Visual WebGui chosen over rich ASP.NET and Citrix for an online file management system
February 06, 2012 :: Categories: Development
, Document Management
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“We ran 6 independent tests and the results showing that Visual WebGui is 4 times faster were the same each time… We also compared against using a Citrix model with a Windows application but the scalability was too costly.” Derek Hart
OneSpotOnline, LLC was started by Derek Hart and a partnering law firm, BOSS Business Services. The idea behind this venture is to provide a single place for businesses and private users to manage all their files, photos and scanned documents with a secure 24/7 online access from any computer. Derek Hart is an experienced developer who brought his vast programming expertise to this partnership, while BOSS mainly contributed to the design aspects with valuable information about the business needs of their clients.
BOSS was continually trying ways to share files amongst their staff and clients. While synchronization programs were out there, they wanted to provide more services around the storage of files. BOSS wanted to have synchronization functionality and sophisticated sharing of the files in an easy to use online interface. They wanted to be able to view files on screen, and create a search capability to search not only for filenames, but within the content of the files. BOSS is a group of attorneys and accountants, and the rules of passing files back and forth between their clients has many restrictions, such as not being able to email files that have social security numbers (such as tax returns). So they needed a solution that solves those restrictions as well.
As the business plan was to eventually develop OneSpotOnline into a full document management/workflow solution, the ability to add many business rules to the system was a must. The system will also contain many different screens which led the team to realize that developing with asp.net alone would be too complicated and costly. In addition, there was a need to provide users with a familiar Windows look & feel to the system that would look the same on every browser.
Performance was also one of the major requirements since users look for a responsive interface even when working via a web application. This is even more relevant when it comes to working with files as they were used to super-fast Windows interfaces.
In the first round of the software, asp.net in combination with Infragistics controls was evaluated. However, the ability to add new functionalities was too complicated and took four times as long as with Visual WebGui. “We ran 6 independent tests and the results showing that Visual WebGui is 4 times faster were the same each time” said Derek Hart who added “We also compared against using a Citrix model with a Windows application but the scalability was too costly.”
In addition, the team found that the out-of-the-box performance of the Visual WebGui based solution is superb. Visual WebGui allows Windows-like performance over the web due to the automatically built-in Ajax infrastructure that allows for constant feedback to the user without full screen refreshes. The team believed that in order to achieve similar levels of performance in straight asp.net, significantly much more coding would be required. “When we looked at the small amount of data going from client to server, and recognized we would not have to do a ton of Ajax/Java programming, we were sold on the solution” said Hart.
As a result and due to the fact that Visual WebGui provided the option to use the Windows controls that users are so used to (buttons instead of hyperlinks, the same sized Windows in all browsers, etc.), the decision to go with Visual WebGui was obvious for everyone involved.
The system was tested by 600 users who, in general provided positive feedback and were specifically surprised by the familiar and intuitive Outlook style of the application and its responsiveness. The results showed that the beta testing group favored this type of a system over a traditional asp.net site.
The first stage of the development was completed with only 1-2 programmers instead of 4-8 programmers which led to huge savings on programming costs. “Even with a couple programmers, it is very easy to keep the same style of forms with everything being so visual, and not endless lines of html mixed in with java” Commented Derek Hart. Since OneSpotOnline, LLC wants to add many more features to this product there is a tremendous advantage to the 4 to 1 ratio in terms of programming and cost saving.
OneSpotOnline, LLC also recognizes the benefit of being able to take to this project any of the many Windows Forms programmers out there with minimal learning curve. “At design time, I can train a user in a week to be very proficient inside my application. At runtime, the users love the Outlook-style interface” Hart concluded.
This screen shows the folder structure for a user in OneSpotOnline.com. Creating multiple Windows was easy in VWG. One of the features that we wanted was to show the file when clicked on in the middle panel. It is shown on the right panel. We can show up to 400 file types and search through the text. This is a flash played viewer, not the original file.
These screen shows sophisticated permissions for a user. Notice there is a Sync/Backup choice. This works with a PC based sync product built in straight Windows Forms, shown in the screen shot below this one.
You can email the files, or even a link to a user.
Outlook style interface lets user keep track of email list.