Cloud computing and company web apps have raised the profile of web browsers in business, but how on earth do you decide which browser?
How does this happen? For one thing, again, developers tend to write for the most popular browsers, IE and Firefox, so sites and applications work best on these browsers despite their lower standards support. Also, throughout the history of the browser wars, challenger browsers have tended to focus on good standards support, and then become less enamoured of that support once they gain market dominance.
This brings up an interesting dilemma for IT managers; standards support is all well and good, but it doesn’t mean much if a browser can’t run the applications you need to use.
However, standards support is important to a browser’s ability to take advantage of cutting-edge web technologies. Many companies that stayed wedded to older browsers found themselves sitting on the sidelines during the Web 2.0 boom as competitors gained an edge by taking advantage of new technologies.
For many companies, customisation and management options are important for any widely deployed application. And, just as many companies want to lock down and define the capabilities of the operating systems they deploy, locking down and defining the capabilities of the browsers they use is key.
The browser that offers by far the most options, in the way of customisation, management and deployment, is Internet Explorer.
Most of this capability comes by way of the free IEAK (Internet Explorer Administration Kit). Use of the IEAK tool, makes it possible for a company to build customised IE packages that control what features are available, predefine settings, lock down security options and even add corporate branding.
How the Browsers Match Up for Business
Even without the IEAK, IE would still be tops in this area due to its integration with Microsoft deployment and updating tools. Companies can easily make sure that employees are using the most up-to-date version of the browser and can tie it into the corporate patching and deployment infrastructure.
A distant second in this area is Firefox. There is an extension for Firefox called the CCK Wizard (Client Customisation Kit) that offers basic customisation options, but it’s pretty limited when compared with IEAK.
Firefox and Chrome both have integrated updating mechanisms that make it possible for users to keep their browsers updated. And, while both Safari and Opera will let users know when the browser version is out of date, both require users to download the new updates and run installation routines, something that can be difficult on locked-down corporate systems.