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Databases 101

March 12th, 2013

With the constant development of database technology, it is important to understand the logic and language of these advancements.  Many experts agree that database development could be one of the most advancing areas of business technologies today.  In the simplest form, a database is the storage of data.  Database software is what drives the technology by computing data.  Whether it is a webpage, a car, or even a sprinkler system, if it has an electronic interface the technology involved is based from computing data.  Understanding database technology and terminology can help you to take advantage of these emerging areas.  You will be able to communicate more effectively and make the most of database technologies.

There is a variety of database software such as FileMaker, Microsoft Access, or in its simplest form Microsoft excel.  A database is created from a list of Fields (columns), Records (rows), and Tables (worksheets) which make up a single file.  A field is a single piece of information; a record is one complete set of fields; and a file is a collection of records.  Database technology is really that simple, three main components.  Yet the logic used to access and perform activities with this data is what makes it complex.

Components of a Database Defined:

Database Software – A programmable tool designed to store, access, and sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations

Database – A collection of data organized for rapid search, retrieval, and updating

Database File – A block of information related to computer storage

Database Table – A set of data elements that is organized by using a vertical column and horizontal row model.  This model uses columns as field names such as name in column 1 and phone number in column 2; it uses rows to track records such as John Smith in Row 1 and Mary Smith in Row 2.

Database Language – SQL (Structured Query Language) – Based on Calculus and Algebraic logic provides a common database language to today’s data management tools

Relational Database – The use of common characteristics or objects found in multiple data sets to link them together, based on mathematical terms attributed to Edward Cob at IBM in 1970 for example variable x in table one = variable x in table two.

Syntax – Common forms, behaviors, and principles for constructing universally used computer language systems

Open Source – Public or free computer code which can be further developed by any end user (similar to Wikipedia)

Data Redundancy – Repeating or duplication of data or fields in multiple locations (tables)

Data Normalization – The process of organizing data into small groups or modules with well defined common relationships eliminating anomalies and potential corruption

If you’re confused, don’t worry that was a crash course.  Hopefully you gathered that a good majority of our database technology is built on old fashioned arithmetic.  However much like calculus and algebra not everyone understands theories, formulas, and logic the same.  With many databases this can be the difference between an effective use of technology and a misunderstood tool.  A database is only as effective as the architect and developer who design it.  Having the end user and daily work flow in mind will help translate advanced logic into simple terms.  In addition, creating an intuitive interface which the user has a good experience viewing, searching for, and updating data is crucial in utilizing a database and its successful implementation.

Using a database with your business could be mission critical to its success, regardless of the industry, company size or internal growth cycle.  Each department has valuable data it works with and without a centralized source for it to be tracked it will get lost, forgotten, or never passed as a shared resource. A database will provide accountability and a quantifiable way to review results.  Many databases are advanced enough to automate simple tasks like sending emails or alerting customers on account related activities.  It is also worth mentioning that a database will provide an insurance policy in the form of backing up and securing your information as well.  A good database will improve overall efficiency, individual operations, and offer reliable accurate information for strategic decision making.

Tired of Salesforce as your CRM?

March 8th, 2013

A reliable and easy-to-use customer relationship management program is critical to the success of any organization, and many companies implemented Salesforce as their CRM initially because they were told that it was the best program available at the time. Many companies are now discovering how complicated, costly, and user-unfriendly the Salesforce program can be, and are beginning to seek out alternative solutions.

One of the most important aspects of a CRM program is its ease of use. Some smaller companies have found that navigating through the Salesforce interface is confusing and can be frustrating at times. They have also found that it often takes many clicks of the mouse to complete a simple task. If menus are difficult to navigate and a system contains many features that don’t apply to most companies, it can become too overwhelming for a company to use effectively.

Another complaint that many users have had about the Salesforce program is the lack of support for the users. Salesforce users have reported lack of help when dealing with program issues as well as forced upgrades to a more expensive version of the CRM platform. Salesforce offers customers access to online training, but offers little in the way of one-on-one  technical support by phone. Users have also had to work through various outages and Salesforce doesn’t offer their customers a guarantee. Productive Computing offers full support for our customers. Each user has access to live support online as well as a technical contact that is assigned to you, gets to know your needs, can offer suggestions, and help you resolve any issues you have with the interface quickly and easily. They are available by phone when you need someone to talk you through an issue.

Productive Computing CRM software allows users to define tasks, roles, and projects. Users can assign tasks to groups or individuals and track time for each project in a way that can be used for client invoicing or internal reporting. Menus are easy to navigate and provide users with all the information they need. Salesforce software lacks these rules for time-based workflow. An employee has to manually click a button for a sales lead, event, or task in order to move it to the next stage. It’s easy for a potential client to be overlooked because an employee forgot to click a button. This can lead to frustrated customers and a decreased return in sales.

Storing your data is one of the most important aspects of a good CRM program. The Salesforce software encourages users to store all the data associated with the CRM on their platform, but their storage limit is rather low and they charge large storage fees to customers who don’t upgrade to a higher version of the program. Salesforce charges a storage fee for each user, regardless of the number of users from your company. Productive Computing offers users the option to run their CRM program and store the associated data on their own server, purchase their cloud-based data storage subscription service, or host the data on our servers. This gives you the options you need to store your data. PCI’s data storage fee includes 5 users for a personal subscription and ten users for a business subscription.

One of the best features of our CRM software is that we don’t require you to make changes to run the software. Our technicians specialize in creating customized CRM solutions to fit your workflow and specific processes. We understand that standardized, out-of-the-box software is not the best option for every company, and our solutions are usually developed in less than half of the cost and time of other methods like SQL, Oracle, Visual Basic, and others. If you and your employees find yourselves wasting time locating the information you need or bypassing features that you never use, a customized program can provide a better solution for your company. Choose a software that can change and grow as your business grows, streamlining your processes as you develop and rework them, and help you find ways to increase your productivity and return at every step.

5 Signs You Need a CRM Solution

February 23rd, 2013

Streamlining business operations through automation is a smart move for businesses of all sizes. Business automation has been proven to produce a number of benefits for all different types of businesses:

– More efficient use of employee time
– Better customer service, satisfaction, and retention
– The need for fewer employees, or the ability to manage more clients/customers
– More office space because automation eliminates the need for paper record keeping
– Eliminates time spent on double data entry
– Eliminates duplicate invoices and payments, as well as late invoice payments
– Decreased marketing costs
– Increased revenues

Business automation is done through a software management system, and CRM software—customer relationship management software—is specifically designed to achieve the above goals by streamlining internal and external communications among a business’s employees and between employees and their customers/clients.

There are a lot of customer relationship management software systems available, and there are also a lot of different types of businesses and business models out there, ranging from sales-force based corporations to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. All types of businesses can benefit from adopting a CRM approach to business, because all businesses rely on customers/clients in order to produce revenues.

With hundreds of different types of CRM software and thousands of different types of businesses out there, how do you match your unique business to the right CRM software package?

The answer: you don’t.

CRM software developers like Productive Computing specialize in creating custom software automation systems—based on the CRM business model of using technology to streamline and improve customer relationships and communications—that are tailored to your business’s individual needs and challenges. And one of the best things about custom-designed software is that it can continue to be modified as your business changes, to best suit its current needs.

How do you know if your business is ready for CRM software and business automation?

There are a number of signs that a business will benefit from adopting the CRM software model as their business management system, but one surefire clue is when your current use of technology is hurting your company more than it’s helping it.

For example, mobile devices can really enhance a business’s internal organization and its communications with clients/customers, but these mobile devices can start to cost a company valuable money in the form of time when they create the need for double data entry because they don’t automatically communicate with the rest of the company’s operating systems.

The answer isn’t to switch your entire office over to Mac OS so your iPads automatically update shared computer applications back at the office. A more practical and feasible answer is to install software that uses a customizable automation system like FileMaker Pro to streamline all operating systems and applications into one system that’s customized specifically to your business and operations.

If your business is experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms, your operations will benefit from adopting a CRM business software solution.

Your employees are spending time on double data entry, or you are wasting time trying to find information located in multiple applications such as Word, Excel, Outlook, iCal, or QuickBooks.

Using a custom designed CRM software solution means that all computer and device applications, regardless of the operating system they’re running on, filter into a single user-friendly interface with streamlined communication that’s easy for both technology-savvy and technology-challenged employees to use.

Your current software management system is difficult to use, confusing to new employees, and/or has multiple features that you never use, possibly because you don’t understand how to use them.

A system that isn’t user-friendly is costing your business money in the form of wasted time. A system with features you don’t use, regardless of whether you understand how to use them or not, isn’t right for your business because it’s not tailored to its unique needs.

Your current CRM software solution isn’t meeting your company’s needs.

If your current management software isn’t streamlining your business the way you hoped it would, you need a customized solution. A CRM software developer can often modify and customize your existing system so your company doesn’t have to start over with a whole new management system.

Your current automation system, CRM or otherwise, can’t be modified to fit changes within your company, or the software is outdated and no longer supported by the developer.

One-size-fits-all business management software solutions aren’t really solutions at all. A custom-designed software and database system always works for your company because it can be modified when it’s no longer getting the job done to its fullest potential.

Your business isn’t operating on an automated system.

Automating your business management system, company operations, and customer/client communications saves time, helps employees function at a higher capacity, and improves client/customer relations, satisfaction, and retention, all of which lead to increased sales and higher revenues.

PCI Expands FileMaker Pro Hosting Services

February 21st, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

San Diego, CA – February 21, 2013 – Productive Computing, Inc., a Platinum member of the FileMaker Business Alliance, today announced the opening of a new FileMaker® Pro hosting data center to service customers east of the Mississippi river.

“For hosted databases, distance from the end user to the server is a critical variable in database performance. Since we strive to have the best possible performance, we are constantly looking for ways to provide a better user experience for our customers. Expanding our infrastructure by adding a new data center is another example of our commitment to our customers and will greatly increase our ability to satisfy users on the eastern side of the United States.” —Marc Larochelle, CEO, Productive Computing, Inc.

FileMaker Pro hosting services allow customers to host FileMaker databases or solutions on Productive Computing servers in the cloud. All the necessary server infrastructure and software is maintained by PCI and kept up-to-date for optimum performance.

FileMaker Hosting Differences You Can Count On:
While there are many choices out there for hosting a FileMaker Pro Database, keeping things focused and simple to efficiently accomplish your hosting needs is our philosophy. Here are some things that make Productive Computing, Inc.’s FileMaker Pro Database Hosting service different:

1.  We are a large FileMaker Platinum development firm with an expansive and expert knowledge of all things FileMaker (not just a hosting company who may or may not know how FileMaker works under the hood).

2.  We have dedicated servers with SSD drives (nothing virtual, nothing outdated) and as a result have read/written times faster than just about any traditional hard drives.

3.  We don’t overload our servers with too many files or customers and we always use the latest version of FileMaker server and OS security patches after we have tested them.

4.  We perform local backups, twice daily backups to a physical attached drive, and to the cloud. That gives us 3 points of redundancy for disaster recovery and up to 30 days of data as well as weekly and monthly snapshots.

5.  We provide a weekly DropBox backup (more often if needed) for those customers who want the peace of mind to know their data is at their fingertips. No cumbersome FTP programs to use to get at your data should you need it.

6.  We provide direct FileMaker Server Admin console access for users on FileMaker 12 where they can close and open files, download files, etc. We can provide direct access to FileMaker 11 Server Admin as well for developers who request it.

7.  For developers who are thinking of referring their customers to us, we treat your customers as if they were our customers in the event they work with us.

8.  We provide a unique Instant Web Publishing (IWP) scenario that will auto redirect IWP users to a web page of your choosing upon IWP time out or IWP log out. We developed this technology here in-house and it’s truly one of a kind.

9.  Distance from the server to the client is a big factor which is why we are continuing to invest in our infrastructure by putting servers in all corners of the country.

Watch the video below for information on FileMaker Database Hosting benefits:
YouTube Preview Image

Various FileMaker hosting server locations also provide a foundation for Software as a Service (SaaS) product subscriptions. Products including Core4 CRM, Core3 CRM, Core2 CRM, FM Work Orders, and Music Director Pro are available to customers for a monthly fee under SaaS.

Sign up for a FREE 30 day trial of FileMaker Database hosting or SaaS today!

 

About Productive Computing, Inc.
Since 1996, Productive Computing, Inc. has been helping its customers become more efficient and profitable by implementing custom software solutions using FileMaker Pro. Utilizing FileMaker Pro as a rapid application development tool, their certified FileMaker developers can create custom applications that a business can run on their Windows or Macintosh desktop computers, in a web browser, on an iPad or iPhone or shared simultaneously on all of these platforms.

Productive Computing, Inc. also produces several off-the-shelf productivity solutions such as Core4 CRM, Core3 CRM, Core2 CRM, Core2 Invoices, Music Director Pro, FM Work Orders, OrgPlanner and IT Asset Manager as well as a suite of FileMaker Pro plug-ins that allow FileMaker Pro to integrate with third party applications including Outlook, QuickBooks, Apple’s Address Book and iCal, PDF forms, credit card processing, digital signatures and biometric fingerprint scanners.

In addition to building custom and off-the-shelf FileMaker Pro solutions and plug-ins, Productive Computing, Inc. is a full service FileMaker Pro hosting company. FileMaker hosting services allow customers to host their own FileMaker Pro solutions on Productive Computing servers in the cloud instead of purchasing and supporting the necessary server infrastructure themselves. These same servers also provide the infrastructure for customers who would prefer to subscribe to Productive Computing’s Core4 CRM, Core3 CRM, Core2 CRM, and FM Work Orders products under a SaaS (Software as a Service) pricing model.

Productive Computing, Inc. is one of only a few companies in the United States to have earned the highly respected Platinum level membership within the FileMaker Business Alliance and recently won the exclusive FileMaker Business Alliance Partner of the Year award.

Productive Computing, Inc.
950 Boardwalk, Suite 205
San Marcos, CA 92078
http://www.productivecomputing.com
info@productivecomputing.com
(760) 510-1200

Press Contacts:
Productive Computing, Inc.
Keith Larochelle
(760) 510-1200

The Benefits of Using FileMaker as Your CRM Software

February 14th, 2013

If your business runs on a customer relationship management system—one that focuses on the customer and creating specified marketing and sales strategies for each customer—you have a wide range of software suites and solutions to choose from. The most popular and recommended by companies throughout the world is FileMaker Pro.

FileMaker Pro is a relational database program that integrates a powerful database engine with a slick, easy-to-use graphic user interface. What makes FileMaker Pro such a necessary part of your CRM strategy? And how can your business benefit from using FileMaker? Read on to find out.

1. FileMaker Pro is user friendly.

One of the biggest challenges to adopting new software comes in the transition: you and your team have done things a certain way for a long time, so introducing a new element is bound to throw some kinks in the system, right? Luckily, FileMaker Pro is a completely user-friendly application that is easy to use regardless of your computer prowess. You don’t have to develop databases for a living to use FileMaker, and teaching your team won’t require many precious hours of training. All it takes is a few minutes to become a pro thanks to the clean, easy-to-understand user interface.

2. It’s easy to start, regardless of how big or small your business is.

A relational database is a necessity for just about any modern business, big or small, and allows you to store, organize, change, and recall information. For a CRM system, a relational database is what you’d use to record customer data, including what they purchase and when they tend to purchase, that you can analyze to determine marketing strategies.

FileMaker Pro’s usability gives smaller businesses a powerful tool at a fraction of the monetary investment. You no longer need expensive database software nor do you have to hire a developer to run it.

3. It’s robust.

Sometimes, software is only so easy to use because it is watered down and not nearly as complete as more expensive applications, but FileMaker Pro has the same robust capacities as dedicated database software, and maybe more.

For DIY developers, FileMaker Pro is a dream. You can create a FileMaker database by importing a Bento library or through an Excel spreadsheet. At the same time, those who aren’t so much of the do-it-yourself mentality can choose from several layout themes and 30 starter databases. Starter databases cover a wide range of applications, including asset managements, invoicing, and family medical records.

FileMaker Pro can also create dynamic summary reports, which list your records and offer subtotals based on the sort order. You can, for instance, create a report that lists sales sorted by client with the totals for each client.

You can connect FileMaker Pro 10 directly to your internal email server without installing a plug-in. This allows you to send reports, invoices, letters, and other information from the database through email directly from FileMaker.

FileMaker Pro also has several features that allow for personalization for each member in your organization. For example, FileMaker keeps track of your searches and allows you to view recent finds and save frequent finds without having to reenter criteria constantly. These searches are user-specific, so you can find exactly what you need, quickly and easily.

4. It offers extensive control over how your data is presented and analyzed.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of FileMaker Pro helps you realize just how much control you have over the program, primarily in the scripts you can write to perform all sorts of actions with data. Scripts can be simple—send a report to a printer—or highly complex. Scripts center on general programming logic that allows you to check for errors, loop and branch, provide your own input, and offer adept control with all the database’s functions.

In the past, triggering scripts required the click of the button, which isn’t much of a problem, but for oft repeated functions, you can trigger scripts automatically based on various basic actions, like changing the layout or modifying a field.

5. It improves communication.

Thanks to FileMaker cloud hosting services, all the company information and customer data is available to all members of your team, keeping everyone on the same level. Cloud storage and FileMaker mobile apps allow your employees to access data from anywhere.