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Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Skilled Commentator
Posts: 98
Country: Australia

Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Hi,

 

I’m after some advice on the best way to achieve what we are after. 

 

We use ACT premium and have done for 6 years.  We have 2 licenses and 20 inactive users for our 20 personal trainers that all share the one computer in our small personal training studio (see www.fitnessenhancement.com). They rarely use ACT themselves so yes we can (barely) coordinate 20 people and one computer!  Client appointments, phone calls etc are of course each scheduled for each applicable inactive user/Trainer.  We use Durkin Calendar View Plus to make this user friendly.  A large part of our business is now mobile training (ie us in peoples homes) so we need the 12 Trainers who do this to be able to access ACT outside of the Studio (either lap top, iphone, ipad or ideally all).  This is where we are running into problems and I need some advice.  Here are some points to clarify:

 

  • I know this will be expensive and we are prepared to spend the money, but obviously price is always an issue as a small business and it needs to be the right balance of how good it is for how much it costs.
  • I’m looking at the total five year cost, I’d prefer higher upfront costs and no ongoing costs, but whichever is best vaklue over 5 years is fine
  • We use Northwoods and Durkin products etc so at least our main database needs to be on a PC to make this work (I think? Let me know if not)
  • We are currently using Hand Held Contact with 12 paid HHC licenses all syncing to the one ACT user and each HHC user filtered to only display the applicable Trainers clients.  This isn’t working well for a  variety of reasons!
  • We have a high staff turnover so it cannot be installed on their device/PC etc (unless as simple as HHC) as it would be too much hassle.  I am aware of pros and cons of how to sync to a remote database as the main database does this with my lap top and the second license.
  • We want each Trainer/user to only have access to their own clients, not all the others for security and privacy reasons
  • Only the 12 Trainers who do mobile sessions need mobile access.  The other 8 can stay as inactive users and use the Studio computer.  So I can buy 12 licenses instead of 20!
  • We are rapidly growing and want a solution that will work for us when we have 50+ Trainers in a few years
  • Trainer need to be able to have pretty much full ACT functionality, so this rules out the solution being they get an auto email with all their sessions each day.
  • I am open to ACT for web (mainly if it’s dramatically cheaper) but most people seem to not be a fan of it and I would lose a few ACT features???
  • I am open to ACT premium mobile (mainly if it’s dramatically cheaper) but most people seem to not be a fan of it and I would lose a few ACT features???
  • So far the most promising solution I have been given (based on outcome and price) is host it on a terminal server at our Studio, buy another 12 licenses, get someone to set it all up for me and buy more licenses each time we get more Trainers.

 

This is a big step forwards for our company in every respect so I really need the best solution, however I’m hearing many varied opinions! This forum has always been helpful so I would really appreciate some more great advice. 

 

Thanks,

 

Scott Hunt

Bronze Elite Contributor
Posts: 2,546
Country: New_Zealand

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Other than the release of Sage ACT! Premium Mobile entering the marketplace, nothing really has changed since you asked the same question 10 months ago. Your situation is better suited to a product that provides for concurrent licence. ACT! is not concurrent licence and I wouldn't expect it to be any time soon.

However I sense that you want to stick with ACT! and have it available across smartphone and tablet devices. HandHeld Contact (HHC) or Sage ACT! Premium Mobile can offer that. I suspect the problems you are having with HHC are not the technology but your trying to enforce controlled access to contacts without each mobile user having a full ACT! licence that isn't realistically achievable. You mention that people need a large proportion of the ACT! functionality so in terms of future sustainability, Sage ACT! Premium Mobile (SAPM) is likely the better option as there is room for that technology to grow beyond what a sync solution like HHC can offer. It is also a recognised important focus for future development by the Sage ACT! development team.

 

In summary, get out your chequebook and spend the money on the ACT! Premium licence, it is capable of delivering what you want and in the Australia/NZ region where you reside, the software assurance scheme keeping you in the latest version from year to year is good value. ACT! annual software assurance would cost you approximately half the cost per annum per user to maintain than you are currently paying per annum for just HHC licence renewal. You would be well advised to choose an ACT! consultant to help you with the implementation. They are listed here for your region http://www.sagebusiness.com.au/why-sage/our-business-partners/act-certified-consultants   

 

  

Graeme Leo
Xact Software - consultants and developers
Follow us on Twitter and check out our Blog


Bronze Super Contributor
Posts: 1,679
Country: Australia

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

I've get more licenses for ACT!, then migrate your database off your PC and put it onto a VPS (Virtual Private Server) in a data centre so that it's always available (doesn't matter if your PC is on or off, or internet is up or not). Run ACT! Premium for Web, then if staff are in areas that have good mobile coverage, use the APFW/M (ACT! for Web Mobile) interface, each logging in as themselves (not sharing a user login). Or if mobile coverage is not so good, use Handheld Contact, again, each users as themself so that you can manage who they see.

 

When staff leave, in ACT!, make the user inactive, create new staff, in HHC, transfer the license to the new user.

 

I would recommend talking with an ACC (ACT! Certified Consultant) prior to rollout as there are little things that can make a big difference for you (thinking procedures like making a user inactive, creating a new user, backups, testing of backups etc, license management, ACT! Limited Access, HHC sync sets - these are issues an ACC is familiar with encountering).

 

 

Skilled Commentator
Posts: 98
Country: Australia

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Hi Graeme, thanks for the help.  Yes pretty well covers my situation. Hindsight would be wonderful as HHC and doing it on the cheap wasn't worth it.  Yes I painfully have my cheque book  ready as I agree what your saying is the best/only way to go.  I've spoken to some consultants and the general consenus is the same, but they vary on the executiuon.  At such a large cost I want to make sure I get the best option.  Could you please give me your thoughts on the below two areas I'm getting different opinions on? Both seem to be a ball park similar cost, but different pros and cons? 

 

1. Get a server and host it on that in my Gym, or pay a professioanl server company to host it elsewhere? Which would you suggest and why?

 

2. Use the Mobile option of ACT premium (this losses options like "groups"?), or just have user remotely access the noraml ACT premium through a browser (less user friendly on a mobile device?) Which would you suggest and why?

 

Thanks again

Skilled Commentator
Posts: 98
Country: Australia

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Thanks Ben, I'd like to avoid HHC as that would add another unnesessary annual cost per user.  

 

So you recommend use an VPS in a data centre largely for the security compared to if my own server goes down? Are there any speed differences on ACT as opposed to being on me buying my own server?

 

I asked Grame a similar question as well, so great to get a couple of view points.  Doesn't Premium for Web and Mobile for Web lose some functions such as groups? Also I need to still be able to use Durkin CVP and Northwoods products in the Gym (remote/other users don't need it) so I know that this would have to sync to ACT premium on a PC?

 

Or is it a better option for them to access the normal ACT Premium (ie not ACT for Web or Mobile) through the server?

 

Thanks 

Bronze Elite Contributor
Posts: 2,546
Country: New_Zealand

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Scott

You have said you are looking to expand to 50 users so if you were to purchase your own server then it is going to have to be more than just a basic small business server, so if doing so your probably looking at $6000 minimum for the appropriate server. The other issue is about broadband performance at your premise. The advantage of hosting at a data centre is that broadband performance will very likely be better. Having said that you are favouring capex over leasing/hosting as an expenditure item. So if choosing to have an on-premise solution do check out broadband performance

 

The way forward with Sage ACT! Premium Mobile (SAPM) is to include Groups and Companies in the product so I would think that there would be a good chance of Sage ACT! introducing either or both of those features to SAPM on there next release. I would doubt that you would see either in HHC in the near future. You could still uses HHC where you have a few people that don't get reliable internet while they are mobile. It depends what your mobile devices are as to their suitability for displaying ACT! Premium for Web interface. Looking to the future Windows 8 Pro on the yet to be released Microsoft Surface hardware looks promising. You could also synch ACT! to that device I would think and run ACT! as a desktop interface if you wanted.       

Graeme Leo
Xact Software - consultants and developers
Follow us on Twitter and check out our Blog


Skilled Commentator
Posts: 98
Country: Australia

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Thanks Graeme, yes the plan is to have 50 or so Trainer well before 5 years.  So it sounds like a data centre is a safer option at this stage as it can grow with the company as oppossed to over spending on a server now, or underspending and needing anbother in a coupel of years.  Do you have an approx price for a data centre for 20 or 50 users?

 

HHC wouldn't be needed as that also adds another cost, and could just enter info, meetings etc later when they have good internet.

 

SAPM sounds like a good solution. Are the only drawbacks a few features like groups and companies? If so that is ok as they are not critical features.

 

So if it's hosted in the data centre and I use SAPM for the Mobile Trainers/all the remote users can this still sync to ACT premium installed on the Gym PC?  The reason it needs to be installed on a PC is in the Gym we use Northwoods to automate emails etc and Durkin Calendar View Plus to see so many users side by side.  None of the other users need these functions.

Bronze Super Contributor
Posts: 1,679
Country: Australia

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users


scott hunt wrote:

So you recommend use an VPS in a data centre largely for the security compared to if my own server goes down? Are there any speed differences on ACT as opposed to being on me buying my own server? 


I do, we use a VPS ourselves. I don't find any speed differences between using a properly spec'ed VPS or a properly spec'ed physical server.


Doesn't Premium for Web and Mobile for Web lose some functions such as groups? Also I need to still be able to use Durkin CVP and Northwoods products in the Gym (remote/other users don't need it) so I know that this would have to sync to ACT premium on a PC? 


Yes, there isn't yet (as of today 9th Nov 2012) full feature parity between ACT! for the desktop and ACT! for Web or ACT! for Web Mobile. However, the ACT! for Web Mobile is being actively worked on, in the last six months they've added in more functionality to it, and have indicated that more is yet to come, so personally I'm very much looking forward to that.

I would be inclined to run Northwoods WP on the VPS so that it's up and running 24/7. I would still use Durkin Calendar View Plus on your local machine, using a remote database that sync's with the VPS.

 


Or is it a better option for them to access the normal ACT Premium (ie not ACT for Web or Mobile) through the server? 


That's possible, and I've got clients who do this. It really depends more on your workflow, circumstances, budget and requirements. Without properly discussing this is hard to say definitively.

Ben.

 

Bronze Elite Contributor
Posts: 2,546
Country: New_Zealand

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

For data centre pricing you need to see what is available in Australia, I'm not familiar with pricing there.

Just to be clear on HHC, there are features where HHC is strong such as connectivity between the native address book and ACT! , phone calls being recorded in ACT! history, emails and sms sent from mobile being recorded to ACT! history. SAPM has a way to go before it can do that but overall, the capability for SAPM as a HTML5 browser solution rather than the traditional sync solution of HHC lends itself to greater development scope and it is an area that Sage ACT! is placing emphasis on. So HHC is a sync solution SAPM is a browser (live) solution i.e. it does not sync.

 

 

 

  

 

Graeme Leo
Xact Software - consultants and developers
Follow us on Twitter and check out our Blog


Skilled Commentator
Posts: 98
Country: Australia

Re: Advice on how to get ACT mobile/in the cloud/remote access etc for 12+ users

Thanks ben, I've been doing my research! 

 

Or is it a better option for them to access the normal ACT Premium (ie not ACT for Web or Mobile) through the server? 


That's possible, and I've got clients who do this. It really depends more on your workflow, circumstances, budget and requirements. Without properly discussing this is hard to say definitively.     

This sounds like the BEST soultion as I gather this is the only way to get FULL ACT functionality?   The only thing that would stop me doing this option would be the cost. Have you got an approx ballpark setup cost to get up and running on VPS server (I'm looking into hosting prices)?

 

 

As Mobile or Web options are free with each license I gather it would be mininmal extra cost and effort to have these running as well as the server option? So Trainers could use the Mobile option when on their phone or at clients homes, and server option when on a PC and they want more functionality.