Category Archives: Products

DataPlex’s commercial products

Three-Way Security Improvement Initiative

We have been tracking the staggering increase of late in the number of security issues associated with websites at large. Already, we have proprietary methods in place to detect unusual activity on our servers and to take appropriate action when alerted. (Mostly, these alerts have been our being notified that our servers are running slow or are low on storage.)

To reduce the possibility of a major security violation, we here at DataPlex have decided to make non-optional the security measures built into our AmpUp framework, our software platform that drives enterprise-related software. Starting immediately, we are embarking upon a three-way security improvement initiative:

  1. All system access with be over secured HTTPS instead of over unsecured HTTP
  2. We will force all user passwords to be made stronger, using a combination of upper and lower case, numbers and punctuation
  3. In most cases, IP access from unknown locations will be restricted or challenged

For our customers with annual maintenance agreements, this initiative will be included in our regular update release. Other customers may see an occasional nominal charge on their monthly bill. In either case, we will need our customer’s cooperation to help their staff change their passwords and provide us with approved IP addresses. As the techniques of hackers change, over time we may enact additional security improvement measures.

We would like to thank our customers for their patience and apologize in advance for any inconvenience. We value our customer’s business and feel it is important that we do what we can to protect the systems upon which that they rely. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

DataPlex Releases Generic Reporter for its AmpUp Platform

DataPlex is proud to announce the immediate availability of its web-based “DataPlex Reporter,” A powerful data reporting tool that integrates seamlessly with any of DataPlex’s AmpUp-based applications. AmpUp is a framework for developing web-based database management systems that many different types of businesses use to manage their unique workflows.

Typically, an AmpUp system contains several database tables that compartmentalize data, for example a customer table, vendor table, or transaction table. The DataPlex Reporter automatically taps into these tables in an intelligent way and presents a user with an organized list of fields and filter functions with which to prepare a report. Reports are first presented on the screen, after which they can be printed or exported to a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. Reports can be saved with an unique name and later recalled.

South Coast Botanic Garden gets FRONDS

South Coast Botanic Garden, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in California, is now running on our Fundraising and Operations Network Data System (Fronds) specifically developed for botanic gardens, zoos, museums and other arts and recreation organizations. Fronds combines many back office donor management operations with front office guest services such as ticket sales, membership purchases and class registration. Previously, South Coast was running on an established donor-management software package that did not provide the full range of capabilities that its staff needed.

Adrienne Lao Nakashima, CEO of the South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation, writes:

Faced with a tight deadline and having to transfer data from our old system, DataPlex was able to get our business and development offices as well as our Guest Services Center up and running on our new FRONDS system in less than one month. They walked-us through all the hardware setup and made it easy for us to seamlessly transition to an entirely new system that integrates development with membership management and operations. When we went live, the DataPlex team was always available to answer any questions and helped us make tweaks along the way. Now, we enjoy the equivalent of three separate systems all conveniently rolled up into one cost-effective package.

More information about FRONDS can be found on its informative fronds.org website.

Rapidly Deploy Business Systems – Introducing FRONDS

AmpUp logoDataPlex’s AmpUp “Rapid Enterprise Deployment” software platform is being used to implement “million dollar systems” at a fraction of the cost. Each system is designed to enhance an organization’s already proven workflow, further leverage its business intelligence, and make it more productive and profitable. DataPlex AmpUp systems are 100% web-based and come already mobile and tablet enabled for access from anywhere. Example of already deployed systems are:

  • An Electronic Field Reporting System used by police officers to file incident report more quickly and conveniently
  • A Parking Management System that processes parking lot data to provide real-time dashboards with management-oriented charts and reports
  • PlexChex, a web service that constantly monitors and sends alerts based on website and business system performance
  • A Patient Management System with advanced EMR support to reduce the staff workload of medical groups
  • A new Fundraising Organization Network Database System (FRONDS) helps non-profits be more efficient at donor development and membership management
AmpUp-Based FRONDS Now Live at Descanso Gardens

FRONDS logoThe most recent AmpUp-based enterprise system developed by DataPlex is its Fundraising Organization Networked Data System, known as FRONDS, which is now live at Descanso Gardens and enabling their staff to more effectively interact with its membership of 18,000 people. The “back office” of development where all donations are managed went live on June 1st and the “front office” of the Visitor Center with membership and ticket sales went live on July 1st.

Intersection of Enterprise, Mobile and CloudNot only did DataPlex engineers design a custom version of FRONDS for Descanso Gardens called the Descanso Gardens Enterprise System (DGES) but they are hosting it on the Amazon’s high-performance EC2 cloud. DataPlex has become truly a one-stop shop that can work with an organization all the way from concept and design through development and hosting, and offers a suite of already developed modules for integrating enterprise, mobile and the cloud.

FRONDS is based on DataPlex’s AmpUp rapid development enterprise software platform that reduces the amount of time and cost to get a state-of-the-art web-based platform up and running. Many of the standard AmpUp features are available such as flexible searching, Excel/OpenOffice exporting, mail merging and consolidated “one button” month end reporting.

Some of the more interesting capabilities of FRONDS are:

  • Real-time dashboard display of daily activity
  • Print and scan ID cards
  • Point-of-sale (POS) operations: ticket, course and membership sales
  • Automatic letter generation with mail-merge capabilities
  • Track donor gifts by solicitations and campaigns
  • Donor communications Journal
  • Calendar of events
  • Budgets and Actuals: trend analysis and forecasting
  • Accounting Reports organized by General Ledger codes
  • Single-button Month-End Reporting
  • Multitude of workflow reports, document generation and Excel export

Descanso Gardens sample ID card

Descanso Gardens ID card

FRONDS prints membership cards, each one with different information including member name, ID number and an associated scancode. The Descanso Gardens staff decided to print all the cards themselves rather than use a commercial printer. With two printers set up, each of which prints one card every 7 seconds, the entire print job was under 20 hours. While printing, the staff was able to test scan the cards for quality control purposes so as to be sure to keep to their aggressive timeline. Now that the cards have been printed, the staff only has to print a couple thousand cards a month, a comparatively easy task, and has the option to offload some the ID card printing to the Visitor Center when people who sign up can get their ID card instantly.

The system dashboard shows the staff the current weather conditions and real-time visitation and sales figures, and compares them to the same day of the week of the previous year.

FRONDS Dashboard

FRONDS Dashboard

FRONDS also has an interactive POS cash register that is 100% web-based and compatible with all major web browsers including those for iPads and other tablets and which is also touch screen and barcode scanner enabled.

FRONDS Point-of-Sale Screen

FRONDS Point-of-Sale Screen


Descanso Gardens executives report how FRONDS is already proving its value:

  • Instantaneous reporting that will help us manage our enterprise better
  • Tracking member behavior, which improves our knowledge of a key, core constituency
  • Integrates POS with membership management
  • Provides us with much more powerful tools for member fulfillment and satisfaction:
    • instant enrollment and addition to the database
    • near-instant fulfillment of membership cards
    • much faster renewal process (soon to be also web-based)
    • better “member experience” at check-in
    • much better control of entrance gate
  • Much simplified and more user-friendly donor tracking, moves management, reporting system that is also much less expensive than the current systems in wide use such as Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge and DonorPerfect

Even though they had been using a different commercially available web-based donor management package, they will still realize a 25% savings in overall work effort by using FRONDS which aligns more closely with their fundraising and membership management requirements.

DataPlex FRONDS in the Descanso Gardens Visitor Center

FRONDS in the Descanso Gardens Visitor Center

For more information about FRONDS, AmpUp, one of the other AmpUp systems, or to discuss without obligation what DataPlex technical services can do for you, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Death To The QR Code?

Recently, a business journalist posted an article suggesting that the use of QR codes should be dropped. He says in part “Mobile barcodes can be confusing and can waste time. And as mobile technology progresses, they probably aren’t even necessary.”

We disagree.

DataPlex QR CodeThis is one of those “insights” where the author doesn’t make his case. On one hand he presumes that technology will remain static and that the barriers to QR Code scanning — locating the right scanning app, waiting for the camera to focus, etc. — won’t improve and therefore users will be turned off. On the other hand, “near field communications” may arise in the next generation of smartphones to render QR code scanning obsolete. Which is it, is technology static or evolving?

We think that QR codes are a perfect ‘tweener technology that has virtually no extra printing cost and works with all smartphones. Yes, you have to be sure to use a compatible application, but once you figure that out for QR Codes (and again for Microsoft Tag codes), you’re set. Launching the app, waiting for the camera to focus and having the app autodetect the QR code and link to the corresponding URL takes no more than a few seconds. That is much faster than typing in a URL or keywords, if you don’t make mistakes or get distracted before you finish.

Also, when coupled with the right type of business software such as that based on our web-based, Rapid Enterprise Deployment engine known as AmpUp, the added cost of putting together a QR-code marketing campaign is negligible, so therefore the resulting ROI can be huge. Such systems can produce all of the differing QR codes, maintain a database, and then provide URL landing pages with corresponding and compelling content. Through web dashboards, company execs continuously monitor a campaign’s performance and even tweak it midstream if necessary.

The author suggests also that image recognition is a reasonable alternative. Not so. Mobile devices do not have the processing horsepower to implement broad-range image recognition, so they would have to upload the captured image to a capable server and receive the results. This might work for low-frequency use, but all the cell carriers now impose limits on data bandwidth, so this type of solution would really only be economically attractive when using WiFi networks, a severe limitation indeed.

It’s more likely that the author is taking a devil’s advocate point-of-view to make people think through their adoption of new technology, a process we employ as part of our technology strategy consulting services. If that is really the case here, then this author is to be commended.

Please feel free to contact us if you are thinking of using QR codes.

Mobile Computing: Native Apps versus Web Apps

What it Means to Your Organization

by Harry Tarnoff

Our clients often ask about the advantages of mobile applications and the differences between mobile “native apps” and “web apps.” They ask, “How would a mobile app relate to our business, our people, and the products and services we offer? Should our mobile app be a native app or a web app? Should we consider corresponding changes in our business’ IT systems?”

A well-designed mobile app can certainly complement a business’ website and aid in the marketing and sales of the business’s offerings. The selection of a native or web platform will affect an app’s characteristics, what services it can readily provide, and the app’s future evolution. A wrong choice could cripple a start-up or a company launching a new offering. A poorly designed app may never become popular enough to gather a following.

Even more striking is how mobile apps are growing in importance. The percentage of mobile-only users, at 25% today, is estimated to be more than 65% in 2015. This means that, instead of your website, it could soon be your mobile app that tells your customers about you, your company and its offerings. Your mobile apps need the same care, professionalism, and polish as your website and marketing brochures. The quality of your brand must be high for all elements of your public persona.

Fundamental Differences

A “native app” works on only certain devices for which it is targeted. It is written in one of the development languages supported by the target device. A native app runs on the target device and typically stores its data on the device. Native apps can run very fast and can easily interface with any of the device’s hardware and operating system features.

The flexibility of a native app comes at a price, however: Native apps written for one platform, say Apple’s iOS which drives iPhones and iPads, are not compatible with other platforms like Android or BlackBerry OS. Developers spend significant resources to translate, or “port,” their applications to run on each additional device family. Supporting and maintaining similar software for multiple platforms is expensive.

On the other hand, a “web app” is developed using standard web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The resulting program, typically accessed through a URL web address, requires only a device with a standards-based browser. An iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android phone, or Android tablet can all be suitable clients for the same application.

A web app pulls content from a remote server, so it needs an active WiFi or cellular link. A web app running within a mobile browser generally runs slower than a similar native app, has some restrictions on its user interface, and often cannot take full advantage of special device features.

But the extent of these differences is narrowing. Native and web apps are breaking through their stereotypes. New development platforms let native apps share a common codebase, easing development. Improvements in mobile browsers and new mobile OS features, let web apps mimic their native counterparts and access special device hardware features. Cross-compiling development platforms improve the performance of web technologies.

Better Business Software

Can Business Software be Better?

We have all heard the horror stories regarding business software systems: The tremendously expensive system. The system that didn’t work. The system that couldn’t grow with the business. The provider who wanted $50,000 a module and five modules would be needed. Critical software changes that take weeks or months.

With fast-changing markets, demographics and new regulations, businesses need to be nimble and fast in their reactions. The last thing a business needs is to hampered by expensive and time-consuming system implementations. Hearing about the bad experiences of others’ raises the question, what are the characteristics of good business software?

Thinking from a business owner’s perspective, better business software should:

  • Work reliably and securely
  • Be adjusted to take into account the uniqueness of the business’ operation
  • Come at a cost that doesn’t break the bank
  • Come with easy access to the software’s actual developers for the best possible technical support
  • Be quickly extendible when new features are desired
  • Not be locked in to a specific platform that doesn’t have a bright future or comes with high monthly expenses
  • Maximize connectivity from anywhere using mobile devices

A tall order, right? Not so with us. With DataPlex and AmpUp – our rapid software development tool for business enterprise applications – you get business software that offers modern capabilities that can easily be altered to meet changing needs, possibly giving your business a competitive advantage.

By leveraging AmpUp, you get:

  • A reliable and secure system that take into account the uniqueness of your business’ operation. We start by doing a free assessment of your current operation and then work with you to develop effective new displays and processes.
  • A system at a fraction of the cost of other commercial systems, including those that claim to be “off the shelf.”
  • Easy access and great support. We are the developers, and you have our direct phone numbers. (Email too.)
  • The ability to add new features quickly and at any time. We’re happy to be your technical advisors on anything daunting.
  • A web-based system that can be easily ported to your favorite cost-effective hosting service including those “in the cloud.”
  • Connectivity from Internet-enabled mobile devices whether they be Android-based, Apple, Blackberry, Microsoft or something else.

We introduced AmpUp six months ago because, frankly, we were shocked at what some of our clients were telling us about what they had to put up for systems and support. We didn’t think that a small business needed to spend six figures for a new system, wait six months for their so-called customizations, and then wait weeks for bug fixes which sometimes added even more bugs.

AmpUp logoAmpUp, it turns out, is a software development game-changer. It is a stable “software as a service” or SaaS platform that is shared among many different applications. In four months, we have been able to implement four very sophisticated enterprise systems. That’s one per month. Yes, you read that correctly – you could have one of our completely customized enterprise-wide systems working for you in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Interested? Feel free to drop us a call or note. We look forward to chatting with you soon.

Wanted: DataPlex AmpUp Beta Testers

DataPlex is taking Beta testers for it’s new AmpUp Version 2 update. Contact us at DataPlex for more information.

DataPlex Readies Release of Law Enforcement Enterprise Application

DataPlex, Inc., along with its partner firm The Juran Company, is putting the finishing touches on an electronic field reporting system (EFRS) for use by police officers. This enterprise system is highly tailored for busy police departments and other law enforcement agencies that would like to make their officers, agents and staff more efficient in completing incident reports. By using DataPlex’s new AmpUp rapid development tool, DataPlex EFRS conveniently ties together the front office, the back office and mobile platforms by allowing the use of wireless tablets and integrating with emergency 911 and emergency alert systems.

Introducing AmpUp, a Cloud-Based Enterprise Platform

AmpUp logo

We have developed a web-centric database tool called “AmpUp” used for rapid development of enterprise systems. Born out of necessity for supporting our customers, AmpUp has successfully demonstrated that it reduces implementation efforts and budgets by more than 50%.

Conceptually, the AmpUp tool is a wrapper between an organization’s data and its website. By providing a number of  high-level enterprise system functions for database access, user security and web page generation, developers are now able to concentrate the bulk of their time on their customers’ unique requirements.

AmpUp follows the cloud paradigm of Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is where AmpUp’s functions are available to a public or private cloud and can be shared across several systems. For customers with more sensitive applications, AmpUp is available for installation on their private Intranet as well.

While there is more technical information about AmpUp on the DataPlex website, in this article we would like to focus on these four features:

  • Automatically taps into existing databases
  • Provides instantaneous web forms and reports
  • Enables static and dynamic field dropdown selection
  • Easily adds data record navigation controls