HR Guide to the Internet:
Compensation: On-Line Salary surveys: Implementing Web Technology

Client or Server

Advantages and Disadvantages

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

Server Based Salary Survey

A server based salary 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.

  • Advantages of the Server Based Application:
  1. 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.
  2. Browser Compatability. Information is sent to the client web browsers in the form of plain HTML and therefore compatable with all web browsers.
  • Disadvantages of the Server Based Application:
  1. 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.
  2. Authentication Required. A login is required for user identification and authentication. If the salary 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.
  3. Server Resources. A server based application requires that the web server execute a process to display and collect the salary 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 Salary Survey

A client based salary 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.

  • Advantages of the Client Based Application:
  1. 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.
  2. 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 salary 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.
  3. 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 salary survey is executed directly by the client's web browser.
  • Disadvantages of the Client Based Application:
  1. 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.
  2. 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 Salary 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 salary survey. There are many important questions that need to be answered before you can begin to identify the appropriate development options.


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