Optimal program performance can be achieved by using fast well-configured hardware, good networking practices, configuring program options that minimize database access, and keeping the overall database size to a minimum.
Of course, a newer and faster workstation will typically improve the speed of any program. However, individual components in a computer system vary widely. While a fast microprocessor and a large amount of RAM memory in each workstation are important (see System Requirements), At Your Service – Repair Centre, as with most database programs, is very disk intensive. Therefore the hard disk speed is often the bottleneck, particularly the hard disk on which the main database will be located.
When selecting a hard disk system, look for a hard disk with a faster data transfer rate (which typically will also mean a faster revolution speed). Multiple hard disks working together in a RAID configuration (particularly RAID levels 2 and higher) are often faster than an individual hard disk, and often result in improved data security at the same time. Finally, many network operating systems allow the contents of regularly accessed portions of the hard disk to be cached in RAM memory which is much faster than a physical disk access.
NOTE While At Your Service Software, Inc. is providing a limited amount of technical information here to assist you in setting up your network and communications systems, it is ultimately the responsibility of you and your company to work along with your network technicians and consultants to evaluate, select, install, test, and maintain these systems.
When networking many workstations together, data must constantly travel between each user’s workstation and the server (or workstation on a peer-to-peer network) where the main database is located. Even if the hardware in each workstation is very fast, a slow network can drag the overall operation of the program to a crawl.
While the minimum recommended speed for a local area network is 10 Mbps, most modern networks now support 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps (see System Requirements, and Installing on a Local Area Network). Both the network cards in each workstation and the network hubs or switches must support the increased network speed because the network will default to the speed of the slowest component.
When working with wide area networks, network connection speeds are typically well below the minimum recommended speed of 10 Mbps. Therefore, it is recommended that terminal-type services be used for remote connections, such as Citrix XenApp or Windows Remote Desktop Services (see Installing on a Wide Area Network). With terminal-type services, individual sessions of the program run right on the terminal server for each remotely connected user so the program runs at the same speed as if the user was working right on the server as a workstation. Only the screen updates and mouse and keyboard movements are communicated back and forth across the network, therefore a fast network connection is not required.
As the number of users on a network increases, so does the overall network traffic. And just as too much traffic on a literal highway results in all of the vehicles slowing down, too much activity on a computer network also causes the overall network speed to decrease. With Microsoft Access databases, all database processing is performed at the user’s workstation. Therefore each time a user accesses the database, a considerable amount of data is copied across the network to the user’s workstation so that it can be searched and sorted — and then records that are not needed are simply discarded. This results in a significant increase in network traffic. SQL servers, on the other hand, do all database processing at the server and only return the final results of the data request to the user’s workstation. This reduces network traffic to a minimum. (See also Choosing Between Editions that use Microsoft Access versus SQL Databases.)
NOTE While At Your Service Software, Inc. is providing a limited amount of technical information here to assist you in setting up your network and communication systems, it is ultimately the responsibility of you and your company to work along with your network technicians and consultants to evaluate, select, install, test, and maintain these systems.
One way of increasing the overall speed of the program is by reducing the amount of data that the program regularly retrieves from the database. It takes less time to retrieve less data, and when the overall network traffic is reduced then the network is less likely to slow down. In some cases, reducing the amount of data retrieved can be accomplished by disabling or limiting a program feature. Therefore, a balance must be maintained between program efficiency and program functionality.
The following program options can be configured individually for each user to minimized database access:
1. Display records in a browse window only after search text has been entered (see When No Field Filters Are Specified).
2. Return only a limited number of records when searching in a browse window (see Limiting the Size of Search Results).
3. Do not display the total number of records when searching in a browse window (see Record Counts).
4. Load data into customer name and vendor name dropdown selection lists only when the dropdown is opened, rather than when the edit form is loaded (see the module options “Load Customer name selection lists only when the dropdown is opened” and “Load Vendor name selection lists only when the dropdown is opened” under General Module Options).
5. Load data into make and model, and geographic dropdown selection lists only when entering the field, rather than when the edit form is loaded (see the module options “Load Make and Model selection lists only when entering the field” and “Load Geographic Selection Lists only when entering the field” under General Module Options).
6. Include in the geographic dropdown lists only cities and states or provinces for the countries where your customers are located (see the individual module options below the “Geographic Selection Lists” branch under General Module Options).
7. Do not include contextual reports in Reports menus (see module option “Include Contextual Reports in Reports Menus” under General Module Options).
TIP All of the above user efficiency options can be set in one easy step for the currently logged in user. To set all of the above options for the fastest possible performance (i.e. by limiting or disabling those program features), first close all windows within the main program shell and then select File Current User Set User Efficiency Options for Fastest Performance from the main menu. To enable all of the above program features for most functionality (which will typically result in slower overall performance), select File Current User Set User Efficiency Options for Most Functionality from the main menu. To reset the above program features to their system defaults (as documented with each program option), select File Current User Set User Efficiency Options to System Defaults from the main menu.
Setting all user efficiency options for the currently logged in user in one step is available only for licensed users of version 2.7 and higher, and is not available in the Repair Micro edition. However, many of the above program options may still be configured individually for licensed users of earlier editions, or of the Repair Micro edition (see the documentation with each program option for license requirements).
TIP The administrator may also copy all efficiency settings already configured for the administrator user to all other active users in one step. First close all windows within the main program shell and then select File Current User Assign Current Administrator Efficiency Settings to All Users from the main menu.
Copying administrator efficiency settings to other users is available only for licensed users of version 3.1 and higher, and is not available in the Repair Micro edition.
Other system-wide program options can also be configured to minimized database access:
1. Do not configure any custom captions (see Custom Captions).
Databases naturally become slower as the size of the database increases. This is particularly true with Microsoft Access databases which have a tendency to quickly bloat to very large sizes. The following steps can be taken to improve the efficiency of large databases:
1. Deactivate user view and edit history logging (particularly view history logging) and/or regularly clear the user edit history (see Activating/Deactivating User Edit History Logging, and Clearing the User Edit History).
2. For Microsoft Access databases only, regularly compact the database which reduces the physical size of the database to a minimum (see Repairing and Compacting an Access Database).
3. For Microsoft Access databases only, archive old data to a secondary database file (see Archiving an Access Database).
4. Use a SQL server database instead of a Microsoft Access database since they handle very large databases efficiently (see Choosing Between Editions that use Microsoft Access versus SQL Databases).