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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Friday, May 29, 2009

Is SQL Server in your bag of tricks?

If you're subscribed to the Alpha Software newsletter, you already know about our upcoming Alpha Five/SQL Server Web applications webinar taking place on Wednesday, June 3 from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The course will also be recorded, and will be made available for viewing or downloading to registered users.

Microsoft SQL Server is the database engine of choice for millions of businesses. And with the availability of the free edition -- SQL Server Express 2005/2008 -- and its increased capacity, it's accessible by everyone. With the right SQL Server and Alpha Five skills, you can build highly scalable database applications, and greatly improve your marketability in this competitive economy.

But where do you start? Amazon lists over 1,300 books devoted to SQL Server. Not to mention all the courses available, plus Microsoft's official certification programs. Plus, it takes years of dedication to become a true SQL Server guru.

Fortunately, you don't have to be a guru to take advantage of SQL Server right now. Using Alpha Five as the front end, you can build new SQL Server based applications, migrate existing data to SQL Server, and manage data already in SQL Server, quickly and easily.

In our two-hour training session, hosted by Jim Dusoe, founder of BMSI Software and long-time Alpha fanatic, you'll learn

  • How to choose the right version of SQL Server
  • How to install SQL Server
  • How to create SQL Server tables
  • How and why to use stored procedures and triggers
  • How to use SQL Server Views
  • How to Use AlphaDAO to work with SQL Server
And because this webinar focuses on Web applications, you'll also see step-by-step instructions on how to provision a server with both Alpha Five and SQL Server. We'll show you
  • The advantages of Web vs. Desktop Applications
  • How to set up the Alpha Five (Web) Application Server for use with SQL Server
  • How to run the Alpha Five Application Server as a service (using a free toolkit from Microsoft)
For those who can't make it, you'll receive access to the webinar recording at no charge with your paid registration. Registration for this two-hour training course is only $99, so sign up today!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Webinar wrap up: 30 copywriting ideas in 30 minutes

Last week we sponsored an educational webinar on successful copywriting with Ivan Levison. Levison, the software industry's leading copywriter, explained 30 proven techniques for making your promotional writing more effective in 30 minutes.

At Alpha, we know how important copywriting is for your business. We want our customers to be successful in their endeavors, and in today's world, one way of doing this is to ensure that written communications between companies, clients, and prospects are effective. The webinar, which was free to the Alpha community, covered the following topics:

  • Eight techniques for writing killer headlines
  • How a "Johnson Box" can raise response rates by 40 percent
  • Seven great ways to start an e-mail or sales letter
  • Graphics tricks you can use to add life to your copy
  • Why your offer can make or break you
  • How to unlock the power of your guarantee
  • How to identify the prospect's "pain points"
  • How often you should mail prospects
  • How to make high profits from low-volume mailings
  • And more

If you missed it, don't worry. We recorded the webinar, and Ivan has provided his detailed handout and PowerPoint, which you can download. So tune in to learn How to Make Your E-mail, Direct Mail, and Web Site Twice as Effective -- 30 Ideas in 30 Minutes!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My thoughts in ink on Inc.

Earlier this year, Inc. published a fascinating article about Markus Frind and his online dating company, PlentyOfFish. More specifically, how Frind conquered the online dating world and now lives comfortably working 10 hours a week while paying himself more than $5 million a year. The word entrepreneur sounds pretty good now, eh?

Inc. makes it sound easy. But in this case, it wouldn't be for 95 percent of entrepreneurs. That's because Frind knows how to program computers. Most people do not. As I said in my comment, it takes more than a good idea to build a thriving Web business.

Great ideas aren't in short supply. But software tools that empower entrepreneurs to build their big ideas are lacking. As you know, we're trying to change that at Alpha Five by giving you everything you (yes, YOU, the non-programmer) need to get your idea off the ground.

Have a look at the comment for the full scoop, and a little preview of an idea we have here at Alpha that will help entrepreneurs network, build, fund, and market their own "big-idea" Web apps. But you'll hear more on that, coming soon.

Logical Design helps non-profit find a logical solution with Alpha Five

I'm happy to say that one of the great benefits of supplying a database development platform at a cost that everyone can afford is that we are fortunate to see our work help those with big needs, but little budgets, such as churches (Merlin & Fletcher United Churches), hospitals (St. Luke's), and non-profit organizations (Take Root), among many others.

In fact, our VARs often tell us that they are pleased they can provide a service to not for profit organizations without problem. That's exactly what happened recently with Logical Design Database Solutions.

Read on to see how Keven Thibeault, Founder of Logical Design, used Alpha Five to create an all-encompassing database application for a New York State-based non-profit. Or, have a look at the snazzy PDF version.

Customer Name
Logical Design Database Solutions

Customer Profile
Logical Design has been making complex database applications affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses since 2006. The company takes pride in its personal touch to every project, and helping customers take advantage of the latest technologies to grow their business with a logical database strategy and high-performing operational systems.

Location
Boston

Industries
Database development

Situation

A New York State-based non-profit was using MS Excel to manage all of its member, donor, and event information. But with new data steadily streaming in and constantly changing, employees had difficulty keeping donor information updated and in order. Data stored in the Excel spreadsheet could accidentally be lost. Without that information, the non-profit would have no record of who donated what, when. Employees found it nearly impossible to succinctly record, organize, and recall all of the information they needed to keep the organization running efficiently. Because the non-profit's database was only desktop-based, it could only be accessed from the office. So remote and traveling employees would have to call the office and ask someone to look up the information they needed, which was tedious and time consuming. The non-profit needed a database to connect its people with the organization's various events and activities so they could rapidly mobilize community leaders when issues arose in their area. The application would also have to allow simultaneous multi-user accessibly and use. The non-profit came to Logical Design looking for a solution that would fit its restricted budget. It also needed to target specific groups of contacts within the database for various campaigns and fundraising outreaches. As the organization worked with municipalities, churches, and schools, it needed to mobilize certain sub-sets of contacts based on geography, past activity participation, and donation history. The ability to send an e-mail to several hundred targeted contacts, followed up by a personal phone invitation to the same group was a key requirement, as was the ability to go back to that same targeted group for future campaigns.

Solution

Keven Thibeault, Founder of Logical Design Database Solutions, knew Alpha Five was the only way he could create a customized solution that addressed all the needs of the non-profit for less than what it would cost to buy a generic, off-the-shelf application. Alpha's array of Web component editors made it possible to create a Web-enabled back end office application that could be accessed by multiple users from any Internet-connected computer. The non-profit's niche requirements were easily supported by Alpha's development tools. Thibeault built a multi-level relational model, which allows multiple contacts for a single name. For example, a single contact might be a member of a church and on the school board at the PTA. And because Alpha's toolsets were so simple and efficient, Thibeault was able to complete a working prototype in one month. The system uses a MySQL backend database with an Alpha Web component based front end.

Benefits

Thibeault was able to deliver a complete system that tracked pledges, events, members, donations, and communications, within budget. The new application lets employees pull up a list of everyone in a certain geographic area who follows a certain political issue, and alert them of news of interest. For instance, the non-profit could rapidly generate a list of local educators, politicians, and pastors, and notify them of a new education item on the area's ballot. This makes it possible to quickly connect to and mobilize the community for support. Donations are tracked, and thank you cards are printed out at the click of a button. Employees can e-mail directly from the application, eliminating tedious copy and pasting of e-mail addresses from the database's 4,000 contact entries. The application has an unlimited number of highly specific, customized searches, all of which can be saved for later use. Because of Alpha's fast learning curve, employees of the non-profit were up and running within days. And Alpha's low cost kept Logical Design's cost within its means.

For More Information
Alpha Software, Inc.
781-229-4500
www.AlphaSoftware.com

Logical Design Database Solutions
617-418-1107
www.LogicalDesignDBS.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thumbs up to Alpha Five from PC World

PC World published a feature yesterday about how to best build and share databases on the Web. PC World journalist David Storm gave a nice nod to Alpha Five in the article. He also pointed out that while Alpha and Filemaker are the two easiest database programs to set up and use across the Internet, the standard edition of Alpha Five is $200, while the Filemaker Server version is $1,000.

As you know, price isn't the only difference between the two. In an effort to keep developers informed of the distinctions between Alpha and Filemaker, we created our first competitive features grid. We hired a professional software reviewer to objectively compare Alpha Five with Microsoft Access 2007, Filemaker Pro, Filemaker Pro Advanced, Filemaker Server, and Filemaker Server Advanced. And our updated comparison grid reflects the feature set of FileMaker's new version 10 release.

Anyway, have a look at the PC World article. It's a worthwhile read for anyone wondering about ways to share spreadsheets and simple databases with colleagues and customers .

Monday, May 18, 2009

The decline of venture capital for Web start-ups

Last week The New York Times published a piece asking the question, Do Web entrepreneurs still need venture capitalists?

In short, yes. The cost of starting a Web company is decreasing thanks to cloud computing services and other technologies that entrepreneurs can rent instead of buy. Founders can now finance a start-up Web company for less money than ever before, eliminating the need for help from venture capitalists.

As I said in my comment, the bottom line is that with an economy in recession, and with many of those who do have jobs feeling insecure about their future security, now is an amazing time for entrepreneurs with domain experience and good ideas to launch a business without the need to go through the enormous effort and distraction of trying to raise formal VC money. Along with cloud computing, tools like Alpha Five make that entirely possible. Have a look at the article and my comment for the full scoop.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The next Alpha dog

One of these guys will be coming home to the Rabins household very soon! Who will it be?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The new move to private clouds

In a recent E-Commerce Times article, Jeff Kaplan raises the question of whether or not the move some companies have recently made to create private clouds under their own corporate roofs makes good business sense.

In the article, Kaplan makes some good points about deploying private clouds. I agree with him that conventional (a.k.a. “in the box”) IT departments might not be able to make the transition to the full services-oriented paradigm, which Kaplan is correct in assessing as “… not just a way of architecting systems and software.”

Cloud computing -- whether third party or private -- is certainly going to require a much more significant change in thought process and service orientation; much like the transition from the glass-house mainframe to today’s on-demand architectures.

An issue that we consistently hear raised as a “problem” with taking the cloud computing route is security. In particular, the security of sensitive data on another company’s hardware, which is potentially exposed to that third-party’s nosy employees, and security of the information in transit between “us” and “them.”

This is where the private cloud might come into its own. Management and business units can feel confident that their information is not going to be subjected to the tender mercies of a data center in an often unknown offshore location.

Security and information risk should not be materially affected if and when the enterprise chooses to deploy a private cloud model. Provided, of course, the enterprise already has a good security framework and an active program to assess the inherent risks associated with the use of information technology.

To see Kaplan's thoughts, have a look at the full article.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Alpha webinar: 30 secrets to copywriting success

Times are tough. Everyone wants to boost response rates and generate more sales for their business. That why we designed our upcoming free webinar: "Copywriting Secrets -- 30 Ideas in 30 Minutes for Making Your Web Site and Ads More Effective." The webinar, which takes place next Tuesday, May 19 at 1 p.m. EDT, will be hosted by Ivan Levison, the software industry's leading copywriter, who will explain proven techniques for making your promotional writing more effective.

Levison is one of America's premiere freelance copywriters. He specializes in writing e-mail, direct mail, advertising, and more, for software companies. His clients include Microsoft, Intuit, Adobe, and countless other software companies large and small.

Next week's webinar topics include:

  • Eight techniques for writing killer headlines
  • How a "Johnson Box" can raise response rates by 40 percent
  • Seven great ways to start an e-mail or sales letter
  • Graphics tricks you can use to add life to your copy
  • Why your offer can make or break you
  • How to unlock the power of your guarantee
  • How to identify the prospect's "pain points"
  • How often you should mail prospects
  • How to make high profits from low-volume mailings
  • And more
We've already had 146 people register for the webinar, so don't miss your chance, sign up today.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Boost your business with social media

Economic times are tough, which, as you know, can be disastrous for many businesses. The key to staying afloat is finding the right way to cost effectively market your products and services, and attract new, high-caliber customers.

And that key is social media marketing. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are powerful tools for creating interest, generating buzz, and bumping sales for your company, if used correctly.

At Alpha, we know how important social media is, but we also know that we're not experts in the realm. That's why several of our team members have registered for the upcoming Social Media Success Summit 2009, to learn more about how these sites can help us continue our own rapid growth at Alpha.

The speakers at the summit are the leading social media marketing experts in the world today, such as keynote speaker and social media superstar Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary has appeared on the "TODAY Show," "Nightline," and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," and he recently landed a million-dollar book deal.

These speakers will share their experiences and proven techniques that help attract high-quality leads and close business deals using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs.

It then struck me ...

"If this is so important to Alpha Software, it's going to be equally important to our customers to help them acquire new customers!"

So, we've arranged for a substantial discount for all Alpha Software customers and newsletter readers who register soon. But sign up quickly, because this summit will surely sell out.

For more information on the Social Media Success Summit, or to register, head over to the summit's Web site.

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