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WebSan Blog (131)

Some of us may have heard that using the ActiveX components in Microsoft IE is a bad idea. The overall system design has a very bad reputation. This notion makes sense because there’s a real hole within the security system of a user’s local computer. If you change the security level in IE (allow create and execute ActiveX components) then your system can be compromised and some random code can be executed on your system.

However, this risk could be controlled. In IE, you can create a list of “trusted” sites and apply your special security settings only to this list of sites. In other words, you allow ActiveX component only when you visit one of the trusted sites. Moreover, you can set up and control these security settings by using your company’s security group policies.

The firm’s intranet sites with corporate Web applications are the most probable candidates to be included into the list of “trusted” sites. If you control IE security settings and use ActiveX in your Web application on a “browser” side, it gives you a really powerful tool to create rich Web applications.

ActiveX can be used as a bridge between your Web application and software or even hardware on your workstation.

Basically, you can do the following from your Web application pages:

  • Create some ActiveX automation servers which already installed on users computer and use them “in background” (i.e. Word, Excel, Outlook or some accounting software if it provides ActiveX automation)
  • Insert your own ActiveX components by using <OBJECT> tag into your own web pages. You can embed ActiveX installed locally or place them on your corporate web site (in this case you will get automatic and centralized deployment of all your ActiveX components).
  • Embed in your page ActiveX controls as part of GUI of your Web application
  • Use of any preinstalled system ActiveX components like FileSystemObject or WSH

Let’s say I have some Web-application for order management purposes and I have a very specific task: I need to print shipping labels on a thermal printer (Zebra) connected to my workstation. I can’t use JavaScript like “window.print()” because my labels are in a ZPL format. I can get my shipping labels in formats like GIF or PNG but it is almost impossible to fit them on my thermal printer. Also, I don’t want to play with the print preferences in my browser and provide users with instructions on how to setup these printing settings for their thermal printers.  ZPL format contains special commands for thermal printer which I should send to my thermal printer by “spooling” them to LPT port. If I try to print or send the file to Zebra, the erroneous file will simply cause headaches to technical support. The thermal printer is indeed a very specific device that we should work with very carefully. The only function which a thermal printer can do perfect is executing commands of a print language like ZPL.  Sounds fantastic, right?

Let’s use ActiveX in our web page and script it for our purposes.

The first thing I need to do is change the settings in my IE to use ActiveX >> go to IE internet options, select “Security” tab, select “Trusted Sites”, press button “Sites”, then add your corporate site with Web application. Then press “Custom Level” and enable ActiveX in IE, this will enable ActiveX in IE for only your corporate site.

My IE is now ready to display pages from my Web application which now becomes a ‘rich’ with content because I can do everything on the user’s local computer and I can do it from the web page simply using JavaScript and ActiveX automation.

Let’s say our thermal printer is shared on a local machine as: \\my_computer\my_thermal_printer.

I will then need to execute the simple command line to map my local LPT port to this shared printer as: net use lpt1: \\my_computer\my_thermal_printer

Then, I would need to create a small .bat file for this operation as a part of initial setup in the future.

Afterwards, if I spool something to LPT1, it will be sent to my Zebra thermal printer. Let’s create one small function in JavaScript and assign it to onclick event of button (with id “print_label”) on my Web page:

$('#print_label').click(function() {

var fso = new ActiveXObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject");

var lpt1 = fso.CreateTextFile("LPT1:", false);

lpt1.WriteLine("ZPL command 1");

lpt1.WriteLine("ZPL command 2");

lpt1.WriteLine("ZPL command 3");

lpt1.Close();

});

That’s it. When I press “Print Label”, my script writes the commands to system output device with name “LPT1” and then magic happens. The thermal printer interprets these commands and starts printing my shipping labels.

Here I am using special JavaScript object ActiveXObject to create instance of ActiveX with ProgID=Scripting.FileSystemObject. As we often use Internet Explorer and ActiveX, it makes it possible to work with special devices right from the Web page.

I could also take things further by integrating my Web application with a locally installed electronic scale or with something really specific like a finger print scanner. I only need to have an appropriate ActiveX as an interface to these devices and then I can work with it from JavaScript.

The rise of cloud computing has led to a strong push from many companies to adopt security and data portability in a cloud environment. Cloud computing, otherwise known as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), allows you to have your data and applications available to you virtually anywhere via the Internet.

Companies large and small are looking to the cloud as their future. All of this sounds good right? The only problem is that these companies cannot carefully self-manage their own IT projects to fulfill their future needs; projects grow in size and costs eventually run over budget.

There is a solution. When partnering with an experienced vendor such as WebSan Solutions Inc., your company will experience distinguished service and support when moving to the cloud.  WebSan Solutions Inc. will strive to use our leading solutions to your company’s benefit in order to make the transition smooth and help your company move forward.

Cloud Dynamics GP is crucial for companies looking to propel forward but don’t get lost while you’re in the transition.

Contact us here to learn how we can help.

Friday, 30 September 2011 09:50

Are IT projects really ticking time bombs?

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I recently read an article in the Toronto Star titled “IT projects are ticking time bombs.”

The article cited a study at Oxford University where they found that 17 percent of IT projects were so mismanaged that they had “average cost overruns of 200 per cent….”

After reading the article, I spent some time thinking about the IT projects I’ve been involved in over the years, from the large, multi-million dollar SAP projects to the smaller, 5-15 user Dynamics GP projects. I’ve had my share of smooth go-lives and my share of “rough” projects. One common theme with the projects that run smoothly is that an unbreakable link exists between the project team and their vision of what they’re working on and the overall business goals for the project.

It’s somewhat human nature, really. If we understand the “why” of what we’re doing, then the “what”, and “how” are easier to understand and “get behind.” I’ve seen projects with great potential and a really strong business case go off the rails because the executives didn’t effectively communicate to the project team what the real goal was. If the project team and leaders have “context” by which to understand the purpose behind the project, the odds of success rise dramatically.

There are obviously numerous other factors that affect the outcome of an IT project (which I’ve written about in the past), but I come back to executive involvement and leadership as the #1 factor in project success.

I’ve even seen “rough” projects continue off the rails for months and even years until a new executive comes on board in the company to “take charge” and rally the troops around fixing the problems that exist. In fact, it amazes me every time how rapidly the issues actually get resolved, once a strong leader puts their weight behind identifying the problems and assigning clear accountability for their resolution.

One of the things I look for when selling software to a new prospect is a strong leader. We even had a Client executive bring his entire team to our office this week just to “see the whites of our eyes” and have his team meet ours before moving forward with us. To me, that’s a sign of a strong leader who understands what it takes to deliver a successful IT project.

So perhaps some IT projects are ticking time bombs, but all bombs can be diffused by the right person with the right tools and attitude.

By Andrew King, Managing Director, WebSan Solutions Inc.

Friday, 21 October 2011 11:35

Reporting on Microsoft Dynamics GP

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A lesser-known method for reporting on your Microsoft Dynamics GP data is through Solver’s BI360.  BI360 is an Excel-based business intelligence tool that offers out-of-the-box integration with Dynamics GP for reporting, budgeting, and dashboards.  It offers several key benefits to users:

  • Familiar Environment – BI360 is an Excel add-on, which means all of your reporting is designed and displayed in the same Excel environment that you are already accustomed to.
  • Simple Design – No SQL knowledge is required to design your own report or budget in BI360.  It’s a simple drag-and-drop interface that allows almost anyone in your organization to develop customized and effective reports quickly.
  • Integration – BI360 automatically integrates with your Microsoft Dynamics GP environment and pulls data from GP in real-time when generating reports, so you never have to worry about synchronization.
  • Easy Distribution – not only does BI360 give you an easy and effective medium to design and view custom reports, but also allows you to easily distribute static versions of your reports to non-BI360 users.

In a nutshell, BI360 is a simple tool that provides powerful Dynamics GP reporting in a familiar environment – what more do you need?

By: Rahim Jiwani, Application Specialist, WebSan Solutions Inc.

Friday, 11 November 2011 15:10

5 tips for maintaining Microsoft Dynamics GP

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You finally have Microsoft Dynamics GP and now you are ready to explore the wonderful world of online accounting software which is good and all but while you’re having lots of fun using the different applications it provides, don’t forget that you have to maintain it! Here are five tips to help you maintain Microsoft Dynamics GP.

1. SQL Backup

Make sure you create SQL backups of every database on your server. It’s recommended that you performed full backups or you have the option of full backups with transactions log backups, but it’s ultimately your choice. You also need to back up Dynamics databases, Company (s) databases and Model database.

2. File Backup

SQL aren’t that only backups that you have to do, don’t forget the other multiple files that need backing up to. For example any folder that ends in dic, set or config and all the other folders including subfolders. The <DATA> folder is included in the backup process as well as Dex.Ini that is located in the <DATA> folder for example OLEPath, OLEPathHR, Word Macro File etc.; I have one more suggestion, backup any files in the manuals of any add-on products.

3. Schedule your backups

Schedule backups for SQL and Files as needed. But remember the more backups you have the more chances that if information were to get lost it would be low. You should have automatic scheduling for backups. This is to ensure that backups are completed, don’t believe me? Check the transaction log because it keeps a record of backups done.

4. Monitor your backup jobs

Keep track of the backups that are being done, even if you have written it down in your calendar. It’s just to make sure everything is going smoothly. A really good thing about Microsoft Dynamics GP is that you can program your SQL server to notify you if the backup fails.

5. Test your backups

Even though you can automatically schedule backups, once in a while test your backups just to make sure everything is getting backed up. A good way to test a SQL backup is to restore the backup to another server.

By: Natalie Williams, Marketing Coordinator, Websan Solutions Inc., a Canadian Certified Microsoft Dynamics Partner

I was reading an article called “Six Basics of preventing pain in our ERP implementation” and I thought to myself, why are all these problems with ERP implementation occurring in the first place? It’s happening more than normal and I think I know why, Companies are not doing enough research, therefore, they choose the wrong partner and software. Here I have a checklist of six rules you should consider before saying yes and signing the dotted line.

Really research thoroughly about which partner would be the right partner for you and which software would be the right software for you. Even if you have ten companies and have to narrow it to one then do that. If you’re Googling “accounting software” there are millions of results that come up, I know that can be overwhelming but don’t choose only the top three results. Some people think that the top three results are the best results, but that’s completely untrue. Google doesn’t rank you higher based on your product or services quality, they rank based on search engine optimization, keywords and links. But that’s another blog; basically what I’m saying is take your time to do your homework.

When you find the right partner and software, make it clear on what you expect from your partner. Have a one on one sit down with the company you will be working with, there needs to be impeccable communication between both companies. Make sure you listen to their expectations and make sure they listen to your expectations, because if one person’s not listening to the project is bound to go wrong. Even if you have to take notes, you need and they need to fully understand the expectations of the project. That’s to prevent sentences like: “I never said that”, “But I thought you said…”, “I told you that, remember?” Also, it’s good to get everything in a tightly sealed contract so you can also avoid those phrases.

So once you’ve found the right partner and you found the right accounting software and there’s clear understanding amongst both companies, make sure they don’t go anywhere. Sounds weird enough, but I’m not joking, whoever is in charge of your project make sure they stay in charge of the project. The reason this is on the list is to prevent your partner from doing an 180 on you. If you have one project manager that is in charge of the project, if there are any hiccups in the implementation you can go straight to that person to address the problem. If there’s no one particular in charge of the plan, you’re only going to get the run around when a problem occurs because no one’s in charge. Another reason it’s on the list is because if the company switches the manager, you would have to communicate every single detail about the project all over again hoping that they can comprehend it  and execute it all in a short matter of time.

Tune into part two and see the rest of the checklist!

By: Natalie Williams, Marketing Coordinator, WebSan Solutions Inc., a Canadian Certified Microsoft Dynamics Partner

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If you are a frequent user of Microsoft Dynamics GP, chances are you use a select few windows much more often than others.  If this is the case, you may find it helpful to have shortcuts to these key windows directly on your home page.  These shortcuts can be added in several different ways:

  1. Quick Links – Arguably the most popular method is to add the window to the Quick Links pane of your home page.  To do this, hover over the Quick Links pane, select the pencil icon that appears in the top right corner of the pane, and click the Add button to add new links.  Don’t forget to refresh your home page if the new link does not appear right away.
  2. Navigation Pane – To add a shortcut to your navigation pane, open the window that you want to link to, select File, and select Add to Shortcuts.  A link to that window will now be added to your navigation pane when you are on your home page.
  3. Toolbar – To view the toolbar for a particular series, right-click the blue menu bar at the top of the Dynamics GP screen and select the desired series so that a checkmark appears next to it.  To customize which icons are on the toolbar, right-click the blue menu bar again, select Customize…, choose the appropriate series from the drop-down menu, and click Add to add a new icon to the toolbar.

Shortcuts to Customize Your Microsoft Dynamics GP Screen

By: Rahim Jiwani, Application Specialist, WebSan Solutions Inc.