VISUAL NEWSLETTER – JUL 2004           

 


LIBRA & REMOTE ACCESS

 

Many clients often operate their Libra Software from remote locations. In some cases this is accomplished by copying Libra to a notebook computer or CD-ROM to transfer it to the remote site. If you are the only user of a particular database or you are merely experimenting with reporting options and such, this may be practical. If you want to merge data entered from another site with your active central database back at the office this becomes more difficult however.

 

Occasionally users need access from home to information stored on the central server. More frequently, remote offices need similar forms of access to link or consolidate information. In the past Mini & Mainframe computers were designed to be used in conjunction with expensive leased lines to accomplish this goal. With the advent of the Personal Computer this technological link needed to be re-established. In the DOS days this was accomplished by products such as Carbon Copy. Under Windows, Pc-Anywhere is the most commonly used product of its sort.

 

Pc-Anywhere is a $200 communications product that allows users to connect to computers at the office via conventional phone lines or the Internet. It provides a relatively simple and inexpensive remote access. Its primary limitations are speed and instability over phone lines. Both improve substantially with high speed internet access.

 

The instability of such products led many companies to establish distributed models with their remote branches. In this case each branch office would have its own Network and Accounting Software Databases which were separate from the head office. At regular intervals, at least once a month, data would be transferred electronically or physically via diskettes, CD’s or tapes to the head office to be merged with the central databases.

 

CITRIX / TERMINAL SERVICES

 

In recent years products like Citrix and Terminal Services have emerged to fill the gap left when companies migrated to the Personal Computer. Similar in operation to Pc-Anywhere, they are faster and more stable. We have several clients using these technologies to connect their Libra users.

 

This stability and speed allows the centralized accounting model to become more viable. Its main drawback is its relatively high cost. Server licenses often cost several thousand dollars. Citrix runs on Windows 2000/2003 server platforms.  This in turn would connect to other servers that actually house and run the centralized application. The speed of the server required depends on the number of concurrent connections that you need.

 

What makes this model desirable is the centralization of high-end computer hardware and technical support. A company’s processing system can be upgraded from a single location. Experienced technical personal can monitor and correct technical difficulties more quickly. All databases can be monitored, consolidated and backed up regularly and that is highly desirable.

 

This can also reduce software-licensing costs in some cases as the software is only installed at one site with fewer concurrent users at any one time. Several new companies have recently cropped up to offer this sort of internet access to software. In this environment you would dial in to their site to run the software and pay a software rental fee.

 

The main drawback to the centralized approach is that your eggs are effectively in one basket. If the server goes down it goes down for the whole company. High quality servers with redundant components can offset this. Battery Backup/Surge protection is very important in these environments.