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Disconnected From Data

sw-aircard-750 I was looking at Twitter the other day and saw a few of the people I follow debating the need for disconnected applications. With so many providers now offering wireless access plans for data, and the prices coming down to levels where almost tech professional can afford to have an unlimited data plan, an Aircard of some sort, or a tethering option, do we really need to worry about disconnected applications?

Is wireless access to be expected like phone service?

If it's not there, it's a rarity?

I'm not sure we are there yet. If you live/work in many places, you're probably a little spoiled with the constant connections you get as you wake up, drive to work, go to kid's soccer games and more. However as someone that lives in a rural area and gets to the city for big events, I see lots of holes.

My connections are spotty where I live, and I see issues more often than most people, but it shows me that the seamless connections moving from cell to cell don't always work, and that there's still a lot of variability on quality. Between my family, we have ATT, T-Mobile, and Sprint phones and we have a variety of success at different times with the devices.

In addition, when I go to large events, like the Bronco's football games in Denver, connections around the stadium for data are not great. I have great signals, but it seems that the cell towers get overloaded with so many people trying to connect at once. I haven't had the 3G Google G1 out there yet, but  have had issues weth EDGE connections. Maybe that will be better with 3G or WiMax.

Using SQL Server Express or SQL Server CE to power an application on a laptop or smaller device that might not always be connected, to me, is something we should still plan for. And we should have good database people building these to incorporate as much automation through replication as possible. The movement of data from a smaller database to a larger one should be seamless for developers.

As much as I like little applications on my G1 that can help me, some of them fail without an Internet connection, and it's very annoying. Data entry, recording of measurements, etc. is always something that we want to continue, even if our link goes down. I still see connectivity issues at conferences when there are lots of people trying to use wireless networks, and I can imagine that these days even small events, like a local soccer field full of kids and parents, can overload a tower in one area.

Designing applications to work in a disconnected manner is something I think we still need to do for at least a few more years.

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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 13 March 2009

I was one of the ones in agreement with you. Even in Columbia, SC, where wireless is pretty much prevalent everywhere, there are dead zones. One happened to be at the church where I served as a children's minister. My work knew that when I was at church, the only chance of getting me was to drive out there themselves. That was great!

Another place is a state park near where we live that we sometimes go to and stay at (they have really nice cabins that are extremely inexpensive). No coverage. There was a time about a year and a half ago when I got inspiration for something back at work but the connectivity wasn't there and I needed to connect to use the application in question. I wrote it down in a short text message for me to tackle later, but it wasn't the same.

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