Frequently Asked Questions - I.T. Consulting & Software Development

 If you don't find the answer to your query below, please send us an email.

  • We have a legacy SOP system that we're loathe to part with because its functionality in most areas is just what we need. How do we add a modern web-based interface to provide distributors and customers with access to key functionality?
    Optimise specialises in adding such interfaces. There are a number of ways to proceed, depending upon such things as your web access needs, target users, the software (and more importantly, database) that your current system is using and your current infrastructure. The web-based solution could either connect directly to your existing system or, more commonly, be an independent application with a bi-directional interface to your current system for the purpose of synchronising orders placed online with those placed via your current system.
    Please refer to our Web Development topics for further details.

  • How would you suggest converting our Oracle based application to Sql Server? (Due to a restructuring within our organisation, Oracle support is to be cancelled as part of a cost rationalisation strategy).
    We would obviously need to look at the application prior to fully answering your question. However, in general we would take the following approach:
    • We have tools that will automatically convert 90% (typically) or more of the Sql Server tables and views to the Oracle equivalents (or vice-versa).
    • We also have tools that will transfer most of the data automatically from one database to the other.
    • Conversion of the application software can be more difficult, depending on whether many Oracle-only features have been used and on how the application was originally engineered. We often create "wrapper classes" so that calls to Oracle routines are "redirected" to equivalent Sql Server routines. We would then analyse the routines that are heavily utilised and individually optimise those for better performance.

  • Our IT infrastructure is a mess. There is little consistency in the hardware or software used within our company, and people are not able to access or share resources that they require. Some areas have excellent broadband Internet access while other staff have no Internet access at all. What strategy would you adopt to sort things out?
    1. The starting point is to conduct an audit of your existing facilities (hardware, software & external services) on the one hand, and your requirements on the other. The requirements audit should also identify groups of users with similar needs and any constraints such as geographical location.
    2. Next you would assess the existing facilities, using a scale such as: satisfactory; needs enhancement; needs replacement; no longer required.
    3. The users' needs should be prioritised, so that the most urgent items can be addressed first.
    4. At this point it should be possible to propose a high-level infrastructure design, which would identify items such as LAN topology, user equipment (individual PC's, printers, scanners and any specialised hardware), major software needs and Internet gateways. The user equipment and software needs would be specified per each cluster of users rather than per individual user at this stage.
    5. Now the existing facilities should be compared to the high-level design in order to determine how big the gap is between the perceived needs and the current situation. This comparison should include broad range estimates of the likely cost for closing that gap.
    6. The high-level infrastructure design should be agreed to and signed off by the interested parties prior to proceeding.
    7. The gap should be compared against the budget and if necessary the "perceived needs" adjusted or else further investigation performed to try to identify cheaper solutions.
    8. Now, at last, it should be possible to start seriously researching the specific solutions that are likely to satisfy your perceived needs.

  • Our company was recently bought out by an international conglomerate. They're allowing us to continue to operate as a type of "independent franchise", however they insist that we change our branding to theirs and that we provide them with certain reports that our current system is unable to generate. Can you assist us?
    Certainly. We would prepare a project plan, the first stage of which would be to identify exactly what changes need to be made, so that you could identify those for which you require external assistance. We would then provide you with guidelines, including cost estimates, for making those changes. Because our expertise ranges across many different areas, we would probably be able to perform all of the changes ourselves. However, if necessary, we could coordinate with third party organisations to satisfy any specialised needs.

  • Can you talk to us in plain English? My business is involved with Manufacturing. I don't want to hear about ERM's, ERP's, B2B's, SOA, value added, best practice, coherent approaches, workflows or integrated processes!
    Oops! I guess we've all been guilty of using jargon at times. At Optimise we do endeavour to use language that is simple, straight-forward, lucid, meaningful and down to earth. If you find that we're breaking that rule, please let us know and we'll fix it immediately.

  • How can we create a network linking our three geographically dispersed branches?
    This should be relatively easy to achieve using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), but you need to ensure that you implement an adequate level of security. Once a VPN connection is established via the Internet from a computer, which could be located anywhere in the world (e.g. in one of your offices), to a remote location (such as another of your offices), that computer can access the network facilities at the remote location as though it were connected to the remote office's local LAN. The access speed would of course be much slower than access from the local LAN, due to being limited by the Internet connection speed at both ends of the connection.
     
    There are many different ways to restrict access to your VPN, for example:
    • Physical Location: simply specify that only known IP addresses (i.e. Internet locations) can access your VPN.
    • Authentication certificate: only computers that possess valid authentication certificates (certificates similar to those used by SSL secured web sites) may access your VPN.
    • USB security token: also known as "dongles". Each of these tiny devices uniquely identifies a particular user. When the device is connected into a computer's USB port, a VPN connection can be established from that computer to your VPN. Without it, no VPN connection can be made.