How it Works - Page 1 of 2
A fundamental part of the ERA is its ability to keep each branch regularly updated with all the transactions entered at all the other branches. The ERA has a built in ability to collate recent transactions and prepare compressed files for transmission to all other branches, via processing at Central. The ERA places the prepared files into (or collects from) a specific folder / directory, normally on the branch network server. This is described more fully in 'Collating and distributing transactions'.
At that point the ERA relinquishes control over the files and your network, or other system, takes control to get the files physically moved between the branches and Central. There are many ways in which this transfer may be achieved and you should consult your IT or network manager for more information or advice on your company's systems. This section sets out some general information on the more usual methods.
Wide area network
Note - If your company's offices are permanently connected via a wide area network or similar, it may be more efficient to operate the ERA as a single company wide system. See 'Permanent connection operation' for more information.
However even if you do have a permanent connection there may be reasons why you or your systems administrators may still wish to operate the branches independently, simply using the company network to transmit the data files. How this is done depends wholly on your company's network systems.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
FTP is an international set of standards for transferring electronic files, most usually via the internet. Typically, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides you with storage space on an internet facing server. This space can be used, amongst other things, for uploading and downloading your ERA files. Depending on the software you use for your FTP, the storage space and the transmission process can be protected to varying levels of security.
To make a transfer, your branch network server connects via your internet connection to the ISP. When connected, it accesses the previously prepared ERA transmission files and sends them to the ISP for storage in your space. This is done by all the branches.
Similarly, the Central network server connects to ISP and downloads all the files sent by the branches. When the download has been successfully completed the network server places the files in a particular folder/directory for access by the ERA. At this point the files come back again under the control of the ERA.
After the Central ERA server has completed its processing it places its files for transmission back to the branches into a specific folder/directory on the Central network server. The network server again takes control over the files and the above process is completed in reverse. This leaves the files back in the branch networks and back under the control of the branch ERA servers. Each branch ERA server then updates its own branch dataset.
The use of FTP is preferable to emailing the files (see below) as it is normally more reliable, avoids problems with maximum file sizes imposed by some ISP's on email attachments and enables the whole process easily to be operated under program control.
There are a number of software programs available to deal with the FTP processing, including ones which can automate all the procedures. We provide an FTP facility for clients who do not have, or do not wish to use, their own facility. This service is separate from and additional to the ERA system and is separately charged for.