Category Archives: Small Business

More Concerns about Tucson and the State of the Economy

In the last blog post, we discussed issues around opening a western office in Tucson, Az. I have received four emails and two phone calls about the blog post and whether we thought our experience should be construed as the “norm.” One caller who is local to Tucson (and God bless him for taking the time to call and discuss) explained at great length the disconnect between Tucson and the city of Phoenix and the declining quality of life in Tucson.

That conversation got me thinking about some parallel cities where the same thing seems to have happened. That is, the local economy went downhill and how peer communities viewed the situation. Take a look at Columbus, Ohio and Cleveland Ohio. It’s so similar to how Tucson and Phoenix view themselves that it’s Eeerrie (Erie, get it?)

Columbus is the state capital, lots of white collar jobs and some light manufacturing. Columbus is home to The Ohio State University and Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle is the world’s largest privately held think tank and employs 22,000 people. It’s also home to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Having lived in Columbus for 30+ years, I can tell you that the people viewed Cleveland as part joke and part social welfare entity that really didn’t do much for the rest of the state. Cleveland was (and still is) dominated by democrats who’s agenda was to disperse as much social welfare as they could get their hands on. Cleveland’s reputation was so poor in Columbus that there was little serious contemplation about how the state could help the city. It found itself in a downward spiral and still has not been able to reconcile its union bias and liberal leanings to the rest of the state or rest of the country.

Now let’s drive two hours east from Cleveland and see what has happened to Pittsburgh. If there’s any single city that can be called the comeback city, it’s Pittsburgh, Pa. Here is a city (actually the whole regional area) that took an economic hit that was devastating. The bottom fell out of the demand for domestically produced steel. The city was on the ropes in so many ways but found a way to remake themselves just to survive. And boy have they. They have become a tremendously prosperous city.

Pittsburgh remade itself by utilizing the local universities. Carnegie Melon and the University of Pittsburgh are both powerhouse research institutions. Along with Duquesne University, Pittsburgh became an education and research Mecca. People in Tucson, most notably Regina Romero should take note of this. My understanding from reading articles on the Web and talking to business owners is that Ms. Romero (a Ward 1 Councilor) was instrumental in undermining Grand Canyon University and submarined the universities decision to not locate in Tucson. They have located in Phoenix and have invested over $400 million dollars ($400,000,000) in buildings, classrooms, dorms, etc… Just think about how many local jobs this would have created for Tucson. Here again we have a liberal political body that just seems happy to live in the 5th or 6th poorest city in the country. It’s just total ineptness.

Supporters of Ms. Romero are quick to say this was a misstep on her part and the larger council. I have to disagree. My definition of a misstep is that a mistake took place, something was overlooked, that it was unintentional. This was a deliberate act and Ms. Romero and the larger council were all purposefully part of this decision. Btw, the city didn’t want to let go of a golf course called the El Rio Golf Course where GCU wanted to build. Anyone who has visited Southern Arizona knows that there is no shortage of golf courses in the area. But there is a shortage of is water and golf courses consume an incredible amount of water. Go figure what the real reason is here but I suspect that Ms. Romero and the council are pretty much against religious universities and this was their way of thwarting Grand Canyon University opening a religious based school in Tucson.

I want to point out to the powers that are in Tucson that there are huge benefits beyond just the economic when you bring in companies and universities that are highly educated. You see, many of these organizations have programs that encourage employees to get involved in schools. Many companies actually adopt schools. These folks come into the class room and discuss careers, they tutor students in math, science and reading, they teach business skills. These services you get for almost nothing. Perhaps just a handshake and a “Thank You.”

So what happened with Pittsburgh? Companies have flocked to the region setting up research centers and local offices. They all want to be part of the technology and growth that comes out of the area. Computer Science, Robotics and Health Research is a big piece of this and both CMU, University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region are well situated to take full advantage of this sector of engineering, manufacturing and science. If you have any doubts about Pittsburgh’s comeback and don’t want to spend days reading about it, check out this blog: http://pittsburghcomeback.blogspot.com/

What is so interesting to me is how much Pittsburgh has cleaned itself up. The technology companies that are now in Pittsburgh are typically low environmental impact and high wage organizations. You still see some brown fields but those are quickly being eradicated. You don’t see smog like you did in the 60’s and 70’s and it’s a very pleasant place to live and visit.

For the city of Tucson and Southern Arizona, the loss of IBM and Grand Canyon University is irreversible. The horses have left the barn so to speak. Getting organizations like this to locate to your community are probably once-in-a-lifetime events. If opportunities like this do come up again, don’t blow it. If you do, Tucson is going to start looking like Flint, or Detroit Michigan.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Cool and Useful Software

I always enjoy reading other folks blogs on how they work and the tools they use most every day. It’s a great way to learn about new tools and how to work more efficiently. I have to rave about the phone system we use here at MineQuest. We use VOIP and our provider is VOIPO out of Texas. The quality is tremendous as well as the support. The cost is amazing for what you get. The benefits of VOIPO are numerous for a small business, but the one I like the most is a softphone. I can travel and still be able to use my phone system almost as well as if I was in the office. You can visit the VOIPO web site to get pricing and view all the features that they offer.

Of course I use Skype. I can use Skype to call overseas and to text message with friends, family and business contacts. I have contacts that are almost always on Skype and the number of Skype contacts that I have just continues to grow. If you want or need to do business overseas, then Skype maybe the only way you can do so cost effectively. I hope to see more integration of Skype into other products and services and the availability of an easier to use API. If you don’t have at least a free Skype account, you should visit the Skype website and get Skype today.

I recently started to use a new Linux distribution called ZorinOS. I have version 6.1 and essentially, ZorinOS is Ubuntu Linux with the coolest GUI interface. With ZorinOS, you can change the interface to mimic Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X and the Ubuntu Unity Interface. If you are a Windows User and want to start using Linux with minimum fuss and frustration, ZorinOS is something to try. Check out the ZorinOS website to learn more.

I also signed up for Microsoft’s Office 365. There are a number of plans available and you can see all of them at the Microsoft web site. But if you have multiple machines like I do, desktop, laptop and a Mac, Office 365 gives you five simultaneous installs for $100. This is an annual license and I love that I get Outlook on all my desktop machines. I love the simplicity and the fact that I get cloud storage to store my documents so I can access them from anywhere.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Being Small Business Friendly

We recently put together a WPS vs. SAS Server Cost Comparison. Interestingly, this is one of the most downloaded documents from the MineQuest website. For the first time, smaller companies can afford to run the language of SAS on a server at reasonable prices.

Many companies however don’t have the resources, either financial or technologically to implement a server solution for their organization. And that’s OK too. Using WPS on a desktop is a great way to utilize a WPS license at a reasonable cost. So today, I want to talk about WPS on a desktop and how a smaller organization or department can implement WPS in a cost effective manner.

Being Small Business Friendly

I like to think that we are very Small Business Friendly in terms of our pricing structures. We don’t have high upfront charges to start using the product. We feel this is nothing more than a lock-in strategy and punishes start-ups and small businesses and would result in organizations shying away from using WPS.

Being small Business Friendly goes beyond just pricing. If you run an analytics consulting company and primarily find yourself involved in the B2B sector (and who isn’t?) you may be a Data Service Provider as defined by our competitor. The whole concept of being a DSP is just a ruse to extract more money out your organization.

Your customers and partners are yours. We don’t jump in and demand names of companies that you are doing business with and up-charge you for the use of the software to deliver reports and data sets created with our software. We don’t force you to sign a license agreement that demands if an existing customer drops a license that you are responsible for making up the difference. And, we don’t force you to make quarterly reports of who your customers are so that we can them market to them.

So in the spirit of good competition, I’ve put together a short pricing comparison of WPS on a desktop vs. SAS on a desktop. I used the Analytics Pro pricing from SAS because that seems to be the biggest bang for the buck in terms of pricing. I also added in two access engines to the mix. Most users would want to be able to read and write to Excel and Access as well as say SPSS. Of course, these are included in WPS but are an additional cost from our competitor.

I also included pricing from the GSA schedule. The GSA (Government Services Administration) is an organization that exists to get best pricing. According to the GSA, best pricing is at least 16% below the commercial pricing. So I thought it would be interesting to include those figures too. I know a lot of state and federal agencies read this blog so it’s informative for them to see how much money they can save if they decide to swap out SAS for WPS.

Table 1. Single License – First Year License Fee Comparison of WPS vs. SAS on a Desktop.

Desktop Product WPS SAS SAS Govt (GSA)
Analytics Pro $1,266 $8,700 $6,870
PC File Formats Included $3,000 $2,176
ODBC/OLE DB Included $3,000 $2,176
Total

$1,266

$14,700

$10,739

 

Table 2. Five User License: First Year License Fee Comparison of WPS vs. SAS on a Desktop.

Desktop Product WPS SAS SAS Govt (GSA)
Analytics Pro $6,330 $34,800 $24,468
PC File Formats Included $6,600 $4,463
ODBC/OleDB Included $6,600 $4,463
Total $6,330 $48,000 $33,394

By the way, all the prices above are readily available on the Internet. The prices shown were prices listed on March 4, 2013.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Maximizing your BI Budget and Advantages of Licensing WPS

It’s coming up to the end of the year and everyone is worried about the Fiscal Cliff and how Obama Care is going to impact their business and personal lives. Many companies have plans they are setting in place for 2013 in regards to their analytics capabilities and trying to preserve their budgets worried about the unexpected. Which leads into…

As a WPS Reseller, I’m often asked how we price software and what is the logic behind it. First and foremost, we try to price our software to be a “high value and low cost” alternative to the SAS System. That comes across in a couple of ways. One thing you will notice if you get price quotes for WPS and SAS is that SAS has a very high upfront first year fee. Let me tell you, it causes a lot of sticker shock from the phone calls I get. Contrast that with the WPS System and you will see that WPS has a fairly constant price from year-to-year. There is no high upfront cost that is a barrier to bring WPS in house.

The biggest bang for the buck is when you put WPS on a server. There are numerous technical advantages for doing this which are beyond the scope of this particular post, but pricing for a WPS server is very aggressive. The cost for our four and eight core WPS Server licenses cannot be beat. Whether you look at Linux or Windows on a server, you will not be faced with having to pony up for client access fees to access the server. You can have as many users running and submitting code as the server is capable of handling. Not having Client Access fees can save you a lot of money.

Growing your Business

This is important when you are considering expanding your organizations SAS Language processing capabilities.  WPS and MineQuest make it easy and much more affordable to continue the expansion of your BI stack. Many companies need to add servers and desktops as they grow. This is especially true for smaller and mid-sized businesses. Keeping the first year price sensible goes a long way towards managing your cash flow and IT budgets.

As your company grows, WPS can grow with you. Earlier, I touched on expansion. But did you know that if you decided to move your processing from say a two core to a four core server (must be on the same OS platform) that you can get credit for those two cores that you already paid for? You don’t start over with a new license agreement, you just pay the difference in cost for the additional two logical CPU’s.

Virtual Machines

It’s pretty common today to run your analytics on a server that is actually a virtual machine. There are pro’s and cons to this but it is the reality of the day. WPS can run in a virtual machine like most other software, but interestingly there is no up-charge to this like our competitor. It really doesn’t make any difference to us from a technical perspective whether you run your WPS license in a VM or on the bare metal. This is important because you can save some significant money by running WPS in a VM on a large machine. Say the server has 32 logical CPU’s and you only need eight for your analytics, you can create an 8 LCPU VM and buy an 8 LCPU WPS license.  You can get a much better ROI on your server when you runs WPS this way.

DSP’s

I’ve mentioned this numerous times before in this blog, but companies who are DSP’s (Data Service Providers) often pay double and triple the amount of license fees to our competitor for using their software to provide reports, data sets, and analytics to their customers. This is truly a shame and in my opinion, just out right greedy. WPS does not have DSP fees and we encourage companies who are in the B2B sector providing analytics, reporting and data to use WPS for their processing. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.

Finally, it’s the era of Big Data. And what that means is that there are opportunities for many companies like Ad agencies, marketing analytics firms, loyalty processing organizations, healthcare processing companies and many others to capitalize on the current interest in utilizing data to its maximum effectiveness. Whether you are an individual consultant and only need a desktop license for less than $1300 or you are a large organization that makes a living with your data and requires server size processing capabilities, you can do yourself and company a favor and take a look at WPS.

 About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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Small and Mid-Size Business and Analytics

In the BI world, we often see discussions around BIG DATA and gigantic servers running on a grid to process a vast amount of data. For many people and companies, BIG DATA is hyperbole and is synonymous with BIG BUBBLE. BIG DATA is a marketing term and you see a lot of companies chasing the same (limited number) customers hoping to make a BIG SALE.

For many small and mid-size businesses we at MineQuest see four and eight core servers as being the server choice du jure. A company can process a lot of data on servers of such size. The cost for these sized servers are pretty decently priced as well.

At MineQuest Business Analytics, we see growth in WPS acceptance in a few areas that we find exciting. Recently, World Programming joined the CDISC Foundation as a member. I suspect that we will eventually begin to see CDISC support in WPS and extrapolating based on such membership. FYI, WPS already provides the ability to write out data to XPORT and CPORT data files. This will be advantageous to many CRO’s out there who are paying high fees for SAS licenses. This will begin to level the playing field in the Pharma industry as it pertains to pricing and access of SAS language software usage.

In the marketing arena, there is a significant uptake in WPS, especially on larger servers. Marketing agencies are becoming production houses as it pertains to marketing analytics and digital media. Many of these organizations are also providing background services for loyalty card usage. WPS is a good candidate for use in these companies because there are no client fees to connect to the server and most importantly, no data service provider fees for processing data on behalf of a third party.

In the health care industry there is a lot of growth and opportunity for WPS. I personally feel that the health care segments (both claims processing and healthcare analytics) are probably the most likely ones for tremendous growth. We’ve had great success in putting WPS into companies like HP-EDS for processing of health care information.

 

 About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Taking WPS 3.01 for a Quick Spin

I’m writing this today from the testing facilities at MineQuest Business Analytics, the center of the BI Universe. Haha! I’ve always wanted to write that as an opening line.

Anyway, I finally installed the latest GA release of WPS v3.01 on all the machines here. It took me a little while to setup all the configuration files so that WPS will use the optimal disk array for work among other things. Just thinking about this, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever had the exact same release on all the desktops and servers.

I wanted to test out the WPS Link technology more thoroughly. For those folks who are unfamiliar with WPS Link, it allows your workstation version of WPS to link to a Linux server for the purposes of submitting WPS code. So, basically you need WPS on both the desktop and on the Linux server. I have WPS on a Mac, a desktop, laptop and a VM running XP. My desktop host is running Vista x64.

One thing that I do like when I’m on the Mac is that the fonts just seem nicer than on Windows. It’s just a bit more aesthetically pleasing to me. The Eclipse Workbench is available across all the platforms except for z/OS as far as I can tell. On Linux, the fonts are similar to the Mac in style but seem a bit heavier. I imagine a lot of that has to do with the platform and font support from Apple on OS X versus the Linux Open Source Community.

Interestingly, I can submit my code on to the Linux Server from all these clients and it works amazingly well. The server is a small box with four cores and only 8GB of RAM but lots of disk space. I ended up setting some options such as setting MAXMEM and SORTSIZE to a reasonable level so that everyone will play well together. Small jobs are almost instant. I’ll start testing with some large jobs next week.

I’ve stated before that sizing a server for a workgroup isn’t always easy. But with 16GB of RAM and four cores of compute power, you can run four to eight simultaneous users quite readily. When you think about the compute power you get with WPS on a server, factoring in the price versus our competition, it’s just so small business friendly and startup friendly.

Don’t forget there’s still time to get into the action to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet. If you register to take out a WPS evaluation before September 30th, 2012, you will automatically be registered in the drawing for the tablet. Certain conditions apply so read the the earlier blog post for all the details. You can request a WPS evaluation by going to the MineQuest Business Analytics website at the WPS evaluation page.

WPS and the Small Business Market

One of the more popular markets for using WPS is for small businesses who need to maintain large amounts of data and process them in an efficient manner. Interestingly enough, small businesses often have to manage mountains of data just like large corporations do. One thing that separates small and large business users are the number of users that are hitting against the data. So the administrative tasks of being a DB Administrator are often similar, but the volume of users are quite different.

When you take out a WPS license, you receive multiple access engines to databases that companies like SAS Institute charge a heck of a lot for. Let’s face it, costs for small businesses are important and WPS is an ideal solution for the small and middle market business segment when it comes to saving money. Using WPS allows you to leverage the training and know how you have invested your time and money into as it pertains to the language of SAS. Using WPS allows you to use the tools that large organizations use too.

As companies have become more data centric, World Programming has stepped up to the plate and has dramatically increased performance on Linux x86 platforms. I have field tested WPS on Linux x86 as well as ported software from Windows over to it, and the performance is truly stellar. If you are one of those shops that do a lot of sorting of data, then WPS on Linux is for you.

There is one thing I want to point out if you are a small or midsized business and are starting to build out your BI stack. If you really needed some oomph for database processing and wanted to [1] use the language of SAS and [2] use a powerful and inexpensive database system, I would definitely go with a WPS solution and GreenPlum’s Free Edition. I’m amazed that GreenPlum can offer this to the community and the combination of WPS and GreenPlum, cost wise, cannot be beat.

All-in-all, there are a number of options for the SMB market out there, but there is only one cost effective solution when you want to use the language of SAS. MineQuest is targeting the SMB market over the next few years and I fully suspect that WPS will be the dominant player in this market segment as analytics become more important than ever.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest, LLC. and has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a reseller of WPS in North America.