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What is ColdFusion?

ColdFusion is a web application development platform that's known for its superb efficiency. It's used in the development of web and mobile applications, which makes it a key provision for many web hosting customers.

History of ColdFusion

Development on ColdFusion began in 1995. Two brothers, Jeremy Allaire and JJ Allaire, released the software under their brand name, Allaire Corporation.

Originally, the pair wanted a simpler way to put a database on the web, and they developed ColdFusion as a scripting language that worked with HTML. Within a year, ColdFusion had been developed beyond its original remit. It's now used as a rapid web application development platform to handle databases, forms, feeds, reports and file conversion. Developers love it because it's cheap and powerful.

From day one, ColdFusion has been one of the web's notable success stories. Under the ownership of Allaire Corporation, ColdFusion increased its annual revenue from $1 million to $120 million within four years. Macromedia purchased ColdFusion in March 2001 for $360 million. It was a deal which also resulted in Jeremy Allaire being made chief technology officer at Macromedia.

Adobe then purchased Macromedia in 2005, bringing ColdFusion under its brand name. ColdFusion still has strong suport for Flash, although with Flash being deprecated, this is less of a benefit for developers than it once was. ColdFusion also supports FlashPaper, a virtual printer that can create Flash or PDF 'printouts'. This is a legacy product, but proves just how closely the two technologies have been.

The Basics

Originally, ColdFusion only ran on Windows servers as it was written in Visual C++. After the Macromedia acquisition, ColdFusion Server was redeveloped in Java EE and had its own runtime environment (JRE). This transition occurred around 2002 and lead to 'MX' being added to its name. ColdFusion is deployed using Tomcat.

ColdFusion projects consist of two primary file types:

  • Objects, which are saved with the .cfc extension. Objects are either COM or CORBA in type, and can be associated with properties, methods and nested objets
  • Pages, which are saved with the .cfm extension. Pages hold objects, HTML code and other items
  • Users code for ColdFusion in ColdFusion Markup Language, or CFML. CFML looks similar to HTML and JavaScript. ColdFusion also understands CFScript, Actionscript and some other languages. If you know HTML, but don't know CFML, take a look at these excellent Beginner's Guides from Gary Gilbert, or these basic and advanced ColdFusion tips on QuackIt.

    Why Use ColdFusion?

    Many developers prefer ColdFusion over Java because it's much quicker to bring their ideas to the web. Its close relationship with Flash, and ease of use with databases, has also helped it gain traction as a development tool.

    Note that there are two versions of ColdFusion used in hosting: Standard and Enterprise. Enterprise is the more expensive of the two, but it offers users better monitoring and security. Look for Enterprise wherever possible.

    System Requirements

    ColdFusion is supplied on web hosting plans across all service categories, from shared through to dedicated. However, it does pay to look for specialised hosting if you plan to develop extensively in ColdFusion. Realistically, a common ColdFusion application will need 2 GB of RAM or more, which means venturing into virtual private server (VPS) territory eventually.

    Specialised hosts will normally isolate ColdFusion and may not install other common applications and technologies, such as PHP. This helps to keep the servers speedy, since they're tasked with just one thing. Beware of any company that crams customers onto its servers, since ColdFusion needs adequate resources and can be slowed by over-use.

    Web hosts normally offer the most recent version of ColdFusion Enterprise, although they may be willing to deploy a different version if you ask.

    Many developers go on to get certified in ColdFusion in order to prove their abilities. Often, when shopping for web hosting, you'll find that some staff are ColdFusion certified too. This is a bonus if you're new to the platform.

    Security Features

    Also, look for Sandbox security, or Resource security. This feature lets you ring fence ColdFusion resources to prevent unauthorised access. You can apply the restrictions to:

    • Data sources
    • ColdFusion tags
    • ColdFusion functions
    • Files
    • Directories
    • Servers, including specific ports

    This feature isn't enabled by default, so check that your host will provide it once you've paid for your hosting plan.

ColdFusion Frequently Asked Questions

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