Cutting Edge

The Power of the Internet

The Internet has enabled information collection and dissemination on a level never before seen. No longer is the surveyor limited by the restraints of time, cost, and distance. Surveyors now have world wide access at minimal expense. What’s more, the type of questionnaire administered can be far from the printed sheet that researchers have become so familiar. Now questionnaires are becoming interactive, incorporating digital enhancements to the user interface. Over the Internet, the surveyor can present media such as sounds, images and video clips. Interactive questionnaires can be designed to become self administering and scoring, incorporating branching and conditional displaying of text that was impossible with a printed page.

It is now possible to design a questionnaire in the morning and collect the data in the afternoon with results instantly generated over the Internet. When data collection becomes automated, instead of a manual process, the approach to analysis also changes. Data analysis used to be performed through intensive number crunching and formatting of results through desktop publishing software. With the Internet, results can be formatted in advance then computed when the data is collected. When the results are formatted prior to data collection, the researchers’ task is to draw up a report template rather than a final document. the analyses will be performed automatically on the web server and results updated in real-time for anyone to see.

To take full advantage of the possibilities offered by the Internet for researchers we need to reconsider the way in which surveys are performed and to conceive new products better suited to this environment. This product integrates the tasks of questionnaire generation and analysis within a single web-based environment.

The Power of SQL

Structured Query Language: The power behind todays data intensive websites. SQL is used to access data in relational database management systems, such as Oracle, Sybase, Informix, Microsoft SQL Server, Access, and others, by allowing users to describe the data the user wishes to see. SQL also allows users to define the data in a database, and manipulate that data. You have the power to create your survey questionnaire to collect the data you wish. To manipulate that data, and to analyze the responses. All performed with SQL.

The best part of our service is that you do not have to an expert at SQL or even know any of the commands. The Application software developed handles all of that for you.

But, you can rest assured that your survey is backed-up by the power of SQL.

Understanding the Internet
using a Client/Server Model

The Client/Server model for computer systems is one in which a client computer interacts with a server. In the typical model, a server will process the requests for a large number of client computers. This model differs from the mainframe architecture in that within the client/server model, the client computers are capable of executing applications as requested by the user. In the mainframe architecture the computer terminals connected to the mainframe are not capable of executing applications on their own. Instead, they are simply 'dumb terminals' that display only information sent by the mainframe.

In the Client/Server model, servers send (i.e., serve) data and applications to the client computers. The Internet can be viewed as a large distributed computing environment with many similarities to the Client/Server model. The web 'server' sends to and receives data from 'client' web browsers. The Internet has millions of web servers.

The computer you are using to view this document is using software to browse documents on the Internet. Your computer becomes the 'client' in the Client/Server model. The web server which has sent this document to your browser is also processing the requests from dozens or hundreds of other client computers.

Web servers perform two basic functions: 1) transmit files as requested by client computers, and 2) execute computer programs stored on the web server as requested by client computers. Client computers may execute programs as requested by the computer user. Client computers also send data to, and display data received from, web servers.

Applications (i.e. computer programs) designed for the Web are typically developed for execution on either the Client or Server end of the Client/Server model. For example, a web based application may be developed as an application to run on a web server or may be developed as an application to run on the client web browser.

The environment in which the application runs presents some limitations, weaknesses, and strengths that need to be considered when choosing an application environment. This document will outline some of the characteristics of each application environment and provide working examples of the applications and explanations of how they were developed.

Client or Server?
Advantages and Disadvantages

On-Line applications are developed to execute on either the 'client' or the 'server'.

Server Based Survey

A server based survey is developed directly on the web server and executes within the web server environment. Two popular web based server environments are Unix and NT. Each server environment has several programming languages that may be used to develop the application.

  • Data Storage. Data is collected and stored on the web server as soon as each page (i.e., web page) of the survey questionnaire is completed.
  • Browser Compatability. Information is sent to the client web browsers in the form of plain HTML and therefore compatable with all web browsers.
  • Slower. The speed of the application, as experienced by the web user, is dependent almost entirely on the speed of their web connection (which may be slow if they are using a 28k modem), and the speed of the server (which may be slow if the server is processing the requests for hundreds of users simultaneously), and the speed of the server's connection to the internet (web servers connect to the internet through one or more methods.
  • Authentication Required. A login is required for user identification and authentication. If the survey you are developing will contain responses from less than 100 users, then the process of informing users of their login and password may not be a problem. If, however, the survey you are developing will contain responses from thousands of users, then the the process of informing users of their login and password may become a problem.
  • Server Resources. A server based application requires that the web server execute a process to display and collect the survey data. This process may require the server to open one or more files stored on the server, and to perform a variety of reporting and processing functions. These processes and functions use server resources that may be limited or unavailable. In addition, the application must be developed within the server environment prior to its implementation on the server. The development process on the server may result in the server being inadvertently crashed by the application being developed.

Client Based Survey

A client based survey is developed to execute on a user's web browser. The two most common languages for client web browser based applications are Java and JavaScript.

  • No Authentication. No login or authentication is required. Since the application executes on the client's browser (in the client/server systems model) the user is not required to login to their web browser. You will not need to manage passwords for a large group of survey participants.
  • No server application needed. Programming requirements for this type of application may be easier since without the server environment, you may not need to incorporate the CGI protocol into your application. This makes it possible to execute a survey on your web site even if you are leasing web space that does not permit CGI scripts to be executed by the server. Web applications can be developed using this model without having to login to a server environment. In other words, you can develop the application from your stand alone PC simply by using an HTML editor wich as Microsoft's FrontPage.
  • Speed. This is the fastest possible application since the client browser does not have to wait for the server to execute processes. All of the functionality of the survey is executed directly by the client's web browser.
  • Data storage may be a problem. Since the application does not connect to a server, the data must be stored on the client's computer that is executing the web browser software. this is technically done by storing 'cookies' of data on the browser. Currently browser software that is compliant with this type of storage has certain limitations on the amount of data that can be stored. If your data can fit within these limitations, then you may be able to use this technique.
  • Browser Compatability. Requires a browser capable of executing Java or JavaScript. Some browsers do not support all of the functions of the languages. Therefore, you need to make sure that your application is both cross browser and backward browser compatable. Cross browser compatability means that the software will execute on the web browsers of different software vendors such as Netscape or Microsoft. Backward browser compatability means that the software will execute on different versions of browser software from the same vendor such as Netscape Gold version 3 or version 4.

Combinations of Client and Server Based Surveys

The level of programming involved in developing a server based application is significant. In addition, server based applications use resources to execute functions that in some cases may be adequately executed by the client web browser instead.

Unless you have a team of web programmers, a dedicated web server, and are conducting a small survey, your best solution may be using a combination of both client and server based applications. The combination is accomplished by having each end of the client/server model perform the functions it is best suited to perform.

An application designed to take advantage of both client and server would 1) use the client for data validation and generation of dynamic HTML code and 2) use the server for data retrieval/storage. User authentication can be coordinated between server and client 1) through the use of a user key that would be generated by the server and stored on the client or 2) through the use of user authentication by the server with both the server application and client HTML pages stored on the password protected server directory.

There is no single way to develop software. Many different pieces of client and server based applications can be assembled into an online survey. There are many important questions that need to be answered before you can begin to identify the appropriate development options.

You Make the Call!

The ASP Model: You Make the Comparison

  • FAST Web-based. No installation required, no setup period, no loss of productivity
  • EASY Easy-to-use workflows guide user through product. No formal training required, no strain on IT departments
  • 24/7 ACCESS For all authorized users, access at any time, from any location, via the Internet
  • AFFORDABLE Subscription-based service--low cost per employee
  • ALL-INCLUSIVE PACKAGE Continual product enhancement included in subscription fee
  • CUTTING EDGE Instant access to continuous, real-time product enhancements that reflect the latest developments in HR management practices and technological advances
PC Based Software
  • SLOW Installation required on each user's PC--loss of productivity during setup period
  • DIFFICULT Requires costly consultants for installation and training
  • LIMITED ACCESS Restricted to HR staff--access limited to company Intranet and/or individual workstations
  • COSTLY High up-front licensing fees per user
  • HIDDEN COSTS Requires separate purchase, installation and maintenance of upgrades for product improvement
  • OUTDATED Upgrade availability limited to infrequent distribution of new releases