What is a Portal?
Like many terms in software, it’s a bit ambiguous, but we at Entrance define a Portal as a web-based destination where users can go to find information and/or perform tasks related to a specific business activity or entity. For instance, a bank can host a loan approval portal where customers go to submit paperwork and view their approval status. A company’s Human Resources department can maintain a benefits portal where employees go to download 401k enrollment forms and access links to their health insurance provider. The type of portal development services we provide depends largely on whether it is an intranet portal or a corporate web portal.
Intranet portals are accessed by company employees, not the general public. At Entrance, we specialize in intranet portal development in SharePoint on-premises and Office 365/SharePoint Online. We could, of course, create a custom intranet portal from the ground up, but SharePoint provides so many of the lower-level services often used in intranets that it doesn’t make sense to do it from scratch
The key to a successful SharePoint intranet portal is establishing good governance and providing training so that business users can take over the day-to-day oversight and maintenance of the portal, freeing up scarce IT resources.
When developing a customer-facing company web portal with our custom software services, we may not have the extensive infrastructure of SharePoint at our disposal, but now more than ever there are readily available libraries and services to speed up development. Some are free to use, some have a cost, but they are not nearly as expensive as building the same functionality from scratch. When developing a web portal, we would typically make use of our Single-Page-App Starter Kit, a solution accelerator that ties several client-side and server-side technologies together into a modern development platform. Having our developers equipped and trained to use a standard starter kit means a consistent user experience, reduced maintenance cost, and a rapidly accelerated start to the development process. The starter kit is designed to scale, which fits perfectly with our deployment model. All of this is detailed in our write-up of taking a lightweight, low-cost approach to software development.
It’s difficult to predict the traffic that will hit a customer web portal. In a world where the app is hosted on-premises, it can be an expensive pain to throttle back when traffic levels are low and scale up when traffic levels are high. It takes skilled (i.e., highly paid) technical resources to support a secure, highly available web application. Luckily, our options for achieving scalability, security, and availability by hosting quality-tested web apps in the cloud have never been more numerous or less expensive. Our preferred hosting provider is Amazon, but we have also used Microsoft’s Azure platform.
Why Work with Entrance - A Consistent Approach
It’s important for any web portal development company to use a tried and true approach. In developing a portal, just as with any product development effort, we take an agile approach in which we involve users heavily and complete the most important items first until we have a minimum-viable-product. From there, we can collect feedback from a broader collection of users, feedback that helps to set the direction for the product going forward.