Answer: The significance of the programming knowledge for the company is very great since the correct choice will ensure proper connectivity, accessibility, ease of maintenance and the complexity of the software (Vine, 2005). Certain broad requirements can be obtained from the transcript of the conversation between Hugh McBride of McBride Financial Services and Abram LaBelle of Smith Systems Consulting who discussed the computer network needed for McBride’s planned offices. By programming language, we mean the set of instructions that are written and called a program and the computer processor carries out the instructions. The significance of the programming is felt on the development and maintenance cost, ease of use, easy availability of the application from different points, speed of access, features that can be provided in the application.
A programming language such as Visual Basic is quite easy to learn and implement but the language does not allows for complex computations such as forecasting, gathering information, creating reports, etc. To perform complex operations, algorithms would have to be used and programming languages such as C++, C#, and others are very much suited. But the cost of development and maintenance would be significantly higher. These languages are called as OOPS – Object Oriented Programming Languages and they write the code around the data that has to be processed. In a majority of the cases, OOPS applications run on dedicated Intranets or WANs.
The other set of programming languages are the web based languages such as Java, .NET, HTML, PHP, etc. These languages allow the application to be web based and the software used is usually freely downloadable. Another set of programming languages are centred around Unix and Linux operating systems. These are usually open source but very complex and requires a dedicated teams of developers and maintenance personnel (O’Brien, et all, 2005).
2. Differences in Web Based and WAN’s programming languages.
Answer: There are two broad requirements, one is the website that customers, sales staff and brokers would be using and the other is the backend application that the staff would be using to complete their accounting and other tasks. The first possibilities is having a WAN that will have dedicated terminals, which can be placed in all the required areas. The terminal will be directly connected to a central server and since it is dedicated, only the Intranet of McBride Financial Services can be accessed. This kind of a system can be seen in ATMs’ and would require the application to be written in C++, have the user interface written in Delphi or other front end languages.
The system would be connected to a powerful database that would be able to handle hundreds of connection requests. Systems written in C++ are very stable, crashing of the system is very rare, system response is very fast and most important since it is a dedicated Intranet, hacking is not possible and can be immediately detected. But the development cost of such systems is huge, it becomes very complex, in house software programmers are required and software programming is not a core business area of McBride Financial Services. Another alternative is to have a web based system that is written in Java or .NET. These systems also requires expensive programming but after the software is implemented, it can be easily maintained by lesser expensive teams who are not skilled enough for programming but can set right small bugs and maintain the database.
The case also requires a powerful database into which information can be uploaded and downloaded as required. In both possibilities, the database would remain same and only the call procedures would be different. Since security is a major concern, very strict authentication should be forced. For each connection request, the IP number of the computer should be verified and this can be done through web-based languages. Cookies should not be stored in the client computer and this prevents the possibility of another person getting information from public computers (Turban, et all, 2002).
3. Recommendation for the application
Answer: A web-based system is recommended since such a system can be accessed from anywhere in the world. A system written in Java or .NET can be implemented. Such programming languages can be easily maintained and less expensive and the work of maintenance can be outsourced as per the standard industry practice where back office operations are outsourced to reliable parties at lower costs. The database can be either Oracle or IBM WebSphere since both have connectivity to the Internet and are web servers. Such servers have the optimum speed and there are lesser instances of slow speeds. Customers can access the application from cyber cafes, K Mart and other department stores and view the choices for financial plans.
An online calculator can be provided that will calculate the amount, premium, interest rates, etc. and customers can also provide their personal information. By using 128 bit encryption for authentication as used by PayPal, the chances of hackers getting into the system are very remote and this system can be stored in a central server. Employees will log into another server which will fetch data from the customers server and carry out their tasks. A robust gateway can be provided between the two servers and this further reduces hacking possibilities.
To prevent the chances of crashes and data loss, it is recommended that day to day records be cached in mirror servers and this data can be written either dynamically or once in 12 hours. In the case of system crashes, data can be recovered from the mirror servers. To further prevent data loss, tape backups can be taken periodically and stored in Storage Area Networks. By providing such a system, customers and even staff can access the system from anywhere and use secure login and authentication. If there is an unusually high suspicious activity in the network, then this can be seen as a hacking attempt and the system can be stopped either manually or through programs. Web based application will ensure that all the requirements are met (Olson, 2006).
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