The Internet is as popular as ever. It seems you can’t turn around without bumping into something Web related. But the Internet has evolved; there is more to it than surfing for sports scores and celebrity gossip.

It is this continual evolution and enhanced general understanding of the Internet that has helped create an onslaught of new applications based on the built-in power of the Internet.

Even though the Internet by itself is essentially a large, virtual shopping mall where one can buy basically anything imaginable under the sun (Who knows? That too may be for sale on some obscure Web site), there are other uses that need to be examined. Its true uniqueness, in actuality, lies in the structure itself—the way in which it is built, architecturally speaking.

The main reason is that the Internet allows for rapid, instantaneous and constant data transfer, globally. Hence the onset of the “information age” and all that it has revolutionized in our daily lives. This is key to many businesses because it allows for remote locations to virtually link together whenever and wherever the need arises. When this power is harnessed as a means of enhancing programs and applications, it is most often referred to as “Web-based.”

“Web-based applications” is a term that contractors need to understand and incorporate into their businesses—both for their own internal operations and as a means of adding to their overall suite of services.

So, you may be thinking, what exactly does this have to do with me? There are two primary Web-based applications that have been gaining use among contractors that you should know about.

XML

The first type is XML-based applications. These are also the most recognizable since they have been reported on heavily by the media. XML, which stands for Extensible Markup Language, is a format, not unlike HTML. The main benefit of the XML format is that it is easily recognizable by just about any type of hardware or operating system on the market, allowing XML documents to be easily and readily shared.

Perhaps the most important part of this technology is its ability to send, receive, share and manipulate documents such as blueprints, schematic drawings and the like in real time. This is an important element in project delivery methods since it allows for multiple users to all incorporate changes in plans more efficiently since the electronic documents can be passed around as needed. In addition, XML documents also are beneficial during the bidding process since document changes can quickly be made and thus distributed in an expedited fashion.

Such a system means two businesses can share documents as needed and make changes, additions, deletions and corrections without having to waste precious time physically sending such documents back and forth. The cost savings is also an important factor, since just about everybody in the industry knows all too well the expense associated with shipping/courier costs and the printing of blueprints and CAD drawings.

VoIP

Good old VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol); though some may choose to argue the point, VoIP is an important Web-based application since it relies almost completely on the Internet for the base of its operations.

The entire protocol exists due to transferring information over the Internet. Also note that supplemental/secondary uses of VoIP such as billing, troubleshooting and the like can easily be Web-based, thus lowering operating costs generally associated with call center functions.

What else?

Enhanced Web and Web-based applications can also be in general reference to the sheer advances within Web sites themselves. Web sites have gone through so many iterations throughout their collective history that at times the Internet seems to be almost unrecognizable. Long gone are the days when flashing text was considered revolutionary.

Yet another point to keep in mind, especially for contractors, is the heightened importance of system redundancy in order to support such advanced applications.

Due to the increased reliance upon vital systems, especially data and electrical, in this advanced, Web-based environment system downtime becomes an even more costly event.

So what does all of this mean from a systems point of view? It means that this is yet another gem to store in your information/ knowledge arsenal since without a reliable data and electrical support system, most of these new applications just simply will not work. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.