The Blog

Two for Tuesday

Not a bad day yesterday! Two more new customers joined the Abel community. One, based in Sydney, is a leader in manufacturing specialist automotive parts. The new Auckland based customer provides state of the art sheet metal fabrication services.

We will tell you more as soon as these new customers are up and running. It is great to be working with them…to be continued ……

Posted in News |

Abel client Manuka Health in the news

It was great to see this highly positive story about Manuka Health and the work Abel is doing with it, featured in a recent Computerword article. Manuka use Abel to get visibility and control over all the interlocking business and manufacturing processes that go into its success as a world supplier of honey-based health products.

And congratulations also to Manuka Health for the recognition it has been winning elsewhere as shown in this recent article in the New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/health/news/article.cfm?c_id=204&objectid=10721480

Posted in Abel Blog, News | Tagged , , |

When was the last time you checked your Abel backup? (Part 2)

First off, I feel I should explain why it has taken so long to write Part 2. I had a bit of crash whilst mountain biking and fractured my right wrist which subsequently required two plates and ten screws to be inserted. Although still bandaged up, I’m officially back in the office, although my typing is somewhat slower. And yes, damn it… I am right handed!

Right, so what’s in Part 2? In Part 1 I stated what I would cover in Part 2 but as I have progressed I have had to change the content slightly to create a better flow. Here’s a summary of what I’m going to cover in this article:

  • What are journal files (transaction journal files)?
  • What the backup timer is and how to set it up.
  • An explanation of the fields on System Backup Maintenance.
  • Success and failure notifications.
  • How do you know if a backup is in progress?

What are journal files?

In layman’s terms, when any record in a database is added, updated or deleted the operation (change to the data) is recorded in a file, this is known as a transaction journal file. For e.g. when a record is updated, a ‘before and after’ image of the record is recorded in the journal file so if for some reason the update cannot be completed then the database can be rolled back to the state before updating commenced.

The other very useful thing about journal files is they can be ‘played back’. For e.g. if I had a good database backup from 2 weeks ago and I had all the journal files since that backup, I would be able to apply all of the changes contained in the journal files to the backup, this is commonly referred to as restoring or recovering a database.

What is the backup timer and how to set it up.

Ah the infamous backup timer. Essentially, the backup timer causes a check to be performed on a regular frequency (usually every 10 minutes) to establish if the day and time has been reached for the Abel Database backup to be initiated. The activation of the backup timer is set up from the System Files Maintenance screen, but will need the Server background application to be running to perform a backup – see below. To activate the backup timer, select Database Backup from the Preset Timer combo box and click SAVE. You may wonder why the backup timer can be toggled on or off? The main reason is that some clients choose to have an Abel test environment running and generally this environment does not need to be backed up. Another is that some clients prefer to use the Jade Care tool set to manage their backups, hence not requiring this timer.

The Abel backup routines come as part of the Server background application which, as long as it has been enabled, will automatically start when the Abel server node [mode?] is started. When the Server background application is started, the backup timer is started.

An explanation of the fields on System Backup Maintenance.

The main purposes of the System Backup Maintenance screen are:

  • To schedule the backup process (which days of the week and at what time).
  • To set where the database backup files are stored.
  • To set where the journal backup files are stored.
  • To set up success and failure notifications.

Some of the fields are pretty self explanatory like which days of the week and at what time the backup is to run and where the backup files are stored. However there are a few fields that may not be as obvious such as:

  • Journals Backup Folder: It’s important to understand this. When a journal switch occurs (a new journal file is started) the old journal file is copied to this location. With that in mind, we recommend that this folder be on a different physical disk to the Journals Root Folder. I’ll go into this in more detail in Part 3.
  • Delete Journal files older than [X] days: This is a house keeping setting for deleting old journal files that are no longer of use. When closed journal files (in the Journals Root Folder and in the Journals Backup Folder) have been backed up to tape or a device they may be discarded.
  • Journal File Size: This specifies the size of the transaction journal file. A journal switch occurs when the journal exceeds this size.
  • Delete Backup History older than: The table on this screen lists all the backup jobs that have occurred. Every now and then you may wish to flush some or all of this history. To do this, enter the desired date and then click the Delete button to the right of the date field – doing this will delete all history older than the date entered.
  • Server Background Running: This is an information only field. It tells you whether the Server Background Application is running or not. Unless there’s a very specific reason, it should always display Yes. If it says No and you are unaware of why then you’d better contact your Abel Distributor because the Abel backup relies on it running.

Success and Failure Notifications

Abel goes to a lot of trouble to tell you about problems with your backup should one occur, but the backup notification system needs to be setup in order for notifications to occur. There is a section for setting up notifications on the System Backup Maintenance screen. Notifications can be setup for reporting both a successful or failed backup. Abel offers two forms of notifications:

  • Email notifications (up to two email addresses).
  • Internal message notifications (up to two internal users)

Additionally, Abel has other internal checks to make sure the Abel backup system is healthy, such as:

  • If a backup has been missed, a notification is sent out reporting which backups have been missed.
  • If the backup timer is not configured correctly a notification is sent out reporting this. A common situation where this occurs is if the Abel database is moved to a different folder location or server, in this case Abel automatically disables the backup timer and so requires a user to reactivate it. The reason we disable it is most clients who have a test system will occasionally take a copy of their production database to replace their test database, and we don’t want the test system backing up over the top of the production system backup.

How do you know if a backup is in progress?

The System Backup Maintenance screen displays real time information about a backup that is in progress. The top entry in the history table will display information about the backup that is in progress. The status of the backup and which file is currently getting backed up are displayed. If the backup completes successfully without any errors the Status column will display Backup Completed. If the backup fails for any reason the status of the backup will display Failed and information about the error is displayed in the error column.

Hopefully after reading this you will have gained a better understanding of the Abel backup process and how to check your own setup.

Again your feedback is welcome so do post a comment if you have any questions.

In Part 3 I will cover how the journal file location can affect performance.

Posted in Abel Blog | Tagged , , , , |

Responding to the tragedy in Christchurch

Almost nothing in living memory will have affected as many New Zealanders as this week’s catastrophic earthquake in Christchurch. Given Abel’s own roots in Christchurch, this has been something we have felt keenly. Our thoughts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones, to anyone still waiting on news of people who are missing and to everyone working to provide relief and get the city on its feet again.

Times like this of course bring people together. It has been great to see so many people offer help and support. One fund that we have contributed to is the Christchurch Mayoral Fund. We’d urge you to make a donation if you can give anything at all.

Posted in Abel Blog | Tagged , |

When was the last time you checked your Abel backup?

If the answer is “I don’t know” then this series of articles is for you.

If you don’t already know, Abel is built in Jade which has a purpose-built object-orientated database. For more information on Jade check out the Jade website.

The first thing I want to stress is that different rules apply when backing up an online database such as Jade. A backup that is performed while the database is active for both read and write access is referred to as a ‘full online’ or ‘hot’ backup. Because the database can be updated during the backup, special begin and end backup records are required to be written to the Jade database transaction journal, to bind the backup operation. So if you’re using third party backup software to backup the .dat and/or current journal files in an online Jade database then, in the words of our Managing Director, “you should be shot!” and I agree.

There are only two acceptable ways to backup an online Jade database:

  • Using an integrated backup application that utilizes the Jade database administration framework.
  • Using Jadecare – Jadecare is a Jade environment management tool produced by the folks at Jade. Click here for more information on Jadecare.

Ok so it’s just been pointed out to me that there are actually 3 ways.. you can also take the database down (ie. closing the Abel application server) and copy the database and journal files manually to whatever location or device you desire. This of course is not an online database backup but its perfectly acceptable.

Within Abel is a comprehensive backup solution that utilizes the Jade database administration framework. Here are a couple of the most important Abel backup features that are crucial to understand and implement:

  • Success and failure notifications: When a backup runs, notifications can be sent to two email addresses and/or two internal Abel users, reporting the success or failure of a backup. Additionally, and independently, Abel constantly checks when the last backup was run; if backups that should have been performed are missed, notifications are sent out reporting this.
  • Journal backup folder: When the current journal file is closed and a new one started, a compressed copy of the closed journal is copied to this folder. This folder should be on a different physical disk to your current database journals. An ideal setup is having your database (.dat files) and journals backup folder on one physical disk/array and your current journals folder on another.

Watch out for Part 2 of this series. In it I will go into detail on how the Abel backup works, how to set it up, how to test it and how the journal file location can affect performance.

Your feedback is welcome so do post a comment if you have a question or something to add.

Posted in Abel Blog | Tagged , , |

Installations in China and Ireland to start 2011

Happy New Year! And already 2011 has got off to a very good start at Abel with software installations for new Abel users in Suzhou, Jiangsu province China, and in Dublin, Ireland now underway.

The installation in China is for a member of an existing global Abel client network. The Irish installation marks a further success for newly-formed Abel distributor, Quickstone Software, based in the US, in continuing to take Abel software to new users. It also marks a new development in applying Abel ERP functionality to generating savings and efficiencies in hospital management systems.

Our colleagues at Quickstone in particular are getting very positive feedback from organisations who see good potential gains in using Abel Distribution and Supply to improve visibility and efficiency in ordering and supply. This is an exciting development for us, and we’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Abel Blog | Tagged , , , |

Merry Christmas from the Abel team!

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2011 from the team at Abel Software.

As 2010 winds up, it’s a chance to look back on how the year shaped up for us here at Abel Software. Notably, our development team has achieved some fairly substantial milestones this year. One of our key achievements was the release of Abel 5.0 which was a mammoth effort by the guys, with over 1000 screens being re-painted to enable intelligent resizing when a screen is stretched. And while we were at it, we gave them a face lift and added a bit more width, which looks great on wide screen monitors. The project was the culmination of several months work and, as I’m sure you can appreciate, we were excited to see the end result.

Abel™ continues to grow and develop as our customers’ needs and the business environment changes. The Abel team is customer driven and we are always striving to improve, whether it’s by way of a major development to align with a new business process, or simply a small tweak that makes someone’s day a little bit easier. You’d be surprised how often a small adjustment can make all the difference to a customer.

2010 saw the signing up of new customers, new implementations and of course plenty of upgrades filled with goodies. We were also delighted to welcome onboard Quickstone Software as our distributor for North America.

We are very much looking forward to 2011 and we wish our prospects, customers, distributors, friends and indeed our competitors a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2011.

The Abel team.

Posted in Abel Blog |

The Dominion Post – Abel takes new aim at market in US

As reported by The Dominion Post, November 29, 2010.

Posted in News | Tagged , , |

New US distributor targets “sweet spot” for NZ software in post-recession American market

Media Release: November 28, 2010

The impact of the global financial meltdown on American businesses’ spending habits is providing new opportunities for New Zealand software, says the founder of a young US company which begins distributing Abel Software this month.

Developed over 14 years with a focus on providing medium-sized companies with affordable computing power, Abel’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is now used by over 200 businesses in ten countries.

Dana Craig, a co-founder of Quickstone Software, LLC, based in Park City, Utah, said that these days she is seeing businesses looking a lot harder at what they can get for their money and being much more ready to look at smart, practical alternatives to established major suppliers.

“We are seeing a good market opportunity here because Abel™ can fill a strong need to get the job done while keeping IT budgets under tighter control,” she said.

She had been previously convinced first-hand of the opportunity for the technology as project manager for an Abel customer with 3,500 users in over 120 separate business units across the US.

“I think Big ERP has had a stranglehold on the market. But they have just gotten too big; they are hard to work with for medium-sized businesses,” she said.

“The people we are talking with need a system that can be installed fast, is easy to run and doesn’t cost $250,000 up-front.

“The recession is a good time for us because Abel helps people improve efficiencies and contains costs without all the hassle and expense of a big system. In the new economic environment, Abel really hits a sweet spot that makes sense for the mid-market.”

She said that at first some American customers from her previous role were surprised to be offered software developed in New Zealand.

“But it was not long before they found that it was what they needed. Abel is almost infinitely customizable. It lets them do things they really couldn’t have done without a much larger system, requiring extra investment in time and money.”

Founded in 1996 and developed in Auckland by engineers with a background in developing successful solutions for industrial, manufacturing and mining companies, Abel’s ERP provides a full range of tools for gaining visibility into all business operations. It has always prized a reputation for simplicity of use and reliability, Jane Mattsen, its Business Manager, said.

“Although we have Abel sites in the US already, we are delighted to see Quickstone open as an Abel distributor,” she said. “They know what Abel can do and are ideally positioned to present it to an American market that is probably getting back to basics in looking for real practical value. “

Ms Craig said Quickstone is targeting customers across the US but expects most early business activity to come from neighbouring western states.

Posted in News |

Campaign Building – Making the most of your client data.

Most of you reading this would not have a clue who I am. Most of the companies that send me marketing, either through my inbox or my letterbox, do not have a clue who I am. To make matters worse, the majority of those companies can’t even spell my name properly. So consequently, I get bombarded with a barrage of semi-personally addressed mail, electronic or otherwise, most of which is simply not relevant to me.

There is one company, however, who is smart enough to market to me, based on my demographic, combined with my shopping habits. Sure, I have to swipe a card each time I shop there so they can make me feel special, but the information I receive is relevant, to me! Relevant.

rel-e-vant (adjective) – bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent: a relevant remark (Thanks dictionary.com)

During the course of building a relationship with our clients, we accumulate a whole bunch of information about them such as:

  • Who they are;
  • Where they are;
  • What they buy;
  • What they don’t buy;
  • Who are their key personnel;
  • What they are interested in (either as individuals or as a company).

We also take the time to slot them in to various categories. So, once all of this information has been accumulated, how can we use it?

Within the Abel Integrated CRM is the ability to build targeted campaigns. By utilizing client, sales and contacts data you can build campaigns which are pertinent and through organic growth will ultimately result in increased Customer Lifetime Value.

From a purely functional perspective, campaigns are built by selecting a variety of criteria within the Campaign Build screen. These various criteria may include geographical selections such as Country, State, City, or Postcode combined with Client Type, Business Type, Account Manager, Contact Categories, Inventory Categories (purchased or otherwise) and individual Inventory Items (purchased or otherwise). The flexibility is such that any combination of criteria can be selected to create your tailored segmented campaign.

Remember, non-specific campaigns that are over-frequent and not pertinent to the customer often can have the reverse effect of one which is tailored. So, forget the traditional marketing campaigns that bombard your customers with generic promotions and switch on to campaign management that is more relevant to your clients and ultimately more beneficial for your company.

Posted in Abel Blog | Tagged , , |