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Desktop alerting is a relatively young sector of information logistics, where information is sent to an application that displays its content directly on the user's computer desktop. Typically, the alert is delivered to a client computer from a central provider. The client is either an opt-in software product, for example an RSS reader, or an Enterprise-Class software product in a local area network (LAN). As a workplace tool, desktop alerting can serve as tool for reliable information distribution. Desktop alerting has become popular among military, administrative, corporate and academic organizations.
A desktop alert is an electronic message sent to computers over a local network or over the internet. Techniques used to deliver the message vary, but the end result is usually the appearance of a message on the end-user's desktop. Each recipient's computer typically has a client application installed and running during the entire user session. Targeting recipients can be accomplished by LDAP/active directory integration in a corporate environment or by subscriptions for private users.
Can be from a commercial or corporate point of view, desktop alerting offers some advantages over email and telephone communication. In many cases, the client application can be configured to start automatically with each user session and often is subject to administrative rights only. This offers the advantage over corporate email solutions, that the recipient doesn't have to take any action in order to be able to receive messages. Compared to telephony, a larger number of recipients can be informed in less time, because messages can be sent instantly to hundreds or thousands of users. These benefits have promoted the use of commercial solutions in companies that need reliable methods of one to one and one to many communication, including in emergency management.
The centrally composed messages are sent over a computer-network to a client computer. The transport protocol depends on the application. In earlier versions of Windows operating systems, the NET protocol was able to deliver desktop alerts in corporate networks by using the command Net send.
Modern mass-alerting applications use IP based protocols, such as UDP or TCP. The delivery of the message can be accomplished by two methods: PUSH and PULL.
- PUSH: A concurrent network connection is established between the involved devices. In case a new message or command must be sent from either device, then the sender can instantly deliver the data. The principal benefit of PUSH is that the delivery can be accomplished at near real-time speed.
- PULL: The involved devices establish a temporary connection in a specific interval. In case of an RSS-like service, the recipient queries for new data while the connection is established. Although this method is slower than PUSH, it is very common for services provided over the internet, whereas the PUSH method is the preferred method for services in corporate LANs.
Fields of application
Desktop alerting has several fields of application. Commercial applications can be used to deliver important corporate information, for example important notifications from a Service Desk to users in a corporate network or advertisement to consumers. Desktop alert messages can also be used for important employee communications that need higher message cut-through than email messages or the intranet (for example, an important business announcement or product update). Also very popular are RSS feeds, that deliver information on the recipient's personal interest, e.g. sports or economic news. Another field of application is the delivery of information as a component of an emergency communication system.