We occasionally get questions about program performance from our users across the United States. Solutions to getting your programs run faster in a networking environment usually come from either a) evaluating your existing network hardware b) taking a look at how your antivirus software affects performance c) looking at how much data you have accumulated over the years.
Problem - Slow Network Hardware: Networking cards and switches come in speeds of either 10, 100 or 1,000 (aka gigabit) megabits per second. Agency Software program requirements require a wired (not wireless) connection, and that every computer have a minimum of a 100 megabit network connection - with gigabit (1,000 megabit) connections highly recommended. We often dial in and find the server or one of the workstations running with a 10 megabit connection - or about 1/100th of its potential speed. This can cause the entire office to slow down to a crawl. Additionally, note that having a 100 megabit network card in the server with 10 users connected is really only providing 10 megabits per user because the speed is divided each time a user connects (ie the first user gets 100 megabit, 2 users get 50 apiece, 3 get 33, and so on) , therefore installing a gigabit network card can be particularly helpful at the server.
Suggestions: To determine how fast your workstation's network hardware is - click Start/Control Panel/Network and Sharing, and then click the Local Area Connection link and see what the speed says. If it's 100 mb or less, it may be time to upgrade your network card and/or switch. Investing a little bit of money into your network hardware can save a lot of frustration. A one gigabit network card is currently advertised for about $25, and an 8 user gigabit switch about $80 on the website cdw.com, and can usually be inexpensively installed by your local hardware tech. Make sure to check your server's network hardware too, because slow hardware at the server will most dramatically affect performance everywhere else in the office. Additionally, you should check that all of your network cables are firmly plugged into the back of your computers and switch. A single loose network cable or bad network card in the office can result in lots of problems such as corruption, lost data, Index Out of Date, or Unknown Internal Operating System errors.
Problem - Overly Aggresive Antivirus: We have received numerous complaints regarding the use of Antivirus Software with Agency Software products. Some customers are complaining of severe speed degradation and/or frequent lock-ups, particularly in a network environment. You can easily test the affect of your antivirus software on your network performance by temporarily disabling your antivirus while running your Agency Software programs. If you see a dramatic increase in performance, you may have overly aggressive antivirus software.
Reason: Antivirus Programs can be extremely aggressive about opening and scanning files for virus patterns for over 200,000 known viruses each and every time a file is accessed when Auto-Protect is enabled. Since Agency Software programs maintain a large number of insurance related files (about 5,500 files per program) the impact of opening and scanning each file every time it is accessed is much more apparent that running other programs such as Microsoft Word® – where you would be accessing ten or less files at a time. The delay that occurs while a file is being opened and scanned is particularly noticeable when running over a network – especially so if both the workstation and server have antivirus running in Auto-Protect mode. In this scenario, each file is being scanned twice, once at the server and once at the workstation, before being allowed to open. This delay could result in a network “time-out” error and lock the program up. Additionally, this redundancy could result in a perfectly “clean” file being scanned thousands of times per day.
Suggestions: Given the prevalent number of computer viruses that exist and their pervasive nature, you simply cannot afford to run a computer without antivirus software these days. Please note that the following suggestions are just that – suggestions, and that Agency Software, Inc. accepts no responsibility for the management of your business antivirus strategies. While the final decision on how to address your businesses anti-virus concerns ultimately rests on your or your systems administrator – we offer the following suggestions:
1. Disable Auto-Protect: Once a computer has been scanned for viruses and is proclaimed “clean” – most people feel that there is no reason to keep persistently scanning for viruses. Once a computer is “clean” the typically only way a virus can invade a system is from an outside source such as an email, floppy disk, or network connection. Disabling Auto-Protect does not disable your antiviruses ability to scan incoming emails. If all of your network computers have been recently scanned and are “clean” then you won’t get a virus from a network connection. It is our opinion that once a system is clean – there is no reason to constantly keep looking for viruses.
The key here is to keep your anti-virus software updated and scan on a regular basis such as each night at midnight when no one is using the computer. Please refer to your Antivirus manual for information on how to schedule a daily virus scan. Additionally, it is important to schedule a scan for each computer on your network, including the file server. Also, regular system backups should be an important part of your businesses anti-virus strategy.
You can typically disable Auto-Protect by right-clicking on your antivirus icon on the lower right-hand corner of your screen and clicking on “Disable Auto Protect”. If you are running over a network – you will want to disable Auto-Protect at the server as well as the workstations.
2. Set Exclusions for Agency Software Files: If you don’t feel comfortable totally disabling Auto-Protect, it is possible to disable Auto-Protect from scanning just files used by Agency Software programs. To do this, start by right-clicking the icon of your Agency Software product (EasyApps, EasyApps Pro, EzAgent, or AgencyPro) and clicking on “Properties”. Find the Target or Command line and write down the folder where the program exists (i.e. “F:\EAPPW”, “F:\EZAGENT” or “C:\APRO”) – then close the properties dialog. Use your instructions located in your antivirus software to set exculsions to this folder and subfolders.
3. Try a different antivirus program: If you still don’t feel comfortable re-configuring your antivirus fsoftware, you might try a different version. Other antivirus packages (such as McAfee and AVG) exist that aren’t nearly as obtrusive, for instance, as Norton Antivirus, Vipre, or Karpersky.
Problem - Accumulation of Data: Many of our customers have been using Agency Software programs for many years, or even decades. Over time customers come and go, policies renew and are added, and we add more and more notes, images, and ACORD forms to the system. Meanwhile the TFile system is quielty adding entries on the background. One day we come to work and find that we have accumulated many megabytes worth of data - much of which might be too old to be relavent anymore.
Suggestions: At Agency Software, Inc. - we have strategies to back up your old data to an archive, and then purge out data in your working copy that is older than a particular date. You would still be able to access your old data as needed if an emergency came up, but your day to day work would be done in the streamlined data. Just give us a call at (800)342-7327 to discuss possible PurgePolicy or CloseBooks (for accounting data) proceedures on your data.
If you don't want to purge your old data, or if you maintain a large number of new clients and policies - you might consider upgrading to our product named AgencyPro SQL Edition. This product uses the powerful Microsoft SQL Server Database backend to manage your records. It costs a little more, but provides a faster and more robust database engine that is designed to handle larger volumes of data.
We sincerely hope that you have found this bulletin valuable. Please call us at (800)342-7327 if you questions or comments.
The Agency Software, Inc. Staff