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When To Use Active Server Pages

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 18, 1998


Paul Smullen
Like any technology, Active Server Pages (ASP) have their place in business and software development. There are applications that are very well suited to ASP and there are applications where the last thing you should use is ASP. The strength of ASP is the ability to dynamically build a pure HTML web page based on a user's input and profile, the time and location the user accesses the page or the type of browser and/or operating system that is running on the user's computer.

The Environment...
Active Server Pages are tightly integrated with the Microsoft Backoffice suite of products. You must be running Internet Information Server (IIS) on a Windows NT server machine.

Like any technology, Active Server Pages (ASP) have their place in business and software development. There are applications that are very well suited to ASP and there are applications where the last thing you should use is ASP.

Before you decide to use ASP you should be sure that your company or client will not need to move to UNIX or some other server platform in the future. If this is the case then you should use an open platform solution like Java. ASP works extremely well with ActiveX/COM components, SQL Server databases, Microsoft Index Server and Microsoft Commerce server. So if you're not a fan of Microsoft then maybe ASP is not for you. ASP uses VB Script as a language (although you can use Java Script or Perl Script if you prefer) so anyone with VB experience should find this development environment very easy to become proficient with.

Choosing ASP...
You should choose when to use ASP carefully. If a web page is static - the content will never change except for updates by the administrator - then there is no point in using ASP. Why bother? An HTML page is sufficient here and does not restrict you to using Windows NT as your server operating system.

Likewise ASP is not a normal Windows application development technology. You cannot make executables, pages must be accessed through a browser and they must reside in a virtual directory on a web server.

I recently saw a posting in an ASP newsgroup from someone who was trying to use ASP to run processes at an interval to do some database updates and emails. Obviously the thing to do here was either a scheduled stored procedure on the database or a small VB/C++ app that runs the processes on a timer. The person asking how to do it was adamant that they wanted to use ASP for this task. It was about four days later that I saw a reply from the user admitting they were barking up the wrong tree.

From these points I am trying to say that a good web site is a combination of good content, good design and the use of relevant technologies. People accessing your site don't care if it was written in HTML, CGI, ASP or Java. All they want is the information and functionality that they need. Don't get tied up in any one technology. Match the best technology to the task at hand. Use HTML for static pages, use ASP for database connectivity and querying, use Visual Basic or C++ to write components and DLLs, use DHTML and Java for improving the look and feel of your web site.

Relevant links to this article;
Irish Times - Computimes
Monday, May 25, 1998
Show your wares in a world wide window
http://www.irish-times.com/irish-times/paper/1998/0525/cmp3.html


Henrik Sandell's Active Server Pages Frequently Asked Questions
http://homepages.id.ibs.se/henrik/aspfaq/


ASP Programming Standards guideline
http://www.15seconds.com/Issue/971018.htm

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