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FYI provides flexible EDMS toolkit

This article appears in the issue March 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 3]

FYI is Identitech's (Melbourne, FL) EDMS toolkit. The system includes all the components that organizations need to build sophisticated, mission-critical corporate EDMS applications. It's designed for vertical applications that require extensive customization and integrated document management, imaging, forms processing, archival and workflow. The system is ideal for large distributed applications that require robust security, such as utilities, financial and petrochemical. Identitech provides such industry-specific solutions through its business alliance partners, high-end vertical solution providers who integrate FYI.

We evaluated FYI 2.5.5 for our most recent benchmark of imaging products, so we paid special attention to the product's viability as an imaging solution. In that area, FYI provides a good graphical interface, comprehensive back-end services and a set of APIs that can be used to build custom solutions. FYI includes modules for import, indexing, workflow, searching and viewing. If more functionality is needed, developers can quickly add it using the FYI APIs.

FYI uses a two-tier architecture in which the clients directly connect to the database. On the client side, FYI supports Windows 95 and Windows NT. On the object server side, FYI supports Windows NT only. For the database, FYI supports SQL Server on Windows NT, Sybase, and Oracle on most platforms and operating systems.

FYI is designed to scale. For example, clients do not require persistent database connections; the connection is open only during a live request, reducing network load and overhead. Identitech also provides a Web interface, NetFYI, which allows large numbers of users to access the system from any location. The interface provides basic functionality (search, view, check-in/out, edit and workflow participation). The HTML interface uses CGI scripts, which may limit performance in handling many simultaneous requests unless multiple servers are used.

In a distributed environment, FYI uses a master database and replicated object servers (replication can be done in real-time or on a schedule). Users log into the master database and are automatically routed to the closest object server, or to a server with excess capacity for load balancing. That model minimizes downtime, improves performance and ensures that users are always presented with the most current view of the repository. If any server fails, a user request is automatically mapped to the next closest server.

FYI provides a good set of modules for most imaging applications and can tightly integrate with third-party components if more advanced functionality is required. The system provides components for batch image import, searching, viewing and annotations. It provides integrated workflow through FloWorks, Identitech's workflow toolkit.

The QA Import utility allows users to view, OCR and QA images before importing them into the system. FYI integrates with capture systems from vendors such as Cornerstone, Kofax and Powerscan. Using OCR functionality, users can quickly index an image by highlighting text, then dragging and dropping it over to the appropriate index field.

For full-text searching, FYI integrates Excalibur and supports both Boolean logic and content searches. Queries can be saved and shared among users, with full security. Developers can design custom search screens for full-text, key-word, and index field searching. Designing search screens can be complex, because developers have a number of options and variables to configure.

For viewing images, FYI uses the AllView tool. That interface allows users to view, annotate, print and fax almost any file, including word processing, spreadsheet and various image formats. For engineering applications, FYI supports vector and raster CAD files. AllView also supports some of the most flexible annotation capabilities we've seen. Users can mark up any file, and the annotations are saved as separate layers with their own security.

As a toolkit, FYI is designed to be highly customizable and flexible. To minimize development, FYI includes an off-the-shelf user interface that exposes most of the system's basic functionality. FYI provides documented APIs that can be used to customize the system further.

The most impressive of FYI's administration features is its robust security. While not integrated with the operating system, the security is very granular--administrators can apply security on documents, pages, index fields and even specific annotations. Administrators can also decide who can view, edit, delete, index, fax and print files from the system. Because configuring the many security options can be overwhelming, Identitech is developing an administration wizard for a future release.

To increase system performance, administrators can schedule data to be prefetched to magnetic caches, eliminating the need for users to pull data from the slower optical drives. In addition, administrators can schedule the database to purge records and the object server to destroy the data at a specific time. For auditing and monitoring, FYI can be configured to track every transaction, and the audit trail is exposed to Windows NT's Event Viewer. Administrators can generate reports using FYI's bundled tools or third-party tools such as Crystal Reports.

Overall, we were impressed with FYI. It provides the basic functionality we expected right out of the box, with the ability to integrate and customize the system to meet a diverse range of needs. It is best suited for organizations with a large, distributed IT infrastructure, for mission-critical applications requiring robust security or for vertical applications that need to be document-enabled. Although deployment is more involved than with turnkey products, FYI provides the flexibility to develop highly customized solutions, along with an architecture that can support mission-critical applications. *

The authors are analysts with Doculabs (Chicago), an independent research and advisory firm specializing in information management technologies, 312-433-7793, E-mail info@doculabs.com,www.doculabs.com.

We assessed FYI 2.5.5 using Windows 95 and Windows NT clients. The FYI server was running in a Windows NT 4.0 server environment, with an Oracle 7.3 database.

Doculabs' evaluation focused on the process of developing the application. With Identitech's cooperation and support, Doculabs' team of analysts spent two days learning about the product, installing and configuring the system and performing application development. That included tasks such as scanning, capturing and importing images into the system, indexing images, defining users and groups, creating routing for the images, and processing work through that routing.

The intention of the application development exercise was to gain a thorough understanding of the full complement of features and functions that the product offered. Additionally, the exercise gave us a feel for factors such as overall usability and ease of administration.

Doculabs' analyst team consisted of individuals with varying experience levels, which is a scenario typical of most organizations. The opinions in this article represent a compilation of our analysts' opinions.

Related sites

Identitech: www.identitech.com

Doculabs: www.doculabs.com

KMWorld: www.KMWorld.comSearch keywords: EDM


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