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: :  PCS Support Plan

Disaster Recovery Procedures:

Definition: When PCS refers to a Disaster we are referring to any situation which effectively halts your normal business operations.
Causes: There can be various causes for Disasters.
  • Fire
  • Theft or Vandalism
  • Electrical Problems
  • Hardware Failure
  • Unix Operating System Failure
  • Foxbase Failure
  • P.A.C.S. Error
  • User error
Obviously any problems you experience could be caused by more than one of the above, however we will examine prevention and recovery procedures in the above format.
  1. Fire: In the result of a fire, or any similar kind of disaster your business is effectively shut down. You will have lost both your equipment and the actual information which constitutes your business. This is why it is vital to keep backups of your Collection System offsite. As a minimum we recommend at least two backups kept offsite. The equipment could be physically replaced and by restoring the backup you are back in business. PCS will work with you to determine your needs when sourcing a new server for replacement. We also advise that those offices which have Unix and Foxbase in their possession, keep these disks offsite. In the event that these disks are destroyed they can be replaced by the suppliers, but that may take several weeks. If the disks are offsite then they can be installed on any new equipment brought in to replace the destroyed items. Please record what disks you have in your possession including the Serial numbers and activation keys and version numbers and forward this information to PCS. In the event that these disks do become damaged or destroyed we will have an easier time replacing them.
  2. Theft and Vandalism: In the event of your equipment being stolen or damaged the recovery procedures would be similar to the above Fire recovery procedures. It is conceivable that there could be only a partial loss of equipment in which your office could still function. It is important to note that again backups kept offsite could save your business in the event of a thoroughly destructive vandal. Do not rely on keeping backups in your office safe only, since we have learned that the safe can be removed as well.
  3. Electrical Problems: Over the years it has become apparent that our biggest single cause for System downtime has been electrical problems. Voltage drops too small to flicker the lights are noticed by the computer and have damaged both Hardware and corrupted the Operating System. In order to protect your System from an unsteady power supply we strongly recommend the purchase and installation of an UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). All offices which have Line Conditioners will protect against surges but will not protect against voltage drops which can be equally as damaging. The UPS maintains a steady flow of current to the computer, even in the event of a complete power failure. After a predetermined amount of time (usually 30 - 60 minutes), if the power has not been restored a controlled shutdown of your system is performed automatically. The UPS is the ultimate protection against data loss from power fluctuations.
  4. Hardware Failure: Hardware refers to any of the physical devices which constitutes your Collection System. Periodically, like any man made equipment, hardware will fail. If the particular device that fails to work properly is a peripheral device like a printer the Collection System continues to operate as normal while the affected unit is shipped away for repairs, if applicable. However, in some cases the hardware which fails is key component of the System, such as your Hard Disk, disabling your Collection System. In this case the unit will still have to be repaired or replaced. Some offices employ RAID architecture and Hard Drive Striping to ensure a continued operation even when drives fail. When a serious hardware failure occurs your office must rely on its backups to restore the information onto the replacement unit. Obviously the importance of backups cannot be understated. We maintain a extremely good relationship with our supplier who will make a special effort on our behalf both to ship and service equipment as quickly as possible.
  5. Unix Operating System Failure: The operating system is a set of instructions which controls the operation of your equipment. Various occurrences can corrupt portions of this operating system, such as uncontrolled shutdowns (when power to the computer is interrupted). In the majority of cases the operating system can recover using a cleaning procedure which reestablishes itself, however occasionally corruption can occur which requires partial or complete reinstallation. We have access to SCO trained personel and we have access to a large support knowledge-base. In most cases we can resolve issues the same day. On occasion when we have a problem which mystifies the front line support staff it gets marked for higher priority and referred to a system engineer.
  6. Foxbase Failure: Foxbase is the data base language which the PACS software is written in. If the Foxbase language fails to consistently maintain the database, (for example an index gets corrupted), then the index is reestablished through a reindexing procedure now built into the Collection System. As with the Operating System, we have access to a large technical database maintained by SCO, but we have become so proficient at the language that we normally resolve most problems in-house.
  7. PACS Error: Collection System errors, otherwise known as bugs occur when coding mistakes are made by the program writers. Although great care is taken in writing the code and extensive testing is done in-house to ensure that the programs work as expected, mistakes happen. These errors are most noticeable after an upgrade for two reasons. The upgrade introduces new software routines and secondly has to mesh with previously existing software and data structures. If corrections to software are necessary these changes can occur immediately. Before an upgrade is sent out the following procedure is followed. New routines are created in a subdirectory of the PCS. After these routines are tested they are transferred to the Sudbury Collection Office. If any errors missed during the original testing are located they are immediately addressed. After the new software has been online in Sudbury for a period of time, upgrades are sent out in series with certain offices going online with the new software first.
  8. User error: The most common form of problem that PCS staff deals with is user error. The types of errors which occur range a great deal in substance and complexity. Support offered by this office is by email and phone. We tend to prefer the visual method of communication since there is often output of some kind to make it easier to explain what the concern is. Additionally we have found that when the affected office has to write down the problem, more details are usually included. Occasionally users will request assistance in resolving a problem which doesn't exist. Please be sure there is a problem before asking for help. If there is a problem please don't send something like: I was entering a transaction and the amount was different. If your system is down then certainly phoning is the quickest way to get a response.
Additional Notes: Occasionally we get questioned on the vunerability of the PCS to viruses. Because you use a Unix Operating System as opposed to a Windows System the viruses which commonly affect other users cannot normally interface with your system. Offices are advised to purchase a product with built in firewall capabilities as the router/gateway connecting your LAN to the internet. Anti-virus software should be installed and regularly upgraded on your network. It cannot be stated often enough the single most important thing that you can do is ensure that you are creating reliable backups. When this office attempts to solve problems your office is experiencing, it is very important that you tell us everything that happened prior to the problems occurrence to the best of your knowledge. There are cases where we have to rely on your ability to describe what you have done and what the result was in order to duplicate or trace the problem.

Services:

PCS Basic Customer Services provide:
  • Problem Reporting: Can be done by email or phone. We strive to respond within 4 business hours or less.
  • Recovery Assistance: Let's face it, we all make mistakes. It's just that when it comes to computers and their applications those mistakes can be stubborn to fix. Not to worry, we're here to help.
  • Bug Fixes: As good as our software is, and it is good, there can still be non-conformances in the program. Basic Customer Service provides an ongoing, no hassle, extended warranty for the application software.
  • Upgrade Revenue Protection: The Collection Industry is constantly evolving and changing. We are continuously upgrading our software.
  • Product Input: Our customers often call with change requests, and often they are excellent additions to our product line. Your organization will have direct access to our product enhancement team to help plot the course of enhancements that meet your needs.
  • Minor Enhancements: Sometimes you need a minor change to your final integration to accommodate a process change or a third party system change. At the discretion of the Customer Services Team, minor enhancements can be done at no charge with no hassle.
  • Catastrophic Failures: Many vendors charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for restoring or recovering a system that has experience a catastrophic failure, (theft, fire, flood, etc.). With our Basic Customer Services, we will restore your system from your backups onto your new equipment at no charge. This is like a "piece of mind" insurance policy.
Please contact PCS for pricing. A premium price may apply for after hours or emergency support.

PCS Advanced Customer Services provide:
  • All of the components of Basic Customer Services.
  • Problem Reporting: Can be done by phone or email. We strive to respond within 2 business hours or less.
  • Priority Service: You've got a problem, and you need it fixed fast. Advanced Customer Service will give you top priority within the PCS organization to get your problems fixed.
  • Technical Consulting: How could I implement this new feature? I'm changing my office layout, my location, my network - how will it affect my computerized collection business? Your staff can pick up the phone and call us for advice.
  • Expert knowledge: PCS has had the experiences of working with dozens of Collection Offices. This has led to our having a broad base of knowledge and experience to share with our clients. Often questions that might take days to research can be answered with one call to the right people - our Advanced Customer Service team.
  • Test Systems: Want to set up a test system for internal testing or training? Advanced Customer Services gives you a free access to a 2nd Branch. This 2nd branch can be used at your discretion for these non-production purposes. Additional charges may apply for setting up the new branch.
  • Unix Support: With Advanced Customer Service our staff is prepared to support your Unix Operating System needs. This can include such things as system configurations, user entries, security issues etc.
  • Operating System Updates: Often in the interest of performance or for security concerns, patches or updates become available for Operating Systems. We monitor this and will update your system automatically.
  • Foxbase Support: We are available to resolve any issues with your Foxbase programming language.
Please contact PCS for pricing. A premium price may apply for after hours or emergency support.

PCS Software Customization:
  • We can accommodate your office's specific needs by offering customization of our software. For example, if your office requires a unique report or modifications one of our existing reports. We can also modify our software to convert electronic files sent to you from your clients (via file, tape, Ftp, Email transfer or a Third Party Mailbox site).
  • Cost: Custom Programming Service (support Contract): $125.00 / hour (minimum 1 hour)

PCS Data Backup Services:
  • PCS can backup your collection system data. PCS primarily uses two different backup methods. One is associated by having a separate windows computer installed at your location while the other is installed directly on your unix/linux system. Backups would be transmitted to PCS for storage. PCS would manage all aspects of the backup/restore process.
  • Please contact PCS for prices and further details.

Non-Contract Support:

Clients without support contracts will be charged $290.00 per hour/per call plus expenses.
1 hour minimum charge.

Custom programming for clients without support contracts will incur a charge $290.00 per hour.

Problems should be reported by email only.

Support will be maintained for the current version of the software or one version number below at the above rates. Support for any older versions will be billed at $400.00 / hour. 2 hour minimum charge.
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