Eclipse-fm® 2009 V4.1 - Annual Task Planner
The main feature of this first enhancement of Eclipse-fm® v4 is the Annual Planner. This allows the FM department supervisors to visualise and manage any tasks for up to a year ahead - both currently created tasks and PPM tasks scheduled but not yet in existence.
The Annual Planner provides a calendar that gives an at a glance indication of workload for each day. Selecting any particular day then gives access to the task list for that day, and then the individual tasks for - at this stage - manual adjustment.
Click on image for a larger version
This is the first step in the development of a visual planner, with more features envisaged for subsequent releases. We will be looking for feedback on the usage of this first release, particularly in the area of handling "nested" PPMs, which do present some design challenges!
As always, a number of other minor enhancements will also be included in this release.
Eclipse-fm® training take up has increased beyond all expectations over the last year, currently running at 2 to 3 courses a month and our appraisal sheets are indicating good levels of trainee satisfaction.
We think this has resulted from the changes we have made in delivering training, namely to move the training to our training facility at Asckey, where there are no interruptions, trainees have a computer each with the latest software and they are able to get their hands dirty and use the software properly.
We are aware that the travel and "away from home" aspects of this are a concern, but the response and comments we have had from NHS staff that have attended the course since this change in format have been very positive and we are convinced that training away from the normal working environment, with all those hassles of lateness of attendees, interruptions, inadequate IT equipment eliminated.
Current Eclipse-fm® Training Recommendations
Management needs to gain a full understanding of the system and it capability, from which they can then identify staff members who requires training on specific modules
We strongly recommend that managers should attend the 2 day Introduction to Eclipse as follows.
- Day one:
- AM: Task management
- PM: Asset Management and WebEclipse
- Day two
- AM: Trust specific Module (pre-selected by the trust)
- PM: System supervisor
(max 5 per trainee group)
These two days will also refresh attendees as to the potential for Eclipse-fm®to enhance the functionality of their FM process.
- 2 nights evening meal
- B&B in the local Golf and Country Club
- All lunches and refreshments during the training
Training course fees starts from £530 per day for two people from the same trust. (Only £265 per day per head all found!)
Trainees arrive the night before training to allow for a prompt start to the course on day one, it also means that people are not arriving tired from long journeys.
Help Desk Staff need to attend the day course on Task Management, which includes an overview of Asset Management and reports
Facilities Operatives should be trained by Management after they have attended their course which is based on a "train the trainer" scenario. For operative staff we can also offer a one day on site course. This will depend on a) the training requirements and b) adequate training facilities
For any others we would recommend a day course specifically designed to meet their requirements.
Recent Trainee comments
- Very relaxing course.
- Going off site provides a better environment for learning.
- Course well structured + presented
- First class, Thanks
- Excellent product
- Excellent Facilities
- Would recommend to other colleagues, I found it very useful + now look forward to progressing forward with our Eclipse
- Excellent training environment, all questions asked resolved. Very worthwhile
- Training was very enjoyable
Need Eclipse-fm® Training? Call us on 0845 2707747
A number of NHS Trusts have been asking about running Eclipse-fm®
on virtual servers. There are many reasons for this, including an increasing emphasis on reducing carbon footprint where a reduced number of physical servers is one contribution to this (and one which we have been doing ourselves, incidentally)
Yes it can be done, and with the power of current servers, done well. However, there is, as usual, "no such thing as a free lunch", and virtualisation of itself does not increase the performance of the physical hardware. In fact, the added virtualisation management is inevitably going to add some overhead, no matter how little. So there is a limit to what can be achieved by, say, halving the number of existing physical servers and moving applications to virtual servers created on the remaining existing physical servers.
If you look at our published spec, here
, then leaving aside details of hard disk storage, the basic needs are
Plus the implication that the (single physical) server will have its own network card.
This spec supports Eclipse-fm® as a local PC installation, with the MS SQL Server database on the server. If planning to deploy via Terminal Services or Citrix, which we find gives better performance, less network traffic and a great many benefits in terms of flexibility of deployment, then the memory requirement would be higher, and dependant on the number of users you are supporting.
This means a virtual server for Eclipse-fm® will need to see at least that much processor and memory resource. If that physical server is no more than a twin, single core processor, which is then divided up between several virtual servers, then the Eclipse-fm® environment is going to be well below spec. If on the other hand the physical server is current generation, based on twin quad core processors, and with lots of memory to share out, then the Eclipse-fm® virtual server can sensibly be allocated what it needs.
A little appreciated fact is that typically, each physical server has a network card.
Eclipse-fm® when deployed PC by PC is relatively network intensive, even now when using MS SQL Server (another advantage of deployment via Terminal Services or Citrix deployment, which considerably reduces network traffic). That network card is now going to have to service multiple virtual servers, and if these are also putting traffic on the network, that single card is going to become a major bottleneck.
Ideally, your physical server should have enough network adapters installed such that each virtual server can have a dedicated network adapter, but virtual servers can share a network adapter with each other, so there is some economy to be achieved. But the provision of adequate network I/O to a heavily virtualised physical server has to be considered, and not just left as is.
What about 64 Bit servers?
Increasingly current spec servers are running 64Bit Windows, and this gives many relevant benefits, especially in terms of the amount of accessible memory.
As from v4.1, Eclipse-fm® will be supported running as 32Bit software within the overall 64Bit environment. This means that if your Trust IT strategy is to deploy these latest servers, no worries about installing Eclipse-fm® on them once V4.1 is available.
Hosting - Reduce your carbon Footprint!
If the reduction of the carbon footprint is a real concern, one option to consider is hosting at Asckey Data Services Ltd. While that may not reduce the UKs carbon footprint, it would contribute to reducing that attributable to your trust!
|WIMS - time is running out!
In recent months we have had no less than four instances of the old WIMS system either becoming completely un-usable, or partly failing and losing some functionality.
In all cases this has been nothing to do with WIMS as an application, but the hardware it was running on has simply been pushed beyond its recommended lifetime and has then failed.
Naturally, this has an immediate effect on the operation of the Facilities Department, dependant on WIMS for day to day operation and historical maintenance records. And, while WIMS may still be "supported" for day to day operation, disaster recovery related to failed hardware is definitely not part of the support package!
Each site, as it happens, was very close to making the decision to move on from WIMS, to its successor, Eclipse-fm®
, so Asckey Data Services Ltd was immediately involved in getting the FM operations back up and running. The sequence was
Establish integrity of the most recent backup
Without a viable backup there would be no chance of recovery, so always make sure that backups are made, made properly (e.g. taking into account open files), and provably recoverable (if to tape, these do wear out).
Send backup to Asckey Data Services Ltd
The backup has to be on media we can read, of course, usually, today, DVD)
Convert to Eclipse-fm®
Includes basic location/management, assets templates, PPM Schedule, Staff, cost/budget centres.
The provision for maintenance history is via a 1 user WIMS installation available for reference purposes.
Temporarily hosted at Asckey Data Services
Given that the Trust will be completely or at least significantly bereft of FM data and operations in the absence of its FM management system, speed is of the essence in this kind of disaster recovery scenario.
A hosted service is very quick to set up, and allows us instant physical access while going through the conversion and early running stages.
Our secure N3 connection facilitates this whole process whilst removing any concerns you may have about the security of trust data.
As hardware failure was the cause of the problem, the Trust is likely to be involved in a server replacement, implying at least a server installation, even if not a new server purchase and installation. The temporary hosted set up allows time to plan the optimum replacement infrastructure and to compare alternatives without the pressure of a disaster recovery situation.
Later, once Eclipse-fm® conversion and usage has settled down, and replacement hardware is ready, the new, live Eclipse-fm®system can be installed locally at the trust, as before.
Was WIMS up to date?
As well as the matter of having a backup, success depends on how well WIMS has been kept up to date.
There is always some "cleaning up" to be done. Often some details, perhaps of department organisation, do not reflect current circumstances exactly, but "everyone knows that" in the context of a long running system. Usually that kind of thing needs to be cleaned up for a new system. This is better done under planned circumstances, but enough can be done to quickly resume the help desk service and day to day operation.
PPMs, purchase orders and other "non-essential" elements are then done in slower time - but still on an accelerated timetable.
WIMS and Dot matrix printers
Another problem that is beginning to crop up is that of dot matrix printers. These also are starting to wear out, and almost inevitably are replaced with Laser printers. These are a completely different proposition, from the basics of paper shape, through how to do multiple copies, to the myriad extra formatting features available on a Laser printer.
The technology of WIMS reporting, dates back to before the arrival of universal printer addressing through the now ubiquitous Windows printer drivers. This may well mean that you will not be able to easily continue with those reports that are dependant on a specific dot matrix printer if it is replaced.
Back in those days, WIMS report formatting was managed by WIMS itself, not, as today, by going through Crystal reports. Detailed formatting code is embedded in the WIMS output itself - eg "ESC E" (in HEX 1B 45) to set emphasised mode on an Epson would be embedded in the report.
For interest, and to illustrate the challenge, the HP Laserjet PCL equivalent of the above is "ESC(s3B" (in HEX 1B 28 73 33 42 ), but you actually need to specify much more than just the "emphasised" mode. Starting with which font, what size, what Symbol set, what page size..... , none of which was at all relevant to a dot matrix printer with probably one font, the symbol set was fixed, and maybe two font sizes, normal and compressed, and a fixed number of lines per page, assuming it understood the concept of a page!
This is exactly why today we use Crystal Reports, and rely on the Windows Print engine to do all the hard work!
As WIMS is now no longer being developed, overhauling its suite of reports is not going to happen
All of which says that the potential for losing report capabilities from WIMS, by reason of failing and perhaps irreplaceable hardware, is now emerging as a growing likelihood.
It is possible to recover from a WIMS server hardware failure with no more than a few days suspension of the Trust FM service. However, any such failure is inevitably going to cause some disruption, and is best avoided by long term planning. It is interesting that WIMS itself will not "fail", but that is of scant comfort if its hardware has expired!
Also the speed and effectiveness with which the replacement Eclipse-fm®system can be brought into play does depend on how well WIMS reflects current reality.
If you have a WIMS installation, do ask yourself if its hardware is still viable - we recommend replacing servers every three years. How old is your WIMS server?
Consider the lifetime of WIMS related printers. You may not be able to replace like with like any more, and this could compromise your routine WIMS reporting.
The real solution of course is to recognise that WIMS has had its day, and make the move to a current day solution such as Eclipse-fm®
, one with long term future support and development.
Case History - Hardware Failure
The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust suffered a hard drive failure in the Raid array of their 10 year old UNIX hardware which took their UNIX WIMS system down. This presented a potentially complex task to recover the system to a new server involving reconfiguring from UNIX to Windows, as UNIX as a platform was no longer really desirable. While WIMS has a functionally equivalent Windows/DOS version, the cost of acquiring this, and the subsequent time and effort needed to reconfigure such things as printer handling was questionable in relation to a system which was up for replacement in the medium term.
The trust had already decided to replace WIMS with Eclipse-fm® based on a review of six alternative possibilities. A particular need by the Trust was for EME/EBME management, and Vic Ball, Estates IT Manager says
"With the new EBME capability, Eclipse-fm® offers the best coverage of both Estates and EME Management of any we looked at"
However, from a relaxed future plan, the situation was now one of urgency, as the FM Department was essentially running blind.
Conversion to Eclipse-fm®
With Asckey Data Services Ltd both being familiar with the legacy WIMS system, and the developers of Eclipse-fm®, an immediate switch to the latter was the quickest route to getting up and running again, and while such major changes are best done with careful planning, a data "tidy up" and staff training, Asckey were able to get the trust FM Helpdesk facilities operational in less than one week from the failure.
Temporary N3 Hosting - the fast track to reinstating the service
Rather than involve Trust IT staff in configuring a server, installing the unfamiliar Eclipse-fm® system and then trying to handle conversion for themselves, Asckey, with its secure NHS N3 Network hosting capabilities, was able to come up with an economical short term hosted solution for the new Eclipse-fm® based system. Conversion of the UNIX derived WIMS data to the new Eclipse-fm® SQL Server based database was rendered much easier with both Asckey and the Trust FM staff being able to see and work on the conversion together, via the N3 link.
Eclipse-fm® Helpdesk proved straightforward to operate
Once up and running, the Eclipse-fm® Helpdesk as the crucial tool in day to day Estates management went into use with no time for the usual niceties of training, and it is a tribute to both Eclipse-fm® and the Trust FM staff that the Helpdesk staff were able to work with the new system with very few problems. Vic ball says
"Yes, the staff found it different, but our staff members have been very open to the changes involved, and Eclipse-fm® turned out to be easy enough to learn from scratch with very little outside assistance".
Phil Wright, Asckeys account manager for the trust says
"We were not picking up any real problems, and when I spent a half day on site reviewing how they were using the system and there was very little they could be doing better. With that encouragement, we were able to move the staff on to handling PPMs, which were all in place as part of the conversion and ready to go back into use".
The next steps
With the basics of both Helpdesk and Planned Preventive Maintenance now back in business, Vic Ball is looking to really start to use the "new" Eclipse-fm® features that WIMS did not have.
Top of the list is to implement Web-Eclipse, so that maintenance task details are available to everyone in the Trust who need them, along with the potential to minimise help desk calls through its provision for the logging of routine tasks onto the help desk direct without always needing tie up help desk personnel with a telephone call.
Next, the trust EME operation will come on to Eclipse-fm®, as the extended needs of EME maintenance were one of the main criteria in adopting a new system
While the new system is now running well, some training is now committed, mainly to fill in some of the installation and maintenance details needed to make the trust self sufficient in these areas once the system is moved back to the trust from its temporary hosting provision.
Hardware failure is the ultimate "disaster" for any computer dependant operation. Ideally, hardware should be replaced before becoming at risk of failure.
This may be compounded by not only the inability to extend the hardware life any further, but by the nature of the system the hardware was supporting - in this case the need to move from UNIX to windows, and from a legacy character mode application to current standard Windows and Web capabilities.
Any solution will inevitably involve some down time, and some cost. The key question then becomes, is that time and money best spent on recovering the already obsolete status quo, or as an opportunity to move on to a probably already overdue system update.
The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust opted for the later, and so far, this is going very well, with a very short period of downtime, and an easy transition to the Eclipse-fm® successor system.
Hosting via N3 is a huge contribution to recovering functionality in such circumstances, and is should be a key factor in assessing long term support of key operational systems.
Asckey data Services Ltd June 2009
With much thanks to Vic Ball at the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust for allowing us to report on this experience.