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Client_server Seven Facts and Myths You Need To Know

May 1, 1996
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Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Featured Article
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Less expensive? Software driven? Separate fact from fiction.

1. Client/server is less expensive to operate than a mainframe.
Probably not. Some companies are able to save money with a client/server system, but don't bet on it. Although hardware costs are sometimes lower, software, troubleshooting and training often make client/server architecture 20% to 30% more expensive in actual technology costs. However, client/server can generate enormous long-term gains in productivity and revenue.

2. The client/server environment is easier to use for the end user.
True. A graphical user interface such as Windows combined with user-friendly software eliminates arcane codes and highly structured work patterns tied to mainframes. It's important to choose well-integrated software solutions, however. An added bonus: training costs should drop over time as employees learn to use the system.

3. Reengineering is an automatic outcome of client/server architecture.
False. Client/server provides many of the basic tools for redesigning work and business processes, but it doesn't happen automatically. Most companies find that teams or committees must study the technology and internal processes to find new ways to get work done more efficiently.

4. Application software drives a client/server system.
False. There's no question that software is a key component, but client/server is an incredibly complex mix of technologies. Not only must the network be configured efficiently, it's crucial to have solid servers, PCs optimized for the environment, a highly compatible relational database and solid applications running on the desktop. Bottom line? "Processes must be aligned with the infrastructure," says James Greene, a market strategy consultant at Summit Strategy Inc. in Newbury, Massachusetts.

5. It's important to make client/server decisions based on the needs of the enterprise.
True. It's easy and tempting to service the squeaky wheel of an individual fiefdom or LAN. Fact is, it's nearly impossible to negotiate companywide standards on a case-by-case basis, explains Sidney Diamond, a Stevenson, Maryland-based consultant. Likewise, it's crucial to control computing platforms, operating systems, software and training. It's certainly possible to mix and match components, but it must fit into an overall plan. Think long term.

6. Human resources is at the vanguard of the client/server movement.
True. Because of the transactional nature of many HR tasks, human resources can benefit greatly from the technology. And, make no mistake, HR is among the first to adopt many client/server applications, including scanning, imaging, interactive voice response, kiosks and workflow technology.

7. Peer-to-peer networking spells death for client/server.
True. Well, someday anyway. But then, the universe may eventually end, too. Client/server will be around for years, although it's just beginning to evolve into a mature computing environment and may, or may not, be applied to HR computing needs. So called peer-to-peer networking—which spreads processing power and data throughout the organization over many PCs—has advantages in certain businesses and industries, but also presents many problems and is still experimental.

Personnel Journal, May 1996, Vol. 75, No. 5, p. 95.

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