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Report2Web eases report distribution

Report2Web eases report distribution

Publishing, organising, and managing reports for a large enterprise can drown you in a sea of paper. Large organisations using reporting for enterprise applications, such as enterprise resource planning, can have several hundred thousand reports stored on their systems, can output more than 1000 types of reports monthly, and, if there are daily or weekly updates to these reports, can publish 30,000 to 40,000 versions, copies, and sub-reports monthly.

Report distribution also poses a problem, as reports distributed as e-mail attachments overburden the mail server, but transferring them over the network ties it up. If your organisation is in the midst of this bedlam, Report2Web 2.02 from Report2Web may provide relief.

Report2Web enables users to access business information stored in reports with a standard Web browser. It consolidates reports from diverse computing environments such as mainframes, proprietary operating systems, and Unix and Windows NT client/server systems. Specifically designed for companies that are choking on the complexity and sheer volume of reports that they have to regularly publish and distribute, Report2Web neatly solves the associated conversion, publishing, distribution, and security problems in a time-and resource-saving paperless paradigm. Because Web browsers provide the client interface, Report2Web solves the problem of report-recipient software purchase and deployment as well.

The hub of the Report2Web solution is the Report Hive. This is a specially configured and secured directory on the Report2Web server, where reports are catalogued and stored for subsequent distribution. New reports are automatically published by the Catalog Builder into the Report Hive.

The Catalog Builder, which can be run either from the Report2Web server or a remote machine, is Report2Web's main control program. It centralises automatic report management for the enterprise via the Report Catalog, a SQL database that tracks and synchronises reports in the Report Hive.

It also publishes reports into dated and/or time-stamped directories (created automatically if they don't already exist), removes files from upload directories once published, converts reports from one format to another, and sends report update notifications and reports to users via e-mail.

Report2Web doesn't interface directly with the systems and database programs used to originate input reports, so you must set up a manual or an automated method for transferring report files into upload directories on the Report2Web system. You can accomplish this using FTP file transfer, Windows' File Copy function, or the Report2Web publisher tool.

Report2Web can automatically convert mainframe RJE (Remote Job Entry) output, Unix LPD (Line Printer Daemon) files, Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), and text files. It also supports common PC formats such as Word, Excel, HTML, Access Snapshot Reports (.snp) and Crystal Reports (.rpt) files. For unsupported formats (such as Concentric Software's R & R Report Writer or Wall Data's Arpeggio) Report2Web relies on Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat's Distiller feature to allow users to `print' postscript documents directly to a .pdf file. Because I could set up my Distiller folder as a `watched' directory, Report2Web was able to monitor and automatically convert any `outlaw' files to Acrobat as they came in.

You can run Catalog Builder manually or set up an automatic publishing schedule using the Instant Publisher, a dialog-based setup utility. Catalog Builder is primarily for batch-loading reports so it helped me to manually publish files once I had placed them in the `\-upload' directory.

Report2Web provides security at the operating system level, so it's always as secure as your NT server. Its security tool gives full access to NT security features, allowing you to set up security for Report2Web users and NT accounts.

Report2Web's Snapshot utility enabled me to archive user and security settings for later restoration or reuse on other systems. This feature's value is directly proportional to the size and diversity of your subscriber list.

Mainframes and minicomputers often output continuous-form printouts that are hundreds or thousands of pages long. Bursting, or splitting up, large reports for distribution to those individuals who require them is often necessary. Report2Web's Report Burster program performs this task without paper, splitting report files into smaller segments that can be subsequently routed online.

The Report Burster will split up a text or Portable Data Format input file based on any data appearing on the pages you select, such as department names, ZIP codes, or states.

To teach the program how to burst my test report, I paged through the report on screen until I found information that I wanted separated out , dropped a box around it, and gave it a name (such as DeptName, State, ZIP code). I could then create a reusable set of burst rules that told Report2Web how to parse and extract pages in the report. For example, using the defined blocks, I was able to select pages with `Sales' in the DeptName block to be copied into one file and those with `Manufacturing' into another.

Automatic notification

Report2Web Subscriptions - requests for notification when a report enters the system - will automatically notify users when their reports are updated.

Logging on to Report2Web brings up the Welcome page, which provides users with a personalised control centre that shows a snapshot of their settings, a sophisticated text search engine for finding reports, shows what reports have been previously viewed, displays current notifications and broadcast messages from system administrators.

Notifications can be sent as e-mail hyperlinks that navigate back to the report within the Report2Web system or as e-mail with the report itself attached, or both. Hyperlinks retain full security permissions back to the selected reports so even if a report is indiscriminately forwarded, only individuals with permission will actually be able to view them.

PageMart files are the proprietary Report2Web file format designed for optimum delivery of report pages with minimum resource consumption. The PageMart utility delivers user-selected report pages to the user via the Web. Files are downloaded to the client's workstation in either .pdf or .txt format and can be utilised as is or converted into other formats.

An application that is simply designed and comprehensive in its organisation, Report2Web is an elegant and efficient business-information solution worth considering.


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