What’s behind Web browser choices

By , Network World |  Software, chrome browser, Firefox

Much of the stability in the enterprise Web browser market comes from the fact that more organizations are standardizing on a particular Web browser, often Internet Explorer.

One such organization is the Isle of Man government, which is migrating 5,500 computers to Internet Explorer 8. All government employees use the Internet, Web applications and SharePoint sites, so they rely on a Web browser to get their work done every day.

Peter Clarke, CTO for the Isle of Man government, says the benefits of browser standardization include "administration, security patching [and] overhead minimized to one application performing the required business function."

"Choice isn't a business requirement," Clarke adds. "It's usually an unnecessary cost overhead."

Before migrating to IE version 8 this year, the Isle of Man used IE version 6 and 7. Users, however, complained about the lack of support for Web standards and Java applets in these older versions of IE.

Browser showdown: IE8 vs. Firefox  

Although it considered other browsers including Mozilla Firefox and Opera, the Isle of Man government said it chose IE 8 because it is the most enterprise-ready browser. So far, Clarke is pleased with the choice.

"Where the IT department once spent three or four days creating group policies to produce an installation package and simple customizations, Internet Explorer 8 helps reduce the process to hours instead of days," Clarke says.

He adds that users are experiencing no problems with internal applications, but that Web applications occasionally need "compatibility mode."

The Isle of Man government doesn't allow its employees to download other browsers onto their desktop or laptop computers. All of its computers are locked down, with authorized software applications deployed electronically.

Browser patches are handled automatically, without user involvement. If patches are not critical, they are scheduled. If they are critical, they are immediately deployed, Clarke says.

"The Web browser is the gateway to the world, trafficking video, voice and data in both directions. It's your smallest yet most widely used asset to access information and your biggest threat to the integrity of your own infrastructure assets," Clarke says. Standardization "minimizes the costs of delivering the infrastructure."

Limited browser choice

Some large organizations are limiting employees to the two most popular Web browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), for example, supports both of these browsers for its users and in its Web development efforts.

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