Sage running slow
Atomik.biz did a project for a tool warehouse selling power and hand tools to trade users. They have ten users all using Sage line 50 to control stock and handle sales and invoicing as well as accounts. Despite having a modern server network with up to date PC’s, the performance of some aspects of Sage Line 50 has been unsatisfactory. Invoicing and reports runs slowly and effects efficiency and their ability to service customers. They have a large number of clients and handle a large number of transactions. Sage support says the software is working correctly and the machines are within the required specification and just blames the network. The company was faced with several alternatives. Putting up with poor performance was not an option. Upgrading all the workstations to more powerful ones would have helped but with ten workstations would have been expensive and might not have been entirely successful. The solution Atomik.biz proposed was to run Sage Line 50 on a terminal server. It was configured so that Sage Line 50 appeared to users as if it was running on their own PC. The cost of the hardware, software and services was much less than replacing all the existing PC’s and the performance improvement much greater. A terminal server is a dedicated server which runs applications. The user’s PC connects to it using a very efficient interface that handles mouse, keyboard and screen input/output to make it appear to be running on the local computer. Terminal services are typically used to allow remote users to run bandwidth-hungry applications remotely. There are other benefits to control and security as well as allowing older computers to run modern programs. Atomik.biz used this technology to solve a mission-critical problem.
We were asked to install the communications for a small chain of coffee shops. The requirement was for a wireless network to be used by customers and for the internal systems. The internal systems consist of iPads running iZettle tills and ticket printers. The solution was to install a dual Internet port router which connects to two VDSL connections and has two wireless access points to give good wireless coverage. In the event of one of the Internet connections failing all traffic would use the other link.
The router also manages the access points so that all settings are consistent and also provide logging to ensure the system works well over time. In the event of one access point failing the other can handle all wireless connections. It was essential customers on the wireless could not access the business systems.
The customer and internal systems are separated using virtual LANs (VLAN) which uses the same hardware to keep costs down but appears to be completely separate.
The resulting system is resilient, secure and cost-effective. The only way we would have liked to improve it was to have the two Internet connections from different suppliers, but unfortunately, the customer had ordered them both from one supplier before engaging Atomik.biz.
4G Fault tolerant Internet
During a site audit of a new client, we found their broadband was only giving about 2mbps download speed and had some reliability issues. Investigation showed that VDSL was unavailable and that the speed was due to the distance from the exchange and 2mbps was the best available. We also found that 4G coverage was excellent as there was a mast nearby. Our solution was to replace their router with a ADSL/VDSL/4G router. This was set up to use the ADSL line for non-interactive traffic like online backups and low priory traffic and to use the 4G for interactive traffic like web browsing. In the event of either connection being offline, the router was configured to fail over to the other link. This gave the best of both worlds as the 4G was fast but was on a limited bandwidth contract, and the ADSL was slow but unlimited. Over time we have adjusted the load balancing rules to get the best use out of the available bandwidth. The system could be improved even further by adding an external antenna. The main problem with doing this apart from having to drill a hole in the building is that the wires to the antennae can only be 5 meters long due to losses in the cable and any additional connectors.
In the summer we received a call from a company saying they had been given our name by a local printing company. Their server had failed after a power cut caused by their electric forklift truck and would not boot, They had already asked someone to look at it, but in their attempts to recover data they had installed Windows on one of the disks containing the data, destroying some of what they were trying to recover. The server was a modern HP Proliant server with hardware RAID. They previously had an IT company who had provided various support and set up backups to an external USB drive. After the disaster, they found out that the backups had not been working.
The data they most needed was from Sage accounts and ACT contact management. We were able to recover thousands of files from the damaged disks. Unfortunately both Sage and Act are very difficult if not impossible to recover even if you have many of the files, so we were unable to get those databases back online. However, we did retrieve large numbers of other data. We were ultimately able to recover much of the Sage and Act data from different versions of the data on other computers.
We did a complete audit of the network and found numerous problems. They had networking issues with printers, files not stored on the server, out of date antivirus software, workstations in need of major updates. They did not have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) which would have saved them from disaster in the first place. Network security was weak, and their email used a POP-based system despite having a Microsoft Small Business Server which includes Exchange. There were also problems with their domain hosts. Users complained about things not working or being very slow.
Atomik.biz did extensive work to bring the network up to a good standard. We rebuilt the server from scratch. Memory was upgraded, a UPS installed. All the machines were updated and had effective antivirus installed. We recovered most of their data, setup automatic Internet backups, got control of their domain, set up SMTP email and fixed a multitude of networking problems.
Today they have a well documented and fully functional system which we manage remotely
We often say don’t tell us what you need, tell us what your business problems are. An excellent example of this is a solution we provided for a London based driving school.
The business consisted of the owner who was actively teaching and several other instructors. Individual instructors manage appointments with current students, and new clients typically came in through the office. There were several problems with this; the office could not discuss availability with instructors who could not answer their phones while teaching and the company were aware that some of the instructors were teaching some students privately.
Our solution was simple but effective. We set up a company email and shared calendar system with each instructor having a company email and calendar on their phone. The instructors share their schedules with the office, so all instructor calendars are visible on a single screen on the office computer.
Transparency enabled the office to see the availability of instructors in real time which solved both problems.
We were asked by a long-term charity customer to move their IT infrastructure to a new office. This was the ideal opportunity to fix some of the problems that existed in the old system that they did not want to spend money on. People usually think that making things better will always cost money, but not in this case. They had a video conferencing system which used 4 ISDN 2e lines which were costly regarding line rental as well as call charges. Reinstalling 4 ISDN 2e lines would involve paying install charges at the new site. The solution was to install a second broadband line and an enterprise-class router and route the video conference traffic through the Internet. There were many benefits to this new design. Firstly we saved the cost of installing new lines and were able to dispense with all the extra cabling and several devices. The second line gave fault tolerance for other Internet traffic. Last and not least the video conferencing worked better over the new system than the old. In summary, it was better in every way and saved £1706 annually not including the call costs or the install costs.
Technica Systems is one of our longest standing customers, so we have completed many projects for them in addition to giving day to day support.
One unusual project we did for them was the remote control of irrigation for a roof garden in Malta.
We always say to our customers, tell us your problem, and we will come up with a solution. The problem was being able to monitor the plants and water them when necessary. Technica Systems is a security company so was happy to provide a camera and a network-enabled Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
There was already an Internet connection there which is used for remote working. We researched suitable devices and found a web relay that was programmable and could be controlled from a web browser. This was connected to switch a mains powered water pump which watered the plants. The pump had a flow switch to cut off the power if there was no water. The switch was programmed for the application, and as well as being able to turn the water on and off manually it was able to turn it on for a fixed period. The camera was able to view the garden remotely as well as being movable to monitor a wide area.
This project was very unusual, but we solved a real problem for our customer. Atomik.biz is happy to take on projects that most companies would not be prepared to undertake.
We received a request from Wood Street Clinic to install an Exchange server to provide email services. When we discussed the requirement, we found that they wanted this for a small number of users. They wanted to be able to use email to smartphones, have web access and to be able to share calendars with an admin person managing the schedules of consultants.
Push email is where a smart device maintains a link with a server over the Internet and changes to either the phone data or Outlook data are synchronised in real time and in both directions. This means never having to backup phone data, never having to enter data again on a PC and never having to dock the phone to synchronise. This is especially useful where an assistant manages the diaries of one or more mobile users.
Installing a server dedicated to so small a group was not cost effective so we recommended hosting this service on our email servers. We set up several domains to use our server and helped Wood Street set up various Outlook clients and smartphones to use the service.
This type of service would be ideal for groups of mobile users who have a central booking system, for example, a driving school who takes bookings both centrally and with the instructors. If the office makes a reservation they can see in real time when the instructors are free and can see if the instructor takes a booking. This system can also provide email, and the data is backed up at the server, so the phones don’t need to be backed up.
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