Creating A Wireless Environment - Where to start

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thanuk
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Creating A Wireless Environment - Where to start

Postby thanuk » Tue Oct 07, 2003 3:13 pm

What's up my computer-literate friends,

I work for a small insurance company, that isn't so small anymore. Basically, we're up to our friggin ears in paper, and there's so many log jams and bottle necks that its at the point where we're crippling ourselves. As one of the few people who actually use a computer as more than a pr0n hoarding device in my office, I have been chosen to look into the wonderful world of paperless office work. The problem is that I have no idea where to start.

There's little solutions I see around me, but that's just not going to cut it. They're looking for a complete paperless world; if it ain't on a hard drive, it doesn't exist. That's the goal. So I turn to you, the geekiest(and by that i mean smartest) people i know: what do you know about turning a paper company into an electronic company? I'm not looking for anything specific here, just anything remotely related; if you used to stuff envelopes and changed to sending emails, great tell me how you did it. IBM came into your company and did this for you? Awesome, what did they do. Anything you know about this subject would be a huge help, cuz if i can make this happen, i'll be able to move out of my parents house:). Seriously though, any knowledge you have would be great, post it here or email it to me at mrcollins21@yahoo.com. Good lookin out folks, I really appreciate it.
Mysrel tells you 'have my babies'
You tell Mysrel 'u want me to be ur baby daddy?'
Mysrel tells you 'daddy? No, I think you have the terminology wrong'
You tell Mysrel 'comeon now we both know i would be the top'
Mysrel tells you 'can be where ever you want to be, yer still getting ****** like a drunken cheerleader'
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Postby Dlur » Tue Oct 07, 2003 3:58 pm

Your company should hire me or Rylan to do it for you and pay to fly us to New York for a few weeks. That is your best option.
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Bilraex
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Postby Bilraex » Tue Oct 07, 2003 5:18 pm

Depends on what your companies budget is. It is far easier and less painless in the long run to hire a consulant for this kinda stuff if you have no IT type dept.
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Postby rylan » Tue Oct 07, 2003 10:27 pm

*grin* Dlur

Thanuk, what all kinds of paperwork are you trying to go to electronic? I'm looking for what the majority of the paperwork is, such as insurance claims forms (and what type of insurance).

Basically what you're really looking for is workgroup database software, something along the lines of Lotus Notes perhaps.
You can always start with a quick and dirty solution of setting up a server with a lot of HD space and shared drives and create a directory structure to put certain documents in. That'll get cluttered up and messy fast though depending on the volume of work.
Do you guys have any sort of common file storage on your network, or what kind of network is it? How many ppl too? :)
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Postby thanuk » Tue Oct 07, 2003 10:48 pm

Ok well first off, if they wanted someone who knew what they were doing like a consultant, they wouldn't have asked me. Secondly, I wouldn't recommend a bunch of god damn slacker mudders to come in as consultants, cuz you'll just be on here bullshitting and not doing work, like me.

That said, we produce insurance policies ourselves. We need to store the policy, the invoices etc, all the communications and background information on each policy. We need to process change requests electronically instead of via paper. I have an idea of how to do all these things, its making them all work together is where i get a little bit frazzled. The reason they asked me to figure it out is because they're cheap: theyll lay out a couple grand for some nice scanners and such, but they arent contracting out a consultant and all this other shit. We have an IT department, which is really a separate company, who should be doing all this but isnt, and im sure as soon as i propose whatever i propose they are gonna tear it to shreds without offering anything constructive of their own (similar to my posts in the Ideas section). So i need to know what the hell im talking about here.

Anyway, the first thing i want to do is get rid of the paper faxes and have them received as pdfs. Then they can get emailed to people who make decisions, then to the TA's who do the work, with an electronic trail instead of a paper trail. I'd like to use outlook to turn these into tasks once they are assigned, and sent into a pool, and then distrubuted by the pool to the individuals as the work comes in. It needs to work on a FIFO basis, and timeliness is important: can't have things getting lost in the shuffle or else bad stuff happens. I also need a way to get mail submissions scanned into PDF on a high speed basis, like 20-30 pages at a time without having someone sit there and put one sheet ona flatbed, scan it, next sheet etc. I know there's scanners out there that can do this, but i dont know where to look(if you say www.hp.com ill slap you). I also need to know if outlook is going to be able to handle distributing work between 15 people on a network without crashing every 10 seconds, and im thinking the answer is no. I also need it to be so simple that a monkey could understand it, as alot of the people who do the TA work are old and are afraid of computers. So yeah, im not asking you tot ell me how to do everything, im just looking for a few clever ideas that might inspire me. Thanks guys.

Nuk
Mysrel tells you 'have my babies'

You tell Mysrel 'u want me to be ur baby daddy?'

Mysrel tells you 'daddy? No, I think you have the terminology wrong'

You tell Mysrel 'comeon now we both know i would be the top'

Mysrel tells you 'can be where ever you want to be, yer still getting ****** like a drunken cheerleader'
rylan
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Postby rylan » Wed Oct 08, 2003 12:23 am

Hrmmm.. yeah its going to be tricky to get all of that stuff to work and connect together without getting some sort of actual database type program. Even cheesy MS Access may help with linking things together. Problem is anything half decent requires a back-end server to support all the clients and deal with all the data transfers. But omg I think you'll kill yourself trying to use Outlook to handle that. For PDF scanning, there are some copy machines with scan capability that you can connect to a network and have it scan in documents, convert to pdf and either email to someone or stick in a directory on the lan. We have one at work, and it kicks ass. I think they're crazy expensive though.
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Postby Dlur » Wed Oct 08, 2003 12:46 am

Yeah, Sharp, Canon, and Ricoh all make multi-function copiers that allow you to scan files in from a multi-page document feeder and send them via email as pdfs. You can likely also get fax modules for these that will send your electronic documents out as faxes if there's no email address.

As for your document retention ambition it sounds to me like you need a large central database to hold all the information. I know SAP makes software and hardware that does this, but I'm guessing you don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on this. So, this leaves us with using some sort of proprietary insurance claim software tied into some Microsoft SQL or an even lamer postgres DB server on a Windows 200x Small Business Server Machine that is also running Microsoft Exchange to support your interoffice communication and email needs along with scheduling and task lists.

The server complete with Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, which just came out, and licenses is going to run you between $4,500 and $20,000 depending on how good of a machine you want ,or even more if you want to actually do it fully correct architecture-wise. Then you'll need decent networking equpment, like a 10/100 w/ gigabit uplinks managed switch of some sort along with a decent internet filewall router. Did I mention you'll need a fairly fast internet connection, some sort of data redundancy (RAID-5) and if you're smart a tape backup of some sort (AIT preferably for this size of server).

Another option would be to call IBM and have them come put a nice AS/400 e-server in your office. Chances are they probably have some developer contract with some programming company that produces custom AS/400 software for the insurance industry.
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Postby Bilraex » Wed Oct 08, 2003 1:33 pm

Or you could save yourself the $4500-$20000 that you will spend in licensing costs for insecure and unreliable software and spend $200-400 on Redhat Enterprise Servers or just download the many fine distros of Linux that will run on any hardware for free.

There are also alot of Document Management Systems out there most open source some not. There is most likely someone out there who has built a set of webpages to do what you are looking to do.
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Postby Dlur » Wed Oct 08, 2003 2:31 pm

Sure, Windows is insecure if you don't patch it. Linux is also insecure if you don't patch it. 9 out of 10 trained monkeys can click on the "Windows Update" icon on their screen. Only 2 out of 10 trained monkeys are able to download an RPM package and then integrate it. Only 1 out of 10 are able to upgrade their kernal.

If you don't keep either up to date then neither of them are secure. As for the costs, it's debatable. Linux is great for some things, and for others, not so great. If you want the quality of your business class software to be dependent upon 5 guys who live in their mom's basement that code Open Source software after they get off work from working tech support for some cable company then by all means. Chances are code fixes will get done approximately as slow or slower as they get done here.

Or you could buy your software from a large company that actually pays their software writers with money instead of pretzels and beer. Perhaps pretzels and beer motivates you to do a good job better than money, but not me.
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Bilraex
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Postby Bilraex » Wed Oct 08, 2003 3:38 pm

anyways im not gonna hijack this thread replying to the FUD from the m$ camp.

I am merely bringing to light that there are many low cost/not getting locked in by propiertay software solutions available to thanuk.
thanuk
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Postby thanuk » Wed Oct 08, 2003 8:38 pm

rylan wrote:But omg I think you'll kill yourself trying to use Outlook to handle that. For PDF scanning, there are some copy machines with scan capability that you can connect to a network and have it scan in documents, convert to pdf and either email to someone or stick in a directory on the lan. We have one at work, and it kicks ass. I think they're crazy expensive though.


Talk to me about this copy machine scanner. Crazy expensive is like what, 4 digits, 5? This is definately what im looking for. As far as outlook goes, i think it would be possible, because its going to be internal anyway. The idea is our clients have no idea that we have even changed; they still send their submissions by fax, email, mail, or phone. The idea is to receive the faxes in electronic form instead of on paper, and scan the mailed in submissions in as pdfs as well. Then send them over to our decision makers just as a regular email. They review it, and send the request as an email with a pdf attachment with their work orders into a pool. The pool then distributes the work to the technical assistants by time of request(first in, first out). But i just dont trust outlook, and i think it will shit the bed. We might end up just having someone administer the pool work as a regular email address, distribute the work manually, to avoid the complications. This is where i get stuck, because there's no way my company is gonna shell out the cash to get a new email program and then teach a bunch of old, computer illiterate people who make dick money how to use new software. It just won't happen.

BTW in case you haven't noticed, i messed up titling this thread and its supposed to say Paperless, not Wireless. My bad.:)

BTW also, Bilraex, i appreciate the thoughts, but linux is just not an option, it would require too much change from people who dont want to change. Im sure there's a great way to do this on a linux based system, and it would probably work alot better than whatever we end up doing, but people don't want to change and im in no position to tell them they have to. But thanks man, i appreciate your effort.
Mysrel tells you 'have my babies'

You tell Mysrel 'u want me to be ur baby daddy?'

Mysrel tells you 'daddy? No, I think you have the terminology wrong'

You tell Mysrel 'comeon now we both know i would be the top'

Mysrel tells you 'can be where ever you want to be, yer still getting ****** like a drunken cheerleader'
rylan
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Postby rylan » Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:33 pm

I'll check on the model and try to dig up pricing info on the copy/scanner machine at work. It does everything but wipe your ass after you take a dump, but I hear thats in the next version of the firmware :P
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Postby Caedym » Wed Oct 08, 2003 11:14 pm

Comp Sci/Eng students out of college will work for less and know what they are doing. Plus you'll help fight unemployment in your own little way.

Or you could just higher your mom to do all this. I hear she's good.

-Caedym Shadowhock
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Postby Gerad » Fri Oct 10, 2003 3:47 pm

You want to start building you wireless LAN by moving into the apartment next door to mine, so I can steal service from it.
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Postby rylan » Fri Oct 10, 2003 6:54 pm

We have a Konica 7085 at work.
http://www.konicabt.com/Products/Production/7085/
MRSP is 39K, but of course with stuff like this there are leasing options.
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Postby Caedym » Fri Oct 10, 2003 8:28 pm

You want completely wireless right?

Dood you need to goto Radio Shack man! They got mad amounts of rechargeable batteries! They'll hook you up!

-Caedym Shadowhock
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Postby Wobb » Fri Oct 10, 2003 9:08 pm

Aren't you lucky Thanuk? haha.

I think you will find that once you get above a certain price range, they all do the same thing. I would stick with a company you know or have worked with in the past. If you swear by Xerox, then go Xerox (but they are expensive).

We finally settled on a Lanier solution where I work. Their service has been good (so far) and we have had fewer and fewer problems as time goes on.

We have 2 kinds here, the 7500.00$ (Lanier 5635) ones are more like bigass printers. They handle copy/fax/network printing etc... They do scanning, but I'm not sure how well they would fare doing what you want, which is really the inverse, scanning a bunch of documents from paper into digital format.

The other kind we use which costs roughly twice as much (15,000$), is the Lanier 5470. The main reason it costs more is because the last 2 numbers (70) is the PPM printed, and we have added lots of accessories such as large paper trays, envelope feeders and the like. So why am I rambling this all on to you? To show you price difference. To the end user, they all look the same, but they cost a lot different and don't offer much difference in functionality.

My honest advice to you, is call a place that sells copiers to businesses. A phone call never hurt anyone, and they will probably do all this research for you, because they will want a sale. Get on google do a search for Xerox/canon/ricoh/lanier vendors. Then make a few phone calls.

You can avoid the high costs of a consultant and let some sales people actually do some work!

As far as the rest of your project goes, a database is the backend you need. Everyone here has already established that. The question is which one? I think you are looking for a golden egg and I don't think you are going to find it. In my experience there is no such thing as a "inexpensive, easy to maintain, easy to setup, will solve all our problems database".

Truth be told, if you are going to use a database, someone will need to learn how to administer it. You will also need to know how to get data into and out of it. What is the easiest way? You could purchase a customizable web-based database that would free you up from needing a lot of software...but will the companies you work with accept data in the format this database will present it?

Questions to ask yourself:

1. What kind of documents are we working with, can everything be handled in one document format?

PDF is not the best option if you are editing documents a lot. Adobe sort of has the monopoly on this (unless you have the time for open source, which it sounds like you don't), and therefore you will be working with a program that is not a word processor, not a text editor-- its a postscript manipulation program. It doesn't lend itself to frequent editing.

2. Does the data we use need to be broken down into different categories, and then manipulated in different ways for different people?

You need a database for this one. Microshaft Access is a good choice for starters, because it works well with the rest of office, and has a lot of GUI interfaces and wizards to help you get the data you need.

Access is for smaller, one-person-manageable databases. For larger databases, you would be looking at Oracle or the like, very expensive, which means maybe you should look at MySQL or something, but then you have to create the interfaces to the database yourself, again something I doubt you have time for.

3. How much do we have to spend? Sometimes its easier to start here, and then see what is available. If you have 20,000$ total to spend on this project, then you can price out your high volume scanners around 15,000 grand, and spend the rest on your database solution and maybe some help getting it setup.

If you have 800$ to spend, then you know its a different story.

Again, start making some phone calls if you haven't already.

Chris (Wobb)
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Postby Taleer » Wed Oct 15, 2003 7:56 pm

I have to agree with alot of the people here. I have worked for companies that speicalize in copier/computer equipment. The hardware for the scanning is out there. the ones I know are the Konica and Sharps. both have excelent scan to digital accessories. The problem you are going to have is the backend. You will need a text recog program to get the data into a workable form...Adobe does have a program that does this, and the results are almost 98% reliable with hand printed text...I would have to side with PHP and MySQL for your back end and hireing a consultant to write the interface between the two. You can then use PHP to build documents of any type based on templates if the get the right person...I am not the right person as I am still playing with this technology. The bonus of going this route is that everything is handled through the browser, and all the monkies in your office have to do is log on to the server and follow the push button instructions. Good luck.
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Linux

Postby Jhorr » Thu Oct 16, 2003 8:37 pm

I'd like to discuss the Linux-based solution for a home-based wireless LAN. I'll start another thread for it.

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