The Advantage of Automation
The power of computers is that they perform repetitive tasks quickly,
efficiently and without complaints. This extends to transferring data. Using a
public-domain protocol package means you must initiate the transfer every time. This
works if your transfer needs are different every time, but fails to tap into your
computer's power for consistent transfer needs. Whether you have one field
sales office or 100, you should automate your communications whenever possible.
More than likely, the cost savings of automation will outweigh the cost of the
commercial software needed.
Many commercial communication packages support automation through a scripting
language. A scripting language is a means of programming your software to
perform the repetitive tasks which meet your needs. However, all scripting languages
are not created equal. Some languages consist of a few commands to automate a
basic file transfer. Others contain hundreds of commands and functions allowing
you to develop applications capable of handling all your communication needs.
Some packages require the user to understand programming in order to write the
simplest of scripts. Others provide interfaces to assist users in developing
scripts. Some will even write scripts based on your use of the software. Quality
software packages include pre-built scripts for common communication tasks
which can be used as templates for your own needs.
One of the most common automation features of communications software is known
as "server polling." Polling involves a single computer system calling (or
polling) a number of remote computers for the purpose of downloading or uploading
data. The restaurant chain described previously uses polling to gather its
sales and inventory data.
When selecting a communications package based on the power of its scripting
language, understand your needs and know your capabilities. If you have multiple
platforms, look for compatibility between the scripts from one platform to
another. This greatly reduces your development time.