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Case Studies

CASE STUDY - Orvado Intranet
Jan 07, 2008 - Kenneth W. Richards

Summary

In order to manage our highly dynamic web sites, we needed to create powerful intranet software that would allow our clients to manipulate all of the content on their site. This is a web-based site administration tool that is available over the Intranet. It is password-protected to prevent unauthorized access and has a permissions system to define specific roles for users of the intranet.

The Problem

Our clients needed a way to easily manage all of the content on their site using a standard interface. They needed the ability to access our site administration from anywhere in the world using the standard software that is installed in your everyday run-of-the-mill Internet cafe.

This type of system, basically called for an Intranet that allows a user or multiple users to administer all aspects of their Web site. We needed a permission system that would allow us to define different roles (or user groups) within the intranet. That way, Orvado employees could login as a super-administrator to configure the intranet as needed, while the client could login as a regular site administrator.

Since each client's needs were different, the solution called for a modular system that allowed us to easy add and remove administrative modules. We also needed a way to dynamically configure the Intranet navigation.

Technologies Used

Most of our clients are using Microsoft Advanced Server combined with Microsoft SQL Server to provide enterprise-level technology to support their business. This dictated that we stick with a Microsoft solution in order to build our Intranet.

Our scripting language choice was Active Server Pages. While it doesn't provide the rich set of features as a language like Perl or PHP, through COM object development, we were able to provide all the features we needed with a tight integration with SQL Server and IIS (Internet Information Server.)

Of course it only made sense that our choice of database and web server should follow the solution we were using to build our client's sites. So our intranet uses the same SQL Server database as the client web site and usually shares the same Web site. The entire intranet can be put inside a sub-folder on the main site without causing any problems.

User Interface

For the user interface, we decided to go with a framed interface. This allows us to keep the page sizes to a small size, thus creating less load on our servers. By keeping the navigation at the top of the page and a list of items to administer on the right, we eliminate the need to do a lot of unnecessary database queries and building of HTML.

Since the frames are not going to be spidered by a search engine, it made perfect sense to use frames in this case. The frames also give us a good measure of consistency across the entire intranet.

Access Control

Access control is managed by a permissions system built right into the intranet. Orvado administrators can go in and define user roles (groups) and for each of these roles they can assign access rights.

Access Rights are basically pages on the intranet that a user has access to. Along with this, we allow the administrator to define whether the group or user has specific "add", "edit", "delete" or "view" permissions.

Access permission can be granted to either the user role (group) or directly to a specific user. This gives us the flexibility of using well-defined user groups and then customizing them by adding additional "user-specific" roles. It gives us a great deal of flexibility when assigning permissions.

Content Management

Another highlight of our intranet is our content management system which uses a WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) edit control to manage content on the site. This is a fairly high-level control that lets you define text formatting, hyperlinks and included images without the need to know any HTML whatsoever.

When you click on a web page to administer, the content management system pulls up the web page just as you would see it if you were browsing the site. When the mouse rolls over a piece of content from the content manager, it will be highlighted with a red background. This lets you know that the piece of content can be editted. Clicking on the content brings up the edit form.

The WYSIWYG editor contains a row of standard buttons that allow you to bold, indent, create bulleted lists, create hyperlinks and include image references. As you make your changes, the updated web content will display just as it would on the web page.

Next, you click on the "Preview" button to see what your new content will look like embedded in your web page. This will show you the content in the specific web page you are working with WITHOUT actually saving the content. If you don't like the way it looks you can "Cancel" and return to editting the content.

Otherwise, if the content is ready to go, you just click the "Deploy" button and your content will be updated in the database. The web site uses an intelligent caching mechanism to keep the web content in memory. This alleviates the load the database that would normally be needed to load content every time a page is requested.

COM+ Objects

As the code for the intranet grew bigger and bigger, we realized that we needed to optimize the code so that it would run more efficiently. To this end, we converted nearly all of our library code into COM objects. We did this by porting the code from ASP libraries to COM+ objects.

While doing this we also added comprehensive error checking and reporting to the COM objects so we could quicly and efficiently spot bugs in the code. Right now the code is extremely stable and we haven't seen any errors in the past six months or so.

Conclusion

By utilizing the best in enterprise solutions from Microsoft, we were able to build a highly efficient and modular intranet platform that all of our clients could use to manage their Web site. It provides administrators with a consistant interface that can be easily tailored to each client's needs.

This is an exclusive feature of Orvado Technologies that you won't find anywhere else. It makes managing and maintaining your Web site a breeze. And if you need any custom functionality in the intranet, Orvado will be happy to build a new module for you and in most instances, we can have it built and ready-for-use in just a couple of days.

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