What exactly is an Application Service Provider (ASP)?

Application service providers (commonly referred to as ASP’s) have quickly sprouted onto the web hosting scene in effort to provide businesses with new and innovative services. The term ASP should not be confused with Microsoft Corporations software application. While the concept of an ASP has many similarities, there are also significant differences which will be discussed later on.

To understand what an ASP does, you first need to know that most websites require some sort of dynamic abilities for content presentation or interaction, such as shopping carts or other types of online transactions.

Many businesses currently use application packages made by commercial software vendors to host their sites(this method is commonly known as buying space).

However, these packaged applications often require a high level of technical knowledge, often requiring in-house application developers to install and maintain the applications. The ASP model typically has lower fees than buying space, for this reason it is becoming extremely popular.

In order to use an ASP, there are several prerequisites that need to be met before proceeding:

Once these requirements have been satisfied, an individual or company can then proceed with signing up with any one of many hosting providers. Once a contract has been made between the client and the hosting provider, they will download a package from the provider containing all of the configuration files necessary for a dynamic website.

The service provider also typically includes comprehensive documentation explaining how everything works so that site owners can fully understand their options at their disposal.

An ASP requires a server with PHP and/or CGI capabilites. The server also needs to be able to run either mySQL or PostgreSQL database applications.

Hosting Model

Fees are typically paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually, biennially, or tri-annually depending on the service level agreed upon. A hosting package may include unlimited email addresses which are often used in conjunction with custom webmail accounts provided by most ASP’s.

This helps cut down on long distance charges when sending bulk emails from home computers.

Most packages include support for website creation software such as RapidWeaver(Mac), Contribute (Mac), Dreamweaver MX 2004 (Windows) or any other FTP capable HTML editor.

An ASP is a business model, not a type of computer hardware or software application. The idea behind the ASP model is to outsource all of the technical tasks involved with running a dynamic website and let a third party host server do that work for you.

This method generally has several advantages over both the traditional static HTML website as well as buying web space from a commercial software vendor:

A company can reduce initial setup costs because they don’t have to buy any new hardware or hire staff to install and run such an application themselves.

If necessary , any updates to existing sites can be easily implemented by members of staff who already know how everything works which will result in less downtime compared with businesses who must pay IT specialists every time there is a change to a dynamic website.

Custom applications can be created and tested before going live for business purposes, all without being limited by the technical expertise of in-house developers which will save time and money compared with other methods such as hiring an outside contractor or consultant company.

The ASP service model itself is not new; it’s been around since 1994 when Gary Starr started developing Enliven (which was later bought out by Macromedia).

Since then, many other companies have begun offering similar services under different names such as: “Application Service Provider,” “Web Application Server,” “Internet Application Service,” and many others. As mentioned earlier, there are several differences between an ASP and the software application we’ve all come to know from Microsoft.

The most important difference between an ASP and the “Application Service Provider” is that one must download dynamic applications to their own server in order to use it, whereas Microsoft’s model can be used on any computer with their software installed.

There are several companies currently offering web host services using this model including:

UUServers ( www.uusearch.com )

PowWeb ( www.powweb.com )

LiquidNet ( www.liquidnetlimited.com )

Most of the above run Linux based systems; however there is no reason why Windows-based ASPs could not be found as well. A web search for these two items will turn up more than enough results to provide a prospective ASP customer with enough information to begin researching their business options.

No mention of the fact that a section is about “application service providers”, much less any evidence of research or clarity regarding what an ASP actually is, what its strengths and weaknesses are, or how it works.

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Software developer with 30 years of experience

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James J. Davis

James J. Davis

Software developer with 30 years of experience

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