MIS Systems Thread, MIS changeover in Technical; We access our CMIS database directly because we have 'applications' that need up-to-date data and doing an export then import ...
24th April 2013, 06:01 PM #46
We access our CMIS database directly because we have 'applications' that need up-to-date data and doing an export then import would be clunky and inefficient. Removing database access lessens the options we have to get what we want out of the data.
24th April 2013, 06:04 PM #47
Originally Posted by GREED
We've probably met. Demo on the BIG screen . Plus we might have had a Webex the other day.
Originally Posted by GREED
We like to extract data for our automated user import/deletion tools, for reports that are so intricate and so precise for LT that they either are too complicated to create or can not be made to look right or plain don't work in our current MIS systems and for other stuff that generally makes life easier. Some of the reports we are asked to produce contain weird and wonderful data and although we try to steer clear of them, a data mine is often the easiest way to get the information in the right layout.
Good news that we are not restricted in access though so another tick for Aspen then.
Out of curiosity, how do we get access to the database?
24th April 2013, 06:10 PM #48
Got it!! haha!
Originally Posted by Heebeejeebee
I would say that reports are an interesting topic. We are not like the run of the mill MIS in terms of our reporting capabilities, because we use an industry standard report framework building tool, so you truly can build any report in the way you want it. I would place good money on if you have been able to build these reports elsewhere already, Aspen reports would be able to reproduce them. I can send you (privately) some customer examples of some really complex reports.
To access the database, you need to be able to connect up to the SQL tables. I'm affraid my knowledge of this is limited, obviously you need to learn the schema of Aspen to make sense of it (I have a HUGE database schema on A1 paper in my office, it is like wallpaper!)
24th April 2013, 07:02 PM #49
Didn't I read Aspen uses a proper setup where you have a dedicated reporting database that is optimized for reporting or what that something else?
24th April 2013, 07:35 PM #50
It'd be great if, instead of outputting CSV, we could build a report in the interface of a MIS and have it generate a SQL query. Then that query could be put into a third party app or simple database to extract the data needed.
25th April 2013, 09:34 AM #51
I'm still waiting for the Pachyderm to step up and take responsibility for its actions.
25th April 2013, 10:15 AM #52
We have a dedicated and industry standard reporting application that utilises all the framework and layout tools and allows you to create the most complex reports, including calculations, extrapolations, colours etc. Sort of professional reports any industry uses. We usually have a dedicated server for reporting (for larger customers) which will contain an optimised database for reporting, although this merely is used for the processing of the data from the core database. Think that answers your question Matt!
Originally Posted by matt40k
25th April 2013, 10:21 AM #53
Originally Posted by CAM
You can! Sort of! The report definition utilises a SQL query to return or output the information usully to a report. Although I don't think this is usually displayed (i need to check on that!) it is there. So you would be able to do this.
The issue comes back to security, as such a query could return information to a user bypassing Aspen security roles so giving information they potentially should not have access too. So, yes you can, but you would need to think about this carefully before implementing. So putting into a third party app is great, but if you wanted to display the returned results on a intranet page (as I was asked yesterday) then you would need to consider the audience.
EDIT: I should say before the security police start having a moan: You still need to get access to the server and the database before you get this far, so no, there is not a big security hole to worry people or for competitors to exploit! We do this often with larger customers with no issues at all!
Last edited by GREED; 25th April 2013 at 10:24 AM.
25th April 2013, 10:33 AM #54
Just to clear a few things up just so you have an idea of why I have discounted so many other MIS. I didnt want to go into so much detail initially but it seems people are getting the wrong idea on why my options look polarised, im not just saying "no" because Im not interested in certain MIS - I simply believe they wont be suitable. I wasnt clear in my original brief, we have no intention of moving our core existing working intranet functions into another MIS - that is academic reporting, SEN, pastoral tracking (These three facilities are highly customised to our reporting system and to how our teachers "work"). Our change of MIS is stimulated mainly due to the unreliability of E1 (being outside our control "in the cloud" and the lack of our ability to drag information from it. Since then I narrowed the search down to the ones I was asking peoples opinions on - engage, isams and schoolbase as I believed these were either modular or cheap enough for the core functions with the option of getting the data we require simply.
In order to answer questions as to "why":
I do currently script reports in order to grab certain information from E1 (only certain bits can be pulled directly via PI, for instance exam data and timetable cannot be pulled effectively via PI). This has led to a number of issues; how often do you poll for changes? Does someone need to do it manually? Does the system have a timeout? Do you need to create an automated browser service to "click" events for you? Our .NET service that operates our E1 import facility is cumbersome, it entails taking data from a report, saving it to a directory, the service examines the file, imports to our SQL database. If E1 change anything in the layouts of reporting then the intermediate layer needs to be changed (this has happened -albeit once- in the past when papertypes were changed - layouts altered which mean the exported file changed subtly). Scheduled reports are only as good as the time they are run. Multiple changes during the day especially around options times etc. Direct SQL access (or any kind of database access such as the time we had a read only DSN to the OMNIS database of Phoenix Gold) simply means a join therefore live data. I'm no stranger to schema mapping, it took me 2 weeks to map out phoenix gold (all the bits we needed at least I dont pretend to have mapped it all!) - to anyone else who looked at gold then OMNIS.FPUPILS alone was an exercise in why that database was designed by muppets! Our moodle also uses SETS to automatically enrol pupils into pages and also create "groups" within moodle so that assignments can be matched to sets. This makes sure the markbooks use "moodle groups" that match "SET groups" from the MIS.
We have an exam seating planner that works and does everything we need (tables, outside candidates, room overspill, spare machines for scribes and word processors, invgilators checklist, time table for extra time - moves to extremeties of room etc). We have a parents evening scheduler that does everything we need (clashes, siblings, lates, "go home at", "only arrive at" times) . All these systems require data. Ideally an SQL join would sort this out. In a secondary sense I could script reports and import to our SQL database just as I have with E1. Given a choice I would not do this, hence my requirement for database access on demand.
I have given one example previously as to why (I estimate) Aspen solution wouldnt suit our academic report. In our academic reports a form tutor report entry looks different to a subject report entry. The house master also has a different layout. EYFS, preparatory and lower school also have different looking reports. Each report is tailored to show (and pre format) required information. I imagine your EYFS and ours are identical as they are statutory fields and radio buttons. Our preparatory give different options for different subjects some have effort target and attainment some do not. Some have information automatically copied in. One example, if a person has an identified SEN weakness in english then this data is added automatically to the report and a flag is set next to the person with JUST the english requirements - not the WHOLE specific learning difficulties (although the whole is viewable by clicking should a teach wish to). This cuts down on clutter enormously. Attendance is calculated and colour coded, we dont use raw numbers. Effort ranking is colour coded depending on previous reports averages in the particular "group" (i.e. prep, lower, middle, 6th etc). Lower school reports do included exam results but only as a comment. Middle (GCSE) and 6th give results and colour coded differences between predicted (from our MIDYIS or ALICE data) as a trend etc. I could go on but dont feel I need to to be honest - i havent scratched the surface on our learning support referral system or pastoral system. Suffice to say I have yet to find an MIS that will do all of the above in a simple manner - im sure they could do most but not all. Our parents are used to getting a page of A4 on each subject with general class comment, data on progress and individual comment based on the data (even the peripatetic reports are fleshed out!). From a teachers point of view all the data is displayed on the report page without the need move elsewhere and really only involves them putting a class comment and a single comment (the rest will be inserted automatically - although it CAN be manually editted if required for exceptions) - plus they are only shown what they need to (although this can be overridden if they want more data, say if they are a house master wanting an overall feel. (excel sheets are also generated automatically for the above and sent to head of departments with more number crunching value added information etc). I am guessing (as is the case of all MIS ive seen so far) that I will be able to get the look and feel of our report and easy tailored data entry but the automated text insertion from specific parts will not work (i.e. english SEN only for english subjects, mathematics for mathematics etc). Im guessing the automatic insertion of trends and formulae will not work along with the colour coded boxes for attendance, effort etc. I also know the SMT will shriek if I say a "portion" of the MIS is hosted in the cloud.
Last edited by KK20; 25th April 2013 at 10:51 AM.
25th April 2013, 11:21 AM #55
Originally Posted by KK20
You are right, we cannot do EVERYTHING you ask... today... however looking carefully down your list we can come pretty darn close through our data analytics engine to support the reporting process.
However, I'm not going to 'bang on' about that because you have a solution you are happy with at the front end, what you want to know is can you connect to and extract the raw data you need and when. You really want your own front end to a database built for you. And really the answer is yes you can. It would be some careful work with yourselves (as you would expect, it isn't going to switch on and 'boom' you have everything you had before).
I'm always interested to hear why SMT will shriek at their database being hosted in the cloud... and while talking about it you can have it on your local servers just as easily.
I won't push this any more, I wish you luck in your search and I think we would all be interested to hear how you get on!! Let us know. If... if you want to talk further on your requirements, even just to discuss and know that Aspen isn't going to fulfil your needs (if you are not certain already based on your assumptions) please do get in contact.
26th April 2013, 01:59 PM #56
- Rep Power
Full disclosure I work for ScholarPack a competing cloud based MIS. For a web based service to be down for a full day is just completely unacceptable.
Originally Posted by KK20
All web based systems should be hosted in a tier 3 data center, this means that redundancy is built into any servers hosted there. There should also be co-location so even if the whole data center goes down(very very very rare) the system still wont go down because it will auto fall over to the second location. The only time you should ever loose access to a cloud based MIS is if your internet goes down.
Integrating with other systems should be super easy with a cloud based MIS, as its essentially a website, so with a decent API this should be mega easy. Security should be top notch to using things like oauth 2.
26th April 2013, 02:08 PM #57
A teir 3 datacenter won't help you when a software update screws the pooch, or a database upgrade runs rampant over your data or the supplier (datacenter, MIS, telecoms etc) goes bust and the creditors flick the off switch. Of course downtime is unacceptable - but changing an MIS is not 'cloud' in that I can just flick a switch and move the service to a new provider. When I choose an MIS provider, it's a commitment that has to last many years IF it is to be good value. Integration can be hugely difficult if you can't access parts the system for diagnostics. Of course, you can pay for the suppliers to do the integration. Hosting is good for suppliers, very very good for suppliers.
26th April 2013, 04:03 PM #58
- Rep Power
You are very correct, it has to be paired with proper incremental upgrade/update management. This is also why it is a good idea for your dual location to be with a differently supplier. The odds of both companies going down on the same day is very unlikely. It would be amazing if it was just flicking a switch, however data transfer is never that fun, getting CTF info and the staff workforce census across is just the start.
Originally Posted by pcstru
In my personal opinion a web based system with an awesome API is a great way to go for many schools, especially those that have technical people that want to write programs/scripts that utilise the schools data the way they want. Id say the only schools that would have a problem with cloud based system's is those with unreliable internet connection, because not being able to get at your data is not fun.
Again with diagnostics a good API should give you a helpful response and should be easier to work with than directly with a database.
I would say supplier hosting is good for everybody. It is the most efficient way, as you can have staff with server expertise for that exact setup and have a deep knowledge of the services its running and how it is setup. It also means you have a system that is far more efficient. Again as far as expertise goes you can use multiple database solutions such as pairing MYsql, with Lucence and Mongodb. Also the vender has control over security with people with expertise in that area. Rather than a windows server running in a school that might not of had a security patch or there is a zero day out, somebody has already managed to access your network they can then attack from that machine. If the vendor is running the server you have people dedicated to updating IDS,IPS's and making that network safe, keeping separate zones, normally running Linux servers which have much better track records for security than windows server, there are formal quality controls on how services are setup to prevent misconfiguration. Schools tend not to have the time, expertise or both to do this properly.
The other argument is those that schools are low targets because of little to no finical incentive, they just hold data on children which is important to protect but not highly sort after unlike something like credit card details. So if you do risk analysis on that many would say its ok for schools to have so so security.
26th April 2013, 05:24 PM #59
Agreed but it does happen even to major banks with huge resources to ensure that it doesn't. I'm not anti cloud/hosted far from it but when something breaks it does so on a massive scale!
Originally Posted by tombruton
26th April 2013, 06:19 PM #60
This is just so wrong. The common problem schools have is to do with the suppliers and their management, either of the infrastructure or of the software. Look at Progresso. Look at historical problems with ParentPay, ParentMail, Capita's hosting in Norfolk (or was it Kent?) - there is a pretty big list of suppliers getting it wrong and customers just having to sit there suffering. There are some real disasters waiting to happen. Sony isn't some small company without the means or (one would hope) the in house expertise to do proper security - yet even they can stuff it up big time for their customers. What makes you so sure your company is better than the lowest common denominator of "only human"? How could it be!
Originally Posted by tombruton
You can also have a cage full of monkeys who know next to nothing about the set-up or particularly your data. And of course you won't know that because the supplier sales folks aren't showing pictures of the cage on their power points. MIS suppliers don't have a monopoly on employing knowledgeable professionals. Sometimes it seems they don't even do very well at it.
I would say supplier hosting is good for everybody. It is the most efficient way, as you can have staff with server expertise for that exact setup and have a deep knowledge of the services its running and how it is setup.
Some do. Some don't. The question might be which provides the best value to the school. A good MIS system will sit at the centre of a schools management services and provide long term intelligence to the schools teachers and senior management. It is a key/core asset. Companies that outsource their core assets and function often end up paying a heavy price. First the companies that now provide the core services can't help noticing they have their customer by the dingle dangles and if the sales manager wants to hit their bonus, they can always just squeeze a bit. Second, when the service companies do have problems, the health of your business is now tied directly to theirs. You outsourced your expertise but in the process assumed all the operating risk of your own company *and* another, completely alien one. I personally think that is a pretty dumb move. Why would you want to do that?
Schools tend not to have the time, expertise or both to do this properly.
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