ColdFusion is Alive and Well!

TSI Applications has been developing Adobe’s ColdFusion applications since 2001 and although many say it on the decline we have not seen it. There are a vast number of websites with existing ColdFusion back-ends which are not being converted to PHP or .NET and we have seen an increase in new ColdFusion implementations as well. This is no surprise as ColdFusion makes back-end development fast and easy. In fact, that is the problem. The language is so fast and easy to learn that tens of thousands of basement developers have built less-than-perfect applications which have fallen apart shortly after development. This unfortunate reality has given ColdFusion a bad reputation over the years. However, a professionally built application built by expert developers will last for years with little or no maintenance.

I would like to start this article by providing some background on the perceived decline of ColdFusion. In 2005, Adobe purchased Macromedia (the owner of ColdFusion at the time) for $3.4 billion. That is not a trifling sum and understandably Adobe has taken the language seriously over the years. However, it seems to many, including myself, that ColdFusion has become lost in the myriad of Adobe’s other and better known offline applications namely Photoshop and Acrobat. Yet, Adobe has continued to support ColdFusion, release new and incredible upgrades and create fantastic development interfaces such as CF Builder. However, due to their focus on these other applications, few know about it. They seem to have shifted their marketing budget to these other applications which creates the perception of disuse.

While we can list the many fortune 500 companies using ColdFusion, the largest consumers by far are the federal and state government agencies. These large companies and government agencies do not leap into decisions based upon popularity but a careful analysis of the functionality, scalability, security and stability of the application. Teams of corporate IT staff do the analysis and create presentations outlining the pros and cons of each option. After a careful consideration, many choose ColdFusion. Even though ColdFusion is not the cheapest option. The application server alone can cost almost nine thousand dollars and the servers needed to run a stable enterprise-level ColdFusion application also require substantial horsepower. Developers fetch a high hourly rate or salary as many have transitioned to more commonly used languages such as PHP and .NET to find stable work. In short, there is a substantial cost to creating and maintaining a ColdFusion website. This hefty price tag keeps ColdFusion out of the reach of many midsize to small business and certainly the average consumer. However, don’t get discouraged! There is a way to inexpensively leverage ColdFusion which puts it back in the running for anyone. I will tell you how to do this at the end of this article.

This substantial cost begs two questions: First, “Why do these companies and agencies with deep pockets shell out the money for ColdFusion applications?” and second, “How can Adobe charge so much for a ColdFusion license?”

The reasons are many, but here are few of the ones most cited by our clients:

  1.  Device detection – Easily identify the type of device and its dimensions, group name, description, orientation and features at runtime without needing any plug-ins. Leverage this information to deliver differentiated content for the device and enhance the user experience.
  2. HTML to PDF conversion – Use the powerful conversion engine from Adobe to generate superior quality PDF files from HTML pages. The engine parses the CSS and applies its settings to ensure that the content in the PDF file appears and functions as it does in the web browser, retaining its formatting, layout and hyperlinks.
  3. Security code analyzer – Use the new security code analyzer to scan existing application code to automatically detect vulnerabilities and potential security breaches. Identify the exact vulnerable code, type of vulnerability and severity level, and mitigate the vulnerability with the suggestion provided.
  4. Security enhancements – Leverage the new NTLM authentication support on CFSHAREPOINT, CFOBJECT and CFINVOKE to provide authentication, integrity and confidentiality to users. Now easily lock down ColdFusion Server because the scripts directory has been moved out of the CFIDE directory. Web server access to CFIDE is now removed by default for added security.
  5. PDF manipulation – Leverage full access to DDX to manipulate PDF documents. Perform advanced tasks, such as adding comments, bookmarks, file attachments and headers and footers with automatic page numbers. Customize the appearance of your PDF files by setting page margins, size and rotation.
  6. PDF digital signatures and archival – Make PDF files more secure with electronic signatures. Let your users sign, certify and validate PDF files to establish document authenticity and integrity. Leverage new archiving capabilities, including support for PDF/A-2b, to enable preservation of electronic files as long-term, self-contained documents of record.
  7. Robust caching – Boost performance by caching portions of pages with infrequently updated data, and improve custom handling of region-specific data by creating multiple cache regions on the fly. Improve server performance by sparing server resources through a parallel caching process and advanced caching libraries.
  8. Extensive database support – Optimize database interaction through better client connection management. Extend functionality with the support of additional data types. Handle database errors more efficiently through improved exception handling.
  9. Social log-in support – Speed up development by doing away with the hassle of implementing a login mechanism from scratch. Easily allow your end users to access your web application with their existing social media accounts. Just use the CFOAUTH tag to let users log in with their Facebook, Google or Twitter identity

There are many more features of ColdFusion which I have not listed that enhance both security and user experience. These are a few of the reasons why the companies and agencies who have unlimited resources choose ColdFusion over the competition.

How can mid to small businesses have access to these features with minimal expense? The answer lies in the choice of hosting companies and budget-minded outsourced development teams. I will briefly discuss each in turn:

  1. Many hosting companies offer ColdFusion license options with their monthly plans. Often the license fee is under ten dollars a month. The reason why this is possible is because the hosting companies don’t make their money from single user, instead they rely on the monthly payments of thousands of clients to offset this charge, enabling them to provide the license to the end-user at almost no cost. There are many reliable companies who offer ColdFusion platform hosting. This leased licensing option overcomes the hurdle of server costs and server management.
  2. As I already mentioned, finding reliable and inexpensive ColdFusion developers can be a challenge. This limitation makes assembling an in-house development team both difficult and expensive. The solution to this problem is using a US-based outsourced development team. Like the hosting companies, a full-service development company does not make its money from single clients, rather managing the contracts of dozens of users. This allows the outsourced solution to offer extremely competitive rates to its clients. They maintain a team of reliable developers, extensive portfolios and 24x7x365 support. By outsourcing ColdFusion development, a company does not have to worry about finding and keeping ColdFusion developers. A reliable development company has the experience necessary to interview, vet and train developers.

In summary, a robust and scalable ColdFusion website is not out of the reach of the average business. We have been creating and maintaining ColdFusion web applications for sixteen years and have the experience to quickly create incredible applications at a fraction of the cost of those created in PHP or .NET. ColdFusion is a Rapid Application Development language (tag-based). This means the complex scripting is already done in the underlying server code, therefore all the developer must do is choose the right tags and the right attributes to leverage this existing and expansive scripting. But knowing which tags and which attributes requires experience – we have that experience.

Not only do we write code but we also have relationships with reliable ColdFusion hosting companies and can get the best prices on servers. Whether cloud-based or dedicated servers, we know where to go. We receive priority support from our hosting partners and head-of-the-line placement when issues arise. This is due to the volume of clients we provide to our hosting partner.

If you are considering a new website, do not discount ColdFusion. Find a development team who can build and maintain your site with minimal intervention and no hassles. We can handle everything: domain registration, hosting, database creation, programming and maintenance.

Call us today at 800-792-1704 for more information. You’ll be glad you did!