Corporate browsers: an end to compatibility problems at last ?

Most businesses these days are looking to implement a shared technical platform that every single one of their employees can use in order to guarantee the highest level of security. That means one browser and one operating system for everybody.

Until just a few years ago, choosing a web browser was easy. Internet Explorer dominated the market as the default program installed on every Windows computer purchased. Then professional applications were invented, which above all sought to be compatible with IE and also broaden their appeal over other browsers by offering more features.

Today, the majority of companies are faced with an ever-expanding IT environment: browsers, operating systems, settings, applications, so much to deal with at once, not to mention the number of versions available.

With this in mind, how can we ensure that everything within such a diverse IT environment works in tune with each other? How do we guarantee that the tools we use every day for business are compatible with web browsers? The answer to these problems is to use a corporate browser.

Multi-speed IT environment

While Internet Explorer is still widely used within large companies today, it is no longer the dominant force.

The gap between individual users and companies is widening. Individuals show a passion for speed when it comes to choosing their browser and can switch from one to another instantly – depending on the new or improved features offered. Companies are not lucky enough to have such flexibility owing to other constraints (such as security and compatibility). This means that they often still use browsers, applications or operating systems that are outdated. In June 2015, CNN estimated that 44% of US companies are still running on Windows XP, despite Microsoft ending technical support for the OS in April 2014.

The gap between business and IT is widening. A few years ago, the IT department was the only one to decide which tools were best suited to the company’s security requirements. Now, the decision often lies in the hands of business managers, who may opt to start a technological revolution by introducing new tools within the company, without the need for approval from the IT department. It is then up to IT to maintain the new complex systems. But it isn’t always guaranteed that they will be compatible with one another.

What is more, we are witnessing developments at different rates:

  • The web browser market is so competitive that developers are striving to make their products more and more powerful and comprehensive. That is why they release updates so frequently and it may only be a matter of weeks or even days before the next one comes out.
  • Applications used within businesses are also developing at their own pace. These manage data that directly affects the core operations of millions of companies (such as compatibility and customer files). As a result, they are not updated as often since it needs to beguaranteed that they are secure and reliable following each development.
  • The majority of IT cycles within companies are rather long (between 3 and 5 years). An application needs to function for a long time, whatever changes are made to the operating system or browser. The first thing to do is take a good look at the security. But most importantly, upgrading IT equipment is an enormously expensive task for a company. Simply changing the operating system can also require investment in updating the business applications used, with the budget sometimes running into several millions of euros for a large number of workstations.

Clearly, there is a huge need for stability to ensure businesses are kept up and running, but the very nature of an IT environment leads to instability. This has a tendency to become more pronounced over time. The major browser players (such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer) are not trying to create a standard application, but instead seek to differentiate themselves as much as possible.

So, what can be done about these issues? Finding a happy medium by creating a unique browser that any company can use seems like an impossible task given how quickly things develop. But, on the contrary, moving towards a corporate browser that brings together all the different versions out there is doable.

At the heart of the system

At the core of this highly-varied environment is the browser, often the cornerstone that acts as the link between applications, providing access to their interface.

There are corporate browsers (like SmartBrowser) on the market that can resolve compatibility issues between web apps, browsers and workstations.

The idea is simple: businesses install a unique browser mirroring the way the most popular browsers on the market (Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome) work, but in a manner that is highly intuitive for users. That means applications that would otherwise be incompatible (e.g. your accounting software requires IE6 on Windows 7 while using Chrome 43 for your CRM) can be run on a single interface.

It is a real strategic choice offering a host of benefits:

  • Using a corporate browser can extend the life cycle of your web applications as they can still be used even if you haven’t installed the latest updates, because of the way it mirrors other browsers. This makes it easier to spread the cost of upgrading your IT equipment.
  • Users still have access to a highly-stable working environment without any need for additional support.
  • So when it comes to Windows migrations, you don’t need to worry about risking incompatibility with other web browsers used within your business.
  • The corporate browser administrator retains control over the interface; they can install, configure and update plugins recommended for each browser (such as Java and Flash) for the whole company with ease. The ideal way to keep things agile.

At a time when it is rumored that Flash is being phased out, when the technology required for Java applets to function is no longer supported by the latest version of Chrome, and when the entire business world is increasingly switching to digital data, the corporate browser can become one of the best ways to guarantee compatibility between your systems.

Image © ISO Republic – Site Bureau
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