Portal & Vortal Described :
Source : http://www.hku.hk
What is Portal?
"Portal" has in the recent two years become an increasingly popular term being mentioned and discussed in the IT sector and many organizations. The Q&A web page that is put up by CREN (Collaboration Research and Education Network): http://www.cren.net/know/techtalk/events/portals.html#questions - would give some idea about what a portal is. In short, it is a web system that provides the functions and features to authenticate and identify the users and provide them with an easy, intuitive, personalized and user-customizable web-interface for facilitating access to information and services that are of primary relevance and interests to the users. To the organization that sets up the portal, it is a system that provides versatile functions for the organization to catalogue or organize collections of different and multiple sources of information and service resources for dissemination to many users according to their specific privileges, needs and interest. Hence, the main purpose of setting up a portal is to bring the vast information and service resources available from many sources to many users in an effective manner.
"Many to many in an effective manner" should be the essence of a portal system. As a matter of fact, long before the concept of portal was explored by IT people in trying to reap the potential values and benefits that could be provided by using Web technologies, the term "Portal system" has been consistently used in the field of medical and anatomy studies to represent the important system within our body that very effectively brings blood from the many capillaries connecting to our digestive system to the many fine blood vessels inside our liver.
When one need a Portal?
Nowadays, many organizations are making extensive use of the web to disseminate information and provide services to their users, say their staff members, customers, etc. To cope with the various needs of different users, the numerous types of information and services that can be available to all kinds of users would be grouped together and presented on the web according to the nature of the operational functions. In general, this means that the information and services are grouped based on the division of the service-providing departments, and the users must have some idea about what kind of information or services could be provided by which department in order to gain access to the required information or service without much difficulty. Very often, it is not the case because a user may know quite little about the departments or there could be too many departments and too many kinds of services of which only a small subset would be of relevance or interests to the user. Under such circumstances, a user would face the problem of information overload and find it quite difficult to locate the needed information or service from the many service offerings. As it is the trend that organizations are increasingly making extensive use of web applications for information dissemination and service delivery to the users, the just mentioned difficulty that could be encountered by users due to information overload would become a more severe and obvious problem that needs to be resolved.
To alleviate the problems described, i.e. to improve the user-friendliness and to enable convenient access to the different kinds of information and services mounted on the web by users, it would be desirable to set up a portal for channeling the vast information resource and many services to different users in an efficient and effective manner so that when a user can be identified by the portal, personalized information and services which are relevant or of interests to the user would be presented to him according to his profile.
Desirable features of a Portal
A portal should support the following desirable functions and features:
- Allowing different information- and service-providing departments to set up and update their own information and services tailored specifically for different user groups according to the common user profiles (such as grades, departments associated, etc.) and the specific needs of these user groups at specific times.
- Presenting automatically the information and services that a user would need according to his profile at the appropriate time.
- Allowing a user to select the information and services that are his interests and to customize their presentation.
- Setting up information and services from users' perspective rather than from the angle of convenience of the services providers.
- Supporting the "Single-sign-on" feature so that a single sign-on step would enable the user to gain access to the different information resource and services that are supported by different application systems provided by different departments. Technically, this feature can be facilitated by means of implementing a common organization-wide LDAP (Light-weight Directory Access Protocol) service and CAS (Central Authentication Service).
Portal development is a way to integrate the different web-based applications for supporting deliveries of information and services to form a convenient, effective and unified system through which different users can have easy and intuitive access to their needed information and services. Since these web applications for supporting the information and service deliveries could be set up by different departments in an organization, e.g. production, marketing, public relation, research, finance, human resources, etc., the choice of a system platform for portal development would depend on the platform(s) employed for hosting the information and service applications.
Many commercial application software vendors have offerings of portal products that can readily integrate together with their families of application software products, e.g. ERP. On the other hand, there are also a number of open-source and sharable portal software initiatives that would help organizations to adopt in-house development for setting up portal facilities.
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