Thursday, April 19, 2012

Should I attend a halFILE Training Class?

Have you wondered if attending a halFILE Training Class, or even HUG, would be beneficial for you or someone in your office? You may be a longtime halFILE user and feel comfortable using the system just like you have been since it was installed. But what if there was one thing you learned in a training class, or during HUG, that could eliminate steps from a daily process, or eliminate a task altogether? Would that make a halFILE Training Class or the HUG Conference worth your valuable time?

We taught an experienced halFILE user (using halFILE for over 10 years) a new trick in our April Training Class - Local Autofill. Local Autofill facilitates indexing on any index field that is consistent, or increments by 1 or number of pages. You can use it when indexing multiple documents with the same clerk file number, volume or page incrementing, saving you from having to manually key those fields, and helping to avoid mistakes that can happen with repetitive entries.

We are constantly enhancing halFILE based on user suggestions and requests, and industry changes. If it has been a while since your system was installed, you should think about signing up for a training class or attending HUG, or both! You never know what you might learn.

Our next halFILE Training Class is scheduled for July 12-13 in our Dallas office. If you are interested in attending and need more information, or would like to sign up for the class, send me a note at kduncan@halfile.com or give me a call at 214.466.6532. We'd love the opportunity to give you a refresher class on halFILE, and hopefully teach you a few new tricks along the way!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peventing Disasters - An Import Lesson

With the development of larger, faster, cheaper and more convenient drives, it seems that tape backup systems are becoming a thing of the past. At least, that is what we are seeing out in the field. Many of you are now using inexpensive removable USB drives to back up their halFILE images and data. Considering that halFILE is probably one of your core production systems, I feel compelled to discuss how these back up strategies are being deployed and the dangerous pitfalls I've noticed. At the end of this article, I will also discuss the lengths to which we go to backup our core production systems: Countyrecords.com, halFILE Saas, and the halFILE Backup Service.

DANGEROUS PITFALL #1: "I got everything backed up right here on this USB drive"

First of all, USB drives will fail. I have a pretty blue and really dead Seagate 320GB drive right here on my desk right now. I had two others die in the same week. That is not a major issue, of course, since it is not likely that your backup USB drive fails at the same time your server drive kicks the bucket. A bigger problem is that the USB backup drive is never taken off-site. One fire and its all gone.



DANGEROUS PITFALL #2: "I think everything is backed up but I've never checked"

Unfortunately, we've seen this first hand with some clients - both with tape backup systems and USB backup drives. The have a drive crash and get ready to retrieve their valuable data from backup and nothing is there! The good thing is that it is a lot easier to check to see if your files are on your USB drive because you can plug it in and look at it, just like any other drive. And you should do this regularly!

DANGEROUS PITFALL #3: "I only have one USB drive but it's big enough to hold everything"

Back when we set up tape backup systems, we gave the client a series of tapes and told them "Put this one in every Monday, this one every Tuesday... etc. and put this one in on the 1st Friday, this one on the 2nd Friday etc.". We ended up using about 12 tapes to accomplish this rotation method. I have yet to see USB drives deployed this way. At the very least it is prudent to rotate two USB backup drives.

Here's the deal. Maybe you don't have a disk crash but your disaster is that someone deleted a folder that contained 10,000 images. But nobody notices for a couple of days. In the meantime, your backup system rewrote the images to your USB drive. Maybe the 10,000 images are now lost, maybe not. If you rotate your USB drives, you can at least go back a week or two to find something before it was deleted or changed when it shouldn't have been.

hal Systems Disaster Prevention

Here at hal, we probably go overboard with backup procedures for Countyrecords.com, halFILE Saas (where we host your halFILE System) and the halFILE Backup Service. However, Countyrecords.com is a very important part of our revenue stream while halFILE SaaS and the halFILE Backup Service are client files which must be protected at all costs.

So here's how we do it:

1. In our Austin Data Center, we have USB drives that perform image and data backup for the many, many Terabytes of storage we have. These are rotated off-site each day. We also have a fire proof safe for drives that remain in the office and a high-tech air conditioning in a closed computer room to keep our servers healthy.

2. We perform database backups that run each evening, alternating to two different drive locations.

3. We synchronize our data center with our Dallas data center. This is a continuous process.

4. We are currently implementing a new array of drives to add into our backup mix. This will become our first recovery point with the USB drives becoming a secondary point.

Remember, the halFILE Backup Service is a cost-effective back up system available to you for backing up your halFILE system off-site and automatically, monitored by us. Has it ever saved one of our Back Up Service clients? Yes, it has. On more than on occasion.

Enough said. Backup!

Happy Birthday, hal!!

Great employees + great products + wonderful customers = 38 years. Yes today, April 12th, is hal System's 38th birthday. Thank you everyone!!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Update on halFILE 4.0

Hopefully by now everyone knows the release of halFILE 4.0 is on the horizon. We are very excited about the release and appear to be on schedule for release in June 2012. We continue to work closely with our Beta Testers to resolve as many issues as possible before the final release.

The initial Beta release did not include support for Kofax (the optional free viewer) viewing or scanning. We have released and are currently testing the Kofax viewer so that those of you that wish to continue to use the Kofax viewer will be able to. We are currently in the process of converting the Kofax scan module so that will be available as well.

The huge number of rows that the new system can return when searching continues to be one of the favorite things reported by end users. From an administrative perspective it’s going to be great to have a single Crystal Reports version and installation so no more hunting down that Crystal cd for us.

So you might be wondering what you can do to prepare for the release of halFILE 4.0. We are currently in the process of updating our website and soon there will be a number of workstation pre-requisites available at http://update.halfile.com. These include .NET 4.0 and the Crystal workstation components. .NET 4.0 can take quite some time to install so we are hoping to make the pre-requisites available to you so you can prepare your workstations for the new version. We hope to include a program that will run on any workstation currently running halFILE 3.0 and will report what items you may still need to install. Hopefully the web-site will be simple and easy to use.

Reminder – your halFILE 4.0 upgrade will be available to you at no charge as long as you are a customer currently on maintenance. We are excited about this release and will keep you posted as the release date approaches!!!