How long does it take?

That depends on the complexity of your needs. We should be able to get a draft for you in anything between 30 minutes and, for a really complex project, a couple of days. Completing the project might then take anything from a few days to some months, depending again on complexity.

What does it cost?

Our bespoke systems can cost from £2,000-£100,000 depending on complexity and you can use the application for as many users on one site as you like. Systems like SuiteMaker and Transport Manager are priced per user.

Do I need to replace my computers?

Usually not. We try hard to minimise the impact of our systems on customers, and part of that is to make the software run quickly. You will rarely have a problem if your computers are standard Windows PC's under 4 years old, on 'Fast Ethernet' (100mbits/s), and your server is under 4 years old. We will need to install an SQL database engine. Small sites can use Microsoft SQLServer Express (free), but anything larger will need to pay for a database engine server.

How can I reduce the risks?

We will provide you with a draft to review, so that you can see we have got the core ideas right. After this, the rest of the development is usually made up with multiple small pieces (eg a complex report, or an extra button on a form). Any issues with these small pieces can usually be resolved quickly. Start with a thorough review of the draft, continue to look at the developments as you receive them, and thoroughly check the application when we declare it to be complete.

Can I have an application with...

Probably! If it can be done, we can probably do it, but we need to know more before we can tell you about either timescales or costs.

What are your payment terms?

If you are paying cash, our terms are 30% on agreeing the contract, 30% on delivery of a version that is notionally complete, and 40% when the system is running properly.

What other payment arrangements can you offer?

We are able to offer terms based on cash, Finance, or usage, depending on the software and the client.

What guarantee do you offer?

Software doesn't tend to wear out, so there are very few faults that should appear later that were not there when it was delivered. So, part of the acceptance process should be to check that the software does what you want, that everything works properly. We won't consider the project to be complete until it is apparently bug free. Once it is complete, you have a 3 month guarantee period in which any further bugs found will be resolved.

Can you provide references?

Certainly.


Good Practice covers a range of topics.

Information Security

Database Information Security is really about confidentiality, integrity, availability, and authenticity. This means making sure that your data is only exposed to authorised persons, making sure that it's not been tampered with, making sure that you can reliably access the data, and that the data has not been tempered with. Getting all of these consistently right is not easy, especially when third parties are determined to exploit or damage you.

Hardware Security

Your PC's need to be protected from all the usual hazards- theft, fire, flood, voltage spikes. You also need to protect them from being physically accessed by unauthorised personnel as it is easy for them to install very small "key loggers" that record your passwords and anything you type into the PC. Once they have done this, it is unlikely to take long to access your data.

Your server is even more vulnerable than desktop PC's in that it is more valuable and contains all your data. Take even greater care to protect it (or them).

Data Islands

Every company with multiple computers risks finding that members of staff are storing work-related data in their own folders. It might be that one person is keeping a spreadsheet of product measurements (eg diameters), and that another keeps a log of product failures and complaints. Both might be working well, but it is very difficult to find how one set of data ties into the other, for example, larger diameters might be less reliable. Eliminating data islands is important.

Application Software

Your software must meet the needs of your business. There are so many companies using inappropriate or poor quality software. Do someone need to copy data and format it in Excel to get the information you need? How much does that cost- and if they are unavailable, does anyone else know how to do it?

Call us now on 0115-840-5500 to discuss solving your problems quickly & effectively.


The most important thing to know about IT security is that the only sure-fire way to avoid being attacked is to leave your computer off and in the box it was delivered in!

Usually, however, this is impossible, so we suggest that there are three main areas to get right- people, software and hardware.

People

People are your biggest security risk, either intentionally or not. The theory is easy, but achieving compliance is somewhat harder!

The very first thing to do is to develop and implement a secure password policy. You can get really good passwords from GRC.com, or you can take the XKCD approach and use four random words. (Think of your own or use this generator). So many accounts are taken over because people use weak passwords or share passwords between different accounts.

Another major hazard is "phishing", where you and your staff are sent emails claiming to be from your bank, ebay, paypal, or some other trusted source, asking you to go to their site to enter your login details. There are even "spear-phishing" emails which are highly targetted to the intended recipient. Don't go to web sites using the details on emails you receive- they could easily be deceptive. Type the web address (URL) yourself.

Ensure that you and your staff stay clear of dodgy internet sites, such as those offering pornography, pirated software and screensavers. They often try to attack your computer as you visit, and it is even possible to become infected by just viewing the site. You can use Domain Name Service (DNS) filters such as OpenDNS to reduce your risk.

Software

Make sure that you are running the latest versions of all the software you use. Out-of-date versions expose you to risks, so take care that you fully update your system regularly. Make sure you are running either Linux or a current version of Windows as these are updated when vulnerabilities are found.

You should make sure that your computer has it's own firewall turned on. Being behind a hardware firewall is not enough as another computer could get infected by other means and then infect your computer.

Hardware

There are a few things you can do with hardware to improve your security. The easiest is to ensure that you are sitting behind a hardware firewall so that you are protected from the blizzard of hacking attempts you'll receive over the internet. Make sure it's properly configured, especially if you have unusual needs. If in doubt, get a professional to help you.

Make sure that only authorised people have access to your computers. Not only does this prevent theft of the computers, but it also prevents people using keyloggers to get your passwords.

 

The risks are real and substantial. You need your response to be proportionate- take care but don't be excessive either. It's like protecting your home- you need door and window locks, but it's probably not worth putting landmines in the lawn and armed guards on the roof! So, ensure that you take care suitable to the risk you carry.

 

Please call us on 0115 840 5500 to arrange a consultation


Software is nothing more than a series of instructions. There are thus two ways to make the instructions run faster:

  • Faster hardware, whether it's a faster CPU, more memory, solid-state disks, or a faster network, or
  • Faster software.

If you're reading this, you've probably already bought better hardware and found it just isn't enough, so let's talk about what can be done with software.

The most obvious thing to do with software is to look at where the time is spent using the current software, and to make this run faster. This can usually produce 50% improvements in throughput per second, and, if one is obsessive, perhaps up to 3x improvement in performance by using every possible optimisation.

However, if you really want to speed up, you will usually need to tackle the problem in a completely different way. Let's see some examples to illustrate the point.

a. Finding a phone number.

It should take a person under a minute to find a phone number using a phonebook and a name and address. Suppose that the task was reversed and they needed to find the name and address from the phone number- it would obviously take days. Sometimes, computer programs are written in a similar way and the best approach is to do something radical, such as store the data in a different order, or to build an index to allow you to find it.

b. Sorting data.

if you have a list of information (eg names), there are lots of ways to sort the data. One way is called a "bubble sort", where the computer looks through the list, moving the largest item to the end of the list. If there are 'n' items in the list, going through the list once will require 'n-1' comparisons and typically (n-1)/2 swaps... but this will only move 1 item. To fully sort a list of n items will require going through the list (n-1) times, so it will take n(n-1) comparisons to be sure the list is fully sorted. (You can reduce this by half with a bit of logic). So, sorting a list of a million items would require a million million comparisons, which would be slow!

Alternatively, there is an approach called "QuickSort" that is based on sorting a big list into two halves, then sub-sorting the halves. This would sort a million items in just 20 million comparisons, which is 50,000 times faster than using bubble sort.

Why does software need this kind of help? Usually because it was written and tested using small volumes of data. For example, to look through a list of 10 names for a match would take up to 10 checks. But if you have a million names, not only would each search take longer but it is highly likely that lots of people would be doing the same thing at the same time, making the whole process run very slowly indeed.

So, is your software slow? Are you unable to work efficiently because you keep waiting for your software? Call us on 0115-840-5500 to see how we can help you.


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