I’M BULLISH on Intranets as the foundation in which to deliver all sorts of powerful web-based applications (accounting, customer service, ERP, HRM, asset management, eLearning, etc.) for any organization (SMEs, NGOs, government, large companies, educational institutions, etc.) that’s looking to save big dollars on their IT budgets. What’s amazing is that this software can be obtained for free. All that you require is a decent PC (about 512 MB of RAM, P3 or higher processor, a network card, and a fast hard disk) running Windows (preferably 2000/2003 Server) or Linux (also free), and then the fun begins.
Next up, you need to install a web server (Apache is free) running PHP (also free), and an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) like the ever-popular MySQL or PostgreSQL, which is hailed as the world’s most powerful open source database manager. Oh, both of these apps are free too. Isn’t this amazing? Heck, a few years ago, this entire setup would’ve been very expensive if you had to pay for all the software.
XAMPP to the rescue
Now, setting up Apache, PHP and a database manager on your Linux or Windows PC was not always a pleasurable task. But that was the past. Thanks to the IT gurus from Apache Friends and their free XAMPP (LinuX, Apache, MySQL, PHP/PERL) executable download, any one can set up a powerful Intranet server. And you don’t have to know “jack squat” about configuring or installing all of these separate applications. Trust me. This is a huge time saver. By the way, here’s the latest set of goodies that you get when you download XAMPP. This is from the email I just received from Kai Seidler of Apache Friends:
New XAMPP version for Linux and Windows
After two months of hard work we are proud to announce a new release of XAMPP
for Windows and Linux. New in both releases of XAMPP are MySQL (5.0.37), PHP
(4.4.6), phpMyAdmin (220.127.116.11), and OpenSSL (0.9.8e). The Windows version also
contains up-to-date versions of: FileZilla FTP Server (0.9.23), ADOdb (4.94),
and Zend Optimizer (3.2.4).
With XAMPP 1.6.1 we tried to make the Windows version ready for Vista. The
beta tests were very successful and most people reported a very smooth XAMPP
under Vista but there were also people having still problems. Please get in
touch with me if you also encounter problems on Vista. Currently please avoid
installing XAMPP into the Program files folder.
One other thing. When you install XAMPP on your Windows machine, it doesn’t mess around with your registry or any of that silly nonsense. Kai and his friends truly pay attention to detail without annoying users.
The main benefit of running an Intranet throughout your organization is simplicity. There’s no doubt in my mind that the web browser has become the universal GUI (graphical user interface). Furthermore, system administrators don’t have to worry about configuring desktop applications for every user. Instead, you simply update the web-based software on the application server. This now becomes your company’s most important IT asset. That’s why I think it’s wise to spend a bit more money on this machine so that everyone gets a nice quick response in their web browsers. One other thing. Your network infrastructure is very important because everything’s running over the TCP/IP (http, https. ftp, smtp, etc.) stack, which is the universal transmission standard for all Internet/Intranet data traffic.
I strongly believe that XAMPP will make have a huge impact on the bottom line for any organization in Africa looking to streamline it’s IT operations. That’s why it makes a great Go Africa go! story. Why? Because key business applications are running safe and secure on a locked-down server. Hence, end users simply have to point their web browsers to the appropriate internal IP address in order to get down to business. How much simpler do you want it? The other side benefit of this solution is that scalability is easy as pie since you simply spend a little more money on hardware (faster processors/network/hard disks, more RAM, etc. ) in order to improve performance as more users (browsers) come aboard. In the past, programmers would have to re-write the application in order to improve scalability. This is way more expensive as opposed to throwing money at hardware. Got it?