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

Security and Encryption Malware

Security and Encryption Malware

Despite one’s best intent, systems can be infected by viruses, hacked, or crashed due to various reasons and through various sources. Having good security programs, and redundant data/program backup functions in place should be considered a must-have. However, even with these policies and procedures in place, sometimes things can go very wrong.

As a recent example:

A company’s application server was infected with a file encryption ransomware program during the middle of the day. Most of the operating system, and various programs where encrypted.

Doing a repair installation attempt was unsuccessful in correcting the issues, and ultimately, a recovery required pulling selected programs and data from multiple backups. Because the back-ups were incomplete, this created a number of residual issues related to some operating system files/features and selected programs.

This infection was later determined to be the result of all of the following:

  • Failure to restart the server after an anti-virus software update.
  • open RDP Internet ports on the server’s firewall.
  • An un-patched known security flaw on the application server that was known to be vulnerable to remote brute force connection attempts.

In this particular case, the saving grace was…

Their core application software programs and data on at least some of the redundant back-ups were undamaged by the encryption Malware infection.

The end result here was… a recovery project that could have taken weeks or months of work to complete or that could have resulted in massive irreversible data loss, ended up causing only several days of disruption and only a couple of days’ worth of data loss

While all of this might seem like a no-brainer to some, a focused plan that has built-in redundancy should be considered a must for any business.

If you would like a review of your current system for either security or and/or backup integrity, please contact CCS Retail Systems Support Department to schedule your System Security and Recovery evaluation.

– John

The Disadvantages of Using Duplicate Document Numbers

The Disadvantages of Re-using Document Numbers

They are numerous reasons for not doing this as follows:

Typically, in most software applications, a document number is considered a Primary Key, so it should be considered “Unique” and would not be duplicated. However, there are some programs where it might be a Secondary key where multiples might be allowed, such as using a sequence Number, such as when using duplicate entries and historical tables such as Check History (e.g. checks, voids for the same checks, or manual payments, EFT transactions, etc.).

Even in situations where the programming might allow for this sort of thing, a duplication might cause other issues with software functionality, As examples.

  • GAAP – According to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practice) document numbers should also be considered unique. This also makes auditing easier. If an auditor sees a lot of duplicate documents, it may prompt the auditor to dig deeper looking for other accounting irregularities, thereby artificially extending the length of the audit.
  • The same Ticket/Invoice number exists in history multiple times – A user runs a report on ticket #20324 without having specified a date or date range. The subsequent report returns eight documents created over a period of 10 years.
  • Problems posting – I have seen examples where end-users have used the same invoice number dozens of times. When they try to post a new voucher using the same invoice number, the program may hang or crash while it attempting multiple times to create a “New” document for one that already exists to previously. As an example, the program might attempt to write the same document into history 10 times, and then just stop the attempts to write the new data.

The worst example of this that I have seen so far, is with one vendor that 21 manual payments on file using an invoice and check number of “SUPPLIES” – In this case, a better example would create the numbers would be something like “SUPMMDDYY” (e.g. SUP031518).

If you have any questions or need assistance with the creating your own document number assignment schema, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support department.

– John

Historical Data Migrations From Old to New Platforms.

Historical Data Migrations From Old to New Platforms.

Data migrations can go awry for many reasons, however, most often these bad situation scenarios can be avoided with consultation with CCS Retail Systems Support and some careful planning.

Here are some recent examples.

  1. Data Migrations where corrupt data is present.

An IT person did an in-house test migration to a newer NCR Counterpoint software version. The company preferred to not purge history regularly. There were some known corrupt data records complicating the procedure. The company had some history that was over 10 years old. (A recommended policy is to try to keep 3 years of history at a maximum.)

The IT person planned to start the upgrade on a Friday night and complete it by the following Monday morning. This approximately 48+ hour time frame would be very aggressive when considering the scope and complexity of the conversion.

  1. Trying to using the current software on antiquated hardware and unsupported antiquated operating systems.

Attempting this sort of migration can be a recipe for disaster because damage to your data could occur from system architecture and software limitations.

For example, a business owner copied his current updated software installation onto an old server running an older, unsupported operating system. The performance of the software was then extremely inadequate for the task. Program completion times were decreased by as much as two orders of magnitude from current systems available.

  1. Some things that you can do to prevent the above-referenced scenarios are:

1. Verify that existing hardware, operating system, and software infrastructure meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for the new software. This should be considered mandatory

2. Get proper training on the new software in advance of doing either a test migration or a live migration.

3. Read all of the documentation related to the entire data migration process.

3. Plan to do a thorough test migration, This would include having end-users replicate normal processing work that represents a least several days’ worth of live data that was done in their old system.

4. Schedule CCS Retail Systems Support to do the entire data migration or provide your organization with assistance on the migration project.

– John