Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > Adobe Flash

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Choosing a Server Model

You know already that there are several common server-side languages. This begs the question (often asked by those new to dynamic site development), “which server model should I use?” The following list summarizes the main functions, pros, and cons of each:

Active Server Pages (ASP): ASP is a Microsoft technology that ties together its IIS (Internet Information Services for Windows 2000 and XP) servers with VBScript (Visual Basic Script) for dynamic Web site development (you can also use Microsoft’s implementation of JavaScript, JScript). ASP is free and built into all IIS and PWS servers, which means that virtually all Windows users can develop ASP sites for free with little configuration. Its code, VBScript, can be somewhat daunting for those with little to no programming experience. ASP is currently being replaced with Microsoft’s much-ballyhooed ASP.NET (see below).

ColdFusion: ColdFusion is Macromedia’s server technology. Its tag-based syntax is much easier to use than VBScript, and it certainly requires fewer lines of code. Most designers find it the most accessible of all the server models. Newbies aside, ColdFusion is a powerful language that makes dynamic site development rapid. The disadvantage to ColdFusion is that it is not free, though the boost to productivity it affords usually means it pays for itself. It is also extremely easy to set up and configure.

PHP Hypertext Processor (PHP): A recursive acronym, PHP is a fast-growing server model for a variety of reasons. As an open-source solution, it is free and ties in well with other excellent open-source products, including the Apache Web server and MySQL database management system. In PHP 4, used in this book, its code is comparable in difficulty to that of ASP—possibly a little easier. In the newly released PHP 5, the language has been upgraded to a more object-oriented approach, and as a consequence, it is much harder for newbies (though considerably better for seasoned object-oriented programmers). One disadvantage—and this is true of many open-source products—is that setting up and configuring PHP-Apache-MySQL can be difficult.

ASP.NET: The Web authoring portion of the .NET phenomenon, ASP.NET is a powerful new technology that holds a lot of promise for quick, powerful Web development. Like its predecessor ASP, it runs on any Microsoft IIS server that has the free .NET extensions installed. But ASP.NET is conceptually and architecturally different from classic ASP, ColdFusion, and PHP. Whether you know only HTML, or you have experience with JavaScript or even ASP, you will need to do some adjusting to work with ASP.NET effectively. ASP.NET supports numerous development languages, but by far the two most prevalent are VisualBasic.NET and C#.

Java Servlet Pages (JSP): JSP is the Java-based solution to dynamic Web site development, requiring a Java server (such as a J2EE server) to interpret the code. JSP is fast, providing impressive response times. It is also extremely powerful—certainly the most powerful solution until the appearance of .NET, and certainly powerful enough to compete head-on with .NET. But its code, once again, is daunting for those new to dynamic Web site development.

This book provides coverage of ASP classic (hereafter just ASP), ColdFusion, and PHP. However, this is not specifically an ASP, ColdFusion, or PHP book. The book is designed to initiate readers into the concepts and practices of building database-driven, dynamic Web sites using Dreamweaver 8. You will learn lots of code and coding concepts along the way, and you will also make use of Dreamweaver’s server behaviors to speed up and simplify development. When you are done, you will have a solid sense of what’s possible, how several different technologies merge to create dynamic pages, and how to plan and build sites that use these technologies effectively. You will not be an ASP, ColdFusion, or PHP expert, but you should be able to get a code-oriented, nonbeginner’s ASP, ColdFusion, or PHP book and understand it well enough to push forward and develop ambitious Web projects.

Having summarized the advantages and disadvantages of the various server models, I’ll let you in on a secret. Web developers seldom choose based on rational criteria, such as which model fits their needs better than another. I certainly have rarely had that opportunity. In reality, the choice is usually driven by the available technology, your budget, the technologies used in an existing site, and the skills and experience of the available human resources. Going a step further, unless you develop for one organization and one organization only, and you intend to stay there for a very long time, you probably don’t have the luxury of learning just one. I initially learned ColdFusion and ASP simultaneously, because both were required for different projects I was working on.

Side by Side with ASP, ColdFusion, and PHP: A Strategy for Learning

Don’t be alarmed at the prospect of learning all three at the same time. The truth is, in the majority of situations, if you need to add a block of ASP to handle some functionality, then you would also need to add an equivalent block of ColdFusion or PHP to handle the same functionality. And the hardest part is not the syntax of one or the other type of code, but rather understanding what data is available, where it is available, and deciding how to get it to do what you want. If you know that much, the syntax isn’t hard.

For this reason, this book uses ASP, ColdFusion, and PHP side by side. While you don’t need to develop the same site three times to use all three server models, you should make an effort to understand all three sets of code. That is, if you decide to develop in ColdFusion, don’t just skip the ASP and PHP code. Take a moment to see how the ASP and PHP code accomplishes the same thing as the ColdFusion code. If you can understand how all three code blocks accomplish the same task, you will accelerate your mastery of Web programming.

For example, the following three code snippets perform the same function: They output (or display) a value that the user entered in an XHTML form field, called “firstName.”


<p>Thank you, <% Response.Write(Request.Form("firstName")) %>, for your submission.</p>

In ColdFusion:

<p>Thank you, <cfoutput>#form.firstName#</cfoutput>, for your submission.</p>


<p>Thank you, <?php echo $_POST['firstName']; ?>, for your submission.</p>

Let’s review the similarities between these three code snippets.

  • All use a special set of tags to indicate server markup. ASP uses <% and %>, ColdFusion uses <cf[tagname]> and </cf[tagname]>, and PHP uses <?php and ?>.
  • All indicate that they are outputting data: ASP uses Response.Write, ColdFusion uses <cfoutput>, and PHP uses echo.
  • All make explicit reference to the variable name (firstName).
  • All specify that this is a form/POST variable (form variables, as discussed later, are sent using POST): ASP uses Request.Form("firstName"), ColdFusion uses #form.firstName#, while PHP uses $_POST['firstName'].
  • Neither contains any additional code beyond these four points.

You don’t need to memorize this code; there won’t be a quiz on it, and you’ll get plenty of practice with it later. The point for now is to see the deep similarity between what the three snippets are doing: All are requesting a form variable named firstName, and outputting it in the middle of a string of otherwise regular XHTML code. The differences between the three code snippets are therefore completely cosmetic: a matter of syntax and a matter of looking up something in a reference. The hardest part is understanding in the first place that you can capture a value entered in a form and send it back mixed in with plain-old XHTML code.

Throughout the book, then, I will present all three sets of code side by side. In all cases, I will deconstruct what the code blocks are doing, so you should understand exactly what is going on. All you have to do is read the three sets of code, and see how each accomplishes in its own way the functions that I outline in the main text.

But before you start getting neck-deep in code, you need to configure your system for dynamic site development.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020