How to Best Demo Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A
We’ve talked a bit about how to install and deploy Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A: http://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/installing-and-deploying-sage-erp-accpac-6-0a/. When deploying for real you usually have several computers involved, usually a file/web server, a database server and then client workstations. This distributes the total workload over at least three computers, including memory used and processing requirements. But what if you want to demo all the new web components of Accpac 6 on a single self-contained laptop? Here you want everything installed on the laptop and ideally not even require an Internet connection to do the demo. You want the demo to run well, be quick and look good. Fortunately this isn’t hard to set up.
Of course the most important part of a good demo is to tell a compelling story and to involve the customer. To show him how he can save time and money and get work accomplished quicker and more pleasantly. This blog posting doesn’t help with that part, this posting just talks about a number of technical issues to avoid, allowing you to give your demo without anything getting in your way.
Microsoft did a really good job with Windows 7. It fixes most of the bugs from Windows Vista and is ten years more advanced than Windows XP. The bottom line is that Accpac 6 runs twice as fast on Windows 7 as it does on Windows XP. To have a good demo you really want to take advantage of this. If you only take away one tip from this blog posting, let it be this one. The biggest thing that will make the demo better is to use Windows 7.
Further use the 64-Bit version. This allows you to add more memory effectively past 2Gig of RAM. At 2Gig of RAM both the 32 and 64 bit versions run about the same, but with the 32 bit version you can never effectively use more RAM. The 64 bit version lets you expand the RAM to your laptop’s full capacity.
You cannot use a Home edition of Windows to demo with. Both Accpac and SageCRM require IIS be present and this is not available for the Home versions of Windows.
You only want to have one database server running, so use SQL Server. Best to use SQL Server 2008 R2 (may as well use the newest). Since you will probably want other products like SageCRM installed, the common database is SQL Server. SQL Server 2008 is 10-15% faster than SQL Server 2005, so it isn’t the end of the world if you use 2005.
If you are using 32-Bit Windows then 2Gig is your limit. You won’t get any benefit having any more memory. Accpac 6 will run fine here, but if you are running through a lot of things, it really helps to have 4Gig of RAM, which is pretty standard these days in laptops. And again to use 4-Gig of RAM properly you need to be running a 64 Bit version of Windows (preferably Windows 7).
For demo purpose the CPU doesn’t make much difference, as long as it isn’t too old. Paying more for a CPU will get you a bit better speed and better multi-threading. Multi-threading is very important for a production server handling many users, but for a single user doing a demo it doesn’t make much difference. That being said if the price difference isn’t too great it doesn’t hurt to be running an Intel i5 or i7 CPU (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Core).
Unfortunately laptop screens tend to be wide but not high. There isn’t much you can do about your laptop’s screen. Most have pretty good resolution but tend to be small. I expect most people will demo using an LCD projector. For some reason when Windows attaches to an external projector it tends to reduce the resolution quite a bit for no reason. The thing to remember is after switching to the projector, go and adjust your screen resolution to the highest setting you can.
One of the biggest new features in Accpac 6.0 is the new SageCRM (http://www.sagecrmsolutions.com/Products/SageCRM) integration called Quotes to Orders. Here you get Accpac Quote and Order screens running inside CRM as web pages. This works far better than previously having the Order Entry VB OCX popping up. There is no problem installing both Accpac and SageCRM on the same laptop for demo purposes. This is why earlier I recommended using SQL Server so both can share the same database service.
Warm up the System
When demo’ing, it’s well worth “warming up” the system before demo’ing it. Web servers expect to be running for a long time and aren’t necessarily optimized for starting quickly. If you run the portal and CRM for the first time when no one is looking then things will go much quicker during the actual demo. This isn’t a case we are going to optimize since in a real environment (hopefully) the web server is reset very infrequently, maybe only for Windows Updates. However laptops are always being turned off and on (see the section on changing IP addresses below).
Virtual images have been a great way to demo in the past. However Accpac 6 runs very slowly in a virtual image on a laptop whether its VMWare (http://www.vmware.com/) or VirtualPC (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/). Partly this is because virtual images always have less memory than the host computer and partly because of the extra layers involved in accessing the hardware (like the hard drive).
So the advice here is to not demo from a virtual image. Have Accpac 6 installed directly on the laptop.
Changing IP Addresses
Accpac 6 requires a number of web server processes to run including IIS and Apache Tomcat. These programs were designed to run on servers, which typically don’t move around much and have fixed IP addresses. These programs really don’t like network changes. Even moving around the different WiFi zones of an office can cause them to get “confused” and stop working.
The safest way to run is to either have networking turned off, or turn on your computer from scratch at the location of the demo. I’ve also experienced that intermittent WiFi can cause pauses in computer operation, so if the WiFi isn’t reliable, turn off the laptop’s radio.
If you do have to move around and things stop working then you need to stop and start the IIS and Sage Accpac Tomcat Windows services.
I’ve heard SSD Drives (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive) can make a big difference, but I don’t have one, so I can’t speak from experience. If you have one give it a try, I suspect it will really help.
My primary advice is to use a laptop running Windows 7 64-Bit with at least 4Gig of RAM. With this you will be well positioned to give a great demo. Plus turn the computer on from scratch and warm it up. Any of the other things mentioned here, will help, but won’t have nearly as big and effect.