any size.


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