Alpha Software is focused on enabling developers to create robust, data-driven business applications that run on any PC, Tablet or Smartphone in the fastest, most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

On staying safe in the cloud in ComputerWorld

In yesterday's ComputerWorld, Jaikumar Vijayan reported on the potential privacy risks of cloud computing. According to the World Privacy Forum, companies looking to reduce their IT costs and complexity by tapping into cloud computing services must first be sure they can do it safely.

When it comes to the cloud, there are a field of potential landmines that could put your sensitive information in the wrong hands.

Alpha's own chief security evangelist, Jeff Kalwerisky, was asked how companies can be sure they're making safe choices in the cloud. The article is definitely worth a read.

TODAY: Learn how to build feature-rich Web 2.0 apps in minutes

Alpha is presenting a FREE webinar TODAY at 1 p.m. EST, 10 a.m. PST (that's 6 p.m. in the U.K.) to show how to build feature-rich Web 2.0 applications in minutes. Hosted by Alpha developer Dave McCormick, the one-hour webinar will present practical ideas that will enhance your business with database technologies.

With close to 450 attendees already registered, we've increased webinar capacity due to heavy demand, so you haven't missed your chance to sign up yet.

We developed this webinar in response to the many organizations that aren't sure of the practical benefits of transitioning to fully Web-capable applications. This presentation will show customers how to track projects, service customers, sell, schedule meetings, provide shipment tracking, and coordinate leads, ALL ONLINE. And we'll show how to do it rapidly and cost effectively.

Topics include improving your Web site to attract qualified leads in greater numbers, and using your Web site to close more sales with Web 2.0 technology. Dave will show you five ideas that can be put into practice in minutes, using real world examples.

No previous knowledge of Alpha Five is necessary, so register now!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alpha Five versus FileMaker Round 10 (part 2)

Earlier this month, Frank Ohlhorst published his own review of Filemaker Version 10 in Ziff Davis's Channel Insider.

Like Monday's Filemaker review in InfoWorld, Alpha is again being pulled into the ring as an able alternative. In fact, Ohlhorst points to Alpha as the better choice for creating Web applications, thanks in part to our large menu of Web application features and codeless Ajax technology.

Alpha Software’s Alpha Five V9 is similar to Microsoft Office Access in many ways. Both applications can work with multiple data sources, and both offer a “basic-like” programming language and support the creation of compiled multiuser applications.

Alpha Five V9’s claim to fame comes from its rapid application development (RAD) capabilities. While FileMaker and Access offer a GUI-based development environment, Alpha Five V9 goes much further when it comes to capabilities and design. What’s more, Alpha Five V9 offers the ability to create AJAX-based applications, which allow developers to move Alpha Five V9 applications over to the Web with unprecedented ease.

FileMaker Pro V10 also offers Web application capabilities but requires the purchase of File Maker Server V10 Advanced for $2,999 to accomplish that task and FileMaker’s Web application features are quite limited, when compared with Alpha Five V9. For developers looking to make the transition over to Web applications and leverage AJAX technology, Alpha Five V9 proves to be a better choice than FileMaker.
As I said yesterday, FileMaker and Alpha have been competing for decades, but with the release of Filemaker Version 10, and the upcoming release of Alpha Five Version 10, Alpha has completely pulled away from FileMaker Web capabilities. If you haven't read it yet, put your eyes on yesterday's post to get the full scoop.

And stay tuned for our upcoming series of benchmark tests against other popular database products, including FileMaker 10, just like the competitive grid we completed after our last releases.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Alpha Five versus FileMaker Round 10

Let the next phase of the FileMaker vs. Alpha Five War begin. I'm sure you know that FileMaker recently released its 10th version, and as anyone who reads the blog knows, we're hard at work at Alpha Five Version 10.

Martin Heller published his review of FileMaker Version 10 in yesterday's InfoWorld, and we're more than pleased that he mentioned Alpha Five as a smart alternative to FileMaker. Martin pointed out:

Alpha Five is a desktop database with strong RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools, Web and AJAX support, enterprise-level SQL support, and lower pricing than FileMaker. The Alpha Five programming capabilities are heartier than those in Access and much more powerful than those in FileMaker, yet many Alpha Five applications can be built using its menus and dialogs without ever writing a line of code.
We've been competing with FileMaker for decades. And there was a period of time (frankly, the desktop era) when our two products were very similar, and the feature differences were far more nuanced then they are today.

With our Version 8 and 9 products, the differences between Alpha Five and FileMaker became clearer. And with both companies' 10th versions, the differences will be in sharp focus.

Both products are easy to use, yet very powerful database development platforms. Anyone from an Average Joe to the CTO can build a useful database in Alpha Five or FileMaker 10. But here's where we come to the fork in the road.

Even with its 10th version -- released in 2009, the age of rich Internet applications -- FileMaker is still stuck in a desktop-first mentality. Yes, you can publish databases to the Web. Keyword: publish. Meaning, they're not interactive.

Yes, you can go out and learn PHP, then rebuild an entire FileMaker database around it if you want to make it interactive. With Alpha Five, starting with Version 8, we introduced the ability to deploy fully functional databases to the Web.

With Version 9, we made it even easier by going codeless. We also introduced the ability to use Ajax GUIS, but doing that still required some basic knowledge of XBasic and JavaScript.

With Version 10, we'll be introducing codeless Ajax. Alpha Five developers will be able to build for the Web and deploy on the Web, giving their users rich Internet database applications that are as interactive and as responsive as any desktop database application.

Because it's codeless, developers will never have to write a single line of code to enable this rich Internet functionality.

The product will be entering beta soon. And if you want to give your customers contemporary user experiences on the Web, I would encourage you to save your sheckles for Alpha Five Version 10, instead of wasting them on FileMaker 10, which will frankly leave you stuck in the client-server era.

Just so you know, I am pressuring Selwyn, my brother, to let me release some videos of the new Version 10 in action. So if you enjoyed Verion 9's Feature Peeks, be sure to stay tuned for a look at what V10 has in store for you.

Once Version 10 goes into general release, we are planning a series of benchmark tests against other popular database products. We'll be publishing the results of those tests here, just as we did when we took a look at an earlier FileMaker release that made some claims about SQL performance that we thought were questionable.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A new face for AlphaToGo

One of our most loyal Alpha customers, Steve Wood, has just revamped his entire Web site with Alpha Five. And his site is so impressive, I wanted to share it with you.

Before he came across Alpha Software, Steve had developed applications in several other languages, but was completely unfamiliar with Alpha Five. He was looking for a “solid, well-rounded platform” to build a new consulting business and leave his full-time job.

Thanks to Alpha Five, Steve now runs his own consulting business, AlphaToGo. He's also created a video about the Web site, so take a look. Just click on the see the video example titled “Overview.”

This is just one more story of a developer who bought Alpha Five, built a database, and ended up with a highly successful custom software business.

As I've said before, that's just one more way Alpha fits with the current economy message. And it's good news for those who've recently been laid off and are considering consulting, but are afraid they don't have the technical skills the industry demands. With Alpha Five, you CAN do it. Now's the best time to start your own business, and we'll be right here to help.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Coghead bites the dust

For those that haven't heard the news, Coghead is closing up shop. When the company launched in 2006, it picked up a ton of industry buzz (and VC) for allowing non-programmers to build data-driven Web applications, and build them on the Web (as opposed to build on the desktop and deploy on the Web). So much for this pure Web dev play.

Platforms like Coghead, Blist, DabbleDB, Caspio, Zoho, Google Docs, etc., allow users to build simple databases in the cloud. Operative word: simple. While cloud-based tools work for simple databases, spreadsheets, lists, docs, and online organizers, they're not appropriate for serious development work.

You'll discover all of these Web-based dev tools run out of steam fast as soon as you try to build something that solves a real business problem -- that is, something more complex than a basic list. And therein lies the rub, because most developers, businesses, and even enthusiasts have ideas that are bigger than these tools can handle.

Worse, Coghead's demise points to the No. 1 problem I see with cloud computing in general: Who owns your data, and what happens to it if the vendor goes bust? The investment in time and information that people made building apps on Coghead is gone, and their data is too, if they don't act fast to save it. (Hopefully Coghead has an export function.)

I consider Coghead et al. more proof-of-concept products than real database development platforms. This isn't to say that cloud-based dev tools don't have potential. But it will be years before developers will be able to build mission-critical apps with them, let alone line-of-business apps.

I love the concept of a database RAD IDE hosted entirely in the cloud. But the infrastructure required to bring that concept to reality is still evolving. And as is the case with Coghead, many of these companies don't have the luxury of time, especially in today's economy.

These are some of the reasons we decided to continue to invest in Alpha Five as a desktop RAD IDE that you use to build Web-based database applications. With version 10 (which is inching closer to a beta release), the resulting applications can be powered by AJAX on the front- and back-ends, making your Web applications as responsive and interactive as desktop apps.

Build on the desktop. Deploy on the Web. That's the model for Alpha Five going forward, because that's the model that allows any developer of any skill level to bring their ideas to life.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don't miss today's webinar!

Just a reminder that our new educational webinar series kicks off TODAY with "Newton's Fourth Law - To attract and not convert is foolish," from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. It's not too late to reserve your seat now, but act fast because it's filling up quickly!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Customer testimonial: Alpha Five Version 9

I recently received an e-mail from a customer whose experience I think would make for a great A5 case study. I've asked her if we can include her story on our case studies page.

In the meantime, I wanted to share her e-mail with you here, as part of our ongoing customer testimonial series. I've redacted any personal or company information, since she hasn't yet given us approval to write a formal case study.

But her note to me documents how Alpha Five, a professional development tool, remains accessible to any person or business with basic computer skills on tap. Here's what she wrote, word for word. Again, only her name and company name have been edited out.

... As for A5V9 ... all I can say is that I cannot live without it!!! My database is so simple compared to some of the extraordinary examples you have posted on your site, yet I cannot imagine at least having what we have today! I've been with A5 since 1996 and it has saved us time and time again. We've been faced with many challenges as our IT Dept does not support the software and unfortunately I am not well-versed in their area. However, we are still here, alive and kicking. A few years back we were being forced to end our relationship with our "band-aid" database (as our A5 was called) and integrate ourselves to this new robust system. Lucky for us that we decided to continue using our "band-aid" (although unknown to the rest of the org) because the new "robust" system was nothing but head-aches and it did not meet our needs. We were once again granted the right to continue using our database for our program tracking purposes. OK, the point being that it has been the tool that has allowed our team to be successful in handling the high volume of programming that we process each day. Thanks ...

... Have a lovely evening and thanks for what you have continued to do for us through Alpha Five.

There you have it, in her own words. If you have a great Alpha Five story to tell, send it to me at Richard@AlphaSoftware.com.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Newton's Fourth Law: To attract and not convert is foolish

Last week we sent out a notice about the upcoming first installment of our new educational webinar series. The first session, "Newton's Fourth Law -- To attract and not convert is foolish," will take place this Thursday, Feb. 19 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST.

Panelists include Altaf Shaikh and Michael Won. Shaikh is Founder and CEO of ListEngage, an interactive firm that assists companies of all sizes in devising e-marketing strategies; designing branded content; creating powerful online surveys; and managing lists, databases, and customer responses using proprietary and industry leading technology. Won is the VP of Sales of NettSolutions, a leading Internet marketing and search engine placement companies.

"Newton's Fourth Law" will cover several techniques that will help businesses consistently generate new Web site leads, and show how proper execution and follow up can convert the leads into sales -- even when budgets and other resources are severely limited in an economy like today's.

We'll be covering how to:

  • Attract high-quality leads to your Web site.
  • Secure top listings on search engine rankings, with a guarantee to be in the top three positions on Google and Yahoo 24x7.
  • Guide prospects that visit your Web site through the entire sales process.
  • Engage existing customers to build loyalty and develop long-lasting relationships.

So far, we're thrilled with the number of registrants. For those who haven't signed up yet, don't miss this chance to learn some valuable lessons from our expert panel. Reserve your seat now.

There are also a number of other webinars planned, each covering a different topic, so be on the lookout for more information coming your way here on the blog and through the Alpha newsletter.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day from Alpha Software

Around here, a lot of our customers and developers are pretty passionate Alpha users. In fact, they're so passionate, we've dubbed them "Alphaholics." They love Alpha. They love our products. And they love what they've created using our tools.

Well, today, we wanted to take the time and let you know that we love you right back. Thanks to you, we've managed to keep up our strength during one of the worst economies in recent history.

Happy Valentine's Day to you and all of your loved ones. And in case you were wondering how the holiday of chocolate and roses originated (because as I was standing in line buying a card for my wife this morning, I know I did), here's a brief history of Valentine's Day.

XOXO

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't miss your chance to win a netbook

My colleague was recently discussing our current Show Us Your Alpha App contest on the Alpha message board, and one of our customers wanted to know the deadline for contest submissions. We've decided to close the contest once we have 10 videos submitted. That gives you a one in 10 chance of winning. Pretty good odds!

Remember, the app can be simple, complex, desktop, Web, old, or new -- it doesn't matter. The only requirement is that it be built in Alpha Five, and that you think it's truly useful. Record a tour of the app (I suggest you use Jing, it's easy!), upload it to a video sharing site (YouTube, Google Video, etc.), and send the *link* to me, Bridget@AlphaSoftware.com.

We'll pick one winner randomly from all submissions, and award that person a new netbook, fully loaded with Alpha Five Version 10.

Good luck and happy recording!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Reminder: I'm keeping the netbook if you don't enter this contest

Just kidding. But where are your videos? I know we have a very strong throng of developers making amazing applications in Alpha Five every day.

All you have to do is record a short tour of your new app, upload it to your favorite video sharing site, and send the link to me, Bridget@AlphaSoftware.com, for the chance to win a brand new netbook with Alpha Five Version 10 already installed. Select participants' videos will also be showcased here on the blog.

Take a look at your competition. Don from HealthSoft Solutions sent me a demo of the new application he built for his company. HealthSoft Solutions makes it possible for doctors to create a custom, thorough examination or daily note quickly and efficiently. Users can create a note in a matter of seconds and generate complete reports with the push of a button.

For more information about winning a netbook, please read the original contest post, or shoot me an e-mail.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

ZebraHost introduces off-site backup for Alpha customers

Our partner over at ZebraHost announced today that they've eliminated Plesk in order to improve their VPS performance for Alpha customers taking part in the new Alpha hosting plans.

The new solution is their StorGrid automatic off-site backup service. Unlike Plesk, which needs a human to remember to log in and make the backup, StorGrid is completely automated.

Accessed via a Control Panel on the VPS desktop, users can set up as many different backup schedules as they like, and choose between incremental and full backups. The options are unlimited.

Scheduled backups are automatically made to one of ZebraHost's backup servers, located at a different data center. The backup server is replicated at yet another location to provide extra protection.

StorGrid lets users archive unlimited versions of their backups up to their allocated disk quota. Backups can even be encrypted to protect sensitive data, such as medical records.

And ZebraHost is listening to your feedback. Some customers have requested their backups be made to a computer at their office. This is now possible for a small additional monthly fee.

ZebraHost Automatic Backup Service is also available to backup local desktops and laptops. In fact, the system is completely platform independent. It can backup and restore to Linux, Mac, and Windows environments.

For more information, have a look at the ZebraHost Alpha Five page or contact Sales@ZebraHost.net.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

QReportBuilder releases 2009 edition for QuickBooks

Last year Alpha teamed up with FLEXquarters.com LLC to bring you QReportBuilder for Intuit's QuickBooks. Well, this year we've done it again, with the release of the QReportBuilder 2009.

The press release hit the wire today, and we're excited to show you all that's in store for QReportBuilder users this year.

QReportBuilder Releases 2009 Edition for QuickBooks

First Multi-Purpose Report Writer Designed Expressly for QuickBooks Launches New Edition with Runtime Option

LAS VEGAS & BURLINGTON, Mass. -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- QReportBuilder, the report writer that produces the most sophisticated business reports QuickBooks users have ever imagined, is giving users unprecedented insight into their business dynamics with the release of QReportBuilder 2009, as part of their joint development project with Alpha Software Inc. and FLEXquarters.com Limited. QReportBuilder 2009 is the first multi-purpose report writer designed expressly for Intuit’s QuickBooks complete line of products.

The newest addition of the popular report builder comes with an array of customer requested, new report design features, such as drill down reporting, that takes reporting to a higher level. For the first time ever, users have the option of including “hotspots” in their custom reports. These buttons preview any other report from within that report to display more detail on a specific item.

“Hotspots will give QuickBooks users never-before-seen power and vision,” says Al Buchholz, QReportBuilder premier consultant and Instructor. “Imagine reviewing reports of customers and their outstanding balances over 60 days. With our new hotspots feature, users will now be able to click on the balance amount to bring up a list of those invoices that make up the customer’s balance. This single feature, as well as over 40 other features in our new edition, will give business owners more of something they never have enough of: time and power.”

Other new features include:

* Drill down reports
* Relocate able data mart
* Alignment guides in report design mode that automatically align fields and labels
* Super Controls providing new data types available on the report including html pages, improved image interface, calendar data picker, and more.

For a complete list of all QReportBuilder features, please see Alpha Software’s original QReportBuilder press release.

QReportBuilder 2009 also includes the addition of QReportBuilder Runtimes at a reduced price, making QReportBuilder 2009 the most affordable QuickBooks report writer on the market for both small and large companies, and adding even greater value to QuickBooks by extracting hidden data to better understand your everyday business dynamics. The new Runtime options reduce costs to just $100. It’s especially attractive for Intuit consultants, whose customers would rather run reports designed by consultants, than design their own. Users also still have the option of purchasing the full development license for $299, which includes the ability to design and execute custom reports.

QReportBuilder has earned Intuit’s QuickBooks Silver Developer Status, and is now a featured product on the Intuit Solutions Marketplace. To achieve Intuit’s Silver Certification, QReportBuilder underwent rigorous testing by Intuit’s testing lab and QuickBooks’ development team. By earning Silver Certification, Alpha Software and FLEXquarters.com Limited have demonstrated their extensive knowledge of QuickBooks’ data architecture and their ability to build software that seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks accounting systems.

QReportBuilder 2009 supports QuickBooks USA versions 2002-2009, QuickBooks U.K. or Canadian versions 2003-2009, and the QuickBooks Online Edition. It was built by Alpha Software, using the Alpha Five Version 9 Reporting Engine and the FLEXquarters.com Limited QuickBooks QODBC connectivity product, to produce a report writer capable of developing custom reports not available in QuickBooks.

For more information on QReportBuilder 2009, QuickBooks, Alpha Software, or FLEXquarters.com, please contact Mark Kuznar at Mark@QReportBuilder.com.

ABOUT QREPORTBUILDER

QReportBuilder is a joint development project of Alpha Software Inc. and FLEXquarters LLC. QReportBuilder is the first reporting engine designed expressly for Intuit’s QuickBooks, and supports all QuickBooks versions from 2002 through 2008. Built by FLEXquarters LLC using Alpha Software’s Alpha Five Version 8 Reporting Engine, QReportBuilder unlocks the business intelligence value in QuickBooks data through sophisticated, customizable reporting that’s easy for anyone to use.

SAP FAIL

One of our Alpha VARS recently attended a discussion board for old tractor fans. One of the participants had been working for weeks to prepare for his company to implement SAP. He did all his data entry, traveled out of town twice for training and strategy sessions, and poured hours of time and energy into the migration. Look here to see what happened when he went live a few days ago.

Shouldn't SAP know how to build and test a database? I'm fairly sure that no one who reads this blog would run into this problem on a database that we built. This employee takes the steps to go through a huge migration and then finds half of his data is gone. Something like this could bring down a company.

At Alpha, we know how important it is to thoroughly test before anything EVER goes live when migrating data. Some of our best practices for migration are here in our migration white paper. What are some of your best practices?

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