Need Advice on Linux vs. Windows for a Database-Driven Web Application

Need Advice on Linux vs. Windows for a Database-Driven Web Application

Post by Curious Pe » Thu, 20 Jan 2005 11:07:53


Hi there. I am hoping that someone here can offer me some database
advice.

I work at a small company that makes frozen products that are sold in
supermarkets. We recently hired sales reps in several cities in the US
and Canada to maintain our displays in stores and to take orders from
those stores. Each rep visits 12 stores a day and take a digital photo
of our display at each store. Then they go home, write up an email to
us about the situation at each store, attach the digital photos to the
emails, and send it to us. Then they write emails to the local
distributors containing their orders for the day and send them,
cc'ing us.

The system is working well, except as we add more and more sales reps,
the flow of information into the Head Office is becoming a raging
torrent, and frankly we can't keep up with it. So, we came up with
the great idea to automate the entire process via a database-driven web
application. The idea is that the sales reps should be able to log
into a site, enter a user name and password, then enter and upload
their report, photos and orders for the day, which would thereafter be
stored in a database that we could access from the Head Office.

There is a lot of data to input: Store Name, Street Address, City, Zip,
Store Contact etc. etc., plus all our various distributors and
individual products. We figure that the system should be robust enough
to handle at least fifty sales reps covering a total of 3,750 stores.

We sent RFPs to several software companies and received several bids
back. Okay, here comes the question part: Roughly half the bidders
want to use Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP while the other half wants to use
Microsoft/IIS/MS SQLServer/.NET. (We are currently running a Microsoft
server in the office, but if it was cheap enough, I suppose we could
add another server running LINUX.)

My question is: Which solution is "better", and, from my
(user's) point of view, do I even care? (The software-building costs
are about the same for both types of system.)

I am looking for a robust system that will last our company for several
years,that can be added to as we think of more bells and whistles, and
that will need minimum maintenance.
Thank you in advance!

Curious Pete
 
 
 

Need Advice on Linux vs. Windows for a Database-Driven Web Application

Post by Davi » Thu, 20 Jan 2005 12:02:09

Pete,

Both operating systems can run your proposed application. The
Apache/PHP/... solution could easily reside on either platform
as they both have all of those products. It really doesn't
matter from a technical standpoint.

I develop solutions for companies and your emphasis on the
platform or tools, while important, should be a bit lower in
your To do List right now. In my opinion of course.

Automation of repetitive work is generally a good use of
a computer. Please try to consider what you are asking for
though. Your current method of tracking and handling your
workload evolved according to your needs. It may be time
for a change, but be sure that the change you propose is
one that will meet your needs.

My first concern is that you want a long term solution
and propose to outsource nearly the entire project, and
most likely, maintain the resulting system yourself.
You will need the ability to keep this system operational
and without local talent (or available talent) you will
have a very big problem when the system is unstable.

Are web forms the best solution for your needs? How
will that change over time? I can think of many other
ways of solving the same problem. I can also think of
numerous ways such a system will fail and how it will
affect your business when it does. Automation helps
you handle more work than you could manually. You
still need a good business infrastructure plan to
insure that the little hickups that occur don't cause
too much hassle.

What do your sales reps say about this proposed system?
Will it be usable and convienient for them as well as
the back office? You mention the need to enter a large
amount of information day after day plus additional
notes and pictures. How can this process be simplified
for them? Where/when will the validation and resolution
procedures be implemented?

Have the returned proposals addressed the long term
issues as well as other things that need to be considered?
Will those companies be there later on to help you improve,
enhance, or retire the product?

You mentioned a web based interface for the reps. How
can that be improved? Would there be any benefit to
allowing some information entered at the store besides
a picture? Is the proposed one day lag of information
ever a problem in real life? When the back office
fails how will the reps proceed and for how long can
they?

Are you planning on a minimal educated staff to
monitor, repair, enhance, and use the back end service
you are proposing? What are the implications upon
failure? Who will do routine backups and such.
Does the proposed back end database meet your current
and future needs? Will you be able to migrate away
from the product if necessary? Can you easily handle
the 4,000 transactions per day?

Once this system is in place how will it be used?
Reports, database searches, and other useful ideas
may be needed. Will your tools and process accomodate
that growth?

You might want to consider equivalent tools based on
email or the web that you have not thought of. This
is a budget problem for you. Your proposal is for
a back end office, sales reps with home computers
with a reasonable internet link, and digital cameras.
Would a cell phone with camera and GPS or perhaps a
Blackberry be of some use to the reps?

How will this proposed system evolve from the curent
one? Will you cut over on a