Using Proper Physical Count Procedures

Using Proper Physical Count Procedures

It’s always a good idea to make copious notes about physical count configuration and usage issue and to review them prior to doing the actual work.

Typically, this process would include:

  • Making backups of current data. – Typically, this would involve backing-up the full database.
  • Archiving old count files for previous periods or years. – This would ensure that old files are not accidentally imported.
  • Making sure that PDT’s (Physical count device) batteries are fully charged, and that any old count data is cleared from the devices.
  • Training staff who will actually be doing the work to properly use both the software and hardware functions.

Taking this proactive approach is vitally important, especially if you only do inventories once a year or less frequently. Failing to do this can mean a potential disaster waiting to happen…

As an example…

An end-user who had just completed a physical count determined that ALL of the adjusted inventory levels were wrong for all of their locations.

In working with the counter staff, the following was later determined:

  • When importing the count file into the default PDT’s (Physical count device) software directory, the file downloaded was named the same as what it was last year and downloaded to PDT software’s default directory.
  • However, their default NCR Counterpoint parameter was pointing to a different import folder than the PDT software default. When the staff imported the count file, they were actually importing the previous year’s physical count file. – No one had checked the date of the file or the content before importing it.
  • After importing the count file, the user did a blind post the count data without checking any of the data, and just let the system to adjust all items not counted to zero.

To compound matters…

  • No backup of the existing CounterPoint data files was done prior to the start of the import process. – This means that they had no recourse but to restart the physical count process.
  • The count file had obvious errors in it (Barcodes scanned into the quantity field; Quantities input into the barcode field; Blank Quantities; etc.). – The NCR Counterpoint software has both a verify function that can be used prior to importing data and various worksheets that can be used for reviewing and validating data.
  • Other users had started multiple physical count snap-shots that involved many of the same items. Some of these has been open for as long as a year.
  • On detecting the initial problem, the staff repeated the exact same import/post process (using the wrong file) at least twice, before finally creating a new physical count, and without doing any imports, then zeroed-out

the entire inventory for that location.

The one saving grace here was the current year’s count file uploaded not been deleted, nor had the PDT been purged after the upload.

If you are unsure of any part of the physical count process, CCS Retail Systems can provide both training and technical assistance prior to starting the count, as well as ongoing process support during the actual count.

– John

Some good reasons to keep your software subscriptions current

Some good reasons to keep your software subscriptions current

  1. License key validation – Most software subscriptions are issued with an annual license that requires a renewal in order to be either installed as either a new installation or re-installed as of the current date.

As examples:

  • The currently installed application software is only supported running on the currently installed operating system. If you want to move the installation to a newer server or workstation operating system environment, you’ll need to have a current license key in order to physically move or update the software.
  • Passport will not let you either re-install software or install new software using an old expired license. This means that you are required to renew your subscription first.
  1. The application software environment becomes corrupted over time – This requires re-installing the software or a service pack which may require downloading software. – Many software applications now have huge installation files, this can be true whether or not you plan on doing a full installation or simply installing an incremental service pack.

For example:

  • If your NCR CounterPoint Subscription license isn’t current, you will not be able to download any software, or access NCR’s customer support website. Considering that it is common for downloads to be several gigabytes in size, it can take hours just to do the downloads prior to any installation attempt even being made. Not having this as of a specific deadline date, can mean having to reschedule a critical installation or cause you and your organization some unwanted hardship or downtime. Inability to access the website can mean not being able to download installation and configuration manuals or updated training manuals.
  1. Some of your software applications stop working – If a license expires, it may take time to get it renewed.

For example:

  • Your ShipRush or StarShip shipping software and interface to NCR CounterPoint expires. Until the license is renewed, you will not be able to use the shipping software or the software interface for NCR Counterpoint.

Please contact the CCS Support department if you have any questions or for assistance with updating your software subscriptions.

– John

New Twists Ransomware and Spear Phishing Attacks

New Twists on Ransomware Spear-phishing Attacks

In recent years we have seen an increase both the number of spear phishing campaigns, and increased ingenuity as to the ways that scammers try to assist you in getting your systems infected, or attempt to fleece you out of money.

In the past, this may have been something sent via emails that used official-looking emails complete with a financial institution’s corporate logo, or they could get phone calls from a fake bank account executive. The email or caller could tailor an email to the customer with personalized information they downloaded, making it seem like it was a legitimate email.

The fake bank account executive or emailer would then indicate there is an urgent problem with the customer’s account, and then ask for birthdates, Social Security numbers or passwords. The virtual trap could also be set by the official-looking email asking customers to click on a link embedded in the email to, say, update their account information. However, the link takes the unsuspecting victim to a fake but legitimate-looking website, where the customer is then tricked into listing passwords, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, user ID’s, access codes, and PIN’s.

Some recent twists on the above are:

An email that spoofs your email account in the emails “sent from” field. The body of the scammer’s email claims that they have already hacked into your system via a porn or adult dating website that you “supposedly” recently visited. The email indicates a direct threat to email explicit photos or videos to all of the contacts in your email system, specifically to your employer, and/or the police, if you don’t send money to a specific destination as of a specific date and time.

One or both of the following may be included:

  • Instructions on where to go to pay the ransom.
  • Clickable links that direct you to site to pay a ransom, and/or a link that actually infects your system with encryption malware, which subsequently locks you out of your system, with another ransom demand in order to get a key to un-encrypt your drive(s).

Typically, the best thing to doing in these situations is to immediately delete the email, and clear it out of your mail deleted mail folder and the follow-up with staff on how to be diligent about recognizing and handling these sorts of threats.

– John

Passport Version 12.06 Update 2

Passport Business Solutions
Passport Business Solutions

Passport Version 12.06 Update 2

With the release of PBS 12.06, Passport completes a major infrastructure project on field expansions that were begun with the v. 12.05 release. Enhancements for PBS v.12.06 now include:

  • Expanded field sizes for both the name and addresses in Customer, Ship-to, and Contact files.
  • Field expansions in A/R, O/E, POS and Customer Order Processing in PBS Manufacturing.
  • Professional Time & Billing fields expanded.
  • PO # expanded to 30 characters to accommodate Amazon and other vendors.
  • Approximately 12-14 new Accounts Payable reports have been created
  • There are three new SSRS reports that replace CounterPoint version 7.5 related reports that were used with wholesale distributors.
  • PBS 12.06 includes a new runtime, version 10.2, so this is not an update-in-place, and requires exporting of existing data, a fresh software install and the use of EZ Convert utility to migrate your existing data to the new format.

Also, Passport 12.06 SQL installation has some significant software and configuration prerequisites detailed as follows.

  • Currently, for server environments, MS Server 2008 and MS Server 2012 are supported server operating systems.
  • MS SQL Server 2014 with MS SQL Reporting Services is recommended for Passport 12.06, MS SQL Server 2008 and or MS SQL Server 2012 with Advanced Tools are supported, however, MS SQL Report Service must also be installed prior to installing Passport 12.06.
  • Like Passport 12.05, the CashPoint interface for Passport 12.06 is NOT compatible with NCR Counterpoint version prior to version 8.5, so your NCR Counterpoint software may need to be upgraded as well

Please consult the CCS Support department if you have any questions on the above release.

– John

New System Implementation Planning

New System Implementation Planning

Some things that you can do to prevent complications related to new software systems implementation.

1. Verify existing hardware, operating system, and software infrastructure meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for the new software well ahead of time. Update to meet prerequisite beforehand.

2. Read all of the documentation related to the entire data migration process and software implementation process in advance. This allows you to be apprised of any issues that might adversely affect your staff.

3. Plan to have a thorough test migration done well in advance of the intended go-live date.

4. Get proper training on the new software in advance of doing either a test migration or a live migration. Enough time should be allowed between a test data migration and the final go-live date to do testing. Proper testing of both the software and data is critical prior to the final live data migration to get more familiar with the software and proof the software configuration and the integrity of the data migration.

** Testing should include end-users’ replication of normal work processed over several days of live data that was done in their old system. Limited generic test data may not reveal the subtler issues that will be encountered in actual use.

Data migrations can go awry for several reasons, most often these bad situation scenarios can be avoided.

Some examples include …

  • Data Migrations where excessive corrupt historical data is present.

The MIS person for a longtime Counterpoint version 7.5 user did an in-house test migration to the newer NCR Counterpoint software.

This particular company has a long-term policy to never purging history of any kind. At the time of their test, the company MIS person indicated it took him over a month of clean-up work before the migrated data could be considered usable. Further, he indicated that a lot of the corrupt data was related in older history records (and this was especially so with transaction dates). The company had detailed transaction history going back over 30 years. Typically, most retailers only keep around

2 years’ worth of sales history. Unless one has warranty related issues 30+ years of historical data may be excessive.

The migration plan was to start the live upgrade on a future Friday night and be live by the following Monday morning. This approximately 48+ hour time frame would be considered very aggressive even under the best of circumstances. The company required over a month just editing out corruption data from their test conversion. Other issues may arise that make 48 hours to go live difficult to achieve! A less aggressive plan would be a better approach.

  • Trying to use the new software on older hardware and unsupported older operating systems.

This approach can be a recipe for disaster resulting in migration failure with damage to your data.

In one recent example, a business owner copied his current updated software installation onto a really old server that was running an obsolete, unsupported operating system.

The software was failing due to insufficient memory and system resources. Software/operating system conflicts were also corrupting data. When attempting to run file rebuild utilities, and detailed history reports, the performance of the software was made the software functionally unusable. File rebuild operations on the obsolete system took 6 hours instead of less than 4 minutes on the current systems to be used after migration. Reports required similarly took hours rather than minutes as they could have.

  • Indefinite implementation postponement followed by the decision to go live without all of the appropriate parties being adequately coordinated.

A partially complete implementation project was on hold indefinitely. Months later the store was scheduled to go live on a specific date, but this was not communicated adequately to the rest of the migration team. The assumed prerequisite set-up and configuration work required had been not been performed beforehand. This massive amount of work could not be completed with the less than 12 hours prior notice considering it involved a complete redo/reconfiguration of the software and core data before it could be used in any form.

  • Incorrect or incomplete data being provided to tech support people.

Data provided to CCS tech support is imported into a test system for review. If Incorrect or incomplete data is provided it cannot be reviewed and prepared for use properly. On the scheduled go-live date required data may not be found on the system or corrupt data may be missed in the preparation tasks.

Some critical food for thought!

– John

Monitoring your NCR Secure Pay activity.

Monitoring your NCR Secure Pay activity.

By, default, when one signs-up for the NCR Secure Pay Service, the notification email address that you provided will be used to automatically notify you of the success or failure of your regularly scheduled overnight credit card settlements.  You can also access the NCR Secure Pay Portal in order to check on the real-time open activity as well as the settlement history 24/7/365 from any location that allows you access to the Internet access.

Site access will require the link information, the NCR Secure Pay User ID and the required password to access the site. This Portal location information was provided in your original NCR Secure Pay sign-up email, however, if you no longer have this access information, please contact CCS.  The site has a built-in access limitation that will temporarily disable your login account if more than (3) three failed back-to-back failed access attempts have been made.

Currently, NCR Secure Pay keeps detailed Settlement History online on their servers for 2 years, after which time the site automatically purges the older data. You can also extract transaction detail to an ASCII CSV file for use in importing into other products such as MS Excel.

In the set-up and configuration area, the site allows you to change both the settlement status email address and time of day that the auto-settlement happens. Additionally, detailed information about your current merchant information and configuration, and options will be displayed.

If you have any question regarding NCR Secure Pay or need assistance with accessing the NCR Secure Pay Portal, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department.

– John

Cost Saving Measures at the Point of Sale

Cost Saving Measures at the Point of Sale

Many retailers often focus on various cost-saving measures in their stores that could actually end up doing the opposite, generating increased costs instead of savings.

For many brick and mortar retailers, Internet competition is eating away at both market share and profit margins, as many businesses are looking for ways to reduce overall operating costs. Just one way that this is being done by many retailers is to cut down on material overhead at Point of Sale.

To accomplish part of this, one simple thing that some Retailers have resorted to is not printing or giving out receipts to customers unless they ask for one. For many of these business owners, the most often used logic for allowing this could be any or all of the following:

  • I’ll same money on receipt paper.
  • There will be less wear and tear on my printers, so they will last longer.
  • If I don’t hand out receipts, I can get more people through the registers faster.
  • If people don’t have receipts, they can’t return items. So fewer returns equate to savings.

Some of the unintended consequences of this can be:

Theft at the Till – For cash transactions, employees may not ring up the sale, and subsequently bag the items and pocket cash at the register. This is especially critical risk area in businesses that do a lot of cash transactions.

Irate customers – If the stores return policy states that you must have a receipt, and the customer was never given one, they may be angered when they find out that they can’t return the item. So this could end up actually costing you, customers. This is one such reason why I personally ask for a receipt forever purchase that I make.

Customers being erroneously charged with theft – I know of multiple situations involving Credit Card transactions where the clerk printed a receipt and charge draft for the customer to sign, but never gave the customer a copy of the receipt. Later that, the customer was forcibly detained for shoplifting by store security, and held for several hours while being berated by the security people, and is continually being threatened with arrest for theft for something that they had legitimately paid for. However, these customers were later vindicated when the security personnel reviewed the store’s video surveillance footage. The video clearly shows the customer paying for the transaction. as well as the failure of the clerk to give the customer a receipt. This scenario’s later involved the customer taking legal action to sue the store for violating their rights. The end result was a lot of legal fees and undisclosed out-of-court settlements, plus the loss of a long time, loyal customers.

Shrinkage/Inventory Control Issues– Items bagged for customers that were never rung up in the register. In these cases, the customer leaves with merchandise for which they were never charged. Since there is no paper receipt to verify what is in the bag, the customer could also end up walking out without some of what they legitimately purchased.

You got my order wrong – This I really common in the restaurant and fast food arena. You order something very specific, and you get something completely different than what you ordered. In most cases, the customer has a receipt ends the debate over what was actually ordered.

If you would like assistance in reviewing your existing Point of Sale register procedures, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department.

– John

Passport Version 12.06 Update for July 2018

Passport Business Solutions
Passport Business Solutions

Passport Version 12.06 Update

With the release of PBS 12.06, Passport completes a major infrastructure project on field expansions begun with the version 12.05 release. Enhancements for PBS 12.06 will include:

  • Expanded field sizes for both the name and addresses in Customer, Ship-to, and Contact files.
  • Field expansions in A/R, O/E, POS and Customer Order Processing in PBS Manufacturing.
  • Professional Time & Billing fields expanded.
  • PO # expanded to 30 characters to accommodate Amazon, etc.
  • Approximately 12-14 Accounts Payable SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) reports have been created
  • Three new SSRS reports have been created to replace the previous standard reports for wholesale distributors.
  • Passport 12.06 includes a new runtime, version 10.2, so a fresh install will be required and the use of EZ Convert is required to migrate your existing data to the new format.

Currently, version 12.06 is being thoroughly beta tested in-house at Passport. A Limited release will begin mid-July, 2018 with general release anticipated to be available at the end of July 2018

Please consult the CCS Support department if you have any questions on the above release.

– John

Where’s My Automatic Updates?

Where’re My Automatic Updates?

Over the years I have seen people assume that a software manufacturer, software supplier, or support vendor should be doing something automatically.

Here are some fairly standard examples of things that are most often NOT automatic:

1. Operating System and Security

  • Installation of Windows Security Service Packs – While this can be scheduled for automatic download and installation, by default this is not turned on.
  • Installation of Anti-Virus And Anti-Malware Software Updates

These items may not be configured to auto-download, auto-install, or auto-notify of success or failure. If something in this area is only partially automated, one needs to take care that these processes are not going on while end-users are on the system and using applications that would be affected, especially if a server or workstation reboot was required. As examples:

  • Scheduling windows updates to only download and install in off-hours while users are not logged into servers or workstations.
  • An anti-virus update might be prompting for a computer restart to complete the installation of a specific update. If this isn’t addressed in a timely manner, your systems could be at risk of being compromised.

2. Application Software – Application Software Security Service Packs

  • MS Office Suites
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Java

There are regular updates for the above applications that should be installed. Failure to do so could result in security holes being present with these applications. While some of these installations can be automated, others cannot be.

3. Application Software Data/Usage issues.

Care should also be taken to make sure that certain updates are not auto-applied especially in situations where there are a lot of customizations.

  • Point of Sale – Sales Tax Rates, which are typically by state, or By Taxing Jurisdictions. The rates should be updated regularly so that the proper sales tax is withheld. While there are some
  • systems that update automatically, some do not.
  • Customers – Taxable Status. If Tax Exempt, the Tax ID number, and expiration dates may need to be updated. Doing this protects you in future tax audit scenarios.
  • Items – Taxable Flags, Item-Based Tax Categories – If tax Flags and item based Tax Categories are not assigned, the result could be incorrect tax amounts being withheld.
  • Payroll – Federal Tax Tables – This includes such things and Social Security and Medicare tax rates, and FUI, 401K Maximums; State Tax Codes – This includes SUI rates; Workers Compensation Rates.

If you have some specific issues or questions, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department.

– John

To Purge or not to Purge? – The data migration dilemma

To Purge or not to Purge? – The data migration dilemma

When anticipating an upcoming Data Migration, here are a few things that you should consider in making purge decisions.

  1. The Time Crunch.

Depending on the application, a typical Data Migration can take at least several days to complete, if not longer.

Depending on the amount of data that one currently has, the entire process can be artificially extended. and cause you to have extra support expense and unwanted downtime.

As the amount of data that you have increased, more disk space is used and so exponentially does the number of resources required to do various tasks. This situation puts more resource pressure on your server and increases the amount of time that it takes to complete tasks. As an example, running history reports could end up taking a considerable amount of time, which may end-up reducing overall staff productivity of people are constantly waiting for something to complete. Generally, this scenario is true whether you are doing a data migration or not.

  1. Do I really need to migrate all of the data?

Typically, most Retailers only keep about (2) two years of detailed history. I have found many instances over the years where companies have decades of detailed history on file. However, with some industries, it may be necessary to retain more history, as examples of this might be if there were extended product warranties or high-priced items with serial numbers (e.g. Water Heaters, Pool and Spa Equipment, Wood Stoves, Tools, Farm Equipment, Electronics, etc.).

  1. What kind of time constraints do I have regarding the purging operations?

Normally, it is best to schedule purging related work for times when there is no one using the application software. Generally, there are at least (3) three good reasons for this as follows:

  • Purging operations usually require a lot of CPU and memory usage. So if this should normally not be done during peak hours, as it can bog-down your server.
  • Some historical purging operations will hang and wait if it encounters records within the selected range that are in use. This artificially extends the amount of time required to complete the purging operation.
  • Smaller databases generally mean faster backup times.
  1. What is the general condition of the source data?

Most purging and data migration operations require that the data be in good shape, otherwise separate and extensive work may be required to accomplish complete removal of the data or the ability to migrate it.

Some examples of this kind of issue would be.

  • Historical sales data that references sales reps or users that are no longer on file.
  • POS ticket history that involves sales data for customer and items that are no longer on file, or that have corrupt ticket lines.
  • Set-up and supporting data for features that are no longer used, such as sales prices, discount codes, and other pricing schemas.
  • Old customers that haven’t purchased anything for many years. This could include customers with invalid or obsolete contact data.
  • Items that are obsolete/discontinued or haven’t been used for many years.

In many cases, some of this kind of data can be cleaned up ahead of your data migration date,

If you have questions about purging, file utility usage, and data migrations, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support Department

John