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Which technology/language(s) for a better data-driven interactive web experience?

We're presently running Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server and using IIS to host a website which contains ASP and HTML pages.  Right now some of these pages refer to databases (Access/SQL) on the server to deliver dynamic content to the user, but not on the scale we'd like.  I'm wondering which technology or technologies should be pursued to achieve a more dynamic, robust, live web application.

Some of the features we'd like to provide include both static and drag-and-drop-interactive spreadsheets (a-la Excel pivot tables), dynamic forms, and charts and graphs.  We're looking for a clean and simple interface which doesn't require much of the user.  My present server-side coding experience is with VBScript/ASP.

I know this is a broad question.  I'm open to all suggestions.

3 Solutions
Go with ASP.NET.  This not only is designed to run on a Windows system but also will give you more flexibility in interacting with Excel and other Microsoft products.

ASP.NET can be written in diferent languages (C#, VB.NET, etc.).

VB.NET will be most familiar to you since you have been developing using VB in native ASP.

I too moved from VB/ASP to ASP.NET, however, I learned C#.

Here are great examples, forums, and free downloadable starter kits to get you going.

Before you dive headlong into the ASP.NET approach, consider spending a bit more time learning and switching over to Java.  I've barely scratched the surface of Java myself, but already I get the distinct impression it has a real future.  Microsoft have never made life easy for developers, and I don't think they're going to start - the fact is that VB.NET is a ground-up, non-backward-compatible rebuild with massive IDE changes and that's just not a nice thing to do to existing developers.

People have been forsaking MS technologies in droves recently, and with good reason.  I think Java technologies are the best way forward for your project, and trying to migrate to non-MS SQL servers and desktop applications (check out OpenOffice.org, for example, and PostgreSQL for a nice relational database server) as well as non Microsoft operating systems.

The way Linux is used, administrated and programmed has changed dramatically over its lifetime, and especially in recent years, but I've never found myself a fish out of water on Unix-like platforms (well, not since I first switched over more then ten years ago).  Switching to a fundamentally different system hurts, but think of it this way: Microsoft delight in making their faithful customers do this time and time again.  With a UNIX-like OS, you know where you stand, and you can have some confidence that if the developers behind it decide to make major changes, they'll bend over backwardss to avoid inconveniencing you.

When MS launch a new version that invalidates all your existing skills, they make a fortune from selling you the upgrade, then another fortune from teaching you to use it.  When new versions of Apache or PostgreSQL or Java appear, it's generally in the developers' interests to make sure their existing users are kept happy and get the chance to adapt comfortably, without spending on training.

That's my advice.  Do the slightly harder thing and try to move to open source systems and Java as a development system, and you will be repaid for your work a thousandfold.  You'll have some work in the transition, but you'll be paving the way for better times ahead, where your knowledge still counts for something in the next release and you're not bound to a ridiculous, clunky proprietary system that follows no rules but its own and is built to boost a single corporation's bottom line, not help developers and users.
psk1Author Commented:
Thank you!
mackenga is right, Java is a great language, but having spent a great deal of time developing in both environments, I still promote .NET over Java.  Java is great if your confined to a non windows platform or if your desktop app needs to be compatible with other platforms, but overall, I find it clunky.  If you can, learn both, and you'll be better developer for it.  Ultimately, you'll find what you like best, but please, don't make a decision on platform politics.  Best of luck to you!

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