Ever increasing demand for gains in productivity coupled with decreasing resources make tools which extend the reach of network administrators invaluable by saving both time and expense. One such tool is PA Server Monitor. This system “utility” silently monitors a myriad of defined Windows Server events for critical conditions and instantly send alerts by email and/or text message to one or more persons when a monitored event is triggered by the system. It has provided significant assistance to NYSDA in the monitoring and management our several servers.
Power Admin LLC, who builds and distributes PA Server Monitor, describes it this way: PA Server Monitor is a powerful, yet simple to use software solution to monitor your servers and network hardware. PA Server Monitor will closely monitor your systems and notify you of failures or performance problems and run actions you define to minimize business impact. For a limited time, PA Server Monitor Lite, is being offered free of charge in exchange for a link to their website. Click here to read more about their offer.
ActivePresenter Pro from Atomi Systems, captures, in both audio and video, complete screen sessions for demonstration and training purposes and will allow NYSDA to produce screen capture (screencast) training presentations for both our Case Management System (now in forty defender offices across the state) as well as our in-house training presentations. It allows full editing of the captured sessions and then exports the edited “slides” in a variety of formats including Flash video, standard video (AVI, Windows Media, MPEG4), PowerPoint, Word, PDF, and HTML for browser presentations.
NYSDA was particularly pleased with ActivePresenter’s ability to automatically generate popup prompts of onscreen actions such as mouse clicks, Enter key presses, right and left arrow movements and other user input. These prompts in word balloon format reinforce overdubbed audio and streamline the presentations, giving them a very professional look and enhancing learning.
After recording the screen capture session, ActivePresenter stores it as a series of thumbnails and presents a feature-rich editor interface similar to PowerPoint, allowing full editing. All slides may be re-arranged and audio overdub and editing is also built-in. External images including PowerPoint slides may be imported as well. The completed demonstration can be easily exported to a number of video formats.
At Atomi Systems’ website, you can view an online demo or download a functional version of ActivePresenter that can export video in AVI and other formats. While the free version doesn’t include all the features of the professional version, like saving in Flash or PowerPoint format, it is still a useful tool that can get you started. Conversion to either of the paid versions is easily done by simply entering a license key; reinstallation is not required ActivePresenter truly embodies the Confucius quote on Atomi System’s website “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand".
NYSDA has, for some time, tried to produce as much in-house graphics, web design and video as possible in order to save both money and time. To that end, Adobe’s donations (through TechSoup.org) have been absolutely essential in providing us with the tools for efficient professional graphic design with Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash. And with their most current donation to us, Adobe Creative Suite 5 Production Premium, we can now quickly and efficiently edit, add effects, and output to just about any format including DVD and Blu-Ray, our ongoing educational series of videos including our N.Y.U., R.I.T. and R.P.I. “trainers” as well as the three days of speakers’ presentations at our annual meetings using Premier Pro, After Effects, Photoshop and the updates to the aforementioned graphics apps which are part of the new CS5 suite of applications.
In addition to the Production Premium tools, Adobe has also donated to us Windows and Mac licenses for Acrobat Pro 9 which we use almost daily for PDF production and distribution. Without Adobe’s kind donations, the level of professionalism we maintain in both the production and the distribution of our media would be virtually impossible, and work we do in-house would have to be outsourced, costing a considerable amount more in logistics, time and money. We thank Adobe for their very generous donations.
Until now, NYSDA has relied on a “bundled” backup solution that was included with Windows® server operating systems called NTBackup which does not provide a complete solution to catastrophic failures of hard drives or other system components. At best NTBackup would only restore data files (the operating system would need to be reloaded “from scratch” first) and has a reputation for not being 100% reliable. Now, with the generosity of Paragon Software Group, we have a complete backup/restoral solution for any server failure. Paragon’s Drive Backup 10 Server is the top-level disaster recovery & system migration solution for both physical & virtual Windows® environments. With Drive Backup 10 Server, NYSDA can now fully recover any lost server simply by booting the system with Paragon’s “boot CD” (included with the server software) and then putting in the recovery CD which Drive Backup 10 creates from an initial system backup done prior to any failure. This restoral procedure typically takes under 30 minutes and yields a full recovery! In the past completely restoring a failed NYSDA mail server had taken almost two full days.
As it is for any law firm needing to keep tabs on client cases, responding to and efficiently tracking NYSDA’s over 2,000 direct service request “cases” accumulating annually has been a problem from the organization’s inception. Having, for years, used database technology that required updating and upgrading as our computers and operating systems changed, NYSDA needed to bring our intake system up to date as well as to pursue additional tools for tracking research requests. Also, as most service requests now originate through email, it was important that any new case intake tracking system work seamlessly with NYSDA’s email system, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Outlook. Public Folder HelpDesk for Outlook from kalmstrom.com Business Solutions (www.kalmstrom.com) has provided the perfect solution as it is both intuitive to use and powerful in its tracking and reporting capabilities and was donated to NYSDA by kalmstrom.com. Very importantly, the learning curve is practically nonexistent because it is directly integrated with Outlook as an “add-in,” meaning that after it is installed (a very simple process handled automatically the first time the Public Folder is accessed by the user), it appears to just be a part of Outlook with its own icons and menu items on Outlook’s Toolbar. The ability to add a new case with two mouse clicks (one to add and the other one to open/edit) directly from within the email program has significantly streamlined our work flow.
PF HelpDesk for Outlook has a myriad of features including automatic email notifications, mailbox monitoring, and detailed ticket history. It generates FAQ answers easily and adds them to the “tickets” (cases) for automating replies. It also creates Outlook tasks from tickets or vice versa. Included free with PF HelpDesk is KBase for Outlook, an application that creates a knowledge base within Outlook with full text searching capability which can be built from rich text, html, attached files, email, etc. Kalmstrom also includes the OLAP Reporting Tool for Excel with PF HelpDesk. This program, per the Kalmstrom website, “facilitates business intelligence by helping management study and draw conclusions from data”.
Although retail site license pricing for PF HelpDesk is $1,4000 USD, Kalmstrom generously donates the product no cost to many charities and not-for-profit organizations including NYSDA. There is, however, a nominal charge for annual support which is, we have found, excellent. Any support questions we have needed to ask have almost always been responded to the same day. Once, with a late afternoon support question, the reply came the next morning as their offices are in Sweden and the time differential impacted the response. It is noteworthy that Kalmstrom also offers free organizational licenses for several of their other products. Check their website for further details.
Backing up NYSDA's documents every day has proven to be a challenge due to the traditional high cost of "industrial strength" backup solutions as well as procuring reliable storage devices and media. However, it seems like the companies that sell these thousand dollar plus software packages are not aware that we are living in the twenty-first century. Backup solutions no longer need to be costly, especially with the ever falling prices of hard drives. What once took a fancy (with associated cost) external tape drive, expensive media and esoteric software can now be done with a sub-hundred dollar external USB hard drive and very reasonably priced copy/file synchronization software.
Super Flexible File Synchronizer costs well under a hundred dollars and has more (or as many) bells and whistles as any of the old school, high priced backup "solutions". The list of features goes on forever, and (with the Pro version), installing SuperFlex as a service guarantees it will run as needed for a long as your machine is up.
NYSDA has been using SuperFlex for several years now and it hasn't skipped a beat. One nice feature (of the literally scores of both essential and "nice to have" features) is Versioning. With this enabled, documents with multiple revisions can be stored. Levels are user-configured. There have been several occasions when an attorney or other staff needed to roll back a document they were working on, to an older draft. SuperFlex's ability to rename/store previous versions of documents saved the day each time. Having the ability to quickly copy the synchronized file from an external hard drive instead of having to search for a stored-away backup tape, then load, rewind and finally locate the file from an unwieldy indexing scheme was also easy to take. The combination of external hard drive storage and affordable, reliable backup software like Super Flexible File Synchronizer is hard to beat.
dtSearch Corp. - develops, manufactures and sells the award-winning dtSearch® line of products. Known for its "industrial-strength" (PC Magazine) ability to instantly search gigabytes of text, the dtSearch product line operates in traditional desktop and network settings, as well as in Web-based environments. dtSearch® has proven to be an extremly user-friendly, fast and technically advanced in-house text retrieval program for NYSDA's over 300,000 legal, research and archival documents including Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Excel, Adobe PDF, ZIP, HTML and text files. In addition to the over two dozen full-text search options, dtSearch also has the ability, using its "web indexing spider", to index the pages of other organization's web sites to make their content instantly searchable from a user's local hard drive.
askSam Systems - askSam freeform database software and application development consultation. NYSDA has been using askSam for several years to facilitate in-house database development and access including our extensive video library and original document as well as for our Case Digest System which has over fifteen years of NYSDA's criminal case summaries taken from NYSDA's newsletter, The Backup Center Report.
MapInfo Corporation - as their website states, "MapInfo is a global software company that integrates software, data and services to help customers realize greater value from location-based information and drive more insightful decisions. We help our customers in government and business meet a diverse set of needs - from asset management and network planning, to site selection, risk management and 'what's near me' mobile applications". MapInfo has gratiously donated a copy of it's flagship product, MapInfo Professional as well MapInfo®Vertical Mapper™ and a suite of map data for New York State to assist NYSDA's ongoing grass roots campaign to organize Farm Workers and Native Americans in New York as well as our project to review statewide practices among both the judicial and public defenders/assigned counsel and their offices.
Past sponsors include the following:
AbirNet, Inc. - SessionWall-3 Internet/Intranet protection and monitoring software for security and auditing.
Atomz - website search engine services.
Blue Sky Software Corp. - RoboHelp Windows "help" development software.
ClicksRight Computing - ECCO Pro training/consultation.
Corel Corp. - CD Creator software for CD-ROM production.
Cheyenne Software, Inc. - ARCServe and FAXserve network backup and network faxing software.
Clark Development Co., Inc. - PCBoard computer BBS software.
Edensoft - creators of PopUpCop™, popup blocker.
Group 42, Inc. - WebImage, software for web site development.
Helix Software Co. - Netroom memory management software.
JASC, Inc. - Paint Shop Pro software for Web Page construction.
Knozall Systems, Inc. - NLMAuto Pro network task agent software.
Kewlitt.com - Duplic8, duplicate file finder utility.
Microtest, Inc. - Discport hardware device for network CD-ROM access.
NetObjects, Inc. - NetObject Fusion professional web site development software.
Novastor Corporation - ThunderBYTE Anti-Virus Utilities software for network and workstation virus protection/security.
Novell, Inc. - Netware 3.11 network software.
Pitrinec Software - Macro Toolworks, Windows macro recording program.
QUALCOMM, Incorporated, Eudora Division - Eudora Pro 3.0 E-mail client software.
Software Shelf International, Inc - File Rescue 2.7, file recovery utility.
Sygate Technologies - Sygate Personal Firewall PRO software firewall for Windows.
Tetranet Software Incorporated - Tetranet Bot Suite (LinkBot, Wisebot, MetaBot) automated web site testing and maintenance suite for web site development and quality assurance; used extensively in NYSDA's website development.
Visualware - VisualRoute™, a traceroute program that analyzes connectivity problems and overlays all information on a World map.