Raise Your Standards with…Data-Trax and Scala / Lift

Posted on by jstoner

Question:  What happens when you choose to hire people who combine the deepest technical fluency with a focus on business results?   You get a team of professionals dedicated to your projects needs.  That team is Data-Trax Client Services Group (CSG).

We are all about raising standards.  We are constantly exploring what best in class technologies are out there and what they can do for your business.   Our people are naturally curious, resourceful, talented and have a wide breadth of real world experience.  We can weigh a wide range of options – to deliver the right solution for you.

We’re polyglot programmers, with feet in the functional and object-oriented worlds. If quick and dirty is your speed, we can deliver a LAMP stack solution on your timeframe. If it has to be tight and right, we can get you there with Scala/Lift.  We’re more than agile, we’re extremely flexible.

We ask the right questions from the start.  We’re responsive to your businesses needs and extremely customer centric.   Reach out to us today to discuss your programming needs and we’ll save you time and money, while delivering a best in class solution for your company.    Request a quote…

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Directional Boring Contractors – Caveat emptor!

Posted on by Data-Trax

When it comes to dealing with underground construction contractors, many business operators would rather crawl across broken glass on their bellies than obtain multiple quotes from contractors. This is an unfortunate fact for both the customer requiring the service and the industries that provide legitimate, value based, and competent services. The simple truth is that there are quite few bad apples out there and you have to be very careful to find the right contracting partner for your project.

Many times when a customer requests a quote from a contractor, what they are really looking for is a ballpark estimate so they can determine if it is within their budget. A good contractor will take the time to gather the initial project details and provide a good faith estimate. You should only work with contractors who are willing to work with you. If at any time you feel rushed or they seem bothered by your requests, then find a different contractor immediately.

You will be able to get a good feel for how thorough the contractor is by how well the quote is organized, the attention to detail and in particular, if they list any assumptions that may not have even occur to you earlier on in your planning. Look for a contractor who looks for ways to do the job faster, easier and at less cost to you. However, whatever you do, do not shop based on price alone. Underground construction is not a business that can be taken lightly. It isn’t exactly rocket science but it can be complicated, costly and when done incorrectly – deadly.

Ask for references and take the time to email or call the references provided. Next, Google the contractor’s business and see if they truly have a presence on the Internet. A well established company does not just appear over night with lots of links and references. That takes time to develop and can be a very good indicator that you are not dealing with a fly by night operation. Often you can even determine how busy they are, the types of projects they are bidding, winning and completing by reviewing their web site.

Once you have whittled down your list of contractors, make sure to request what is commonly called a “site walk” – do not accept a quote site unseen. In the end, if the project ends up to be more complicated or costly than the contractor planned, you could find yourself in the driveway having a very uncomfortable conversation or worse, they just disappear, leaving you with a mess. Caveat emptor! It is imperative that the contracting company that you are working with take the time to physically walk the site, take measurements, and identify and communicate to you any potential areas of concern or risk.

After the site walk you should be provided in writing, a “Final Quote” that details the scope of work to be performed, conditions of understanding, a project timeline and an agreed upon price. Managing your contractor and project is a full time job and one that you have to accept responsibility for. If you are already busy with lots of other projects or commitments, you should give serious consideration to finding a nationwide provider of directional boring and trenching services, to help turnkey your project.

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Directional Boring vs. Trenching-Which Is Right for Me?

Posted on by Data-Trax

A common question for people who are unfamiliar with underground regards to the differences between directional boring and trenching-and which method is right for their particular project.  For commercial project requests generally customers understand the difference and which method is more suitable for their needs based upon the project and path their projects takes. For “first time enterprise or residential customers, those who may not understand what the difference is (or that there even is a difference!), it isn’t quite as simple.

First, trenching is simply put the basic opening of ground from above in a path or path-like manner. Trenchers are best and most easily described as being similar to a large chainsaw, one with tines that open up the ground repetitively and, for the most part, easily, ground conditions notwithstanding. Trenchers can be the size of a large rider lawnmower or can be as large as a tractor, depending upon the complexity of the project and power needs. Most trenches, especially for residential sized projects, are typically anywhere from 6-12” in diameter and range in depths from 18”-60”. Trenching is most commonly used in open areas where ground disturbance is not of concern; trenching literally rips open the ground and, once filled with whatever conduits/pipes are needed, need to be back-filled will the material that was originally removed from the ground. It is important to note that trenching and excavating are 2 very different methods, both in machinery and complexity. OSHA defines an excavation as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the earth’s surface formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and no wider than 15 feet. Most likely a residential project would be for trenching as opposed to excavating but larger projects that require more Earth moving will need the power and ability of an excavator. Excavating is the most intrusive of all 3 methods discussed here.

Directional boring is done for many of the same purposes that trenching is; the biggest difference in the effectiveness of the 2 methods is that directional boring is much less invasive to the terrain. Directional bore machines, or “boring rigs”, simply bore down through the surface of the ground to open up a tunnel underneath in order to facilitate the placement of conduit for things as electrical service, sewers, or fiber optic cables. Directional boring rigs are typically much larger than trenchers but the effect they have on the surface-particularly in an area where aesthetics are important such as landscaped yards-are, much less invasive.

Which is right for your project? It all depends upon what you are looking to have done. Your description and project parameters – collectively make up what is referred to in our industry as a scope of work. Things such as work distance, path taken, conduit needed for placement-all of these make up the scope of work. But the biggest thing to think about when choosing whether directional boring or trenching should be the basis for the scope of work is where will the path of work to your contractor?

Typically, directional boring is more costly per linear foot than trenching is. However, there other things to factor besides the cost per foot for an underground construction company to effectively quote a project. The scope of work should dictate which method makes the most sense to you. If you are a residential customer and conduit needs to be placed under your driveway? If you are not prepared to cut open and buy a new driveway then directional boring is the answer. Are you a utilities contractor that needs to run power under streets? Unless you want to close these streets down, open them up, and give the local municipality a good reason to do so then I would suggest directional boring as your method.

If you are looking to get a quote for a project and the surface you re considering being trenched is asphalt or concrete (such as a parking lot, to run electrical power between light poles), your trenching contractor will need to “open cut” the surface before trenching the ground below. This involves the cutting and removal of all the now-ruined asphalt or concrete. Then your contractor will need to trench the area, place the conduit, back-fill the trenched areas, and, after all that is complete, resurface the area with new asphalt or concrete. It is a very time consuming process and, even if the contractor hired to do the work is not an hourly crew, all of this time has been built into the quote you received. Then we have the factor that is not always addressed-at least from what my customers have explained to me. There is the matter of all of the broken material or “spoil” that remains.

If you are considering a trench or excavation project, when obtaining a quote make sure that the quote includes not only the work itself but the extra such as removal of spoil and the transportation of the spoil to a landfill. Dependant upon the size of the job in question and the amount of spoil, this can easily break the budget for customers as this unforeseen cost can be 20% or higher of the original quote. There also may be environmental fees for depositing this spoil as some landfills do not want to take what basically amounts to unneeded or unusable garbage. Certainly things like the spoil mentioned here have an effect on the Earth with over-pollution, in the “Green Era”, being a common menace. With directional boring there is very little spoil and no need for a dump truck to be loaded full of concrete to be taken somewhere to rot for the next 50-100 years.

If you are looking for a quote for what you consider to be a trenching or excavating project, make sure all of the following are built into the Final Quote that you receive from your contractor:

– Open cutting of surface material
– Placement of conduit/pipe needed
– Restoration of the area to its original appearance
– Removal of spoil
– Any environmental fees associated with depositing the spoil at a landfill

Only then is one really comparing all of the methods properly. Trenching itself on a per foot basis is cheaper than directional boring and is useful at times, particularly in large, open “field” like areas. However, when factoring in all of the other costs listed above, there is no doubt that directional boring more than ever has its place in the underground construction world. More and more often, customers both residential and commercial, are choosing to “go green” and choose directional boring.

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Postini Integration Boosting Interest in Google Apps Premier Edition

Posted on by Krissi Danielson

After acquiring successful on-demand security provider Postini, everyone’s favorite search engine turned SaaS leader, a.k.a. Google, quickly integrated Postini functionality into its Google Apps Premier Edition offering (read the press release here), which is quickly shaping up to be a major force in the on-demand office suite space. I thought it would be interesting to have a chat with Google about the integration and the future of Google Apps, and I was joined by Google’s Rajen Sheth, one of the product managers who work on Google Apps Premier Edition.

Can you talk a little about the rationale behind the integration of Postini functionality into Google Apps and what benefits customers will see as a result?

Sheth: The rationale behind the integration and the acquisition of Postini is twofold. One is that as we have been selling to businesses, we were realizing that compliance and email security are very, very important components to the story of providing a complete messaging solution to businesses — a clear component we needed to have within our offering to offer to medium-sized businesses or larger.

The other thing about Postini is that they’re one of the most successful SaaS vendors for messaging. So we thought that this would be a really great fit; what we did was basically within three weeks after announcing the acquisition, we integrated those technologies together. The core Postini functions were a specific policy-based virus filtering, content policy management product which basically allows the organization to choose what info they want to let through by email and control of outbound email based on keywords, and finally a 90-day message recovery package. That’s a 90-day rolling window of email for an organization, effectively a backup that they can recover from, which can be turned on as a service.

A part of the integration is also a promotional offer for Postini customers where we’re offering Google Apps Premier Edition to existing Postini customers for free until June of next year.

So what kinds of companies are typically using Google Apps Premier Edition and Postini right now?

Sheth: It varies across the board for both of those products, for Postini and Google Apps. We see customers of a variety of sizes from very small businesses to the largest of the large. We’re seeing interest in integration of these two specific functionalities across the board; many small customers activate and start using Postini functionality immediately after the integration. We’re also seeing a lot of interest from larger companies, so definitely an interest for our applications as a service.

Do you have any response to the market criticism from other office application suite leaders who claim that SaaS offerings aren’t ready for prime time?

Sheth: It goes down to the customers and we have over a half a million organizations that are using this, and most are businesses of a variety of sizes. We have educational institutions that are 10000 users apiece that are using this, and a few dozen enterprise pilots going on as well. We see a variety of feedback from the market that this is definitely a viable solution. The way that we do things is we really respond to user interest and to user needs, and our philosophy is to release something and continue to iterate, iterate, iterate. We’ve seen with Apps gaining more and more in the market at a high level.

What are the primary benefits companies are looking for with Google Apps?

Sheth: The main benefits that people are seeing the clear bens of SaaS in general. SaaS scales more effectively and us more cost effective as it scales, compared with the cost to deploy a solution in house SaaS is dramatically lower. As a service we can innovate very quickly and iterate as a service; one example is Prudential Realty in Chicago, which has several hundred real estate agents that they previously were not providing services too because agents were remote and not in one office.

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New Cloud Offerings

Posted on by Krissi Danielson

Google has certainly be in the forefront of the cloud computing media this week, launching two new offerings that have the potential to be formidable (depending on whom you talk to, of course.)

The first is called Google Video, an addition to the Google Apps suite that many describe as “YouTube for business.” The New York Times describes Google Video as allowing end users to share video with co-workers through a YouTube-like interface. Google believes that the offering will be of interest for functions like training, announcements, and broadcasts of company events.

The other new offering, and one that is arguably more groundbreaking, is the launch of a new web browser that some are describing as an operating system for cloud computing (whereas others laugh at the notion of calling it anything but a browser). The offering, called Google Chrome, was announced through a strange online comic book. Chrome has some interesting features.

Google claims that it will keep each tab in an isolated sandbox that prevents one tab from being able to crash the others and gives additional protection against malware. Google also states that it will have a more powerful JavaScript engine to fuel more modern web applications.

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Digging without Locates – Don’t Do It!

Posted on by Data-Trax

When homeowners think of underground excavation, the images that come to mind are large heavy equipment and men in hard hats and reflective vests who move large amounts of earth with their behemoth diesel drinking machines. So it’s really not surprising that do it yourself (DIY) homeowners who decide to embark on home improvement projects such as installing a new pool or sprinkler system, burying an invisible dog fence, building a foundation for a deck or something as simple as planting a tree can find themselves in a precarious and sometimes dangerous situations when they suddenly hit something beneath the ground they never realized was buried on their property.

In some cases, homeowners may literally get shocked from hidden, underground utilities and in extreme and severe cases, death has occurred from digging without locating underground assets. Underground, buried utilities such as water, gas, electric, phone, cable, and Internet can go undiscovered and/or forgotten for several years, until unsuspecting homeowners begin excavating on their property or in easement areas that they mistake for their property. Not all these buried assets post a deadly threat if damaged; however, loss of utility services can occur and can oftentimes result in costly repairs and/or fines.

Warning Use Extreme Caution:

You must be careful whenever you decide to begin any kind of digging, trenching or if you are planning on having any kind of underground directional boring | directional drilling conducted on your property. In these cases it is important that you contact your states local “One Call” utility protection provider, so that they can locate and mark the location of all underground assets in the area where you plan to work. Visit call 811.com to find your local “One Call” provider.

You should know that even if you call for utility locates, the “One Call” services only services public utilities (assets). If you believe you have other underground assets such as a private gas line, power line, or water line that was installed by you or someone else, you may want to contact a private locating service company. Again, think safety first – no job is so important that you cannot afford to take the time to protect yourself or your family from injury.

What to Expect:

Locating companies use sophisticated electronic equipment and have the training to interpret the signals (tones) they receive. Electromagnetic signals are obtained when locating metal pipes by attaching a transmitter to the pipe or a locate wire that was installed with the pipe at the time of its placement. Other methods use sound waves to detect non-metalic objects or pipes that are in the ground.

Once you have identified your local “One-Call” provider, you can call or complete an online locate ticket request. Depending on where you live you can typically expect locators to arrive at your location within 2 to 4 days. You will receive a ticket or what is commonly referred to as a “dig number” and a “good on date”.

The dig number is important as it is proof that you called and requested utility locates. The Good-On-Date is the date that you should be able to proceed with your project. This time usually accommodates the time it takes for the locators to arrive at your job location.

You will notice bio-degradable paint markings of different colors, each distinguishing gas, water, and phone utilities. Additionally, some locating companies will place different color flags in conjunction with painted markings. If you do not see locates (i.e. Paint and Flags) by the date given to you for your locate ticket DO NOT proceed with your excavation activities. You most likely are required by local state law to make a second request to your “One-Call” provider. When you call back to notify “One Call” that your promised locates were not provided, your ticket will be escalated. A utility locating crew will immediately be routed to your location to provide you with the locates for which you are waiting. Escalated ticket response times range between 2 and 4 hours.

So what happens if, after calling a second time, the locators still do not show up? Well, this is a gray area and depending on who you speak with, you may hear that you can proceed and that if you hit something, it is the responsibility of the locating and utility company to resolve. Yes, maybe legally you can proceed…maybe…but remember, if you hit something you may not just damage something in the ground; you may actually damage yourself! So when you are tempted to proceed or just ignore the locating process, just keep this in mind. What is a bigger hassle: making a phone call or dying?

Think about it, then CALL before you dig!

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