Most of the online business systems developed by Net4orce, and several of our more advanced websites, have involved some degree of integration with other systems. These range from sending CSV files to Sage through to the fully integrated continuous two way exchange of data.
When data is exchanged between two systems, the data held in each system is invariably incompatible with the other. We have developed bespoke data exchange applications for many such situations.
In many cases the data flow is either in one direction, or the tables, records and fields from which data is extracted differ from those that are updated, so there are no intrinsic updating conflicts. Situations in which the same data is updated concurrently by both systems are very rare.
We developed bespoke conversion / updating program for each of these applications. These automatically convert the backed up data and then update the SQL tables used by our online business system or website with that data.
This entire data exchange is handled via secure internet connections.
A large proportion of the systems with which we have interfaced our online business systems or websites to have been SQL based. In these cases, changes to the customer’s interfacing systems and SQL have been kept to a minimum. This has been achieved primarily by employing a normal regular scheduled backup service for the customer’s SQL tables. Matching SQL tables on one of our web servers are updated automatically with this backed up data, so that a complete mirror of the data is made available to our applications without interfering with the customer’s data.
Field Service Maintenance
One such installation is for the UK maintenance arm of the world's largest UPS manufacturer. This has been running continuously since 2007. Data is extracted from a SQL database on the customer’s in-house server is used to update a secure extranet system, which we developed to deliver online data to this customer’s customers. This data includes a document register for quotations and contract documents as well as field service reports, equipment diagnostic results, etc. Each of these ultimate customers has inpidual online access to data that is related solely to their own equipment. This extranet is updated regularly throughout every working day, so that the ultimate customers are provided with data in near real time, once is has been vetted for release.
Brick & Click
Another example is for a major London based sports and swimwear retail outlet, which extended its business from normal high street sales to included online sales, so called “brick & click”. The data taken from an in-house EPOS system, which is again SQL based. We adopted the same back up / conversion approach to update a website that we had developed for this customer with stock levels and other product data. The stock levels are updated every few minutes, and the other product data, available models, colours, sizes, etc., are updated daily. The website sales are returned to the EPOS system as they arise via a standard importing service on the EPOS system.
Accounting for Contractors
In another system, contractors and freelancers have access to their inpidual financial data online. Each of these clients has a secure website dedicated to them, and each these websites has a dedicated XML file containing the client’s accounts data. Management data for all of clients is held on an Access database on our customer’s in-house server.
Once again, this data is backed up automatically to one of our web servers. The backed up data is converted and each client’s XML files is updated automatically as required. On the output side of this system, the data is exported as a single XML file for each client and each XML file is then imported into IRIS. This exporting and importing, which is initiated manually by our customer, occurs on a quarterly basis, mainly to generate the quarterly accounts for each client.
Sage & Others
Integration with Sage Accounts has been a requirement of several systems. In earlier systems, this involved the manual importing of CSV files, which was superseded by Sage Connect, and more recently via Sage Zynk.
This background has led us into the development of bespoke interfacing systems for other applications. These systems are normally required to interface a third party website to either a warehousing system for order fulfilment or to standard systems, such as Sage ACT! for customer relations management.
Each of these systems is invariably incompatible with the other. Being standard systems, neither can be adapted to be compatible with the other, but both are normally capable of automatically exporting and importing data, each to their respective standards.
Some degree of manual intervention is also often required, for which we have to make provision in the interfacing system. This manual intervention is normally on an exception basis, such as when a customer in one system needs to be mapped to the same customer in the other system. Once the corresponding records have been mapped, the updating proceeds automatically.